Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Poles has “enjoyed” a less-than-desirable start to his tenure as the team’s decision-maker. A former offensive lineman at Boston College, Poles arrived from Kansas City following the firing of previous general manager Ryan Pace, who became a villain-like figure in Chicago for his failure to field an annual contender. Hope springs eternal, but Poles’ debut offseason has delivered more questions than answers.
Although it’s early in their rebuilding process for the Bears to worry about Poles’ roster-building methods, the situation is worth closely monitoring throughout the regular season and certainly into next offseason when the pressure will feel insurmountable.
Poles inherited a potential franchise quarterback in Justin Fields. The No. 11 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Fields’ presence is what made the Bears’ GM opening desirable. Either you have a quality signal-caller or you spend sleepless nights racking your brain on how to acquire one. The Bears have legitimate reasons to believe Fields is a franchise quarterback.
It’s Poles’ job to surround Fields with an environment that supports and invests in his development. It’s an area the Bears have failed miserably in this offseason. The offensive line is a mess. Poles signed 40% of the starting five (Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield) in the previous two weeks. A turnstile offensive line carries the potential to derail a young quarterback (ask David Carr or Andrew Luck).
The situation at wide receiver isn’t any better. Darnell Mooney is the Bears’ new WR1 following the offseason departure of Allen Robinson. Mooney is a dynamic weapon with the potential to explode in his new role. It’s the cast of characters behind Mooney that has us concerned. Byron Pringle and rookie Velus Jones Jr. are currently listed as the starters in three-receiver sets opposite Mooney. Pringle failed to reach his ceiling in Kansas City. He was also arrested earlier this offseason. Pringle is actually one of three new Bears additions to be arrested this offseason. It brings Poles’ judgment of character into focus. Jones is a first-year player that’s being asked to command a sizable role immediately.
Depth at the position is non-existent. David Moore was carted off the practice with a potentially serious injury on Tuesday. Poles acquired first-round bust N’Keal Harry in a desperate attempt to provide Fields with more options on the boundary, but he’s now hurt too. Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis are battling for back-end roster spots. We’re still figuring out how Fields is supposed to succeed with the current offensive line and pass-catching weapons that are in place.
Things went from bad to worse for Poles on Tuesday. Superstar linebacker Roquan Smith officially requested a trade, citing frustration over long-term contract negotiations. Smith is currently set to enter the final season of his contract via the fifth-year player option. Smith represents himself and is unhappy with the Bears’ approach. Poles has since publicly declared his intention to re-sign Smith. It opens Poles up to further criticism if he ultimately trades Smith, who would become the second defensive mainstay to be traded this offseason, joining Khalil Mack—although that deal made sense from a team-building perspective.
The jury remains out on head coach Matt Eberflus, but it would appear Poles made a quality decision in that department. Eberflus is a first-time head coach but earned praise for a strong tenure as the Indianapolis’ Colts’ defensive coordinator from 2018-21. Eberflus is appropriately tasked with spearheading a culture shift in Chicago, but all coaches require good players in order to achieve the task at hand. That’s where Poles has failed Eberflus heading into 2022.
Poles can blame the previous regime for the disastrous roster he inherited. He can utilize statements like “trust the process” to his advantage. The Bears will preach patience as they continue to overhaul their roster. It will understandably take time, but almost no decision Poles has made this offseason insinuates things are headed in the correct direction. Poles is largely safe from receiving an abundance of criticism now, but next offseason will be decisive in deciding Ryan Poles’ successes or failures.
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