At this point, I firmly believe my wrists and fingers are made of Vibranium.
The Chicago Bears have requested interviews with a total of 16 candidates for their GM as of this latest article. One even went under the radar with JoJo Wooden before it was revealed by the team’s official site days ago. This has to be an all-time high number of candidates for any position in Halas Hall.
In comparison, their head coaching search is currently at 11 names. At least until the finalists at GM are finalized, in all likelihood. There’s no question a thorough search is being led by Bill Polian, and the Bears search committee of George McCaskey; Ted Phillips (for contracting); Tanesha Wade; and LaMar “Soup” Campbell. The final hire could go a number of ways at this point.
Here are the three latest names and hats thrown into the ring.
Be sure to scroll through the story-stream tracker to catch up on everything we’ve done in regards to the GM/HC searches.
JoJo Wooden - Los Angeles Chargers Director of Player Personnel
We’ll start with the one interview that made its way to Halas Hall without advanced warning. JoJo Wooden is one of the names league circles and writers have talked up in regards to advancing their way towards GM interviews over recent years. People in New York generally had an appreciation for the quality of work he produced during his time with the Jets.
And that was a very long time at that. In 1997 he joined the New York Jets as a pro personnel assistant, even though his first work in the NFL was with the Arizona Cardinals as an intern in 1993. The former Syracuse Orangemen linebacker spent a total of 16 seasons with the Jets, promoting all the way to their Director of Pro Scouting in 2006. From 1997 to 2012 the Jets had a fair amount of success and playoff appearances. QB Chad Pennington was easily the crown jewel of players acquired during this time.
Tom Telesco recruited JoJo Wooden into his front office as his new Director of Player Personnel in 2013, and has held that title ever since. He is officially in charge of both the Chargers’ pro and college scouting departments. Where the Chargers haven’t been consistent winners, they have amassed a large amount of home grown talent. Players like WR Keenan Allen; Edge Joey Bosa; FS Derwin James; QB Justin Herbert; OT Rashawn Slater; and CB Asante Samuel Jr. make up a respectable core of players for current head coach Brandon Staley to build with.
Other players drafted by the Chargers in recent years include CB Jason Verrett; LB Denzel Perryman; TE Hunter Henry; and RB Melvin Gordon. There is no question JoJo has a proven track record of identifying talent. They also have shown a willingness to being aggressive in free agency. Their unique definition and approach towards building a team that plays complementary football is perhaps the most interesting aspect of JoJo Wooden’s candidacy.
People haven’t viewed the Chargers organization as one that can produce future talent in front offices around the league. Consider JoJo Wooden as a departure from that type of thinking.
Joe Hortiz - Baltimore Ravens Director of College Scouting
Joe Hortiz is one of the legendary names in regards of identifying talent among college prospects and mastering the scouting process. There hasn’t been a team who’s built a more consistent track record than the Ravens when drafting and developing their own players. Joe has been perfecting his craft in Baltimore since 1998.
He also has a background in coaching. Prior to his arrival with the Ravens, he served as an undergrad assistant/intern at various position groups — QBs, WRs, LBs, and DBs — for Terry Bowden at Auburn while earning his degree in accounting. Following his arrival to Baltimore, and ever since day one in 1998, the Ravens have clinched a playoff spot 16 times. In direct comparison, the Bears have earned 6 such playoff opportunities. Stability is an understatement with this organization.
Current Executive Vice President of Player Personnel Ozzie Newsome is a Hall of Famer for many reasons. While serving as GM, Ozzie drafted several hall of fame players, and the Ravens won two Super Bowls (SB XXXV and XLVII). Joe Hortiz played a large role in the organization’s success. In 2018, Ozzie Newsome stepped down as the GM, and long-time assistant GM Eric DeCosta assumed his office. Joe Hortiz was promoted to Director of College Scouting that same year.
It’s easy to get excited when thinking about all the players Joe scouted over the years. Some of the more recent standouts include LT Ronnie Stanley; TE Mark Andrews; CB Marlon Humphrey; QB Lamar Jackson; WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown; and LB Patrick Queen. There is, of course, HOF Safety Ed Reed to include from their 2002 draft class. His draft resume is as good as it gets.
Making the jump from scouting director to GM — an all-encompassing role for Chicago — is pretty big. If you want a draft-centric guy in charge, there are few better than Joe Hortiz.
Ryan Poles - Kansas City Chiefs Executive Director of Player Personnel
Right before publishing this article, it has been revealed Ryan Poles will be a finalist for the Bears’ GM job. He is also one of two finalists for the Minnesota Vikings’ GM job, along with Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Both job searches appear to be coming to a close soon.
Also, yes, we do have a former Chicago Bears player in Ryan Poles interviewing for the top football job in the Windy City. He signed with the Bears as an UDFA back in 2008. The following season, he hung up the cleats and joined the Kansas City Chiefs as a scouting executive. In 2010 he was quickly promoted to the Chiefs’ college scouting coordinator position.
The Chiefs were up and down between 2009 to 2011. When Andy Reid was hired as the new HC, and the complete makeover of the Chiefs organization happened in 2012, it reversed the fortunes at Arrowhead. Despite having multiple GMs hired and fired since 2012, Ryan Poles has promoted several times during his career with the Chiefs. The Chiefs have finished each of their last two seasons with a Super Bowl appearance, including their victory at SB LIV. He’s finishing his first full season as the Chiefs’ Executive Director of Player Personnel.
His area of expertise comes with the collegiate players scouting and drafting process. However, his role has expanded greatly in recent years. As a matter of fact, he now oversees all aspects of football operations, including contracting. College scouting, pro scouting, draft and free agency big board preparation are included in his realm of responsibilities. It’s easy to say the Chiefs have been a well-built football team in recent years. Oh, and Ryan Poles was an instrumental influence in the decision to trade up for QB Pat Mahomes in 2017.
This is not the first time we have seen Ryan Poles surface as a GM candidate around the league. He’s interviewed multiple times in the last few years, and has already interviewed with the Bears, Giants (who just hired Joe Schoen), and Vikings. We might see him hired within this next week by either the Bears or Vikings. Or, if not this year, within the next two years.
Thank goodness this search appears to be coming to an end. Unlike any previous GM search, the Bears followed through on what has been a very wide net cast into the ocean for finding their next GM. One that will have more power within the organization than any of their predecessors since 2002. This may be the most important hire made in the franchise’s history.
If the Bears (finally) get this right - we’ll have a systemic foundation that will guide the Bears to breaking their nearly 40-year Super Bowl drought. Of course, this hire will go hand-in-hand with whomever the next head coach shall be. I do hope we won’t need to go through yet another Extravaganza three years from now...