This has been a moment in the making for quite some time. The days of Ted Phillips’ 24-year reign as Team President are drawing to a close. Come April of 2023, there will be a new man in charge of the franchise. That change will be the result of Ted Phillips passing his hat over to a new man, with Ted retiring following a 40-year career with the Chicago Bears.
That man’s name is Kevin Warren. A gentleman who most recently was the Commissioner of the B1G Ten Conference. He has a long history of sports law and sport management dating back to his time with the (then) St. Louis Rams and as an agent with former Chicago Bears DT Chris Zorich. His resume is both long and impressive, which details a man ready to lead an NFL franchise. He presents himself as a fearless man whose confident presence commands the entire environment to listen.
A licensed businessman and qualified attorney with decades of experience working in the NFL and NCAA. He is a leader at the highest level who’s been praised everywhere he’s been. A person who not only fears no challenges, he craves such opportunities.
His greatest work includes leading the U.S. Bank Stadium project in Minneapolis, the expansion of the B1G Ten Conference with a new media mega deal worth over $7 billion, and helping boost one of the lowest-earning franchises in the league — the Vikings — into the top ten. “Impressive” is an understatement.
He now steps in as the first-ever external hire in the Chicago Bears’ 100+ year history to assume the title of Team President and CEO. Today’s press conference was nothing short of outstanding. I’ve compiled a hearty list of notes and will share my thoughts below.
A man of great vision who knows what’s most important - Super Bowl championships
I did not even exist when the last time — and only time — the Chicago Bears won a Super Bowl. Right from the start, Warren addressed the need to build a culture with such a goal in mind regularly. When asked, “why the Bears,” he starts off with this.
It’s because of the challenge, the opportunity. I trust Ryan, I trust Coach Matt that we’re going to do things the right way. We’re not going to take shortcuts.
He understands that, at times, this franchise has been bleak and frustrating. There is no easy way to fix this. GM Ryan Poles tore down the roster and now has a clear slate to build something credible in 2023. Kevin Warren acknowledged this with his remark on not taking shortcuts. The mission from this point on is to win now and win plenty more in the future. Kevin echoed Ryan Poles’ own statements of “take back the North and never give it back.” And, above else, Kevin Warren envisions the Bears wearing the crown atop the NFL standings.
I came here to win championships. To win the NFC North. To win the NFC. To win Super Bowls.
Ryan Poles will report directly to Kevin Warren beginning this spring. Chairman George McCaskey himself confirmed that during the same presser. The two are walking in cadence with one another. Ryan Poles will continue to run the actual football operations with full power, and Kevin Warren will serve as the final buffer between management and ownership.
The fans deserve better - and he knows this
Repeatedly throughout the presser, Kevin Warren mentioned his views on what he sees as the “best fans in the NFL.”
Recent times have certainly been tough. With the last-place finish in the NFL standings and a stadium experience stuck in a strange conflict between being archaic and having limited opportunities for growth. The latter of which has been lazily drawn out from the team designated by the city of Chicago to resolve.
He even went to a game personally for a hands-on experience. Earlier in the year, Kevin purchased tickets for the Bears game at Soldier Field vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. The number one thing he points out? The fans. Followed shortly by the electricity Justin Fields produced - more on that later.
Not once did he discuss the amenities. Or how he felt about the seating. He focused entirely on the fans while mentioning both the older and younger generations of fans being present to watch.
Warren: "These are the best fans in the NFL. They deserve championships." pic.twitter.com/yv0SeQ7FqJ— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 17, 2023
Sorry, Chicago Park District. Kevin Warren didn’t feel the need to discuss the issues at Soldier Field. He came for the fans and for a chance to lead the construction of another best-in-class stadium. He came to the Chicago Bears with a plan.
Now let’s talk about that new stadium
If you are part of the team or the movement to keep the Bears at Soldier Field, you may wish to skip this part of the article.
Around mid-way into the press conference, Kevin Warren was asked point-blank what his primary focus as Team President would be. He answered directly that his “sole focus is building a new stadium, 100%.” The Bears are currently in such a contract with Arlington Heights that they are the only project that can be legally negotiated with or discussed publicly.
One of the more fun moments was when Kevin Warren referred to himself as a “stadium nerd” and mentioned he brought with him a sizeable amount of planning material left over from the U.S. Bank Stadium project with the Minnesota Vikings. I’ve been to that stadium — 2018 in the final game of the regular season — and it was nothing short of incredible. Every single detail was considered and on full display.
It is worth mentioning the Chicago Bears have contracted Mortenson Construction to design and (eventually) build the proposed stadium at Arlington Heights. Mortenson Construction was the same company that built U.S. Bank Stadium, with Kevin Warren signing off that contract as the Vikings’ COO. Coincidence, I think not.
Oh, and about that sensational QB named Justin Fields...
It’s worth repeating that GM Ryan Poles has full control over the football operations and construction of the team itself. In the past, when Ted Phillips would be asked about xyz QB, we’d get an answer along the lines of, “we trust the plan our GM has put into motion, and we fully support our guy at QB.” In comparison, Kevin Warren was the complete opposite. He dove into detail and heaped a bunch of praise on Justin Fields.
I have a strong personal relationship with him. He’s talented. He’s a leader. I love his passion. ... He wants to win championships. Those are the people that I want.
Earlier, Kevin Warren specified the electrifying play Justin Fields made against the Eagles when he tapped the “X” button and spun out of a would-be sack. Then geeked out another handful of defenders. Then nearly turned a 2nd-and-forever into a TD. He wound up stepping out of bounds at the 9-yard line. One play later, the Bears capped off the drive with a TD. Simply magical.
I have spent a great deal of time leading a Twitter campaign against former GMs and current Justin Fields haters who now work as “experts” on various NFL talk shows. For some odd reason, there has been a stigma developed against QB1 in Chicago from the national folks. This is despite the following.
- Matt Eberflus calling Justin Fields the franchise QB
- Ryan Poles expressing support and confidence numerous times
- Players speaking unanimously on Justin Fields as the leader
Now, the oncoming Team President and CEO has climbed aboard this same train of logic. He didn’t have to voice any support and could easily defer the question back to Ryan Poles. Yet he relished the relationship he has with Justin Fields dating back to when Kevin Warren started his B1G Ten career during the COVID pandemic.
He opened up about his own perspective and priority, which was to protect the players. Then he opened up more about understanding where Justin Fields came from in that effort to get players back onto the field. There is nothing but respect and admiration from both sides.
When it comes to Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears overall, Kevin Warren understands the sheer size of the challenges ahead. A new stadium, a complete overhaul of the roster itself, and the effort to completely modernize the franchise. All the way down to the very philosophical foundations dating back to 1920. Kevin Warren is more than ready for this.
Everything is ahead of us. Greatness is ahead of us. All we need to do is go ahead and grasp it.
George McCaskey said Papa Bear would be proud. I have a feeling many more will be proud in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Bear. Freakin’. Down.