Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles refrained from using the word “recovery” on Tuesday, noting that the term can be “oversensitive” when it comes to evaluating how teams move forward.
He claimed that his first few months on the job are more like a refurbishment project on an HGTV show he can watch late at night with his wife.
“You may need to redo some of the countertops here, some fresh paint there,” Powles said during his press conference at Halas Hall. “Some of the rooms are good. You don’t need to touch them. Here is such a thought process. This is not a reconstruction either.
So far, the most notable progress in the Poles’ renewal of the Bears roster, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2018, has been wresting key veterans.
He traded Khalil Mak and fired Allen Robinson, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Akim Hicks and Tariq Cohen. He then spent modestly at the center of free agents. Lucas Patrickprotective gear Justin Jones and defensive end Al Qadeen Muhammad.
But the Poles will have a chance to decorate more than one position room at Halas Hall when he and his team enter their first NFL Draft with the Bears. It starts Friday with picks #39 and #48 in the second round and #71 in the third round.
Pouls has been drafted for over 13 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, but it will certainly be different.
“Responsibility for choice, yes, it’s more,” he said. “But at the same time, you’re just relying on the work everyone has done to make the right decision. And it was cool to do a lot of these layouts. We feel comfortable with how it all plays out.”
As Powles prepared for his first draft as general manager in weeks, he remembered the late Don Horton, his offensive line coach at Boston College.
Horton trained his linemen over and over again on blitz cards so that when they advanced on game day they recognized defensive fronts and communicated seamlessly.
Powles primed his employees for the big weekend by training them in draft draft simulations, complete with fake sales calls.
“Just check our communication, check our trading charts, check all of that to make sure everything goes smoothly on game day and we just apply that,” he said. “And I feel very confident at this moment.”
The Bears have no first-round pick on Thursday because former general manager Ryan Pace traded him for go to draft quarterback Justin Fields last year. For those who hope that the Poles will make a surprise move up, it should be noted that instead he spoke more than once about moving back to add to the six selections of the bears.
So Powles and his staff will spend Thursday evening running new simulations, pretending to pick the 10th or 20th number, to see how their system performs before Friday.
“Just act like we’re in different places and communicate to make sure that when we leave the next day, we’re ready,” Powles said.
The Poles brought their reconnaissance staff to the Halas Hall for 12 days in early April.
He conducted anonymous surveys on employees’ mobile phones to determine how they allocate players to different positions and then in general, displaying group results on a screen for discussion. Sometimes the runaway vote was for one player. Sometimes this led to a deeper dive into the tape.
“The key is sometimes you just want to get rid of groupthink,” Powles said. “If I interviewed everyone and you had to raise your hand, sometimes you look back (at other people). He just deletes it and everyone writes down their thoughts and ideas.”
According to the Poles, when this work is done, the real draft day usually goes a little calmer and quieter than people might think, because “it’s almost hay in the barn.”
Like most GMs this week, Powles left open the question of which positions he would target. The Bears have obvious needs for flanks, offensive lines and cornerbacks, but when asked specifically about assisting Fields offensively, he said, “Every time you just improve the team as a whole, you help all the players.”
When asked if he would consider the need for a particular type of receiver, he said it depended on whether such a player was available with the correct value on the draft board.
“The biggest takeaway is that you can talk yourself into anything at the moment,” he said. “That’s why I can’t digest this board. I’m taking a step back after today because I think sometimes you keep staring at him, you keep driving guys around and doing crazy things.”
And “crazy nonsense” may not help the Pole complete his renovation project on time.