LAKE FOREST – One thing he told the media assembled at his introductory news conference on Tuesday at Halas Hall is that he’s someone who is transparent.
Kevin Warren was just that when talking about his acceptance of the Bears’ president and CEO job after just 3 1/2 years as the commissioner of the Big Ten. He didn’t even have to be asked about it, addressing it right away in his opening statement.
“Many people have asked me, why the Bears, why this time? It’s because of the challenge, the opportunity,” said Warren. “I trust (General manager) Ryan (Poles). I trust coach Matt (Eberflus, that we’re going to do things the right way. We’re not going to take shortcuts. We’re going to build an incredible franchise.”
Warren will have a chance to mold the Bears in the way that he sees fit in one of the most powerful positions in the organization. He’s just the fifth person to hold the full time job and the first to not have a prior connection to the team.
As most executives have when joining a new organization, his goals are big, and two are of particular interest as he gets started.
“I came here to win championships, to win the NFC North, to win the NFC, to win the Super Bowl, to help shepherd and lead a stadium development project, to embrace our alumni, to embrace our history and tradition, and to embrace the absolutely incredible Chicago Bear fans,” said Warren, listing the two things that are top of mind for those around the organization as the year begins.
Warren has accomplished both of those goals in his past in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl ring with the St. Louis Rams in 1999 when he was VP of player programs & football legal counsel for the team.
As an executive VP of legal affairs, chief administrative officer, then eventually chief operating officer of the Vikings, Warren was part of the process to get US Bank Stadium built in 2016 in Minneapolis to replace the Metrodome.
He joins the Bears with his predecessor, Ted Phillips, having already helped the team sign a purchase agreement for the Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights in September 2021. As the deal looks to close in the coming months, the team continues to explore the feasibility of building a new stadium on that site.
Warren confirmed that remains the “sole focus” of the organization at the moment and will be his top priority when he officially starts work with the Bears in April. He also plans to use what he learned in Minnesota to help guide the process of building a new venue for the team.
“I think the biggest thing I learned was the fact that you need to plan before you start digging. I think what made and makes U.S. Bank Stadium so special, we spent almost a year in planning,” said Warren. “Planning is critical, and that’s what I appreciate with the McCaskeys is they support the planning process. I think that will be really critical from that standpoint. I know we’re focused on Arlington Park and that stadium development project.
“I look forward to leaning into the stadium development project, but I think the biggest thing we can do is to make sure that we’re methodical, we’re detailed, and we take the time to plan it properly.”
As that gets taken care of on the business side, Warren will be overseeing Poles and Eberflus as they look to continue the rebuilding of the product on the field. The Bears finished with an NFL-worst 3-14 record in 2022 but the team possesses the No. 1 overall draft pick along with around $118 million in cap room.
While a major focus for Warren will be off the field, what does he foresee being his role win the product on the field in the falls?
“One of the things I’ve learned is when you build a championship culture, the questions and the ideal and the thought process of “Who has the final say?” and all that really becomes irrelevant. Because at the end of the day, when we come out of whatever room we’re in, we have the common goal, and the common goal is to bring championships here,” said Warren in response to that question. “So I think my goal, I know every day, whether it’s football, business, whether its stadium, whether it’s league matters or dealing with ownership, is to make sure we’re prepared, we’re organized, we’re detailed, we’re methodical, and I’m there as a resource.”
Doing so with his goals clearly defined from Day 1.