Poles: Chicago Bears have ‘no master plan’ heading into NFL Scouting Combine

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Anticipated by many to be the most popular general manager at the NFL Scouting Combine for a second consecutive year, Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles stepped up to the mic Tuesday and let the media know — despite other claims — the Bears had no master plan walking into the combine.

“Contrary to reports out there, I have no master plan to present everyone today,” Poles said at a Tuesday press conference. “This is an opportunity for us to gather information, learn about different players in the draft, listen to what opportunities come up and at the end of the day, we’re going to make the best decisions for the Chicago Bears.”

The opportunity that stands front and center as Bears brass arrive at the combine, is an evaluation carousel. All at once, Chicago will have to juggle weighing the offers they receive from other teams for the upcoming draft’s No. 1 overall pick, in tandem with potential trade negotiations for incumbent starting quarterback Justin Fields, how they feel about the cream of this year’s quarterback crop, and evaluating the team’s other positions of need.

What’s different from trading the No. 1 pick last year and this year?

While the Bears improved from 3-14 to 7-10 over the last two seasons — and did so significantly on the defensive side of the ball — Poles said Chicago’s approach mirrors the one taken a year ago when they shipped the 2023 No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for star wide receiver DJ Moore, the No. 9 and 61 overall selection in 2023, a 2024 first-round choice that turned into this year’s No. 1 overall pick, and a 2025 second-round selection.

“It’s unique right? But I would say our approach is exactly the same, in terms of we have to look at every option and determine what’s best for our team,” Poles said. “Obviously, we chose to trade back last year and I think that helped our team out a lot. So again, we’ll do a deep dive and see how it all plays out.”

According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears’ top needs include quarterback, wide receiver, center, defensive line and cornerback, with some that follow team saying they could also invest in another guard and depth at the two offensive tackle spots.

“It’s hard to say right now, but it’s got to help our organization significantly to move around,” Poles said. “We saw what it did last year and I’m looking for that type of return to continue to improve our football team.”

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If the Bears stay put at No. 1, will the pick be Caleb Williams? And what else are they looking for in a QB?

Media prodded Poles about the presumptive No. 1 overall selection to-be in April, Caleb Williams, while also honing in on the traits and characteristics the Bears’ scouting department is looking for.

When asked if during the talent evaluation process, he experienced any concern over claims Williams doesn’t want to play in Chicago, Poles brushed it off.

“No, nope. No concerns about that at all,” Poles said. “I would love to know why, if that was the case. As a young quarterback, I’ve been around it. Infrastructure is important and I think we’ve made really good progress in terms of having good infrastructure for who ever were to come in, or if Justin [Fields] were to stay here.”

A reoccurring theme this draft cycle has been the frequent comparisons made between Williams and the perennial top quarterback in football, Patrick Mahomes. Kliff Kingsbury, who coached Mahomes at Texas Tech and Williams at the University of Southern California, said the two are “eerily similar.”

“There’s pieces that are similar. Obviously the one that stands out to everyone is just different arm angles. That’s a unique trait, not a lot of guys can do that,” Poles said on seeing the comparison . “I’ll give Jeff King, he’s on my [scouting] team, credit. He painted a picture — there’s two types of quarterbacks. There’s artists and then there’s surgeons.

“Within that group, you can kind of see who’s the artist that’s really creative and doesn’t draw within the lines. Where there’s more of surgeons, like your typical [Tom] Brady’s and Peyton [Mannings].”

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Poles said he doesn’t have a preference of one over the other — artists or surgeons — but instead just wants “a winner.”

Finding that “winner,” according to Poles, will be done through spending time building relationships at the combine and getting a feel for the personalities of NFL prospects.

“You’ve got to spend time with another person in order to understand their wiring,” Poles said. “You look for examples of dependability. You’re looking for selflessness, leadership, ownership. I think it’s hard these days to find people that [are faced with] ‘hey, this is wrong’ and it’s like ‘yeah, this is wrong and this is what I have to do to correct it,’ rather than BS’ing your way through it.

“With time on task and spending time with these guys, we’ll get to know some of those things.”

Will Justin Fields remain a Chicago Bear?

Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus continued to keep their cards close to the vest Tuesday, as the two did separate interviews at the combine and remained non-committal over who they see starting at quarterback week 1 of next season.

“It just depends on what opportunities pop up,” Poles said on a potential Fields trade. “If we do go down that road, I want to do right by Justin. No one wants to live in grey. It’s uncomfortable, I wouldn’t want to be in that situation either.”

The Bears GM did, however, provide clarity on the timeline he and Chicago’s front office is seeking when it comes to deciding on the future of Fields with the Bears.

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When asked when he would like to have Chicago’s quarterback conundrum solved, Poles said “tomorrow” and doubled down on his response.

“I would love to know as soon as possible. I would love to know, but I know that’s not how the process works. You know, for sure, before free agency would be good,” Poles said. “Like I said, I’m also talking, if we were to do something with Justin, I want to do right by him and I know, again, living in that grey space, we would want to do something sooner rather than later.

“But just like I talk about with contracts, it takes two teams to figure that out — but at the same time — We’re also trying to figure out the draft process as well. There’s a lot of different things with different timelines going [on] and that’s what makes it a little difficult.”

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