2024 NFL Draft confirms Ryan Poles is ushering in a new era for Chicago Bears

Kansas City Chiefs v Chicago Bears
Kansas City Chiefs v Chicago Bears / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Chicago Bears have hit a possible tipping point in their storied history. The changes that have taken place over the past two and a half years to bring us to where we are now are staggering. From the hiring of general manager Ryan Poles at the beginning of 2022 to Thursday night’s NFL Draft, the Bears have begun a transformation that could be the beginning of a new era.

The Bears have not been known for their passing offense over the years. The “blue collar” stereotype often associated with the Bears' style of play stems from many years of being a run-first offense and often winning games with their defense. The NFL has really evolved into a pass-heavy league in recent years, with 4,000-yard passing seasons becoming quite common among quarterbacks. Unfortunately, the Bears have been stuck in the past and have failed to adjust to this new style of offense up until now.

I’m about to throw some stats at you that are a bit disturbing, but they prove my point. Since passing stats started being tracked (1932), the Bears have neither had a quarterback throw 30 touchdowns nor throw for 4,000 yards in a single season. For reference, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes hasn’t thrown for any LESS than 4,000 yards in any of the six seasons he’s been the starter in Kansas City, and he’s thrown for 30+ touchdowns four of the six seasons. In fact, the Bears have only had a quarterback throw 20+ touchdowns in a season 12 times over the 92 seasons that passing stats have been being tracked.

Furthermore, Chicago’s offense as a whole has been pedestrian at best over recent years. Since 2000, the Bears have just three seasons in which they’ve ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in points per game. In that same span of time, the Bears have ranked in the top 10 in passing yards per game just once.

The franchise has developed an identity over time and an often frustrating one to fans. We’ve seen the modern high-octane offenses that have become increasingly prevalent in the league, such as the Kansas City Chiefs in recent years, or even going back to the early 2000s with the Rams and the “greatest show on turf.” Of course, we love the stingy defensive teams the Bears have had over the years, but fans have wanted more from the offense for a while now. Patience has worn thin with watching a sluggish offense along with questionable play calling. The time for change has been long overdue.

The 2024 NFL Draft marks a new chapter for the Chicago Bears.

Enter Ryan Poles. A little over a year after being hired, Poles pulled off a genius move by trading Chicago’s 2023 first overall pick in the draft to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for star wideout D.J. Moore, two 2023 picks, and a 2024 first-round pick which wound up being the first overall pick in the draft that the Bears used to take Caleb Williams on Thursday night. The Bears also got a 2025 second-round pick out of the deal. This was highway robbery, and I thought that even before the Panthers selected Bryce Young with the top pick last year. The beauty of that trade is that it continues to pay dividends over a year after it happened. With each asset the Bears gain out of that trade, Ryan Poles is just pouring salt on the wound of former Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer, who was fired after last season.

Poles has also worked to fix the offensive line, which has been an issue for this team for years. He drafted offensive tackles Braxton Jones in 2022 and Darnell Wright in 2023. Wright has earned high praise for his play already after just one season. Then, this past offseason, Poles added center Coleman Shelton and offensive tackles Matt Pryor and Jake Curhan as depth pieces.

The bigger moves this past offseason have been the signings of running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver Keenan Allen. These newcomers join D.J. Moore, Cole Kmet, and newly drafted rookies Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze as the Bears' offensive weapons. One might ask how in the world a team this loaded and seemingly poised to challenge for a playoff spot had the first overall pick in the draft. Ryan Poles has that answer, and so do the Carolina Panthers, although I’m sure they want no part in sharing it.

All these additions, starting with the hiring of Poles, have resulted in a shifting of philosophy for the Chicago Bears. For the first time in years there is an enthusiasm among fans and a sense that the organization has finally decided to adjust to the areas where the game has evolved. Could the Bears feature the NFL’s next feared aerial assault?

This is the optimism that has been lying dormant for many years in the hearts of fans. What you are witnessing could very well be a transformation of this organization’s identity as we know it.