Warren's home run press conference signals new day for Bears originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It didn't long Tuesday afternoon at Halas Hall to realize a seismic shift had occurred for one of the NFL's marquee franchises.
When new president and CEO Kevin Warren took the podium for his introductory press conference, it all started to become clear.
Things are going to be different. A lot different.
In Warren, a former sports agent, NFL front office member, and Big Ten Commissioner, the Bears hired arguably the most qualified person to call their franchise home.
In choosing Warren -- or in Warren choosing the Bears -- a franchise that has long stagnated by swimming in insular waters finally started acting like a big-boy franchise.
“I think the thing that was most attractive was the fact of the challenge," Warren said Tuesday. "I’m a big believer in challenges and I wouldn’t want it if it were easy. If all the elements were in place, it wouldn’t have been as attractive. But the main thing is the challenge. And I believe in every organization, there are certain inflection points. I think the Chicago Bears are that point from a positive standpoint. We have so many positive things. I never look at the negatives. There is no such thing as a negative situation. There is only opportunities."
Warren's energy surged through the George “Mugs” Halas Auditorium. He was polished, sharp, slick, and brought a vision and enthusiasm to a place long chastised for its lack of direction.
Warren hit on every note during a 60-minute tour de force that introduced him to Bears fans.
He talked about being methodical and detailed, discussed the Bears' new stadium venture, and how his experience can help them potentially make that vision a reality. He went on about the history and tradition of the storied Bears franchise and dropped names of people he has worked alongside during his career who can help fill up the trophy case at Halas Hall.
“[I want to] make it OK to talk about winning a championship," Warren said. "So many times, people in organizations don’t want to talk about winning a championship. I want to talk about it, but not only talk about it but then put in the work to be able to do what we need to do to win a championship. All you have to do is look at the playoffs. It’s wide open. Especially in the NFC, anyone can win. And so I’m a big believer that we need to continually build upon the base that [general manager Ryan Poles] and coach have built, with the players and the approach and the scouting to do it the right way. I’m not interested in building something that lasts for a year and then goes away.
"I want to have sustainability from a long-term standpoint and then from a business operational standpoint, just to look for efficiencies, continually create ideas and ways, be innovative, have vision, and be fearless. I think that’s the greatest thing that we have an opportunity to be able to build upon.”
Warren checked every box in his introductory press conference. His resume speaks for itself. The ideas, energy, and innovation he'll bring to the Bears should excite a fanbase starved to cheer for a sustained winner.
"I'd walk 54 miles for the Chicago Bears," Warren said when referencing a trip to Selma and Montgomery, Ala., that he took Big Ten athletes on.
The Bears new head man talked about "leaving a place better than he found it," and lauded the "foundation" built by Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus during a 3-14 teardown season.
“Everything is ahead of us,” Warren said. “All we need to do now is go and grasp it, put in the time and energy and effort.”
He didn't stumble. There were no Bearsian gaffes.
There's no doubt the expectations will be different at Halas Hall for everyone. Warren isn't a man that trifles in nonsense. He's not afraid to shake things up. His mind doesn't slow down. There's always something to accomplish. Somewhere to go.
Warren's attention to detail comes from a childhood car accident that left him in a body cast for a year. As an 11-year-old Warren worked to get back on his feet, he learned that no day could go to waste.
"He said there are going to be days where you have major progress and there are going to be days where you make very little progress but he said never have a day where you don’t make progress," Warren said of the doctor who helped him rehab.
In three years, Warren brought massive change to the Big Ten and the college football landscape. He's a big-picture thinker who isn't afraid to swing at things previously thought impossible.
He wanted the Bears job. A man of Warren's accomplishments and gravitas doesn't interview for positions. He interviews the organization to see if they are the right fit for him. He's a politician. An ambitious mover and shaker who has downloaded information from different walks of life to build his staircase to the top.
Halas Hall is his next arena to shape how he sees fit. To leave an indelible imprint before he moves on to whatever big thing comes next.
“I love that statue with George Halas out front," Warren said. "Something that I will ask my self every morning walking in this building, is that if he were with me, would he be proud? When I walk out at night, if he had been with me during the day, would he be proud? If I can make sure that 365 days a year that the answer is yes and yes, we’re doing OK whether I’m in the family or not in the family."
When Warren exited the stage Tuesday at Halas Hall, a new day had finally dawned for an NFL franchise that has always been about family.
Warren was brought in to lead or accelerate a culture shift. To get a new stadium built and to increase the value of the Bears franchise. But the success of his tenure will ultimately be decided by on-field success and not dollars in the McCaskey's pockets.
Warren knows that. If the wins come, everything else follows. It was a chord he struck several times Tuesday while announcing himself to the fanbase.
In 60 minutes Tuesday, Warren made his vision and goals clear. He sent a message to those throughout Halas Hall and immediately raised the standard. In hiring Kevin Warren, the Bears grew up. From a mom-and-pop franchise to a meticulous, detail-oriented, fine-tuned, innovative machine.
“Many people have asked me why the Bears, why this time?” Warren said. “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. We're going to build an incredible franchise. I came here to win championships, to win the NFC North, to win the NFC, to win the Super Bowl. ...
“That's why I'm here.”
Kevin Warren arrived Tuesday at Halas Hall with a long to-do list to help the Bears navigate a pivotal moment in the franchise's history.
He won the press conference. Now the challenge of transforming the Bears begins.
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