What If Ryan Poles and Justin Fields End Up Running the NFC North?

Photo Credit: Mike Dinovo (USA TODAY Sports)

Last weekend’s slate of games was some of the most enjoyable NFL football I’ve seen all year. Instead of the intense anxiety that comes with watching the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, just waiting to see what could go wrong, we got to watch four other teams experience this sick sort of heartbreak.

Admittedly, I’d much rather shoulder that hardship if it meant Minnesota had a shot at the Super Bowl, but at least there’s no threat of a devastating loss. There’s no way that the Vikings could be beaten by another team when they’re not even playing games. At least, that’s what a logical person would think.

And yet, the Vikings have done the impossible. Minnesota has lost to the Chicago Bears once again.

The former executive director of player personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs, Ryan Poles put pen to paper on Tuesday to become Chicago’s general manager. Poles was one of two finalists for the GM opening in Minnesota, and it was rumored that Poles was the choice in Minnesota before the Vikings hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah on Wednesday morning.

We’ll never really know what could have been with Poles as the Vikings’ GM, and Adofo-Mensah is a phenomenal, analytics-driven option. However, that shouldn’t distract from the fact that Minnesota has been outmaneuvered by Chicago in the offseason once again. Just like the case with Justin Fields back in April, the Bears (presumably) came in with the better offer and made it a priority to grab their first choice, who coincidentally happened to be a Vikings target.

It may seem a bit trivial to pick apart two transactions. But given the uncertainty of Aaron Rodgers’ future in a Green Bay Packers uniform, this aggression means everything. The NFC North is up for the taking, and Chicago is putting itself in a position to grab it. If Poles’ GM decision played out as it appears it did, he chose Chicago over Minnesota. Instead of even having a second interview with the Vikings, he felt he was in a better spot with the Bears.

Objectively, Chicago has had less success than the Vikings have in the last 10 seasons. During the stretch from 2011-21, the Bears won the division once while finishing last four times. On the other hand, Minnesota won the NFC North twice and made an NFC Championship game.

Therefore, it’s concerning that Poles would choose Chicago over the Vikings. Outside of the quarterback position, Minnesota has a more talented roster. As GM, you’d inherit an offense with potentially both tackles locked in, along with a top-five running back and wide receiver. With the Bears, you get an offense that’s been among the bottom 10 in scoring for three consecutive years.

There’s an argument to be made that starting with Fields as your QB is much preferable to dealing with the Kirk Cousins situation. But it’s still unacceptable that Chicago is being viewed as a more attractive landing spot than Minnesota.

However, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. When the Bears traded up to draft Fields, they made a better offer than the Vikings. Following a thorough GM search, Chicago gave Poles a better offer than Minnesota. Frankly, the Bears are moving more urgently to put themselves in the best position to take hold of the division.

On paper, the Vikings still have a leg up due to the talent on the roster. Minnesota is losing the arms race, though. If they don’t move on their ideal head coach candidate, they could lose out on him, too. Missing out on Poles and Fields isn’t worrisome because the Bears are better than the Vikings. It’s because Chicago appears to want it more.

It’s not hyperbole to say what happens the next few weeks, between hiring a new head coach and Rodgers’ career decision, will decide who runs the NFC North for years to come. Adofo-Mensah and the Wilfs must hire the right head coach. They don’t have any room for error.

Vikings’ leadership should give whoever they decide is the best person to lead the team a blank check. The Wilfs have committed to winning, so it’s time for their moves to reflect that. Otherwise, you risk a team like the Bears swooping in and beating you — again. They’ve already snatched a QB and GM from Minnesota’s reach, and there’s no reason they couldn’t complete the holy trinity.

Minnesota may have swept the regular-season series with Chicago, but that hasn’t stopped the Bears from tormenting Vikings fans. It’s time to put that to an end and act with some aggression. After all, the fate of the NFC North hangs in the balance.

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