As the Broncos interview candidates for their open general manager position, we're connecting with reporters across the country who have covered the candidates in their current job. Our aim is to provide a closer look at the prospective candidates and the skill set each may bring to Denver.
We continue by talking to Dan Pompei, an NFL writer for the Athletic who wrote an article in the fall about Champ Kelly's path to becoming the Bears' Assistant Director of Player Personnel and his GM candidacy.
Aric DiLalla: From your understanding, what sort of responsibilities does Champ Kelly hold in the Bears' front office?
Dan Pompei: "He's responsible for a lot of things. His role is pretty broadly defined. He [evaluates] the draft players every year that they rate in the top 100, and then he also does a lot of the pro stuff. He's involved in a lot of the IT stuff, because of his background, in terms of how that relates to the scouting staff. The other thing is, it's kind of an unofficial role, he's also kind of a conduit, I think, between the front office and a lot of the players. He seems to have a good relationship with a lot of the players, which is kind of unusual for a guy in his position. He's able to kind of bridge that gap."
AD: What sort of reputation do you think he's built for himself within the organization?
DP: "I think it's a pretty strong one. Everyone has a healthy respect for him. He's touched a lot of different parts of the organization. He's very well-liked, he's very personable and I think a lot of people have healthy respect for him."
AD: What do you think it is about Champ that allows him to be that conduit between the front office and guys on the roster?
DP: "I don't know that it's so much limited to him with players as much as it is a reflection of who he is and his personality and the way that he relates to all people. I think he's kind of unusual in that way in that he's a guy who everybody gets along with. He's able to find common ground, I think, with a lot of different people. With players, he's got a similar background to some of them. He came from a tough beginning and fought for everything he had. He found a way to maximize his athletic abilities, and I think he's found a way to maximize his abilities in terms of what he's doing now, too. I think he can be a role model for a lot of them. On top of that, they like him. He's a very positive guy. He's always smiling. That is something that helps him to bridge a lot of gaps."
AD: When you were reporting the story, what stood out to you about who he is as a person?
DP: "I think a lot of what shaped him was from his childhood. He had such a rare determination to overcome his circumstances. I think there's a lot of people who, if they were dealt the same hand of cards as he was, they would kind of throw their hands up in the air and say, 'Look, I've been dealt a bad hand and I really can't be expected to overcome this.' I think it pushed him into becoming everything that he did become. He's a great example in that way to a lot of people. I think one of the things that he did come out of his childhood with, thanks to his grandmother, was a strong faith that helped him face a lot of adversity in his life and still is helping him today."
AD: In terms of his readiness for a GM role, how much do you think him doing a little bit of everything — playing, coaching, scouting, working as an agent — may have prepared him for this opportunity?
DP: "I don't know that there's another candidate who has as diverse a background as he does. I think he can understand the job of general manager from more viewpoints than most people, because of his varied experiences. He didn't start out to be a general manager like a lot of general manager candidates do. He started out [working with] computers. I think there's a lot of teams now that are looking at that position of general manager as more than just a guy to evaluate talent. They're looking at that person as someone to help run a multi-billion dollar organization, and they're looking for someone who can be a manager and someone who can establish a culture. He's got, like I said, kind of an unusual resume in that regard, having done so many things that other people haven't done."
AD: How have you seen the momentum for his GM candidacy grow?
DP: "Certainly the Bears had some success in 2018, but they took a little step back last year. This year they were kind of up and down a little bit — ended up with a playoff spot but were a .500 team. A lot of times you find that general manager candidates or head-coaching candidates come from teams that have great success. I wouldn't put him in that category, because it's not like the Bears are coming off a Super Bowl like the Chiefs. He's established himself to the point where a lot of people are aware of who he is and he's on a lot of radars because of what he's done and how he's done it."