The hay might not be in the barn just yet, but the early signs are pointing overwhelmingly toward the Chicago Bears drafting Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick.
Not everyone agrees with that approach, with several players – including current (DJ Moore and Jaylon Johnson) and former (Jay Cutler) Bears – believing the team should build around incumbent starter Justin Fields and provide him with the coaching and roster support needed for him to take off in his fourth season.
But the combination of Williams’ prodigious skill, Fields’ lack of elite production, the suggested shift of the offense to a West Coast style that seemingly favors Williams’ skillset and plain old luck make it hard to feel like this ends without Williams going No. 1 overall to Chicago.
On top of that, Bears brass reportedly is flying out to speak with USC offensive assistant (and former Arizona Cardinals head coach) Kliff Kingsbury for their offensive coordinator position and, ostensibly, to grill him about Williams on and off the field. Suffice it to say they’re doing every last bit of their homework on the draft’s top prospect.
Then, there’s the area where all those opinions intersect and show just how complicated this decision might be for the Bears.
Former NFL quarterback Brock Huard, who broadcasted PAC-12 college games for Fox Sports, has seen a good amount of Williams for the last two seasons and additionally has watched a good deal of prospective Bears offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s work with the Seattle Seahawks.
When asked by ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy Show what he’d do if he were in the Bears’ position, Huard didn’t talk about “skill” so much as “style” as part of his reason for keeping Fields as the starting quarterback in Chicago.
“Your team should be built in the image of the Baltimore Ravens,” he said. “[Chicago’s] a tough place to throw the ball…to me, that environment should be Bully Ball 101. You should play to your environment and your surroundings and get back to being the biggest, nastiest bully on the block.
“…I think in Justin Fields, you’ve got an amazing dual-threat guy. So tell me what that team can’t be built in the image of that team out in Baltimore.”
On one hand, it’s hard not to look at Fields’ performance in Atlanta in Week 17 and see him having success in Chicago’s mercurial winter months. His ability to run the football himself is also a plus to an offense head coach Matt Eberflus will almost certainly want to have an edge on the ground.
The fact that the team has reportedly interviewed Greg Roman for their vacant offensive coordinator position might be a sign that the Bears do want to build that sort of offense – potentially with Fields as their quarterback.
That said, the “Bear weather” aspect of this might not matter as much in a few years when the team (in theory) has a new stadium in Arlington Heights with a dome over it. So perhaps designing an offense built for the cold won’t have as much value looking ahead to the future. (Plus, Williams grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, so he’s played in winter conditions before.)
Then, there’s the question of leadership and “football character”: the types of intangibles Fields has in spades and could be the biggest reasons he still has a chance to keep his job.
Huard, who said he has a brother on staff at USC, spoke well of Williams’ persona toward his teammates in a way that could endear him to Bears players and Ryan Poles.
“The one thing they loved about that dude is he treated everyone incredible,” Huard said of Williams. “… He was generous. We don’t talk about very much with quarterbacks.”
Though Huard said he didn’t care for Williams losing control of his emotions after USC’s loss to UCLA, the former quarterback used it as an example of the young quarterback being “real” as he navigated a more challenging season than his Heisman campaign in 2022.
Huard also said he thinks the Shanahan/McVay style of offense – lots of outside runs with heavy boot play action – would fit well with Williams’ skills. That’s notable, of course, because that’s almost exclusively what the Bears have sought in offensive coordinators thus far.
We’ll certainly hear plenty between now and the NFL Draft about Williams’ character and fit with the Bears. Some of it will be informed, like Huard’s thoughts. Some of it will be more conjecture.
But the picture slowly emerging of Williams is one of a supremely talented player who shouldn’t have any problems fitting into the Bears locker room should he be drafted here.
If he can convince Chicago brass of that, there’s a good chance he’ll be the guy under center for the Bears this coming season.