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Caleb Williams gives the Bears a shot at having a future elite quarterback

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
February 14, 2024

The Chiefs’ 25-22 victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII made one thing clear.

The team with the better quarterback won, and in this case it was Patrick Mahomes over Brock Purdy.

The quarterback moves the needle in the NFL. The quarterback is the separator. The quarterback is everything.

The Chicago Bears were gifted the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight season. It’s a position that can immediately change the trajectory of a franchise.

If general manager Ryan Poles believes Caleb Williams gives the Bears a better chance of one day competing for a championship than Justin Fields, then Poles needs to select his quarterback.

It’s really that simple.

Why take a shot on Caleb Williams?

The former Heisman Trophy winner from USC can make every single throw. Whether he has a clean pocket or multiple defenders in his face, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound quarterback is capable of making something out of nothing.

A good way to gauge respect for any player is to hear what the opposition has to say about them. Washington defensive lineman Zion Tupuola-Fetui played USC last season and defeated Williams’ Trojans in a 52-42 shootout.

“I think, I wouldn’t say I was in awe of the moment or anything like that, but I definitely thought that he was a specimen to behold,” Tupuola-Fetui told CHGO. “I remember after the first drive, we came off and me and Bralen (Trice) were like, ‘Did you see that guy’s legs?”

Tupuola-Fetui also added: “He’s super talented. I think he sees the field in a very unique way.”

Williams’ ability to capitalize on off-scripted plays to generate explosives through the air does have a Mahomes-esque feel. Off platform, sidearm, throwing on the move, Williams has all that in his toolbox.

Of course, Williams isn’t a perfect prospect and has things he must work on once he gets into the league. Like Fields, he has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, and he elects to go for the big play instead of taking the check down at times.

That’s where coaching comes into play, and the Bears have put together an offensive staff that is more than capable of nurturing a rookie quarterback. Williams’ playing style, especially his quick release and accuracy, should mesh nicely with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s system.

Like every other team in the league, the Bears will have to continue adding weapons to ensure Williams is put in a situation where his traits can flourish throughout his rookie season.

A super team is no guarantee

All it takes is one of the 11 players to miss an assignment for a play to go awry. That’s why adding top-end talent at all positions is vital.

The 49ers for example have four first-team All-Pros and a second-team All-Pro just on offense: RB Christian McCaffrey, TE George Kittle, FB Kyle Juszczyk and LT Trent Williams and WR Brandon Aiyuk as the second-teamer.

Also, don’t forget that San Francisco is run by arguably the best offensive mind in football in Kyle Shanahan. Most teams in the NFL would be envious of the 49ers’ roster and play caller.

But even with all of the offensive firepower, the 49ers fell short to the best quarterback in football.

Looking at San Francisco’s and Kansas City’s drives in overtime illustrates the difference between the two teams. On the 49ers’ 13-play, 66-yard drive that ended in a field goal, Purdy completed three of his six passes for 50 yards. McCaffrey ran the ball six times for 26 yards.

The Chiefs went on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Mecole Hardman touchdown reception. Outside of three Isiah Pacheco runs that went for six yards, Mahomes completed all eight of his passes for 37 yards and ran for 27 yards.

At the most crucial part of the game, the ball was in Mahomes’ hands and he did what the 49ers couldn’t and led his team to a touchdown that ultimately decided the Super Bowl.

Building a complete team should always be the goal for any team, but having an elite quarterback is absolutely necessary to win in this league.

Tough decision with Justin Fields

What makes things somewhat complicated is the potential that Fields still has as a prospect. The former No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft hasn’t been in an ideal situation since Chicago moved up nine spots from pick 20 to select Fields.

Fields started his NFL career with a disastrous performance in a road loss against the Cleveland Browns — a game that ended with Fields being sacked nine times. After surviving with Matt Nagy as his head coach, he then had to alter his footwork and learn a new offense under Luke Getsy.

Due to a lack of offensive talent, Fields was asked to carry the team and did so with his legs. He ran for 1,143 yards on 160 attempts and scored eight touchdowns. His leading pass catcher in 2022 was Cole Kmet, who caught 50 passes for 544 yards and seven touchdowns.

Last season, the Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick and acquired DJ Moore in the process. Fields, Moore and Kmet all posted career-high statistics, but the 182.1 passing yards per game (27th) wasn’t nearly enough progress. So Getsy and other members of the Bears’ offensive coaching staff were fired.

Despite how Fields’ NFL career started, he showed an ability to create explosive plays, especially with his legs in the 2022 season. He also finished the 2023 season as the sixth-highest-rated quarterback with his 96.7 passer rating on throws of 20 yards or more, according to Pro Football Focus.

So it’s not crazy to think Fields will continue to develop. Another season with Moore plus another pass catcher while also continuing to upgrade the offensive line could put Fields in a position to take that leap that many expected in 2023.

If Poles were to shock the NFL world and trade the No. 1 overall pick, then he would get a historic haul in return. But that still wouldn’t guarantee the Bears would eventually win a Lombardi Trophy with Fields. Again, the 49ers have a lethal offense and not to mention a first-team All-Pro linebacker in Fred Warner and second-team All-Pro cornerback in Charvarius Ward and they still lost to the Chiefs.

As talented as Fields is, the anticipatory throws and getting the ball out quick are still inconsistent. It’s not to say that he can’t improve in those areas now that Waldron is the offensive coordinator in Chicago, but this is also Fields’ third system in four years and that will require an adjustment period.

Fields’ was dealt a bad situation in Chicago, but Poles can’t let that cloud his thought process on what he believes is best for the Bears’ organization.

Chiefs moved on from Smith to Mahomes

Poles was a part of the Chiefs organization as the director of college scouting when Kansas City decided to move up from No. 27 to the tenth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to select the now three-time Super Bowl champion and MVP and two-time MVP.

Before Mahomes was drafted, Alex Smith was the Chiefs’ quarterback at the time. In 2016 he had a Pro Bowl season — throwing for 3,502 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions while leading the Chiefs atop the AFC West. Kansas City would go on to lose to Pittsburgh in the divisional round.

Smith played well and did so in 2017 while Mahomes watched from the sidelines. Smith improved and threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions in another Pro Bowl season.

The Chiefs still traded Smith to Washington in 2018, and then Mahomes took over and won his first MVP in his first season as a starter. The Chiefs would end up losing in overtime in the AFC Championship to Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Kansas City’s front office identified Mahomes as the quarterback they needed to make them Super Bowl contenders. Now, everyone is chasing them.

If the Bears’ front office has that thought process about Williams, then how can anyone fault the third-year general manager for making the move?

That being said, there may never be another player like Mahomes and it’s unrealistic to have those expectations that Williams will ever reach that level. There’s also no guarantee that Williams will live up to his draft status. It happens all the time.

Mahomes went to an ideal situation with a future Hall-of-Fame coach in Any Reid and one of the greatest tight ends of all time in Travis Kelce. But the Chiefs had conviction and changed their franchise forever by drafting Mahomes.

Poles could potentially do the same on April 25, 2024.

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