Caleb Williams

Bears' OC candidates, Caleb Williams' trainer could hint at possible QB path

Several early offseason signs could offer a clue to the Bears' QB plans

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Everything the Bears do from now until April will lead to conclusions -- real or perceived -- about the franchise's path forward at quarterback. Every interview, transaction, meeting, etc., will either point to the Bears sticking with Justin Fields or trading him and selecting Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

That speculation and dot-connecting have already begun with the Bears' exhaustive search for their next offensive coordinator underway and currently nine candidates deep.

When it was leaked that former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman had interviewed to replace the recently fired Luke Getsy, some saw it as evidence that the Bears are leaning toward keeping Fields at this extremely early stage.

However, the entire picture of the OC search, along with recent news about Williams' draft prep, has the arrow pointing firmly in the direction of the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner as of Jan. 18.

Let's start with the overall offensive coordinator search and what it says about the Bears' desired plan of attack.

The Bears have either interviewed or plan to interview nine candidates as of Thursday. Of those nine, six are from the Shanahan-McVay tree. The Shanahan scheme is the "it" offense in the modern NFL. It's a quarterback-friendly scheme that uses the run game to stretch the field horizontally to open up windows in the passing game, uses heavy pre-snap motion, focuses on getting the ball to playmakers in space to increase YAC, and can mirror everything to look the same to create advantages in the play-action game.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus hired Getsy because he viewed the Green Bay Packers offense -- run by a Shanahan disciple in head coach Matt LaFleur -- as the hardest offense to game plan to stop. Getsy never delivered on that promise, and now the Bears appear to be going back to that well.

Shanahan, McVay, LaFleur, Mike McDaniel, and Zac Taylor have all put their own twist on the scheme to fit their personnel and combat how modern defenses have tried to slow them down. But each version has been deadly in its own right by making life easier for their quarterbacks and creating explosive plays.

While the Bears have been busy shaking the Shanahan tree, hoping an offensive genius would fall into Halas Hall, Williams officially declared for the draft. He has started working with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello, who coached under Kyle Shanahan as the quarterbacks coach in two stints with the 49ers.

Williams became acquainted with Scangarello at "QB Collective," an invitational pro-style development camp for high school quarterbacks. "QB Collective" is run by several Shanahan tree figures, including Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, McVay, McDaniel, and LaFleur.

Scangarello is another one of the coaches at "QB Collective," as is Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who was the first to interview for the Bears' offensive coordinator position.

There's a good chance Williams is working with Scangarello because he understands how prevalent that system is in the NFL and wants to be able to hit the ground running should he land on a team that runs a similar system. But the fact that the Bears are hunting for a coordinator from that tree, including one who coaches at "QB Collective," is worth noting. Williams working with a coach specializing in the offense the Bears seemingly want to run might signal that both sides already understand where things likely are headed.

The Williams tea leaves don't stop there, though.

One of the three offensive coordinator candidates not from the Shanahan tree also signals that the Bears could be leaning WIlliams' way early.

USC senior offensive analyst and quarterbacks coach Kliff Kingsbury will interview for the position, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday.

Kingsbury is from the Air Raid tree -- a pass-heavy, spread attack that Hal Mumme and Mike Leach popularized.

Whether or not Kingsbury is a realistic candidate for the position, Bears general manager Ryan Poles and Eberflus would be wise to pick his brain about Williams - the player and person. Kingsbury spent just one season as Williams' position coach at USC. While the 2023 season was a slight downturn from Williams' Heisman-winning 2022 season, he still threw 30 touchdown passes and just five interceptions this past season under Kingsbury's -- and head coach Lincoln Riley's -- direction.

Scouting in the draft is a fact-finding mission, and the Bears are smart to get a jump on it here under the guise of a job interview. The Bears can also use their time with Kingsbury to get ideas on how he'd run an offense with Williams, what he believes Williams will excel at immediately, etc., and they can take those ideas into next season no matter who the offensive coordinator is.

Kingsbury could also be a good match as a play-caller for Williams. He does check some of the boxes Eberflus mentioned. He has a history of being able to create explosives and is viewed as an innovative offensive mind in league circles. Kingsbury spent four seasons as the Arizona Cardinals head coach but was fired after last season when his offense ranked 21st in scoring and 22nd in total offense. He led the Cardinals to a playoff berth in 2021, when his offense ranked in the top 10 in total offense, passing, and rushing.

Poles said he'd keep a wide-open mind as it pertains to the Bears' quarterback future. He wants the character of the player to match the talent. He also wants several years of proven production to move on from Fields.

Williams burst onto the scene as a true freshman at Oklahoma, and his star has only risen since those early days in Norman.

He's working with a coach specializing in the offense the Bears appear to want to run, and now Poles and Eberflus are bringing in one of his former coaches to interview for the OC position and give them intel on the potential No. 1 overall pick.

The Bears' quarterback journey will have ebbs and flows over the next three months. But there are a lot of early clues that are potentially pointing in Williams' direction.

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