Caleb Williams

Ex-NFL star Gerald McCoy has powerful message for critics of Caleb Williams crying

Don't mistake passion for weakness

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LAS VEGAS -- Every facet of Caleb Williams' game will be picked apart over the next two months in the lead-up to the 2024 NFL Draft.

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner and potential No. 1 overall pick by the Bears has a world of talent. He has elite arm talent, rare off-script playmaking ability, and has had NFL evaluators drooling since he burst on the scene at Oklahoma in 2021.

But the criticism of Williams intensified during the 2023 season. As USC struggled due to a horrific defense and leaky offensive line, Williams was forced to try to put the Trojans on his back. The hero ball approach led to some jaw-dropping highlights but also some poor decisions.

A 52-42 loss to undefeated Washington was the perfect example of the uphill battle Williams faced trying to draft the Trojans' flawed roster to wins on a weekly basis. It's a loss that led to a viral moment that has served as a crutch for some of Williams' biggest critics to latch onto.

After the loss, cameras caught Williams going into the stands to be embraced by his mother, who tried to shield him from the cameras as he cried. This moment has become one that critics cite as the reason he can't be relied on to be a leader in the NFL and why the Bears should pass on him and stick with quarterback Justin Fields.

Former NFL star and six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy doesn't have time for those who view emotion as a weakness.

"People question why he's crying after games. People who question Caleb Williams crying after games or an athlete crying after games have never worked extremely hard for anything," McCoy, now an analyst for NFL Network, told NBC Sports Chicago at Radio Row for Super Bowl 58. "You have no idea the hours as athletes that we put in. Everybody handles stuff differently. He's showing passion. You mean to tell me you're questioning his toughness or what he is because he chooses to deal with loss by going to talk to his mom?! Because he's going to cry?! You know how many people cry to their moms behind closed doors? They just don't do it on camera. He's Caleb Williams. He's always on camera. There's a lot of athletes that you guys will be surprised to do a lot of crying in the locker room.

"So don't question his toughness because he's crying after losing. We put a lot into this sport, a lot more than just our bodies. So his passion and who he is as a person, if that's why you wouldn't pick him or want him as your leader, alright whatever. Then I don't want you as a fan anyway. Caleb is one of those guys.”

McCoy started hearing about Williams when the USC star was a budding phenom in high school, and he has no doubt Williams has the goods to succeed in the NFL.

"He showed what he was when he got his first full season," McCoy said. "He won the Heisman. He's showing what he is with his feet, his pocket presence. He can make every throw. He's a leader."

As for Fields, McCoy understands fans' attachment to the 2021 first-round pick. But the NFL is a results business, and Fields hasn't done close to enough to force the Bears to pass on Williams.

"He has given you three years of, 'Eh, is he showing something?'" McCoy said of Fields. "But is he like [Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud]? Is he doing that?! Is he giving you C.J. Stroud vibes? If he's not ... trade him.

"If I'm them, I trade him and take Caleb. He's given you a big enough sample size. The reason I say this, I never want to go against anyone having success. So, the first year they blame the coach. Matt Nagy, got him out of there. Now, put pieces around him. He still wasn't passing the ball well, but he showed what he could do with his feet. They lead the league in rushing. All right. We know he can run. We get DJ Moore, give him a bona fide number one, let's see what he can do. Still didn't work out. Got a little better. ... Every part that they said was a problem they tried to address, and it still didn't get to a point where we were like, "OK, one more guy and we right there.'"

Bears general manager Ryan Poles faces a franchise-altering decision this offseason. It's a decision that many around the league, including McCoy, believe has had an obvious answer from the second the Bears secured the No. 1 pick from the Carolina Panthers.

Take Caleb Williams.

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