Caleb Williams

Keeping Justin Fields, drafting Caleb Williams is no-win situation for Bears, QBs

The Bears should do everything they can to maximize Caleb Williams' talent from the second he arrives

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The Bears are being patient with everything regarding their future quarterback plans.

Everything points to the Bears drafting Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick and trading Justin Fields. But the Bears still need to go to Williams' pro day, get his medical information, and host him for a top-30 visit. General manager Ryan Poles wants to be 100 percent sure that Williams is the right fit for the Bears before locking in his plans. However, all indicators are that the Bears like Williams and expect the final boxes to be checked later this month.

There is also currently no trade market for Fields. The Bears might not be actively "shopping" him, but they are open for business and have yet to receive any offer -- at least one that would interest them -- for the 25-year-old quarterback.

With the Fields trade market frozen, the idea of potentially keeping Fields and drafting Williams has started to gain traction, with former Bears Kyle Long and Chase Daniel trumpeting the idea.

Could the Bears theoretically keep Fields and draft Williams in hopes that a team will have an injury in camp or early in the season and be willing to pay a higher price to acquire Fields? Sure. It's possible.

The San Francisco 49ers once backed themselves into a corner with Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo after the 2021 season. Teams knew the 49ers wanted to move on from Garoppolo, and the 49ers elected to bring back Garoppolo, who had already said goodbye to the team and local media, to camp to backup Lance. Garoppolo handled the situation well, but it was awkward for all parties involved. Garoppolo eventually had to step in when Lance broke his ankle and left San Francisco as a free agent in 2023.

So, anything is possible.

But the Bears should not entertain an idea that could be so detrimental to Williams' early development that it might as well have been ripped from the opening chapter of "How Not To Develop A Franchise Quarterback," a book that has been floating around Halas Hall for years.

Do I think that Fields and Williams would be able to handle it like pros and approach a "competition" with a positive attitude? Sure.

But if the Bears draft Williams, they will do so because they view him as a better player than Fields and believe he gives them a better chance of winning a Super Bowl. In that case, they need to do everything they can to provide Williams with a soft landing in the NFL, foster growth in his development, and not curb his confidence.

Bringing a rookie quarterback into a situation where he shares a locker room with a quarterback beloved by his teammates and a large section of the fan base is a recipe for disaster. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson said the locker room would "rock with" whoever Poles picks at quarterback. But that's a lot easier when there is only one option. Having both players there could force players to take sides and make it harder for Williams to win over the locker room that he is drafted to lead.

Having Williams and Fields in camp would also put the Bears in a tough position in terms of divvying up developmental reps and time with each quarterback. Keep in mind Fields is still only 25, needs to keep progressing as a passer, and will want to show a prospective new team he's worthy of a long-term deal. If he doesn't get that opportunity, he'll risk being relegated to a career backup fighting for a second chance. I find it hard to believe that Fields and his representation would be amenable to the Bears bringing him back when they have already decided to move on. His best chance to advance his career is outside of Chicago.

To that point, coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron won't want to split their time between Williams, whom they drafted at No. 1, and Fields, whom they decided wasn't their future at quarterback. They must put all their time and effort into Williams to ensure his career gets off to the start they envision and isn't immediately derailed by an unnecessary gamble.

There's also the noise. If the Bears brought Williams and Fields to training camp, even if it was made clear that Williams was the starter and there was no competition, the noise around the situation would be deafening. The first time Williams made a mistake in camp or the preseason, half the crowd would start chanting for Fields. That's a good way to wreck a rookie's confidence before his career even gets off the ground.

Eberflus will also be entering a critical third season in which he has to continue to show progress and evidence that he's the right coach to develop Williams. Eberflus won't want that kind of distraction surrounding the team in camp, nor should he want to mess around with the development plans for his franchise quarterback.

If the Bears draft Williams, everything they do from now on should be about putting him in the best possible position to succeed, from signings to trades, draft picks, and coaching hires. The Bears' primary edict should be figuring out how to maximize Williams' wealth of talent. That includes clearing the deck so that he can enter and be the unquestioned leader at the quarterback position.

On the flip side, the Bears wouldn't be doing right by Fields if they brought him back only to faux-compete with Williams or sit behind him. Poles said he would do "right by" Fields if the Bears decided to move on. Doing right by Fields involves trading him to a new team that allows him to compete for a starting job and continue to grow as an NFL signal-caller.

Keeping Fields and drafting Williams is a lose-lose for everyone.

The Bears find themselves in a rare position—one that should be universally celebrated by a fan base and a city that has craved a winner. Everything points to the Bears believing Williams is the quarterback who can finally deliver on that goal.

Opportunities like the one the Bears have -- landing the No. 1 overall pick from another team in a draft with a potentially generational quarterback -- rarely come along, and never twice.

The Bears must maximize this opportunity by giving Williams, should they draft him, the best chance to thrive and reach his superstar potential. They should also want Fields to succeed wherever he goes and not force him to languish behind the guy they picked to replace him.

A clean break is best for everyone. Entertaining the idea of keeping Fields and drafting Williams is great social media fodder. But it would be an unnecessary risk and a potential disaster for a franchise that knows all too well how easy it is to ruin the development of a young quarterback.

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