Caleb Williams

‘Light years ahead:' Bears successfully launch Caleb Williams development plan at minicamp

The Bears' methodical plan to develop Caleb Williams is underway

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Caleb Williams never stops. The Bears rookie quarterback is hell-bent on maximizing every second of his time as he pushes to live up to the expectations that he and others have placed on him.

When rookie left tackle Kiran Amegadjie arrives at Halas Hall, Williams has already arrived and is working to master whatever is on his plate. That work doesn't stop from the time Williams wakes until the time he goes to bed. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner has been texting quarterbacks coach Kerry Joseph late at night, asking for more detail about why the Bears are doing things on certain plays.

"He’s one of those guys who want to know why," Joseph said of Williams after Bears rookie minicamp wrapped up Saturday. "You put something in, you put a play in, you talk about it, you give him the progressions, whether it’s run or pass, like he wants to know why. Last night, probably about 10:30 or 11 o’clock, he texts me, ‘Hey, why are we doing this here? Why are we blocking it like that? Isn’t that his guy to block?’ He just wants to know. He wants to know those answers. So when you have a guy like that, he’s hungry for it and you love to know that because now he becomes a coach on the field for you. Once he gets it and learns this whole system, he’ll become a coach on the field now."

The Bears have crafted an intricate developmental plan for their new franchise quarterback. General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus know that fate swung in their favor to land Williams, and they plan to do everything possible to make sure the franchise's best chance at developing a star quarterback is successful.

That work started before Williams stepped foot in Halas Hall.

Williams and his personal quarterback coach, Will Hewlett, had the Bears give them some footwork and cadences to work on in the weeks leading up to the draft.

That early work is already paying dividends as the Bears' grand developmental plan for Williams launched this weekend.

"Will did a great job with him of prepping him for what we’re about to do now," Joseph said. "Coming into this minicamp, he was light years ahead of the information that he already had."

There isn't much to draw from a two-day minicamp in which Williams was on the field with mostly rookie tryouts. But his attention to detail was evident in the two practices. Williams was accurate and precise in both practices. He missed a few throws, and there were a couple of drops, but each time a rep was unsuccessful, Williams would link up with the intended receiver -- be it first-round pick Rome Odunze or undrafted free agent Brendan Bates -- talk through the rep and then ask to run it again to get it right.

That's part of Williams' DNA. He's a perfectionist who wants to set the tone of the organization. He wants his fellow rookies to see him as a resource as they lay the foundation for a 2024 season with high expectations.

"Getting to a point where there’s certain things that I can teach some of the guys that maybe it’s John Jack or Rome that they’re not understanding that I may understand," Williams said Friday when asked about his goals for minicamp. "So being able to teach is always big because it’s also another way for you to learn.

"It also shows you how much that you know, and so I would take those and then just being around the guys, enjoying the time together, getting on the field, executing and being even-keeled throughout the whole thing, because I’m gonna make mistakes and I don’t really like mistakes, and messing up and I know there’s a bunch of guys that are going to be in the same position as me. Being in that position and being even-keeled and being in control, cool, calm and collected not only helps me but also all the other guys on the field."

The Bears will enact their methodical plan for developing Williams in stages.

Step One will take place during the offseason program. Williams will handle Step Two during the summer break before the next phase begins during training camp.

Joseph and passing game coordinator Thomas Brown will handle the daily details with Williams while offensive coordinator Shane Waldron helps the quarterback with the 3,000-foot view and works to tailor the Bears' offense to Williams' strengths.

"I think for me, the things we’re pouring into him right now is just the understanding of the big picture of the game and all the intricacies and the nuances of, first of all, between college and the NFL and being able to start with that ground floor approach and build that repertoire of his up as we’re going," Waldron said Saturday. "For me, also being able to lean on Kerry Joseph and the rest of the offensive staff, to me, this is always a collaborative effort, and it’s going to take all of us to help him along the way, and everyone has great individual strengths that they can bring to the table.

"So for me, it’s helping him with the big picture of the game, understanding the offense, understanding situational football and then Kerry being a great technician and making sure we’re always working on the fundamentals and that belief in the basics. And then Thomas, with the passing game and everything he can bring there and his prior experiences to lean on."

Brown spent last season as the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. The Bears have leaned on him for information about what went right and wrong with the development of 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young last season.

While the Panthers didn't surround Young with top-level weapons or a stout offensive line, the Bears traded for wide receiver Keenan Allen, drafted wide receiver Rome Odunze, signed tight end Gerald Everett and running back D'Andre Swift, and bolstered the interior of their offensive line with Ryan Bates and Coleman Shelton.

With the infrastructure sound, Brown will now be more "behind the scenes" as Joseph takes charge of the daily instruction of the Bears' new franchise quarterback.

That work for Joseph is all about fine-tuning Williams' fundamentals. The Bears don't believe there's much to clean up, but they want to ensure Williams stays consistent while maintaining the playmaking ability that makes him special.

"You find ways to navigate through some things but without taking away his superpowers," Joseph said. "And that’s what you have to do, and that’s what coaching is about. It’s about communication, it’s about relationships, it’s about a partnership and it’s about working through some things. It’s not about everything that Kerry Joseph knows. It’s about the proper fundamentals but what fits Caleb. What fits the quarterbacks, because everybody is different."

But the focus in Phase 1 of the developmental plan isn't just on footwork and fundamentals. A lot of Williams' work throughout the offseason will be about perfecting cadence and operating an NFL offense at top-level efficiency.

The on-field work started this weekend. Williams, thanks to the head start he got with Hewlett, breezed through his developmental introduction.

"Being able to get out here and lead the guys," Joseph said of his goals for Williams at minicamp. "In the huddle. Being able to function with calling the plays. Getting to the line of scrimmage. That process. And then also being able to go through the progressions in the pass game and just having a good feel of field spacing. Seeing it from now when the defense is over there, and it’s just walk-through or 7-on-7, he understands the spots on the field and understanding it in our system. So that is one thing we were looking for coming into this. And he’s done a great job with that."

Even after practice wrapped, Williams stayed to throw routes with his friend and undrafted rookie tryout, John Jackson.

Undrafted quarterback Austin Reed trained with Williams in the pre-draft period and has at least some understanding of Williams' maniacal work ethic—one born out of a desire not to sacrifice his gifts.

"I think anyone with a brain knows that this dude is being tabbed as a generational prospect, and I don’t think he shies away from that," Reed said. I think he understands the work that it’s gonna take to become that instead of just thinking he is that already. I kind of just respect the fact that he carries himself in that manner and that he really is like: I’m gonna go earn that tag, instead of just thinking that he is that."

Williams' aura has already impacted the Bears' organization, and the team's decision-makers believe it will be a transformational force both on and off the field.

"His light comes out from the inside," Eberflus said. "You can certainly feel that energy. He’s a 1-plus-1-equals-3 guy. He’s an enhancer."

The Caleb Williams developmental plan successfully launched this weekend at Halas Hall.

There's a lot of work to be done between May 12 and Week 1, but the Bears are confident their patient, methodical approach will put Williams and the 2024 team in an optimal position to succeed out of the gates.

“I think it’s just steadily improving. Not getting too far ahead. We’re not going to be able to play a game tomorrow," Brown said of his offseason benchmarks for Williams. "It's just one day at a time."

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