Shane Waldron

Shane Waldron doesn't tip hand on Bears' Justin Fields-Caleb Williams decision

Shane Waldron showed his poker face on Thursday at Halas Hall

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Shane Waldron finally took the podium Thursday at Halas Hall in his introductory press conference as the Bears' new offensive coordinator.

Waldron will play a critical role in the franchise-altering quarterback decision that awaits the Bears this offseason. But if you thought Waldron would provide insight into his lean on sticking with Justin Fields or selecting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, you were sorely mistaken.

Waldron answered questions for nearly 20 minutes but spoke in generalities and refused to get into the weeds on the quarterback decision that awaits general manager Ryan Poles.

When asked about his early evaluation of Fields, Waldron deflected.

"For him, talking about individual evaluations, it’s been much more, build a staff, build our base of what we’re going to do," Waldron said. "We’ve started to get into our personnel. We started to really meet with the scouts and having that full evaluation of what our roster looks like. And so then moving forward over the next several weeks will allow us to start to make some decisions not just at that spot but at all the spots because obviously free agency is right in front of us right now. Being able to put all of those things together is all part of the process, but for us, too, there’s that process of having a foundation as coaches and knowing what we want to be and how we want to present this so that when we do start talking about the players, how are they fitting in everything that we’re looking to do?"

When he was thrown the off-speed pitch for his early thoughts on Williams, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, Waldron, once again, didn't take the bait.

"From afar, mainly my impression of a lot of these quarterbacks, all the college quarterbacks was, what an unbelievable college season we just came off of with these guys making some of these dynamic plays down the stretch, whether it was leading into the championship games or the bowl games leading up to that, the regular season, obviously for me being out on the west coast, getting a little bit more exposure to the Pac-12 — I guess the Pac-12’s still last year as the thing evolves every day in my mind," Waldron said.

"So just in terms of that, it’s been more generalities, seeing all these guys perform at a high level under the national spotlight. Especially there’s multiple quarterbacks that have already performed on the highest stage, in big games and obviously he’s one of them. I’m excited when we start this afternoon with some of our draft process, then the Combine kicks off, to me that’s the chance to really dive into this and get going."

Waldron was one of the hot names during this coaching cycle. He interviewed with the New Orleans Saints and expected to have numerous offers, but ultimately felt the Bears were the best option. Owning the No. 1 overall pick and another pick in the top 10 was part of the attraction that drew Waldron to Chicago.

"Having a unique scenario like this where you have the first pick and the ninth pick in the draft, to get a chance to be a part of an organization as storied as this one is, I think all of those things go into it," Waldron said. "And like I said, when the season ends, every season is its own entity. You’re not saying I’m anticipating what’s about to happen, and next thing you know, here you go, you’re in the interview process. Like I said, it just felt very comfortable very quickly with meeting those guys and then obviously having that piece of the draft puzzle where you get a chance to evaluate so many top players around the college game with those two high picks, made it totally appealing."

Waldron said that the two interviews he had with Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, and the rest of the Bears' brain trust, which included offensive line coach Chris Morgan and director of research and analysis Harrison Freid, revolved around how he would utilize the Bears' personnel and how he would build an offense around either Fields or Williams.

"Just from a player’s standpoint in general, a lot of the conversation on offense revolved around adaptability. What can you do with different pieces of the puzzle depending on each year? Each year in this league is going to be its own individual year. I think priding ourselves on having an offensive system, a group of coaches that can adapt and adjust the scheme to a player’s skillset. It’s our job first to be great teachers and second to put guys in the right position and best position for their own individual success, to lead to our team’s success. A lot of our conversation revolved around not just the quarterback position — that’s the starting point on offense. But how does that look for every position as a team, and as teams adapt each year and players adapt each year?"

The Bears made adaptability and creativity a big focus in their search for offensive and defensive coordinators.

Waldron hit on this theme multiple times during his introductory press conference and is confident his offense will work with whoever the Bears decide to be their quarterback going forward.

"I totally believe that. I think in the past experiences, like I said, with different quarterbacks, different experience levels, whether I was in the coordinator role or in a role as a position coach, I felt that way," Waldron said. "I felt different quarterbacks have been able to step foot into the system, be able to learn it quickly, and that starts with us being able to teach it in a good and efficient manner where they understand it and then being able to go, and again, just because each guy’s gonna have a different skillset, so what direction does it go? The players really take ownership and control of that."

Waldron said he has "exchanged messages" with Fields, but that was as close as he got to stepping out of generalization land and discussing an individual player. He didn't name Fields or Williams by name once during the presser.

The Bears' quarterback search will enter its next stage next week during the NFL Scouting Combine. That will give Poles, Eberflus, and Waldron time to get to know the top prospects as players and will allow Poles to gauge a potential trade market for Fields should the Bears head in that direction.

Waldron revealed nothing during his first back-and-forth with the Chicago media. The next time Waldron speaks, the Bears' quarterback plan will be in place, and he'll be able to explain why Fields or Williams is the right choice to run his offense.

But for now, the waiting game continues.

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