Caleb Williams

What Bears want Caleb Williams to work on first during start of NFL career

The Bears plan to keep it simple for Caleb Williams to start his NFL career

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears' franchise-altering draft came and went this weekend. General manager Ryan Poles said that "everything fell into place" over the three-day event, which started with a historic first-round haul of quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Rome Odunze and ended with the selection of edge rusher Austin Booker.

Williams has been open about the big goals he will set for himself and the Bears during what the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner expects to be a long and successful tenure in Chicago. Williams said he expects to get the playbook early next week and will immediately dive in ahead of rookie minicamp on May 10 and 11.

Many view Williams as a potentially "generational" prospect. But he, like any prospect, has areas that need fine-tuning and polishing to reach his ceiling.

The Bears plan to start simple with the 2024 No. 1 overall pick during the offseason program.

"It’s really just the operation, right?" head coach Matt Eberflus said Saturday at Halas Hall when asked what Williams will be working on to start his career. "He’s gonna have to operate the offense. He’s gonna have to spit the calls. He’s gonna have to be clean with his cadence and just operate in the offense. If it’s in the huddle, from the no-huddle and all the situations, he’s gonna have to play point guard. That’s what he does. Distribute the ball."

Poles was part of the Kansas City Chiefs' brain trust that identified the rare potential in quarterback Patrick Mahomes that few other teams saw. Williams drew comparisons to Mahomes as a prospect during the pre-draft process.

Among the many things that have made Mahomes special in the NFL is his ability to be a crunch-time wizard.

Poles was asked if that clutch gene was something the Chiefs identified and projected in the pre-draft process and if he sees it in Williams.

The Bears' general manager noted that it is "hard to project," but elite traits and unquestioned work ethic, both of which Williams has, give you the best chance of hitting on a franchise-altering signal-caller.

"But you know, if they have a certain level of those physical tools that the sky’s the limit, and there can be a really high ceiling," Poles said Saturday. "That’s what we look for, and that’s what Caleb has. He has a really high ceiling. Now we got to pour into him. He’s got to put in the time as well, which we know both sides will do everything that we can to develop him and those around him, and then we’ll see where that ceiling is."

After the Bears drafted him at No. 1 overall Thursday, Williams told reporters in Detroit that his "last goal is immortality." Those big goals create an infectious, bar-raising standard that helped Williams resuscitate USC and should help him do the same with the Bears.

While many prospects would look to ignore the giant expectations thrust on them, Williams is already embracing the pressure of changing the Bears' quarterback narrative.

“What’s the reason to duck?" Williams said Friday. "It’s here. There’s no reason to duck. I’m here. Rome’s here. Keenan Allen, the top-five defense that we had last year, special teams, all the new roles – whatever. We’re here. I’m excited. I know everybody’s excited. The Bears fans are excited from what I’ve heard and seen, and there’s no reason to duck. Attack it head first and go get it.”

Those grand plans won't go anywhere, but the Bears don't plan to place any expectations on Williams to start. They know this is about the long-term vision.

"Just to work. Get to work, and he's going to do that," Eberflus said when asked what the expectations will be for Williams in Year 1. "He's got to take one day at a time, get to work, go through the process, get to know his teammates, get the relationships going with every single guy, which he's done. I mean he's already called all of our draft picks already. He's already reached out to a bunch of players, some of the key players on our football team. So, that's really it. Just take one day at a time."

This was a transformational weekend for the Bears' franchise. Poles has quickly turned around the Bears' roster, with the selection of Williams and Odunze serving as the culmination of his grand plan.

It was also the start of what comes next.

"I would have never guessed that it lined up the way that it did, so we’re all excited," Poles said. "A lot of hard work went into it and it paid off for sure. Now it’s time to start a new chapter for this organization."

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