Caleb Williams

Why Ryan Poles isn't worried that Caleb Williams won't want to play for Bears

The Bears believe they are set up to help a rookie QB succeed immediately

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Nearly two months after securing the No. 1 overall pick, Bears general manager Ryan Poles is exactly where he was when the season ended: open to keeping Justin Fields or taking a quarterback with the first selection.

The Bears remain in the early stages of the information-gathering process on the 2024 crop of quarterbacks, spearheaded by 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.

Williams doesn't talk much, but that doesn't stop the noise surrounding him and his NFL future from growing louder. That has included unfounded speculation that Williams, a Washington D.C. native, would prefer not to play for the Bears and could instead try to steer himself to his hometown Commanders at No. 2.

Poles will sit down with Williams for the first time this week at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, but the Bears general manager isn't concerned about the presumptive No. 1 overall pick trying to pull an Eli Manning.

"No. No. No concerns about that at all," Poles told the Chicago media on Tuesday at the combine. "I would love to know why, if that was the case. Like I said, I think as a young quarterback, and I’ve been around it, the infrastructure is important, and I think we’ve made really good progress in terms of having really good infrastructure for whoever were to come in or if Justin were to stay here as well."

The noise around Williams avoiding the Bears got ratcheted up in late January when FOX Sports' Colin Cowherd said he had heard that Williams would prefer not to be a Bear. Cowherd backtracked the next day and said that Williams' camp doesn't want to be painted as "anti-Bear," and they see Chicago as a good landing spot for a young quarterback.

Williams will interview this week in Indianapolis but will wait until USC's Pro Day on March 20 to throw for teams.

Poles has been adamant that the biggest piece of the quarterback puzzle is figuring out the person. That quest starts this week in Indianapolis, where the Bears' decision-makers will sit down with Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels for the first time to find what makes them tick and decipher what kind of leaders they will be.

As far as on-field ability, Williams has been labeled "generational" by many NFL evaluators and has drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes. Poles said he sees that comp in the play style, but there's obviously much more to Mahomes than his creativity.

"There’s pieces. There’s pieces that are similar," Poles said when asked about the Mahomes comp. "Obviously, the one stands out to everyone is just different arm angles. That’s a unique trait, not a lot of guys can do that. I’ll give Jeff King, who’s on my team, credit. He painted a picture of two types of quarterbacks: there’s artists, and then there’s surgeons. So within that group you can kind of see who’s the artist that’s really creative, doesn’t draw within the lines where there’s more of surgeons who are like your typical, like the Brady’s and Payton’s. You kind of branch them out in those buckets and go from there. That’s where they’re similar."

When asked if he preferred artists or surgeons, Poles offered a big smile and a laugh.

"No. Winners."

The Bears search for that winner will reach its next stage this week in Indianapolis. Poles said he wants this process to be over as soon as possible but admitted the process could take some time as he works to answer all the necessary questions.

"I would love to know as soon as possible," Pole said. "I would love to know, but I know that’s not how the process works. Sure, before free agency would be good. Like I said, I’m also taking, if we were to do something with Justin, I want to do right by him and I know, again, living in that grey space, we would want to do something sooner rather than later. But just like I talk about with contracts, it takes two teams to figure that out, but at the same time, we’re also trying to figure out the draft process as well. There’s a lot of different things with different timelines going and that’s what makes it a little difficult."

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