Caleb Williams

Bears naming Caleb Williams starter obvious, yet important signal of franchise growth

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus confirmed what we've all known for a long time. But it was still a major shift for the team.

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Everyone in the football world has known that Caleb Williams will be the next starting quarterback for months, but on Friday Bears head coach Matt Eberflus made it officially official. When asked if Williams would be the starter from day one, Eberflus eliminated any doubt on the topic– not that there was any doubt.

“No conversation. He’s the starter.”

It was the most “no duh” moment of Friday’s start to rookie minicamp, but it was also an important moment. Things have not always been this way at Halas Hall and Eberflus’ affirmation is the latest signal that things are different with him and GM Ryan Poles running the show.

This isn’t going to be like the Bears’ development of Mitchell Trubisky, who had to split reps with Mike Glennon to start his career. Nor is it going to be like Justin Fields’ development. Fields similarly missed out on first-team action in training camp because the team wanted to get Andy Dalton up to speed while Fields watched, listened and learned.

The idea behind each plan was for the rookie to develop on the sidelines, absorbing info along the way. It was a plan that worked in the NFL for years to great effect. For a variety of reasons it didn’t work for the Bears.

Trubisky was finally pressed into duty when Glennon threw five interceptions and fumbled another five times over the team’s first four games in 2017. Fields was forced to play when Dalton suffered a bone bruise in Week 2. Each quarterback looked unprepared for the moment, in part because the team had spent so much time preparing other guys.

Unfortunate injury luck, poor free agency decision making or bad planning? You decide.

Even Rex Grossman had to wait his turn behind both Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler in 2003, when the Bears used the No. 22 overall pick to make him their starter of the future.

The last Bears rookie QB to start in Week 1 was fourth-round pick Kyle Orton in 2005, and that was only because Grossman got hurt in the preseason. In fact, since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970 the Bears have never started a rookie quarterback in Week 1 on purpose, because that was the plan. Williams will be the first.

Back to Eberflus and Poles and year three of their program. In short time, the two turned over the roster almost entirely and built an ascending defense. They’ve added loads of young talent on the offensive side of the ball, and brought together a collection of playmakers rarely seen in Chicago. Now they have finally chosen their quarterback, and they’re going to turn him loose.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, and the days after the draft, Poles and Eberflus had to field several questions about why this new quarterback would pan out when all the others had failed. It’s a fair question considering no city is more familiar with a QB carousel than Chicago. But after Poles was asked about it for the umpteenth time, he was visibly annoyed.

“The history's the history,” Poles said just hours after drafting Williams. “Like I'm kind of done talking about it. You go back so much all the time and those days are over.”

Poles was brought in to change the way things were done around Halas Hall. He and Eberflus have specifically targeted players who match the culture they want to build. And they’re not going to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done.

Naming Caleb Williams the starter in May was a no brainer for the team and any “competition” between him and Tyson Bagent, or him and Brett Rypien would have been a competition in name only. Yet, in the past it wouldn’t be surprising if a kangaroo competition was declared, even if there was no shot for anyone else to win.

Not with these Bears, though. They’re not running from expectations and they’re not putting up a front. They’re ready to roll with the No. 1 overall pick, because obviously, that’s why they chose him.

In the end the result might be the same. Williams could flame out in 2028 just like Fields and Trubisky and countless others flamed out before him. But as Poles said, that history is history. Williams is going boldly where no Bears quarterback has gone before, to the top of the depth chart on Day 1.

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