How might USC QB Williams fit with this Bears team in 2024?

Draft night is really just the beginning.

If the Bears do, indeed, select USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the team will have a lot of work ahead of it. After trading Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this month, the Bears are widely expected to select Williams on April 25.

But any team that drafts a quarterback — even a highly regarded one — is expected to go through some growing pains. How might Williams fit with this Bears team as it’s now constructed?

Here’s a look.

A quarterback-friendly system

It starts with the coaching staff. Are the Bears putting Williams in the best position to succeed?

First-year offensive coordinator Shane Waldron appears to run a quarterback-friendly offense. He did for the past three years in Seattle. The scheme allowed veteran quarterback Geno Smith to resurrect his career as a starter. The hope is that the scheme will put Williams in position to make winning plays from the start.

The 2024 Bears will still be a run-first offense. Coach Matt Eberflus loves the wide-zone rushing attack, that’s why both coordinators he hired (first, Luke Getsy; now, Waldron) have come from the same coaching tree.

It goes back to Eberflus’ days as a defensive coordinator. The wide zone was always tough to defend. Additionally, when looking for a coordinator, Eberflus wanted a coach who could adjust schemes based on the players available.

“It depends on who’s available for the skill [positions], who’s available for that game,” Eberflus said in January. “I think you have to be multiple that way and who you’re playing. Is the team really good at stopping the run and you’re going to have to find other ways to move the ball down the field? I think that’s what we’re talking about, the multiplicity of being able to bend and adjust, not only before the game, but also in game.”

The hope is that Waldron will do a better job scheming for individual opponents and adjusting within the game.

The supporting cast

Speaking of the skill position players, the Bears have made upgrades.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Keenan Allen smiles as he listens to reporters at a news conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., Saturday, March 16, 2024. A day after the Chargers released wide receiver Mike Williams, the team decided to ship star wideout Keenan Allen to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a fourth-round pick. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

Keenan Allen is an instant upgrade as the No. 2 wide receiver. D’Andre Swift is an upgrade at running back. Add tight end Gerald Everett to that group too. They join returning veteran weapons DJ Moore, Cole Kmet and Khalil Herbert. On top of that, shipping Fields to the Steelers paves the way for Williams to start immediately and take all of the first-team reps during training camp.

The Bears are in a much better place to support a rookie quarterback than they were three years ago when they drafted Fields with the 11th overall pick. Williams has two receivers coming off 1,200-plus-yard seasons. He has a top-10 tight end and one of the best rushing attacks in football.

He also will not be forced to sit behind a veteran simply because he’s a rookie. The most egregious decision Matt Nagy made as Bears coach was to not give Fields any first-team reps during his rookie training camp. It came back to bite him when starter Andy Dalton injured his knee in Week 2. Williams, conversely, will have time to build chemistry with this current Bears bunch.

Chicago Bears defensive end Montez Sweat (98) during an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Jan. 07, 2024, in Green Bay. (AP Photo/Melissa Tamez) AP

On paper, Williams has a significantly more experienced supporting cast around him than C.J. Stroud did a year ago with the Houston Texans.

A top defense

The Bears were written off by November last season, but then they won three of four games and were suddenly back in the playoff hunt. The main reason for that resurgence was an improved defense.

The Bears led the NFL with 22 interceptions. They totaled 28 takeaways, and 19 of them came during the second half of the season after the team traded for defensive end Montez Sweat.

The Bears defense is poised to win now. The Bears found a groove late last year and not much is changing personnel-wise. Enter safety Kevin Byard in place of veteran Eddie Jackson. The Bears seem likely to draft a defensive lineman with a top draft pick. But otherwise, the starting lineup will look quite similar to last season.

If the defense picks up where it left off in January, the Bears will be playing in close games even if the offense takes time to jell. A top defense is only going to help a rookie quarterback.

An organization behind him

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) AP

For maybe the first time in the Bears’ 105-year history, the stars might be aligning. The Bears have the weapons to help a rookie quarterback. They have a defense that can win football games. They hired one of the top offensive coordinators on the market.

If they do, in fact, draft Williams, the Bears will be behind him completely. All rookie quarterbacks are rookies. They’re going to make mistakes. But the Bears believe they have the right support system around him. And while there is an urgency to show results, this is not a must-win situation for anyone at Halas Hall.

With any first-round quarterback, there’s always a fear. What if things don’t work out? What if he’s a bust?

Even if Williams were to underperform as a rookie, the Bears are built to handle that. This is a team that won seven games in 2023. This is not the worst team in football, as is normally the case with the team holding the No. 1 pick. Things would have to be unimaginably bad for the Bears to fire Eberflus and the coaching staff. In January, Poles cited Eberflus’ ability to keep the team together during tough times as the No. 1 reason for keeping him.

“I really think that the head coach needs to be able to captain the ship when the seas are stormy or when the seas have storms,” Poles said.

Poles spent the past two years building this roster and tweaking the coaching staff. He’s not going to change course at the first sign of trouble.

The same goes for ownership and team president Kevin Warren. Warren has been nothing but deliberate. Look no further than the stadium search. The Bears have moved slowly and tried to push every lever available to them before making a final decision. That’s how Warren operates and that’s how this Bears organization operates under his leadership.

It’s no different on the football side. The Bears are going to let Williams make his rookie mistakes. And that’s OK.

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