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Bears Looking for Closer at QB

Potential Bears No. 1 draft pick Caleb Williams owns valuable experience at something many college QBs lack.

The Bears would love to have a quarterback in the draft who has perfected the art of the comeback.

Someone who knows how to compete in tight games and fourth quarters would be nice, and rallying the team to pull some out would be, as well. 

These are not easy to find in college, where quarterbacks for good teams often play very few close games.

If the Bears draft Caleb Williams, they would have someone who fits this description—at least to a greater extend than Justin Fields did.

Coach Matt Eberflus was a defensive coordinator, so his offensive expertise is limited.

"But I've been looking at quarterbacks all my life," he told reporters at the combine. "And I know what a good quarterback looks like and what's hard on a defense is a guy who has the ability to create, a guy who has the ability to throw with timing and accuracy and the guy who can move the ball down the field when it's the critical moments.

"So on third down, two-minute, all those critical moments. So I've obviously looked at that. And it's been a fun process for me."

Williams isn't necessarily the reincarnation of Captain Comeback—Jim Harbaugh with the Colts. However, he did get into a decent share of tight situations when he rallied his team or put a game away at the end.

Fields, meanwhile, had virtually no experience at this in college. Then, in the NFL he had the worst quarterback rating in the fourth quarter over the last three seasons.

This total inexperience in close games made you wonder what Ryan Pace and his staff were thinking for moving up in the draft so far if this is such an important quality. 

Fields had one fourth-quarter comeback in his three college seasons but no game-winning drives. He rallied the Buckeyes for a 29-23 lead in the fourth quarter against Clemson in the national semifinals in 2019 but there was plenty of time left for Clemson to bounce back and the Tigers did.

That was it for him.

It carried over to the NFL, where he had three fourth-quarterback comebacks and two game-winning drives in three seasons.

Williams is far more experienced at this than Fields coming into the league.

  • While at Oklahoma in 2021, Williams took over the quarterback job from Spencer Rattler and engineered seven scoring drives in the next nine Sooner possessions to beat the Texas Longhorns. Their comeback culminated with a game-winning drive, ending on a touchdown run with three seconds remaining.
  • Williams engineered another fourth-quarterback in a 35-23 win over Kansas the same year.
  • In 2022, he rallied USC in the fourth quarter with two touchdown drives and the second one put them ahead for good against Oregon State, 17-14. A 21-yard TD pass to Jordan Addison sealed it.
  • In 2023, USC trailed Cal 43-29 going into the fourth quarter and he led three staight touchdown drives for a 50-43 lead, and then they hung on for the 50-49 win when a UCLA two-point conversion failed.
  • He led a late fourth-quarter comeback against Utah and brought USC back for a 32-31 lead with 1:46 left but the defense couldn't prevent a drive to a 38-yard field goal in a 34-32 loss.
  • Williams also was quarterback for a three-overtime win by the Trojans, 43-41 over Arizona. They needed a TD drive in the second overtime to extend it and they got it.

Last season in the NFL, 23 of the 32 teams had average game margins of a touchdown or more or a touchdown or less. So games most often will be tight.

Eberflus is certain of what he needs from a quarterback and it doesn't just apply to the end of games. It's the end of seasons when teams decide who gets into the playoffs.

"That's what it comes down to," Eberflus said. "All these teams that do things at the end of the season, they have winners at the quarterback spot."

The next quarterrback needs to be able to win at the end of games and end of seasons. In Williams, the Bears would have someone who has been battle-tested at this trait.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven