Everybody knows the Chicago Bears have a rough legacy when it comes to drafting quarterbacks. It’s been equivalent to the Sahara desert for the past 70 years, with only occasional instances of rainfall to briefly slake their thirst. It has been difficult to pinpoint why the team has been so bad at this. It’s a combination of things. Often, they took players who just weren’t good enough. They lacked certain physical or mental faculties necessary for the position. Other times, they failed to construct good support structures around those quarterbacks. GM Ryan Poles is hoping he can learn from those mistakes.
One strategy the organization has never really embraced is plucking quarterbacks from programs known for producing them. No, we’re not just talking about specific schools. We’re talking about regimes or, more accurately, head coaches. Many times over the years, it’s been proven that certain coaches have an incredible knack for identifying future NFL standouts. Howard Schnellenberger nabbed Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar in his time at Miami. Lavell Edwards secured Jim McMahon and Steve Young at BYU. Bear Bryant recruited Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, and Richard Todd. David Cutcliffe helped recruit Peyton Manning to Tennessee, Eli Manning to Ole Miss, and Daniel Jones to Duke.
Sometimes, trusting the coach is a wise decision. Poles might be doing that with Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams.
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Ryan Poles knows the risks but also trusts his eyes.
Two things appear true. One is that Williams has put up stellar numbers for three years under Riley. He seems to have a strong arm, good accuracy, outstanding improvisational skills, and a relentless competitive streak. Another thing he’s noticing is that Riley quarterbacks continue to succeed in the NFL.
- Gardner Minshew went 7-6 after Indy lost Anthony Richardson
- Baker Mayfield led Tampa Bay to a division title and playoff win
- Kyler Murray led huge upsets against eventual playoff teams in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia
- Jalen Hurts made the playoffs for a third straight year
Many believe Williams is the best quarterback Riley has ever had. That should tell you something, considering the guys he has already worked with. Ryan Poles has a good deal of evidence showing him that QBs who’ve worked under this head coach have gone on to have productive NFL careers. The same can’t be said for the likes of Mack Brown and Brian Kelly. Both produced high draft picks but never successful pros. Poles is gambling on not only Williams’ talent but also the fact he’s worked with a guy that produced good NFL quarterbacks, too.