NFL combine: Here’s everything top QB prospect Caleb Williams had to say about the Chicago Bears

Williams to the Bears: ‘Do you want to win?’

USC quarterback Caleb Williams speaks during a press conference at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 1, 2024.

INDIANAPOLIS – USC quarterback Caleb Williams, the presumptive top pick in the 2024 NFL draft, had not spoken in front of members of the media in months. Williams skipped out on media following his final college game in November and has mostly laid low since.

On Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, he finally took to the podium and answered questions about his NFL future. Not surprisingly, many of those questions centered on the Bears, who hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Williams had plenty of thoughts about the Bears, as well as his hometown Washington Commanders (who hold the second pick). Here’s everything Williams had to say on Friday.

Does Williams want to play for the Bears?

USC quarterback Caleb Williams warms up for the team's game against UCLA, Nov. 18, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Asked about the notion that he might be uninterested in playing for the Bears, Williams laughed it off and suggested he didn’t know where that rumor came from.

“The main thing that I’ve said, I want to go to a place that wants to win,” Williams said. “A whole 360, from the top all the way to the [players] and down to the janitors, the people that make everything run. Everybody wants to win.”

The Bears are unusual for a team with the No. 1 overall pick. Usually the pick goes to the worst team in football, but the Bears hold the Panthers’ pick this year thanks to last year’s blockbuster trade.

Bears fans need no reminder of their terrible quarterback history. Their recent success with first-round quarterbacks has not been great: Cade McNown in 1999, Rex Grossman in 2003, Mitchell Trubisky in 2017 and Justin Fields in 2021. Grossman leads that group with a grand total of two playoff wins. Nobody else has one. The Bears are the only team in the league who have never had a quarterback pass for 4,000 yards in a season.

Williams said he’s not worried about any other quarterbacks, past or present.

“I don’t compare myself to the other guys that’s there or been there,” Williams said. “I think I’m my own player and I tend to like to create history and rewrite history.”

How did Williams’ meeting with the Bears go?

Before the Bears decide if they will draft Williams, general manager Ryan Poles wants to spend time with the 22-year-old quarterback. For Poles, the person is just as important as the player. That goes for all potential draft picks, but especially for the first pick.

Williams’ initial meeting with the Bears this week was short. He presumably met with both Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus. Williams said the meeting was “more about them getting to know me.”

“It’s difficult to figure out if they’re going to be able to develop you,” Williams said. “I enjoyed the meeting, it was a good meeting, but 10 minutes or so. So it’s pretty difficult.”

Why is Williams skipping medical evaluations?

Williams is doing things his own way throughout the draft process. He will not throw when quarterbacks work out Saturday. He also won’t participate in medical evaluations at the combine. He plans to do medical evaluations with select teams when he visits their team facilities later this spring.

For teams, medical evaluations are a huge part of the combine. Williams knows he’s not going to last long in the draft and, simply put, he doesn’t want all 32 teams to know his medical history.

“Not 32 can draft me,” Williams said. “There’s only one of me. So the teams that I go to for my visit, those teams will have the medical and that’ll be it.”

Williams doesn’t have an extensive injury history. He dealt with a hamstring injury in 2022 that limited his mobility, but has not suffered any major, season-ending injuries.

Washington vs. Chicago

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus speaks during a press conference at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

Williams is in a pretty unique situation. Most of the 321 players at the combine will be happy with whichever team selects them in the draft. But top quarterbacks have had some sway in the past.

Eli Manning didn’t want to play for the San Diego Chargers in 2004. John Elway threatened to play baseball if the Baltimore Colts drafted him first overall in 1983. Both QBs were traded by the teams that initially selected them first overall.

Williams grew up in Washington D.C. The Commanders have new ownership that wants to make the team the hot new thing. Williams lit up when asked about the Commanders. First-year Commanders owner Josh Harris has reportedly been sitting in on quarterback interviews at the combine, which is unusual for an owner.

“It’s familiar,” Williams said. “It’s hometown, as everybody knows, and it’d be really cool to be back there and experience that. The meeting went really well and being around those – everybody was in the room – so being around everybody, just getting the taste of how they are, who they are, because everything’s new there.”

If the Commanders really want Williams, they will almost certainly try to pry the top pick from the Bears’ grasp. Williams is quite confident that he will go first overall. Asked if he’d be disappointed by going second, Williams said, “That’s not a thought in my mind.”

“I don’t think I’m not going to be No. 1,” Williams said. “I’ve put in all the hard work. All of the time, effort, energy into being [being the first pick]. So, you know, I don’t think of a plan B.”

What should Bears fans know about Williams’ character?

Williams caught a lot of flak for jumping into the stands and crying with his mom after a loss against Washington that effectively eliminated the Trojans from College Football Playoff contention.

Williams certainly isn’t going to apologize for it.

“There’s not many people in the world that get to experience what I get to experience every game day, every practice day,” Williams said when asked about it. “So it kind of goes back to that for me. It’s something that I only get to experience. It’s something I really care about, which is not only winning the game, but doing it with my teammates. So every time we lose, I feel like I let my teammates down.”

Williams previously called the 2023 season the most important in his football career. Things didn’t always go as planned. USC finished the regular season at 7-5 after winning 11 games the year prior.

“I learned either you grow from something like that – and Lincoln [Riley] sat me down after maybe our loss to Utah – and he sat me down and said either you grow from something like this or you keep feeling this feeling and you’ll stay where you are,” Williams said.

He went on to note that he doesn’t play for fame or money.

“It’s to go out there, win as many games as possible, be the best that I can,” Williams said.

Asked what more he wants to learn about the Bears, it was pretty simple.

“Do you want to win?” Williams said. “That’s it.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.