Bears passing game coordinator Thomas Brown says Caleb Williams ‘pulls everyone together’

Bears to hold 2nd open OTA practice Friday

Chicago Bears No. 1 draft pick quarterback Caleb Williams smiles as he listens to reporters during an NFL football news conference in April in Lake Forest, Ill.

Thomas Brown remembers the first time he saw Caleb Williams on a football field.

Brown, the current Bears passing game coordinator, was a running backs coach at South Carolina in 2019. He went on a recruiting visit to see running back MarShawn Lloyd from DeMatha Catholic in Maryland. Someone at DeMatha mentioned a quarterback down the road at Gonzaga College who was pretty good.

Brown hopped in the car and went to check this QB out. That QB turned out to be Williams.

“It was a brief deal,” Brown said this spring at Halas Hall. “It was a non-contact [recruiting] period because you couldn’t talk to him. We brushed shoulders and I introduced myself for a quick second. I think, again, the same demeanor, presence is already built. His stature was at a high level.”

At the time, Brown hoped his football future would be as an NFL coach. He didn’t expect to be in the college ranks by the time Williams reached college in 2021.

Five years after that first meeting, Brown now is tasked with finding the best way to utilize Williams’ talents in the Bears passing game.

Brown comes to Chicago following one season as the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. Former Panthers coach Frank Reich hired Brown ahead of the 2023 season, as the Panthers were preparing to trade with the Bears for the No. 1 overall draft pick.

The Panthers gave up DJ Moore and four premium draft picks (including the 2024 No. 1 overall pick that landed Williams) in order to move up and draft Bryce Young with the first pick in 2023.

Brown said he learned a lot from that experience, particularly from scouting the 2023 quarterbacks. It was the No. 2 pick, Houston’s CJ Stroud, who went on to win rookie of the year and lead his team to the playoffs. Young, with a limited offense around him, struggled during his rookie campaign.

“I just think [I learned from] everything from the evaluation process to begin with, how you go about a selection process, to meeting with prospects and the criteria,” Brown said. “But also just the understanding of the infrastructure, roster building, the pieces you put around him. I’m not going to get into the details of what’s good or bad about it. I think every opportunity is a great one to be able to learn from.”

The 2024 Bears are in a far different position than the 2023 Panthers. Thanks to that 2023 blockbuster trade, the Bears acquired the first overall pick despite not being that bad of a football team in 2023. Rarely do teams coming off a 7-10 season have first dibs on the rookie class.

Williams has much more talent around him than Young did a year ago. The offensive line is miles better than Carolina’s. Williams will have Moore, Keenan Allen and rookie Rome Odunzethe No. 9 overall draft pick – as his top targets.

The Bears have a whole new offensive coaching staff to work with Williams. Led by offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, the Bears also have surrounded Williams with Brown, quarterbacks coach Kerry Joseph and offensive assistant Ryan Griffin. Each of those coaches has either led an NFL offense before or coached the quarterbacks before [or in Griffin’s case been an NFL QB].

For Brown, what stuck out about Williams during the draft process was his ability to connect with everyone in the room.

Everybody had the same thing to say about him. The connection piece. [He] pulls everyone together. But just the overall demeanor. He’s upbeat, super competitive, which I love.”

—  Thomas Brown, Bears passing game coordinator

“Everybody had the same thing to say about him,” Brown said. “The connection piece. [He] pulls everyone together. But just the overall demeanor. He’s upbeat, super competitive, which I love. You’ve got to have that competitive spirit. But he’s a grinder at the same time.”

Williams is going to have his ups and downs during organized team activities this spring. That’s to be expected for any rookie quarterback. The Bears will have their second open OTA practice Friday, where members of the media will be allowed to watch practice.

Last week’s session was a struggle. The Bears are just hoping to see incremental progress from the rookie QB. Head coach Matt Eberflus said he already sees progress.

“Understanding the offense,” Eberflus said. “Understanding the concepts. Understanding coverages. Understanding where to go with the ball. He’s been great that way.”

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.