Who is the Chicago Bears’ other rookie quarterback? What to know about undrafted QB Austin Reed

Reed: Bears believe ‘I can play at this level’

Austin Reed looks to a throw during the Chicago Bears NFL football team's rookie camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

LAKE FOREST – Everyone in Chicago is keeping a close eye on new Bears quarterback Caleb Williams. Even the most casual of Bears fans are aware that the Bears selected the 22-year-old from USC with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft last month.

But the Bears didn’t stop their work on the quarterback position after the first pick.

Sixty-six quarterbacks started at least one NFL game last season. Injuries happen and teams are especially cautious when it comes to their franchise quarterbacks. The search for good quarterbacks is never done. Even when a team might already have two or three it’s happy with.

In addition to drafting Williams, the Bears signed an undrafted rookie in Western Kentucky’s Austin Reed. The 24-year-old from Florida has taken a winding path to the NFL, one that included a brief stint at Southern Illinois, a Division II national championship at West Florida, and more than 8,000 passing yards over two seasons at Western Kentucky.

Reed now finds himself working alongside Williams at Bears spring practices during OTAs. Reed and Williams were already familiar with one another after working with the same quarterback coach in Florida throughout the spring.

Reed said working with Williams helps him elevate his game.

When I walk onto the field, I don’t want [Caleb Williams] to look a million times better than me throwing. I don’t want to be the guy who’s like the odd ball out.”

—  Austin Reed, Bears quarterback

“Competition’s always there,” Reed said. “When I walk onto the field, I don’t want him to look a million times better than me throwing. I don’t want to be the guy who’s like the odd ball out. So, in turn, it forces me to go out there and compete and throw the ball as good as he can.”

Reed and Williams both worked out with Jacksonville-based coach Will Hewlett in the lead-up to the draft. Williams even shared his excitement on X, formerly known as Twitter, when news spread that Reed signed with the Bears.

Most NFL teams head into training camp with at least four quarterbacks on the 90-man roster. The Bears added Williams and Reed to a QB position that already included Tyson Bagent and Brett Rypien.

Reed, who measures in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, was never expected to be a high draft pick, but some analysts thought he might be selected late in the draft. That, ultimately, didn’t happen. But he jumped at the chance to compete with Williams and the Bears.

He believes the Bears made the right choice in taking Williams with the No. 1 overall pick. He also believes Williams is taking the right approach to the job.

“Anyone with a brain knows that this dude is being tabbed as like a generational prospect and I don’t think he shies away from that,” Reed said of Williams. “I think he understands the work that it’s going to take to become that, instead of just thinking he is that already. I respect the fact that he carries himself in that manner and that he really is like: I’m going to go earn that tag, instead of just thinking that he is that.”

The Bears have put together what they hope will be an all-star team of experienced offensive coaches to help Williams develop. They hired an experienced offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron. They brought in Thomas Brown, who was an offensive coordinator in Carolina last season, to be the passing game coordinator in Chicago. They hired Kerry Joseph, who worked closely with Geno Smith in Seattle, to serve as quarterbacks coach.

The goal is to give Williams plenty of knowledgable voice to lean on. Having all those experienced coaches will help all the other quarterbacks on the team too.

Waldron has found success with various quarterbacks, whether that’s been Smith and Russell Wilson in Seattle, or Jared Goff in Los Angeles.

“He’s been able to adjust to the guys on the field and I think that’s very important,” said Joseph, the QB coach. “I think that makes Shane the type of coordinator that he is, making sure that we cater – it’s not like you’re turning over your whole offense to a guy, but what other nuances can we do within the offense to help him be successful and put him in a great situation?”

Any good NFL offensive coordinator will cater his offense to his starting quarterback. The game plan could – and probably should – change when a backup steps into the game. Matt Eberflus’ Bears did a decent job of that last season when Bagent had to start four games. The Bears went 2-2 with Bagent starting.

Reed is a huge long shot to ever see action in a game in 2024. But that doesn’t mean he can’t make the team or, at the very least, stick around on the practice squad.

“I just feel like with the scheme and the offense and the plan they have for me – they expressed that they believe in me and I can play at this level,” Reed said. “So I just trusted in that.”

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.