Bears May Want to Reconsider Caleb Williams as Top Pick

Last week, Caleb Williams drew NFL Draft odds media attention for his pink phone and nails. That alone is not necessarily a cause for concern. But what is worrisome is that USC head coach Lincoln Riley does not have a promising record of developing NFL-ready QBs. Since becoming a college football head coach in 2017 at Oklahoma, Lincoln Riley developed three QBs into Heisman Trophy winners. At OU, Baker Mayfield won the Heisman in 2017, and Kyler Murray won it in 2018. Subsequently, when Riley became USC coach, Williams hoisted the Heisman in 2022.

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Yet another Riley QB, Jalen Hurts, who transferred to Oklahoma from Alabama. Late on, he made it to the final table at the famed Downtown Athletic Club in 2019. However, LSU QB Joe Burrow was the Heisman winner.

Despite that strong offshore betting college track record of Riley QBs, only Hurts has had sustained NFL success. Consider Hurts played only one season for Riley. And there is a reason why Hurts was the exception. His name is Nick Saban.

Jalen Hurts arrived at Oklahoma with bruised feelings but also with toughness and tenacity. While playing under Nick Saban, Hurts was SEC Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-SEC in 2016. But in the 2017 season national championship game against Georgia, Hurts was pulled in the second half for freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Subsequently, Tua led Alabama to a comeback overtime win for the ages.

Following that championship tilt, Hurts never regained his starting job and left somewhat embittered after the 2018 campaign. Yet Hurts will be the first to tell anyone that, under the pitiless autocrat Saban, he developed toughness, responsibility, and a professional demeanor and work ethic.

Thus, Riley could work on the football and QB specifics with Hurts, who arrived ready-made for the pros. As QB of the Philadelphia Eagles, Hurts has two Pro Bowls and a 2022 NFC championship. He is the only Riley QB to succeed in the NFL significantly. But it is Saban instead of Riley who deserves the Lion’s share of the credit.

Meanwhile, Mayfield and Murray have not lived up to NFL betting odds billing in the NFL. And there are substantive reasons beyond the color pink why Caleb Williams has his share of doubters. Despite his near-certain status as the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Except for Hurts, Riley’s QBs have arrived at the NFL entitled, privileged, and lacking professionalism.

Following his leading USC to an 11-3 record and winning the Heisman Trophy, Williams and Riley’s Trojans were touted as a favorite to make the 2023 CFP. Instead, the Troy Boys went into free fall to finish 8-5.

Williams’ TD/INT ratio dropped from 42/5 in 2022 to 30/5 in 2023. His yards per attempt went from 9.1 in 2022 to 8.6 in 2023. Most important of all, he went from three fumbles/one lost in 2022 to eight fumbles/three lost in 2023.

During the season, there were moments when Williams came off as unfocused, self-centered, and less than all-in for the USC cause. Correlate that he became bigger than the team. Much of that lies at the feet of Lincoln Riley. Consider he failed to prepare a star QB with the toughness, leadership skills, and work ethic needed for the NFL.

Still, NFL scouts are enamored with Williams’s raw natural ability. Chicago would be well advised to study Williams’ lackluster 2023 campaign and how and why Lincoln Riley’s Heisman Trophy QBs fail to deliver in the NFL.

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