Brad Biggs: Can Caleb Williams reverse decades of Bears QB problems? The timing couldn’t be better.

Chicago Bears history is intertwined with so much that is great about the tapestry of professional football.

The evolution of the middle linebacker position can be traced back more than seven decades through some of the greatest to play it: from Bill George to Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher. Three of the game’s most electric running backs — Walter Payton, Gale Sayers and Red Grange — starred for the organization.

Owner George Halas had his fingerprints on much of what helped the NFL develop in its formative stages. One of his final acts was hiring Mike Ditka as Bears coach in 1982. That set the stage for Ditka to lead one of the greatest teams — with certainly the greatest set of characters — to a championship three years later.

But the Super Bowl XX trophy remains the lone one at Halas Hall because ever since Sid Luckman became the first modern-era, T-formation quarterback and developed into the fledgling league’s greatest passer of the 1940s, the Bears have bungled the position.

Halas’ franchise has spent decades in quarterback purgatory, biding time for an opportunity to take a shot at the next one. There have been outright blunders such as trading away Bobby Layne. Bad luck such as losing a coin toss for the chance to draft Terry Bradshaw and injuries to Jim McMahon. Bad evaluations such as picking Mitch Trubisky with Patrick Mahomes on the board. And other misses such as Rex Grossman and Justin Fields.

Thursday night, to the surprise of no one who had paid attention since early last season, Bears general manager Ryan Poles took the next swing, using the No. 1 pick on USC quarterback Caleb Williams to usher in a new era at Halas Hall.

Whether Williams emerges as the savior Bears fans everywhere are anticipating remains to be seen, but it’s impossible to say another quarterback has ever been more eagerly welcomed.

The timing couldn’t be better, as a combination of bold moves — Poles was in position to have his pick of quarterbacks in last year’s draft when he traded the No. 1 pick to the Carolina Panthers — and good fortune — the Panthers were noncompetitive during a 2-15 season in 2023 — brought the Bears to this point.

Williams joins a roster that went 5-3 in the final eight games last season. You can’t name another quarterback drafted No. 1 who walked into a situation with wide receivers as established as DJ Moore and Keenen Allen. The rest of the skill-position talent is young and emerging, and there’s confidence that offensive line coach Chris Morgan will be able to take his unit to a new level this season. The defense looked playoff-ready last season — not nearly elite but good enough to play in January.

Poles seemingly has accomplished what his predecessors found so difficult in a league with a shortage of elite quarterbacks that exposes failures quickly. Look no further than the 2021 draft. Trevor Lawrence went No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and has helped them reach the playoffs once. The other first-round quarterbacks — Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Fields and Mac Jones — all have been traded.

After the Bears picked Williams, the Washington Commanders chose LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels at No. 2 and the New England Patriots selected North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. At No. 4, the Arizona Cardinals drafted Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

Williams will be the rookie with the greatest spotlight on him this season. A close examination of the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner was warranted after the second half of his junior season in 2023 was marred by losses for the Trojans and more blemishes in his play than before. The line protecting Williams was inadequate. The skill-position talent was so-so. The defense was abysmal.

What the Bears discovered as they did their homework over the previous months was that, as the setbacks mounted and scrutiny increased, Williams remained true to his teammates and coaches. That’s what the team spent the offseason really digging in on because the tape, with a banner sophomore season at USC after one year at Oklahoma, measured above the rest of the draft class.

Tough times that began with a 48-20 loss at Notre Dame on Oct. 14 that Poles attended — the first of five losses in a six-game stretch — may have steeled Williams for what he will encounter in the NFL. There will be bumps along the way. He will be exposed to defensive looks he hasn’t encountered. The speed of the game will be like nothing he has experienced. The pressure will be heightened as well.

A learning curve lies before him, but scouts have said Williams is more advanced at this point than Mahomes was in 2017 when he came out of Texas Tech. Williams is more mechanically sound as a passer. He doesn’t take as many head-scratching risks. He is able to make plays from the pocket and also can create outside of structure.

If those assessments prove correct, the Bears could be on their way. No one should anoint Williams yet, but there’s reason to believe the Bears have a chance to right what has gone wrong at the premier position for so, so long. They have an opportunity to chase the sustained success Poles spoke about at length when he was hired in January 2022.

The selection brings to fruition Williams’ long-held goal of being the No. 1 pick. Now his dreams and the hopes of the organization and its fan base are tied together as the Bears seek a new kind of history at quarterback.