What Caleb Williams needs to do to break Bears rookie QB records

What Caleb Williams needs to do to break Bears rookie QB records originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

We’re just a few months into the Bears offseason program, but much has already been made of the opportunity in front of the team– and expectations for rookie Caleb Williams. GM Ryan Poles completely revamped the offense and Williams will have an incredible cast of playmakers to help him transition to the pro game.

But what will it actually take for Williams to rewrite the record books in Chicago? As it turns out, not much. That’s largely because this is the first time the Bears will plan to start a rookie quarterback in Week 1, since the NFL and AFL merger back in 1970. Fourth-round pick Kyle Orton started the season for the Bears back in 2005, but that was only because planned starter Rex Grossman hurt himself in the preseason.

Accordingly, Bears rookie QB records are low bars to clear.

Here’s where things stand now, and what Caleb Williams will need to do to break each record– assuming he plays all 17 games this year. Of course injuries are impossible to predict, and if Williams misses an extended amount of time he’ll need to accomplish a lot more on a per-game basis to make Bears history.


Current record holder: Mitchell Trubisky, 2,193 yards
What Williams needs to break it: 129.1 yards per game
Odds Williams sets record: High

Trubisky took over as the Bears starter in Week 5 of the 2017 season after Mike Glennon struggled over the first month. Nobody would describe the Bears passing attack as “explosive” in 2017, as the team finished dead last in the NFL with just 2,811 total passing yards. Even so, Trubisky averaged 182 yards per game.

It feels like 129 yards per game is the absolute basement for Williams’ production this year. If all goes well, there should be weeks where he has 129 yards in the first half.


Current record holder: Charlie O’Rourke, 11 passing touchdowns
What Williams needs to break it: 0.7 touchdowns per game
Odds Williams sets record: Very high

You have to go all the way back to 1942 when Charlie O’Rourke threw for 11 touchdowns as a backup for Sid Luckman to find the top rookie passing touchdown season for the team. That’s 82 years ago. The forward pass had only been around for 36 years at the time.

Of course the Bears’ reluctance to start rookie QBs up to this point plays a factor in the long-standing record, but it seems like Trubisky or Justin Fields should’ve easily broken this WWII-era standard. Instead, they each finished their rookie years with a paltry seven passing touchdowns. Kyle Orton and Jim McMahon had nine.


Current record holder: Mitchell Trubisky, 196
What Williams needs to break it: 11.6 completions per game
Odds Williams sets record: Very high

If the Bears throw the ball 24 times per game (likely) and Williams manages to complete just 50% of his attempts (an extremely low bar to clear), he’ll break the record.

Over the last three seasons, Shane Waldron’s Seahawks finished with the second-fewest, tied for 10th-fewest, and sixth-fewest rushing attempts in the NFL, so Williams should have plenty of opportunities to throw the ball to his cast of talented pass catchers.

Further, Trubisky managed to complete 59.4% of his passes as a rookie. Fields completed 58.9% of his passes, Grossman hit 52.8% of the time and Orton connected at a 51.6% rate. There’s no reason to believe that Williams will do worse than all of those guys.


Current record holder: Kyle Orton, 10
What Williams needs to break it: 11 wins
Odds Williams sets record: Medium

The Bears were a 7-10 team last year and they got significantly better (on paper) over the offseason. Williams is uber-talented and is walking into what could be the best situation for a No. 1 overall QB in NFL history. He has an incredible group of playmakers to help him and an ascending defense that took away the football at a high rate in 2023.

Williams also benefits from playing the “softer” teams on the Bears schedule early in the season, which will give him time to settle into the pro game without facing a gauntlet of fearsome opponents.

But every one of the Bears’ NFC North opponents could give Williams and the Bears trouble. The Lions were a few plays away from making it to the Super Bowl last year. The Vikings have defensive coordinator Brian Flores who’s known for designing creative pressure schemes that give QBs trouble. The Packers are the Packers and have dominated the Bears for decades.

At the time of publication, Vegas has the Bears’ W-L line set at 8.5 wins this season, with -165 odds offered for the over. That means oddsmakers give the Bears an implied ~62% chance of winning at least nine games. But there’s a big difference between nine-win teams and 11-win teams in the NFL.

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