It's not the arm talent or the running ability. We've seen special arms and quick feet.
Caleb Williams is elite because his awareness is off the charts.
Caleb Williams is the Deadpool of football. He transcends the game. He's bigger than it. Outside of it. Beyond it. He sees the game in a completely different way than everyone else on the field. He shatters the fourth wall and rewrites the rules of play.
To create is a divine gift. Caleb has this gift. Creativity is the peak of awareness. Genuine creativity is exceptionally rare in any industry. Creating something new requires independence from what was before. That freedom is a derivative of mastery. Mastery begets freedom. Freedom begets creativity.
There are great players who are machines, running their operation with merciless efficiency. And then there are great players who do things we've never seen before. They create something new. Something we've never imagined. They play a different game.
The anchor of Caleb's game is his pocket work. The quarterback must see the field. With all the bodies flying around, he often runs out of time. Caleb's pocket awareness allows him to see the field for an infinite amount of time. Coaches design drills in practice for QBs to practice their footwork in the pocket. They move them to and fro for an extended period of time that no coach expects to actually occur in a game. Caleb runs this drill perfectly. In a live game. Sliding back and forth, ascending and descending, he refuses to surrender.
Do we love the way he rolls out to his left at full speed and drops a perfect sideline dime to Mario Williams? Yes. Is that incredibly unique? Absolutely. But it's the pocket work that tells us who he is. This next generation of QBs is going to be capable of every Pro Bowl skills challenge trick shot in the book. But only a mastermind wants to stay in the pocket this long. Only an elite hunter is this committed to his post. He squeezes the last drop of opportunity out of the pocket before escaping. There's an eternity in those 6 seconds.
Let's breakdown his famous jump throw. Yeah he completed a jump throw from a collapsing pocket in his own endzone to the sideline from the opposite hash. Insane athleticism. But you have to be a savant to even have the wherewithal to even make the attempt.
Watch his eyes. It's all crashing around him, he sees the defender closing down. He tucks the ball. And as he tucks... he looks up. He's not thinking about protecting himself. He's not thinking about where he needs to land to avoid a safety.
He doesn't think. He feels. He sees and he takes. There are no limits. Even when the whole world is shrinking, tightening, choking, he's hungry. He's relentless. Always the predator.
In the play below, he doesn't even get to the top of his drop before the pressure arrives. But he feels that too. Even from the blind side. And his eyes never cease scanning. Instead of scrambling out or checking down, he settles back in. The crashing 260lb LB is but a gnat to him.
Williams simply has different objectives than the 99%. He's perfectly capable of running whenever and wherever he wants. But he prefers to pass.
For a player who is an absolute nightmare in the open field, Caleb's preference for passing indicates a maturity that many QB's never reach.
Why run when you can hit a cross-body throw on a full sprint?
Why run when you can effortlessly float it 30 yards downfield?
Trust the Process
Caleb Williams does fine work operating on the regular schedule as well. Here he is hitting go route in the Cov2 hole. 3 step drop and he bangs it in from the opposite hash.
Mastery means awareness of the full picture. Understanding the big picture allows the quarterback to see the entire field with all its parts, offensive and defensive. Here he scans the entire field in a blink with pressure in his face. He floats a back shoulder toss to his third option as he's getting hit - the equivalent of a no-scope headshot.
Make successful, instantaneous decisions is only possible when you have complete awareness. He's not seeing the wheel. He's not waiting for someone to get open. He's throwing the ball in the only safe place he can. Anticipation & precision under pressure, generated out of his supreme awareness.
Quarterbacks have favorite concepts, and in crunch time, they often resort to leaning on solutions they found that worked before. In the play above (vs Utah), Caleb was able to hit the wheel in a desperate situation. USC goes back to the Post-Wheel concept twice more and each time Caleb locks onto the wheel, and misses his wide open options.
The play below is a very straightforward picture. Nothing about the post-snap defensive look says he should be throwing wheel. He can hit the curl for an easy first down, but his eyes are not in the right place. He's not scanning. He's waiting. He's already picked where he wants to go.
With under 30 seconds to play, USC runs a similar concept (Curl, Post and the RB Swings, ultimately converting to a Wheel). Williams is thinking he needs a big chunk gain. For him, that means extending the play and hitting a free WR. He waits, and it doesn't materialize. By committing to getting everything at once, he misses opportunities to take an easier gain with the post or the curl.
Retrospective analysis does not discount his value. Williams has shown he can make quick decisions inside of structure, and he's proven to be sensational outside of it. It's his right to decide what to do with the game on the line. Hall of Famers can go 5-7 in the Big 12, understanding the prospect's process can make all the difference from the observer who says "Oh he's not a winner, couldn't even beat Utah or Tulane."
You can trust a creator like Williams with your franchise. He is already changing the game.