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Bears and Williams were never a good match

Club failed him as much as he disappointed it as he never got to develop at position he was drafted to fill

Dan Pompei

On the NFL

9:30 PM CDT, October 17, 2012

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Chris Williams never was going to be the next Jim Covert. But he didn't have to be the next Stan Thomas, either.

He could have been the next Ted Albrecht. And given the fact that he is big, relatively young at 27, bright, hard working and moderately talented, it wouldn't be surprising to see him end up being the next Marc Colombo.

There are many offensive linemen starting in the NFL who are no more gifted than Williams. And he still may become one of them.

Why he didn't become one with the Bears is complicated. But it is safe to say the Bears failed Chris Williams as much as he failed them.

This is how Williams went from the 14th pick in the draft to unemployed in the course of five short years.

•He got off to a bad start.

Williams' back flared up on the second day of his first training camp. Surgery followed. He missed the first seven games of his rookie season, and didn't start a game until his second year.

It should be noted the back isn't why Williams ultimately failed with the Bears though. He came back from the injury without a problem.

And his back wasn't a reason not to take him in the draft, either. NFL teams knew of his problems, so most of them flagged him. But none of the five teams I spoke with before the draft took him off their board because of his back.

•He never was given a chance to develop at the position he was drafted to play. Williams was a left tackle at Vanderbilt, and he was supposed to be the bulwark there for the Bears.

When Williams finally broke into the starting lineup in 2009, it was at right tackle. He only was shifted to left tackle for the final five games after free agent pickup Orlando Pace went down with a groin injury.

The next season, Williams started the first two games at left tackle before a hamstring injury knocked him out. When he came back, he was moved to guard because Frank Omiyale was doing OK at left tackle and there had been an injury to Roberto Garza.

He never would start another game at left tackle, the position many agree was his best.

Williams started seven games at left tackle for the Bears. That's 14 fewer than J'Marcus Webb, nine fewer than Qasim Mitchell and seven fewer than Omiyale.

Three front office men said they thought Williams didn't have the power to play guard, though a fourth said he thought Williams could be a better guard than tackle.

Right tackles also are more dependent on strength and anchor than left tackles as a rule, and Williams' best trait is his athleticism and ability to move.

•His short arms limited him.

Williams' arms measured 33 inches at the 2008 combine. They were measured at 327/8 at the Senior Bowl that year. And one team measured his left arm at 311/4 inches and his right at 331/2.

You normally want a first-round left tackle to have 34-inch arms or longer.

In the four drafts since Williams was selected, there have been 16 offensive tackles taken in the first round. All of them have longer arms than Williams. Five of them had arms shorter than 34 inches but longer than 33. Six of them, including Gabe Carimi, have arms 35 inches or longer.

Williams' arm length didn't cause him to fail, but it probably prevented him from excelling.

"With his arm length, hand placement became critical," one front office man said. "He let players get into his pads and he got pushed some."

•He got caught up in organizational change.

Ron Turner and Harry Hiestand were the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach who agreed to draft Williams. They were gone after Williams' second year.

Mike Martz and Mike Tice, who replaced them, clearly were less enamored with Williams. Tice, in fact, worked out Webb before the 2010 draft and has taken pride in developing him as the team's left tackle.

When general manager Jerry Angelo was fired after last season, Williams no longer had a powerful sponsor on the team.

Some scouts believe Williams would be better in a zone blocking scheme than in Tice's type of offense.

Williams was not a terrible draft pick. But he wasn't a great one either. Most, but not all talent evaluators had Williams projected as a first-rounder before the draft.

The Bears might have reached a bit on him to fill a need. The Broncos took the player they really wanted, Ryan Clady, two spots ahead of them.

They chose Williams ahead of tackles Brandon Albert, Gosder Cherilus, Jeff Otah, Sam Baker and Duane Brown, each of whom was picked later in the first round.

Cherilus, Otah and Baker have struggled with inconsistencies. Clady, Albert and Brown each has developed into one of the league's better left tackles.

The Bears would have been better off with one of them — assuming they had committed to them and developed them.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei