This might be the last time Caleb Williams plays in the state of Arizona for a while — there’s no reason for him to come to the Arizona Cardinals.
The Heisman trophy winner is heading to Mountain America Stadium to dial in on the Sun Devils on Saturday with the No. 5 USC Trojans.
Williams doesn’t have any more trips to the state on his schedule this season, and while he’s been suggested as a target of the Arizona Cardinals, who could end up with the top pick in next year’s NFL draft, the quarterback’s father, Carl Williams, has said that his son would be willing to stay in Southern California if they don’t like the organization that has the top pick.
“If there’s not a good situation, the truth is, he can come back to school,” Carl Williams said, speaking to GQ magazine.
It’s the new reality of player empowerment that stems from endorsement contracts. Thanks to name, image and likeness rules, guys have more control over their finances, which gives them more control over their futures.
Williams has been raking in commercial deals. Dr Pepper. Nissan. Wendy’s. So, if he doesn’t like the thought of coming to the Cardinals, he doesn’t have to.
“I’ve talked to (USC coach Lincoln Riley), and Kyler (Murray) struggled because of where he was drafted. … the organizations matter,” Carl Williams said.
Williams, a three-time Heisman winner?
That sets up a possibility of Williams becoming the first three-time Heisman winner.
It seems like a wild suggestion, but Williams is off to a good start this season, and he’s got plenty of opportunities to boost his chances of repeating. He’ll have head-to-head matchups with Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders, Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix, plus a trip next month to South Bend to face No. 9 Notre Dame.
Arizona State, which has struggled against Southern Utah and Fresno State, is the type of opponent Williams could use to pad his stats, which could pad his wallet, giving him more leverage in the decision over whether to turn pro.
He’s not wrong to be worried about playing for the Cardinals.
USC’s two previous Heisman-winning quarterbacks, Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, have worn a red bird on their helmets in the NFL.
Palmer played well with the Cardinals late in his career, but the architect of that success, Bruce Arians, left the desert a long time ago.
Leinart? Well, let’s just say he and Williams have a commercial that foreshadows how poorly things can go when talented guys get drafted by the wrong team.
“Hey, hoooo! This table’s got room for two quarterbacks,” Leinart says in the ad, carrying a tray and wearing a varsity jacket.
He slides in next to Williams and an actor, seated on the other side of the booth, and says “Sorry, and who are you?”
“Matt Leinart,” he replies. “Quarterback? National champion?”
“I’m afraid that doesn’t ring a bell,” the actor deadpans.
Williams is also a part of the same football family tree as the Cardinals injured star signal caller, Kyler Murray. USC coach Lincoln Riley worked with Murray when the two were together at Oklahoma.
Maybe Williams doesn’t want to be the reason Kyler and the Cardinals break up? Or maybe Murray would warn him about how dysfunctional the relationship has been?
Regardless, Williams seems to be in a good situation in Southern California, and there doesn’t seem to be a huge financial incentive for him to turn pro.
He’s got visibility, success and money in Southern California.
Coming to the Cardinals would jeopardize all of that.
Scouting report: No. 5 USC next up as Sun Devils open Pac-12 play
Williams has options in Southern California
For the record, the Cardinals don't need Williams if Kyler Murray recovers from his knee injury and plays at his previous level.
I’ve seen Williams play in person, giving me access to all 22 guys on the field, rather than just the players the cameras show on a given play.
From that view, the guy is incredible. Williams can make throws from the pocket and on the run, and he’s so accurate that his next endorsement deal should be from that retailer with the bull’s eye for a logo. Or maybe when the Hollywood strike lifts, he could play Hawkeye in the next Marvel movie.
The guy is that good.
He moves around the backfield to extend pass plays. And he can throw guys open like a seasoned pro.
But he doesn’t run like Murray. No one runs like Murray. Murray makes defenders look like housecats chasing a laser dot.
The argument in favor of Williams is that he’s a more traditional passer and therefore easier for offensive coordinators to work with.
But we might not ever find out.
Williams has options, and unless the Cardinals show some real progress, he might want to return to USC rather than come to the NFL.
That means Saturday could be the last time he plays in the state of Arizona for a while.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Caleb Williams could replace Kyler Murray, but he might not want to