Bears quarterbacks bring losing records from college
By Mark Potash email@example.com December 7, 2011 8:52PM
3. Caleb Hanie: In his fourth year and second in Martz’s system, his inaccuracy on simple throws and penchant for mistakes in an offense that was on a roll is disappointing.
Updated: January 9, 2012 10:14AM
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo isn’t surprised by Tim Tebow’s success.
‘‘Tebow’s a winner,’’ Angelo told Larry Mayer of chicagobears.com, the team’s website. ‘‘He won national championships in college and was a first-round draft pick, so it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. In fact, it should have been expected. You have to give the Denver people credit. They did their homework.’’
It’s good that Angelo is on record as having an appreciation for a quarterback’s knack for winning football games. But when is he going to approach his homework that way? Because with the great Tebow on one side this weekend and Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie, Nathan Enderle and Josh McCown on the other, it brings up an interesting point in evaluating a quarterback: How important is it that he has a history of willing his team to victory?
Angelo doesn’t seem to consider that as much when he’s doing the evaluating. Only three quarterbacks who’ve started games this season never had a winning record in college. The Titans’ Matt Hasselbeck is one. Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie are the others.
A quarterback needs more than a will to win to be successful. But the Bears seem devoid of that intangible more than most. Cutler went 2-9, 2-10, 2-9 and 5-6 as a starter at Vanderbilt. He never beat a Division I team with a winning record. Hanie went 2-3, 4-8 and 3-9 as a starter at Colorado State and lost 13 consecutive games over two seasons. He beat one Division I team with a winning record.
In fact, Enderle, a rookie, went 1-8, 2-10, 8-3 and 6-7 as a starter at Idaho. He beat two Division I teams with winning records (7-6 Northern Illinois and 7-6 Bowling Green in 2009). So among them, the Bears’ quarterbacks for this season were a combined 37-82 in college, with three victories over Division I teams with winning records.
Does that matter? Is it just coincidence that the Bears have quarterbacks who went to struggling college programs? Is it coincidence that Tebow is 6-1 as a starter despite completing 49 percent of his passes? Should Angelo have looked harder at Donovan McNabb, a winner at Syracuse (35-14) and the Eagles (92-49-1), instead of Josh McCown, who was 15-22 at SMU and 12-19 as a starter in the NFL but is familiar with Mike Martz’s system?
That’s a question Angelo might have to answer if Hanie can’t pull the Bears out of their rut. Until Hanie proves differently, this is the second consecutive year the Bears have crapped out with a backup quarterback. At what point do you take a step back and look at how you’re going about your business?
Even Cutler is a suspect. Coaches and evaluators always have been more enamored with his athletic ability than his intangible leadership skills. After winning a state championship in high school (he caught the title-winning touchdown instead of throwing it), few recruiters saw him as a quarterback. After going 11-34 at Vanderbilt, Cutler was the first quarterback drafted in the first round without a winning season in college since Phil Simms in 1979 and the first Vanderbilt quarterback taken in the first round since Bill Wade in 1952.
It’s not a toughness issue. Teammate Anthony Adams recalled the time in 2006, when he was with the 49ers and Cutler was a rookie with the Broncos, that he knocked Cutler out with a sack. Cutler returned to throw a late pass to tie the game before losing in overtime.
‘‘They probably wouldn’t have allowed him back in the game [today] with the concussion [rules],’’ Adams said. ‘‘But when he came back, he almost won the game.’’
‘‘Almost’’ is the operative word. Cutler came up short on two overtime drives, and the Broncos lost as 10-point favorites in Week 17 to lose out on a playoff berth. In 2008, the Broncos had a three-game lead in the AFC West with three games left but lost them all to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Cutler always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Bears can win a Super Bowl with him. Simms won a Super Bowl with the Giants. Wade not only won an NFL championship, but he did it with the Bears in 1963. But neither carried his team on his back. Memo to Angelo: If your quarterback has to carry the heavy load, it helps if he has at least a little Tim Tebow in him.