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Jerry Angelo’s at the go line

Jerry Angelo should’ve had better backup plan for Bears than QB Caleb Hanie. | Doug Pensinger~Getty Images

Jerry Angelo should’ve had a better backup plan for the Bears than QB Caleb Hanie. | Doug Pensinger~Getty Images

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Updated: January 14, 2012 8:18AM



Bears general manager Jerry Angelo pooh-poohed a report that he is considering retirement after this season, which is strange because I thought he already had retired.

For the last three weeks — and I’m being kind here with the time span — Angelo has looked like a pensioner poring over time-share brochures. He has stood by backup-turned-starter Caleb Hanie when the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that Hanie can’t play quarterback in the NFL.

There were many, many reasons that the Bears lost to the Broncos in overtime Sunday: Tim Tebow’s dramatic timing, Marion Barber’s mistakes and the Bears’ fetal-position defensive strategy late in the game, among others.

But if they had had a legitimate, bona fide quarterback, or even a decent facsimile of one, we wouldn’t find ourselves in the middle of a national discussion about why God would care whether Tebow wins football games or not.

I don’t know whether the royal and ancient Donovan McNabb would’ve been the answer after Jay Cutler went down with a broken thumb, but he had to have been better than Hanie. Had. To. Hanie was awful in his first two games, throwing six interceptions, but Sunday’s game brought into perfect focus the cost of Angelo’s stubbornness on the issue.

There was never a hint that Hanie was going to lead the Bears to victory in the fourth quarter or overtime. Say what you want about Tebow, and I have, but he understands that taking over an up-for-grabs game means making big plays. Hanie’s longest completion was 19 yards. He threw for 115 yards and no touchdowns.

That’s not being a caretaker quarterback. That’s being an undertaker quarterback.

In the two previous games, we saw the alternative to the overly careful approach. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz attempted to project all of his genius X-ing and O-ing onto Hanie, the result being passes beyond the quarterback’s abilities and those six interceptions.

Not long after Angelo laughed about the suggestion he might retire after this season, Houston’s third-string quarterback was leading his team to an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes against the Bengals. It’s probably worth mentioning that T.J. Yates is a rookie and that he was operating with no timeouts. Oh, yeah, and that he threw for 300 yards.

It doesn’t get much more incriminating than that for Angelo, who was the guy manning the torpedoes that sunk the Bears’ playoff hopes.

If Angelo wants to say his third-string rookie quarterback, Nathan Enderle, can play, well, it’s a little late for that, Uncle Jerry.

The Bears are 0-3 with Hanie at quarterback. If their general manager had paid attention the last several years, he would’ve known that Hanie couldn’t cut it. If he had had his wits about him recently, he would have acted immediately after the first loss, in Oakland, and brought in somebody else, anybody else. OK, somebody, anybody better than Josh McCown.

Either way, Angelo is culpable.

Don’t let him tell you that the Bears’ offensive system is too complicated for an outsider to learn in a few weeks. That’s a cop-out. By the way, how has that complicated offense worked out in Martz’s two seasons in Chicago? If Angelo stuck with Hanie simply because the offense is hard to grasp, it’s a bigger sin than his poor evaluation skills.

Martz was right about Cutler’s backup. The media’s explanation for the coordinator’s disregard for Hanie was that it was all an act, that Martz always treats the second-string quarterback like an inept cabana boy.

We know now that he simply didn’t like what he saw in Hanie.

Without Cutler, the Bears have gone from 7-3 to 7-6. All three of those games were winnable with an average quarterback.

Inside ultra-secretive Halas Hall, no one is saying when Cutler will return. But an 8-5 record or a 9-4 record at this point would have sped up the healing process on his broken thumb. Same with running back Matt Forte and his sprained knee. You can bet on that.

Instead, we’re left to watch what had been a good season flame out like a dying star. We’re left to watch Hanie continue to play football because of front-office cluelessness.

“[Hanie] made some plays,’’ coach Lovie Smith said.

Sure, and Charlie Brown has kicked some footballs.

With three games left, the season is over. That retirement report isn’t a rumor, Jerry. It’s an unmistakable hint. It’s time.



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