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Lovie has Three Stooges-like choice at QB vs. Packers

Caleb Hanie (from left) injured Jay Cutler Nathan Enderle gather sidelines recently. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Caleb Hanie (from left), injured Jay Cutler and Nathan Enderle gather on the sidelines recently. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 21, 2012 8:15AM



I asked Lovie Smith who his starting quarterback would be Sunday in Green Bay, and he wouldn’t offer a definitive answer. That’s my mistake.

This is Lovie Zipperlips, a distant cousin of Edward Scissorhands. I was expecting what from the evasive Bears coach, epic poetry about Josh McCown’s throwing ability?

There were any number of probing questions I could have asked Smith on Monday that would have made me feel a whole lot better about myself. Such as:

McCown, Caleb Hanie and Nathan Enderle — this is some sort of joke, right?

Or .  .  .

Where’s the Candid Camera?

Or .  .  .

Is there a quiet room nearby where I can ram a screwdriver through my forehead?

The day before, Hanie had been exposed for the fourth game in a row, this time by two pick-sixes in a blowout loss to the Seahawks at Soldier Field. McCown, who had been signed soon after Jay Cutler went down with a broken thumb, completed two passes — one to his team and one to the Seahawks.

So the notion of Lovie announcing who his quarterback would be Sunday? No, sir. A wily coach sits on that kind of strategic advantage. You want the 13-1 Packers to marinate in the mystery of which signal-caller they will have to deal with on Christmas.

Something tells me the Packers aren’t too worried. If they are, I suggest they break down film of the Three Stooges to get an idea of what they might be up against.

I know Hanie is Moe, I’m pretty sure McCown is Larry and I’m guessing Enderle will end up being Curly, based on general manager Jerry Angelo’s track record. You think I’m being unfair to Enderle, a rookie? I think I’m being unfair
to Curly.

I almost — almost — felt sorry for Smith during his news conference. He was left to talk about an impossible situation. He has Hanie, a quarterback in his fourth season with the Bears, who has proved in the last four games — all losses — that he can’t lead the team. He has McCown, who last started a game in 2007 and has thrown eight passes since 2008, waiting (lurking?) in the wings. And he has fifth-round pick Enderle, who is like every would-be TV series — in development.

Smith’s choices:

Start Hanie in the last two games and send this season into the deepest reaches of hell, where it belongs.

Start McCown, who is older, more experienced and not at all good.

Start Enderle and risk destroying a kid who hasn’t had proper time to work on his game. (And start him in a nationally televised game against the best team in football.)

Or find Angelo, the architect of this farce, and administer immediate corporal punishment.

In the last four games, the Bears have looked as though they were caught completely off-guard by the reality that quarterbacks sometimes get hurt in the NFL and that a decent backup is a necessity.

There is no reason for Cutler to rush back from injury; in fact, it would be foolish for the Bears to let him. You don’t risk your biggest investment for two games that have the thinnest degree of meaning. And running back Matt Forte would be silly to come back and risk further injury to his knee when he has no long-term contract guarantees.

So there you have it, a forecast with a 99 percent chance of rain.

Smith did tell reporters, ‘‘Right now, Caleb Hanie is our starting quarterback.’’ That either could mean, ‘‘By Wednesday, this guy will be so far from the starting job he’ll need binoculars to see it,’’ or, ‘‘Caleb Hanie is our starting quarterback, and here are some buckets in case any of you are feeling nauseous.’’

Of the possibility of playing Enderle, Smith said: ‘‘This isn’t a tryout period, either. We’re trying to win a football game.’’

The Bears have a slight chance to make the playoffs, and it’s likely the chance will be gone by the time they kick off Sunday. If it is, then it would make sense to play McCown against the Packers and Enderle in the season finale against the Vikings in Minnesota, where the spotlight won’t be as bright and the frothing of the enemy won’t be as pronounced.

The Bears would be in a better place right now if they had figured out awhile ago that Hanie can’t play. That better place is called ‘‘the playoffs.’’ Right now, they’re playing for the season to be over. It can’t come soon enough.



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