Bears backed up into a corner
By Mark Potash email@example.com December 19, 2011 10:40PM
Caleb Hanie's 41.8 passer rating is the worst for any backup with at least two starts this season. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
OF THE WORST
Caleb Hanie’s 41.8 rating is the worst for any backup with two or more starts this season.
1) Caleb Hanie, BEARS 0-4 41.8
2) Tyler Palko, KC 1-3 59.8
3) Vince Young, PHI 1-2 60.8
4) Charlie Whitehurst, SEA 0-2 62.9
5) Blaine Gabbert, JAX 3-9 65.6
Updated: January 21, 2012 8:18AM
It took general manager Jerry Angelo eight years to realize it helps to have a really good player at quarterback.
‘‘It’s all about the quarterback,’’ he said after the Bears finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs in 2008. ‘‘We have to get that position stabilized. We’re fixated on that.’’
Three years later, it might be time for Angelo to become fixated on the backup QB, too. And the receivers. And the offensive line. Or whatever it takes to prop up Caleb Hanie. Because Angelo’s biggest error this season — no matter how guilty Sam Hurd might turn out to be — is his failure to build an offense that could withstand the loss of Jay Cutler.
For the second consecutive year, the Bears have been burned by a disastrous Plan B at quarterback. Last year, Todd Collins was their guy. Then they turned to Hanie after Collins fizzled in the NFC Championship Game.
And it’s no better this season. Hanie’s dismal performance in a 38-14 loss Sunday to the Seahawks at Soldier Field was dangerously close to the Henry Burris line (28.4 passer rating) he already had crossed once this season. Hanie had a 33.3 rating — 10-for-23 for 111 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions — to fall to 0-4 as a starter.
With nine interceptions in his four starts, Hanie’s 41.8 passer rating is the lowest for any backup quarterback in the NFL with two or more starts. (The only other backup who has been worse — the Raiders’ Kyle Boller (31.1) — didn’t get a second start.) In fact, since Cutler arrived in 2009, Bears backup quarterbacks have a 33.8 passer rating, with four touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in 169 attempts. That’s one pick for every 16.9 attempts, whether you’re keeping score at home or not.
Four consecutive losses have dropped the Bears to 7-7. They appear to have as much chance of winning a game with Hanie at quarterback as Hurd has of winning another Ed Block Courage Award. Whether Hanie, Josh McCown, Nathan Enderle or Earl Bennett starts at quarterback doesn’t seem to matter. Without Cutler, the Bears are doomed.
Do the Bears need to find a better way of evaluating or developing backup QBs? Whatever they’re doing doesn’t seem to be working.
‘‘It’s tough to prepare a No. 2 quarterback,’’ coach Lovie Smith said at his news conference Monday. ‘‘You have to have the right player in that position as much as anything.’’
Smith unwittingly hit the nail on the head. Isn’t the Bears’ problem that they just have the wrong guy?
‘‘Oh, I can’t say,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We’re disappointed with our quarterback play. It hasn’t been as good as we’d like it to be. But you can say that about other positions.’’
If Smith really thinks the QB is one-eleventh of an offense, the Bears’ biggest problem is that they don’t know they have a problem.
But they do. And they have three choices: (1) acquire a veteran backup quarterback who will play for Mike Martz; (2) acquire a coordinator who doesn’t need his quarterback to have a Ph.D. in his offense to run it; or (3) start drafting offensive tackles without pre-existing conditions and a wide receiver who can make a quarterback out of Hanie — like Larry Fitzgerald does for John Skelton; or Brandon Marshall does for Matt Moore; or Reggie Wayne did for Dan Orlovsky on Sunday.
The best route to the Super Bowl is to keep your starting quarterback healthy. But the No. 2 shouldn’t be the lost cause it has been for the Bears. In Week 15, quarterbacks who started the season as backups combined for an 89.8 passer rating — that’s higher than Cutler’s rating during the Bears’ five-game winning streak (89.2).
The Chiefs’ Kyle Orton (104.1) beat the previously unbeaten Packers. Orlovsky (95.7), who spent two seasons in Martz’s system in Detroit, beat the Titans for the Colts’ first victory of the season. The Dolphins’ Moore (122.3) beat the Bills. The Cardinals’ Skelton (79.3) beat the Browns.
Orton beat the Packers. If that doesn’t drive home the point, nothing will.