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When Bears share blame, no one takes responsibility

Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie sits turf after fourth quarter sack forced fourth down punt as Chicago Bears lost 38-14 Seattle

Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie sits on the turf after a fourth quarter sack forced a fourth down punt as the Chicago Bears lost 38-14 to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday December 18, 2011 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 28, 2012 8:10AM



If you’re still having a hard time divining who the Bears think is to blame for sticking with Caleb Hanie for so long, you’re not alone.

You’d have an easier time finding Amelia Earhart at Halas Hall than you would accountability.

Lots of people are taking perfunctory responsibility for the Hanie plane crash, which means no one is taking responsibility.

That’s how it works with the Bears, who offer up a united front to spread the blame around so it doesn’t stick to any one person. They’re all in this together. How very convenient for job-status purposes.

The ultimate fault lies with general manager Jerry Angelo, of course, but that’s not what this is about. This is about an organization that is loath to acknowledge its mistakes publicly.

It prides itself on not pointing fingers, as though that, not victories, is the goal of a football season. In the meantime, nobody gets brought to justice.

You have a head coach who won’t say anything. You have a general manager who does most of his talking on the team’s safe, non-judgmental website once a week. You have a chairman who last was quoted in a Chicago newspaper in early August.

Situation calls for honesty

It’s a mystery why it took the Bears so long to recognize that Hanie couldn’t play, but it probably cost them a trip to the playoffs.

Josh McCown didn’t set the world on fire in a loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers, but it was obvious after one quarter that he was better than Hanie, who had been the starting quarterback for four consecutive losses. It’s not making a great leap in logic to think McCown could have led them to a couple of victories after Jay Cutler went down with a broken right thumb.

If the Bears had gone 9-7, perhaps Cutler and injured running back Matt Forte would have come back for the playoffs.

‘‘He did a good job, man,’’ linebacker Brian Urlacher said of McCown. ‘‘He didn’t quit. He played the whole time, played hard. .  .  . I was impressed with what he did.’’

‘‘Mensa’’ Mike Martz rightly has absorbed heat for designing an offense that would be challenging to the folks at NASA, but he saw Hanie’s limitations. Nobody seemed to listen.

The Bears could be forgiven for not knowing what McCown had to offer. At the time of his signing, he last had played in an NFL game in 2009. But the Bears will get no forgiveness here for misevaluating Hanie so badly. This is his fourth year on the team. He fooled them for that long? Come on.

But you won’t hear much honesty about that topic from the powers that be.

Any seasoned Bears observer was braced for that. Remember two years ago, when the team had a dog-and-pony news conference to announce that everybody was safe, except for some poor-slob assistant coaches who were sacrificed? Remember the intrigue about who was calling the shots? Was it Angelo? President Ted Phillips? Matriarch Virginia McCaskey? Or was the deposed Michael McCaskey still lurking in the shadows with his hedge trimmers?

It’s not for us to know

Now chairman George McCaskey is in charge, we’re told. The last time he was quoted in either Chicago newspaper, the subject was the grass problems at Soldier Field.

Since Smith came to town in 2004, an attitude of ‘‘it’s not for you to know’’ has permeated Halas Hall. It’s not for us to know who’s responsible for a blown coverage. It’s not for us to know why players come and go. It’s certainly not for us to know why Hanie was out there in the first place.

Smith’s most famous quote is, ‘‘You should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win.’’ It sounds as silly now as it did when he uttered it
in 2007.

The message is clear: You fans do your job, which is plunking down gobs of money, and we’ll do ours, which is not making the playoffs four of the last five seasons.

This season calls for an apology. Not an explanation. Not a defense. Not a rationalization. An apology.

It’s where Angelo stands in front of the media and says he blew it by not having an NFL-ready backup quarterback.

And maybe, just maybe, somebody in the organization will have a spasm of honesty and agree publicly with him. That’s not pointing fingers. That’s telling it like it is in a big-boy league.

Talk is cheap? No, it’s what grown-up NFL teams do. They also fire GMs who don’t produce.



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