The season isn’t over until the fat offensive coordinator sings. The Chicago Bears are going to be without first-string QB Jay Cutler for a while and unproven second-string QB Caleb Hanie is going to be leading the offense. Putting your faith in a no name QB is old news for Bears fans. We’ve been here before. I just hate hearing fans who have given up on the season already.
Hanie has only played in six regular season games and one playoff game in his four-year career. In those seven games, he has completed 21 of 34 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Those numbers shout out that Caleb is nothing more than the team leader in inexperience.
However, after pondering the situation that the Bears are in, I can’t help but think of three reasons that having Hanie in at QB will be better than having Cutler in a QB. Yes, you read that right. I’m going to tell you why Hanie is a better option than Cutler right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Cutler guy all the way, but I’m taking what has been handed to us and running with it. Which brings me to my first point…
I Like My Bears Runny
The Bears running game hasn’t been very productive over the last two weeks, averaging just 3.2 yards per rush. They need to get the run game going and now is the perfect time to get a little creative and do just that. With Cutler out, many teams are going to play for the run, which may lead you to believe that the Bears RBs are dead to rights. However, I don’t think that is the case. Oakland gives up 5.2 yards per rush, worst in the league. If the Bears can commit to the run this week, Marion Barber and Matt Forte can make plays. All it takes is a few big runs to break a defense. A good game this week will give the running game some momentum going into the final five games of the regular season. Teams will think twice about blitzing to stop the run. We’ve seen it for two years, when the Bears are running well, they win games. Look for Barber to get going this week.
It’s Cold Outside, Open the Screen Door
Recently, Cutler has been doing well throwing the ball down field and hitting open receivers, but drops have plagued the Bears all year long. The one part of their passing game that has been missing is the screen pass. It was very effective during the first few weeks of the season, but has pretty much been taken out of the game plan. The weather is getting cold and windy, which means deep throws will be harder to make. Screens can get just as many yards with some good blocking.
With Hanie at QB, the Bears can recapture the magic of the screen pass that helped Forte to 287 receiving yards over the first three weeks of the season (compared to just 178 over the last seven weeks). The Bears have the personnel to use short passes for big gains with their big tight ends and a Clutts in the backfield. The dump off can be a great weapon when teams blitz or press with eight in the box. Maybe we will even see Devin Hester in the backfield, where the Bears can try to utilize his escapability.
Game Planning Is Good…in Theory
The number one thing the Bears have with Hanie that they do not have with Cutler, is the element of surprise. Teams around the league know absolutely nothing about Hanie, outside of a few series in last year’s championship game and his college career four years ago. We’ve seen that new QBs, despite their lack of skill, can win games in the NFL. I’m looking at you, Tebow. Hanie has been in Mike Martz’ system for two years now and knows the playbook. He has had a whole week to work with the first team in practice and has been patiently waiting for his chance.
Hanie’s going to have some jitters in his first start, but this offense is designed for the quarterback to have a lot of options in the passing game. For a quarterback to succeed, you need to give him confidence. I hope that Martz really does have confidence in Hanie to make throws when he has to. If the Bears don’t give him a chance to read the defense and make a play, he is doomed from the start. I won’t be surprised if he throws an interception or two, but he needs to be given a chance to bounce back by throwing the ball. Let’s hope the Bears don’t play super-conservative or else Hanie will never find a groove. The Raiders defense needs to know that if they don’t respect Hanie as a passer, he can beat them through the air if he has to. After all, Oakland has given up the second most touchdown passes in the league with 18.
There ya have it. I love Jay Cutler as the Bears quarterback, but if they have to lose him, this is the week for it to happen. Caleb Hanie is an NFL quarterback who knows the Bears offensive system. There is no one else better qualified to fill in for Cutler right now than he is. If the Bears can reestablish their running game, get creative with screen passes, and let Hanie be a quarterback, we won’t have anything to worry about. Hanie can lead the Bears into the playoffs and Cutler can take them to the Super Bowl. They just have to take it one week, one series, one snap at a time.