The Chicago Bears showed so much promise this season once they got their feat under them after a shaky start. They started just 2-3 before rattling off 5 consecutive wins. That all seems like years ago. The Bears are winless since beating the Chargers. That was the game that their season changed for the worse. Yes they won, but more importantly Jay Cutler left the game with a broken thumb that ended their playoff hopes.
With the Bears mercifully eliminated from playoff contention, it’s time to look back and wonder; what went wrong? Was Caleb Hanie really that terrible? Well, let’s find out.
Caleb Hanie in 2011:
Jay Cutler in 2011:
Now, this isn’t rocket science. Jay Cutler is simply a better quarterback than Caleb Hanie, or Josh McCown for that matter, but numbers don’t always tell the entire tale. Jay Cutler’s presence takes pressure off of running back Matt Forte. When Forte has less defenders to worry about, he gains more yards. When he gains more yards, the Bears’ offense spends more time on the field, giving their defense more breaks for longer periods of time. That keeps the defense fresh, allowing them to get the opposing offense off the field. That keeps the oppositions defense on the field, making them more tired. In turn, that makes it easier for the offense to keep the opposing defense on its heels. As you can see, it’s a vicious cycle that was broken.
While the injury to Jay Cutler would have hurt any team, it destroyed the Bears. The reason is that the Bears simply weren’t willing to go out and find a suitable replacement for Cutler. The disturbing part of it all is that the Bears should have been able to coast into the playoffs after beating the Chargers. Even with a mediocre backup, they should have been able to overpower teams like the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, and Seahawks. And with the way the Bears fought against the one-loss Packers, we have to wonder if the Bears left Caleb Hanie in too long. Wait, did I say we have to wonder? No we don’t. It’s clear that Hanie was in way over his head, and the Bears did nothing.
This isn’t a tale of a team that just didn’t have the personnel to fill the shoes of their injured quarterback. This is a story about a coaching staff that never properly evaluated their quarterbacks. Hanie was pulled following four embarrassing losses to teams that the Bears had no business losing to. With apologies to the Raiders and Tebow sympathizers, the Bears are a far better team than any of the teams that have beaten them over the past 5 games, except of course the Packers.
Had the Bears been able to realize that McCown was the more viable starting quarterback after signing him on November 23rd, they would have been able to let him start as soon as their game on December 4th against the Kansas City Chiefs, but they simply overlooked him. The Bears season wasn’t de-railed because they lacked the player to take over for Cutler, it was de-railed because they were letting that player sit on the bench as their season slowly circled the drain.