By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) With 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 38-14 loss to the Seahawks, thousands of Bears fans flooded the exits of Solider Field knowing the season was all but over.
The only question: Why did they wait so long to give up?
Looking back on it now, the Bears never had a realistic chance without Jay Cutler. And when Matt Forte went down, any Tim Tebow-like prayer was lost as well.
It’s probably not fair to expect any 7-3 team that loses its starting quarterback and running back to do better than 3-3 like so many of us did, but 0-4 – and probably 0-6 two weeks from now – is completely unacceptable.
Football is the ultimate team sport and while quarterback is clearly the most important position in the pass-happy NFL, a competent general manager should at least have a serviceable backup ready. You know, one that won’t lose you four games in a row.
In other words, not Caleb Hanie.
How bad has the Bears quarterback situation been in the midst of their four game losing streak?
As the fans bailed early in the fourth quarter with the Seahawks leading 31-14, Lovie Smith could have made a change at quarterback, but decided not to.
“(Hanie) was struggling, but we still felt like we were in the football game and he was our best option at the time,” Smith said.
Yes, even after throwing two interceptions – one that was returned for a touchdown – while only completing 9-of-20 passes up to that point, Hanie was still the best option.
And the sad thing is, he probably was.
Other than August practices in Bourbonnais, we haven’t been able to watch how Hanie has truly developed since joining the Bears four years ago. One could only assume that if he was still a No. 2 quarterback in the NFL after all this time, then he should at least be able to lead the Bears to a 3-3 record and make the playoffs while Cutler’s thumb healed.
That assumption was understandable. The Bears’ inability to accurately evaluate his talent is not.
Thus has been the problem with Jerry Angelo in charge. Sure, he could tell that Jay Cutler had a rocket arm and that Julius Peppers was a freak of nature, but when it comes to evaluating the talent of younger players – you know, the part of his job he really gets paid for – Angelo has consistently failed.
And his failure this year – Caleb Hanie – has cost the Bears the playoffs.
Where To Go From Here
While Smith kept Hanie in the game at the start of the fourth quarter, the quarterback didn’t last long. He was sacked twice on one drive and then promptly threw another pick-six on the first play of the next drive.
Finally, with 4:54 left in the game, Smith put Josh McCown in the game.
Of course McCown’s second pass was… intercepted.
Asked after the game if he thought he would start next week’s game at Green Bay, McCown said he had no idea, while Smith left the door open to that possibility.
When asked after the game if the quarterback position was open, Smith said: “Open? It’s right after the game and we’re disappointed in our performance today at the quarterback position. Can’t tell you anything more than that.”
In other words, it’s not closed.
The only good news for the Bears after the game was that wide receiver Johnny Knox was not paralyzed. Unfortunately he still needs surgery Monday to stabilize a vertebrae in his mid- to lower back. He suffered a scary back injury in the first quarter on a hit where his upper body was bent backwards. The Bears says the prognosis for his playing career and quality of life is good.
Meanwhile, Chris Conte left the game with a foot injury and never returned, while Devin Hester saw his playing time limited because of a nagging ankle injury.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.