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McCown’s turn to lead Bears

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Dan Pompei
December 20, 2011
— The Bears’ season didn’t end Sunday.

It won’t end next Sunday, if, as expected, the Bears are stuffed in a chimney by the Packers.


It didn’t end last Sunday when Marion Barber ran out of bounds.


It didn’t even end one month ago when Jay Cutler broke his thumb while thrusting his right hand into Donald Butler as Butler was blocking on an Antoine Cason interception.


The season of this quarterback-cursed franchise ended on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 3 p.m.


That’s when Kyle Orton was awarded to the Chiefs, not the Bears, by virtue of their standing in front of the Bears in the waiver claiming order.


One month later, the Chiefs have a quarterback who can beat the Packers.


If the Bears had been awarded Orton, they likely would have another victory or two. The buzz this week would be about whether Cutler could come back from his injury to replace Orton against the Packers.


As it is, the buzz this week still will be about which quarterback the Bears will start. But Orton isn’t in the discussion, and Cutler shouldn’t be.


Nor should Caleb Hanie.


Maybe the Bears can rehab Hanie. Detoxify him from blindside hits and get that interception monkey off his back. Let him put himself back together and see what he can do next season.


But it has become clear that he can’t help the Bears win in 2011.


Josh McCown may not be able to either. Nathan Enderle almost certainly can’t. Even the great Sid Luckman, were he still among us, would likely fail here and now.


But the Bears have nothing to lose but to try someone else.


Many Bears fans started to look for a stirring on the sidelines late in the first half, but Hanie earned a stay of execution by completing two passes, including a 25-yard touchdown, on a 10-play drive.


Hanie’s first pass of the third quarter was another touchdown. But it was for the wrong team.


Working off play action, Hanie turned to bootleg right into a pass rusher and tried to get a throw off instead of eating the ball. Defensive end Red Bryant caught it and ran it back 20 yards.


“Some unfortunate luck there,” Hanie said.


For most of the third and fourth quarters, Hanie lacked accuracy and touch. He didn’t respond to pressure well.


With 5:11 remaining, his pass for Roy Williams was intercepted and returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner.


“I was trying to make something happen there at the end,” Hanie said. “Felt like the game was a little out of hand. ... I missed the throw a little high.”


In the past, Hanie was a better player on Sundays than in practice; a better player in the fourth quarter than the first. He was a gamer.


For a lot of reasons, some that have nothing to do with him and some that have everything to do with him, Hanie hasn’t been that player over the last four games.


Still, we didn’t see McCown throw a warmup pass on the sideline until 300 ticks of the clock remained—which was roughly the same number of fans still in the stands at Soldier Field.


McCown came in with 4:54 remaining and the Bears 24 points behind the Seahawks. Who knows what would have happened if McCown had been summoned when the game was still within reach? By not playing him, Bears coach Lovie Smith gave the impression he didn’t feel the desperation in the air.


“We felt like (Hanie) was our best option at the time,” Smith said.


In four games, Hanie has completed 50 percent of his passes, thrown nine interceptions to three touchdowns and led his team to scores on 5.7 percent of his drives. If he was the Bears’ best option, they had no other option.


After the game, McCown said he believes he’s ready to play.


“The reason I’m here is I’ve been with (Mike Martz) before and I understand the system,” said McCown, who was signed within minutes of the NFL’s announcement that Orton was a Chief.


And just to be sure, he has been arriving at Halas Hall every day at 6:30 a.m. and hanging around two or three hours after most of his teammates take off. He has been spending extra time with quarterbacks coach Shane Day. When McCown gets home, he draws plays, watches videotape and works on his iPad until his eyes close.


For most of the game Sunday, McCown stood next to Day on the sidelines, listening to the play calls that were relayed from Martz. McCown said he knew them all.


After the loss Sunday, Smith wasn’t ready to name a starter for the Packers game.


But I am.


Ladies and gentleman,


No. 15, Josh McCown.



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