Friday, April 6, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: Quarterback

Well, it's probably about time I get to this, isn't it?

#6 Jay Cutler-
We all know the way Jay Cutler's 2010 season ended, with an injury that brought a hail of undeserved and absolutely ridiculous meathead criticism upon him. Unfortunately, his 2011 season also ended with an injury, but by the time his second injury occurred most of his critics had come to accept the simple fact that Jay Cutler is a damn good quarterback.

No, the numbers (2319 YDS, 13 TDS, 7 INTs, 85.7 rating) weren't mindblowing, but if there was one thing Jay's absence taught us, it was that those of us who have always defended him were right: without him, the Bears were nothing.

He dealt with an offensive coordinator who desperately tried to force an poorly conceived, dangerous scheme down his throat. He dealt with an offensive line that continually struggled with injuries and lapses before settling into a nice rhythm in the last five games before his injury. He dealt once again with a mediocre corps of wide receivers, especially when Earl Bennett missed most of the first half with an injury. Eventually, Jerry Angelo's refusal to get him a real receiver proved to be the undoing of the entire team, as Jay injured himself after an interception caused by Johnny Knox slipping. Again.

Through it all, Jay continued to play well, limit mistakes, make some absolutely breathtaking throws, and prove that he was tough as a quarterback gets. More importantly, he won, as he has in 19 of his last 27 regular season starts with the Bears. Next year he'll hopefully have better protection, a coordinator who won't hesitate to use the stable of very good backs that the Bears have in order to take the load off of Jay, and, finally, a real receiver to throw to. I cannot wait to see #6 take the field again. It's been far too long.

#12 Caleb Hanie-
Well, shit. Did you see that coming? I'll admit, my initial reaction to Jay's injury was absolute panic and woe, but as you saw, I talked myself out of it long enough to freak out all over again in the Raiders game. I should have known. Generally speaking, any time Bears fans are enamored with a backup quarterback, they always find out how wrong they are.

I had hoped Caleb would be different. He had experience in the scheme, he was big, mobile, and physically talented. He seemed like he wasn't a shithead, and he didn't seem phased by the NFC Title Game, so I had hoped for a little bit more than the shifty, panicky, absolutely atrocious flop of a quarterback that we got. People can blame the Bears offensive line and the talent around him all they want, but there's no good reason why Jay Cutler can take 23 sacks in 10 games (and just 5 in his last 5) and Caleb can get sacked 19 times in 4 games. Most of those are on him. He had no sense of the rush, he had no idea how to throw the ball away, and he had no ability to make decisions on the run. In the end, his numbers (51/102 (50%), 613 yds, 3 TDs, 9 INTS, 6.0 YPA and 41.8 rating) show he was really just Craig Krenzel without the molecular genetics degree.

Needless to say, the Bears made the best decision possible when they brought in Jason Campbell and re-signed McCown to upgrade the depth chart, as Caleb could never be trusted as a reliable fallback plan again. I'm sure he'll work out fine in Denver, though. Totally.

#15 Josh McCown-
The Bears may have made the playoffs this year had Josh McCown not signed a contract with the Hartford Colonials in 2010. If Josh had decided to pass on the UFL, Mike Martz may have signed Josh instead of Todd Collins, Caleb would never have had the #2 job, and a much less rusty Josh McCown may have been able to get the Bears the 2 wins in 6 tries the team would have needed to make the playoffs and hand things back over to Jay Cutler.

Alas, none of the above happened, and all we were left with was two relatively decent spot starts by McCown after Hanie had already tanked the season. There's no need to pretend that Josh was anything spectacular, but he may win the coveted title of Best Third String Quarterback in Bears History (or at least since the George Blanda Era) next year.

#10 Nathan Enderle-
Didn't play. Totally going to be cut in training camp.

In a familiar scenario, the quarterback position proved to be the undoing of a promising Bears team in 2011. Fortunately, Phil Emery opened up the wallet for a capable backup for the first time in recent Bears memory and brought in Jason Campbell. At least we have the comfort of knowing that the nightmare is over, since Jay will be back and better than ever in 2012.