Caleb Hanie was understandably respectful Wednesday. Mike Martz knows better than he does, Hanie said of the plays he is asked to execute, three of which turned into interceptions.
Jay Cutler, meanwhile, was remarkably protective of the player replacing him while he rehabs a broken thumb. Martz has to be careful with Hanie, Cutler said of the plays the new, inexperienced starter is asked to execute.
Specifically, Cutler said, “We have to be really careful with what kind of situations we put him in. Mike has to be careful with that. We really don’t know what Caleb is comfortable with. Caleb doesn’t know what he’s comfortable with because he hasn’t run a lot of these plays … in a high-pressure situation.’’
On the one hand, Martz has to make some seemingly bad calls if he and Hanie are going to find out what plays he executes well. That’s part of the pain with this situation. The Bears have to call a variety of plays so they know what plays they just can’t call anymore.
For instance, we can check that throwback screen off the bucket list. The slant, though, that’s a keeper. The Raiders believed it enough that Hanie was able to sell the fake slant, then hand off on a draw that worked. Hanie also looked more comfortable reading the high-low crossing patterns that is standard Martz and resulted in Kellen Davis open in the end zone for a touchdown.
On the other hand, Cutler’s caveat is well taken. The guy has experience with Martz’s play-calling.
Specifically, the guy has experience with Martz’s belief that the players are expected to execute the ludicrous.
One example: Martz’s seven-game insistence on seven-step drops that were murdering Cutler last season.
Another example: That silly end-around call to the slowest end on the Bears less than 30 yards from the end zone in the dying seconds of the NFC Championship Game.
Martz blamed the players’ execution on the Earl Bennett end-around, just as he blamed Hanie’s execution on the silly throwback screen that changed Sunday’s game in Oakland. Martz said screens are good plays and that particular screen is one that has always worked.
Well, no. It hasn’t. Martz wears that one, whether he knows it or not. It’s not always the players’ fault, not when Cutler can’t run that play any better than Hanie.
Point is, Martz usually has the players at fault for his most ludicrous calls, an it sounds like at least one player --- the key player even when he’s not playing --- is tired of that crud.
Connecting the dots here: Martz was putting that play and probably others on Hanie before either of them met the media Wednesday, and Cutler knew it before he met the media Wednesday, which explains why the guy with the thumb in a cast wagged the big verbal finger. Be careful with the backup, Cutler fired off publicly to Martz, sounding like a big brother taking care of Junior. You want Hanie, you have to go through me.
Good for Cutler. His caveat born out of experience with some Martz lunacy also smacks of Cutler’s growing leadership. It sounds as if it doesn’t matter whether Cutler is playing, he’s still trying to take ownership of the game plan and protect the offense from the offensive coordinator.