9:34 AM CST, November 29, 2011
I’d love to pound Mike Martz for arrogant myopia, from that silly throwback screen in the red zone to keeping the backup quarterback out of game-plan meetings.
But Caleb Hanie and at least one of his receivers were worse than the offensive coordinator in Sunday’s loss in Oakland.
Johnny Knox dropped gimmes while making a miraculous one-handed catch -- the kind of highlight-worthy inconsistency that explains why he’s the favorite receiver of a quarterback who threw three interceptions and two touchdowns.
That was the problem in Oakland. But that’s not the problem in Lake Forest and in Soldier Field this Sunday. Tape exists of Hanie in a full game. Tape shows some bad mistakes and some a lot worse the way you’d expect of a quarterback making his first NFL start.
But the big thing the tape doesn’t show is the big thing Hanie must show against Kansas City: that he has learned how to learn in the NFL.
Because the mental disasters loom more important than the physical mistakes. Everybody saw Hanie roll to his right, leaving the pocket without reason, then throw a head-exploding interception as he neared the sideline.
He should’ve eaten the ball. He’ll say tried to make a play. He channeled his inner Jay Cutler and ended up Rex Grossman.
Hanie needs to learn, and quickly, why common sense left him.
Precision, or the lack of it, killed him on the second interception, too. Hanie can work on accuracy, but first he needs to figure out what he saw and why it was so dead wrong. Late and high over the middle again this week would seem to begin the Josh McCown era.
Martz made a mess of things with that throwback screen in the red zone on a second down near the end of the first half. Martz could’ve helped Hanie give the Bears a lead if he had given the ball to Matt Forte or Marion Barber. Instead, Martz called a play that Cutler can’t even execute.
And there was one play when Hanie threw a screen to Forte, completely oblivious to the Raider already covering the Bears running back like a pterodactyl.
Hanie can’t just ask himself what he saw and why he made those decisions. He needs to provide answers. He doesn’t have to tell us. We’ll settle for just showing us.
And we’re not talking about just his passing decisions. Hanie’s decisions to leave the pocket seemed to be alternately productive and panicked. One time Hanie scrambled, got completely out of trouble, and still look back over his shoulder to see if he was about to be clobbered. Look, son, you can’t play quarterback if you’re spooked.
Postgame, Hanie sounded unprepared for the demands of a starting quarterback, from the media requests during the week to the game-planning meetings. That ought to be easier for him this week.
Same goes for judging the speed of the game and the speed with which he must make decisions. It’s not his fault that he hadn’t played a real game since last January. It will be his fault, however, if he can’t adjust to such things this week.
For instance, on the interception on that blasted throwback screen, Hanie said the play worked in practice. Geez, you hope the kid learned that games move faster than practice.
Hanie might not like the idea of being a “game manager.’’ He might not like the term and might not like the connotation, but a game manager would’ve managed to win Sunday’s game. “Game manager’’ beats “loser.’’
What’s more, a game manager will beat a bad Kansas City team this week. You know who won’t beat a bad Kansas City team this week? A backup quarterback who doesn’t know who he is or how that guy can win the game that’s there.
Maybe Hanie thinks he’s an actual professional quarterback because his offensive coordinator is given to spasms of lunacy. Hanie has to learn who he is.
His receivers, running backs and offensive coordinator must help him take a step toward NFL competence.
It’s not just that Hanie executed badly bad, it’s that he compounded it by thinking badly. Hanie’s game-savvy must be his greatest progress this week.
Hanie might not like it, but his job is not to win games, it’s to not lose them. Be Tom Brady on Xbox 360, OK?
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC