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redeyechicago.com

Hanie still has to make plays, people

Steve Rosenbloom

The RosenBlog

9:23 AM CST, November 22, 2011

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Brian Urlacher said Caleb Hanie’s athleticism allows him to move around the pocket and even suggested “a little (Tim) Tebow offense maybe.’’

Yes. Well. I’m still hoping for a little NFL offense.

Urlacher mostly talked about how his defense must play better in the wake of Jay Cutler’s broken thumb. And of course the running game has to step up --- you with us, Matt Forte? --- and special teams have to tilt the field, if not take all of it the way Devin Hester often does.

These are all a bunch of “well, duhs.’’ Everybody has to be better because the quarterback is worse.

But Caleb Hanie is still the Bears quarterback. You can’t hide that. If the Bears are going to win those three games that everybody believes they can win so easily to get into the playoffs, then Hanie will have to make plays.

Let’s note right here and now that he will not make plays running the outdated Mike Martz offense. No, check that, he will make plays running that offense and they will be bad and they will be costly because the Bears can’t block it.

Here’s what Martz ought to know already but you’re never sure: Whatever rollouts and bootlegs he called to get Cutler on the run also play to some of Hanie’s strengths. Martz never likes moving pockets, but he has been less grudging in realizing what kind of offense he has.

The big difference, of course, is Hanie doesn’t have Cutler’s cannon. The killer difference, however, is that Hanie holds the ball too long. That’s how you get those aggravating sacks and maybe fumbles. That tendency also contributes to Hanie’s big-play/big-mistake style. See the NFC Championship Game for details. One time he’s lofting a beautiful rainbow into Earl Bennett’s hands for a touchdown, another time he’s throwing it to the fattest guy in the field for the wrong kind of touchdown.

The one thing a backup cannot do is turn over the ball. Confidence becomes a problem right there, but the bigger truth is that Hanie doesn’t have the talent to overcome those mistakes the way Cutler does.

Another thing Martz ought to know already but you’re never sure: The best way to get Hanie to get rid of the ball fast is by creating a faster pace on offense from the start. Call the play, get it in, eliminate the pre-snap motion, use a quicker snap count, go.

Then do it again.

The Bears offense eliminated false-starts by doing just that after the “Debacle in Detroit.’’ It wasn’t exactly a hurry-up offense against the Vikings, nor was it a sugar huddle. Just a better pace. A simpler pace.

Bears offensive linemen weren’t sitting in their stance forever. The Vikings defense couldn’t rotate players, nor did it have time to disguise looks and confuse the Bears offense. Martz has started several recent games that way, and it’s obvious that his offense looks smoother when it plays faster. When it plays simpler.

Eventually, Martz goes back to being Martz with all the pre-snap movement and complicated and sometimes cockamamie time-consuming junk. It worked for four straight touchdowns against San Diego on Sunday. But that was with Cutler. That was all Cutler, actually. He was the best player on the field, but he won’t be on the field Sunday and maybe not for two months.

Hanie doesn’t need the standard Martz fluff. Martz doesn’t need to burden Hanie with it. This is no time for Martz to call a game like it’s a final exam for quarterbacks. Put your players in the best position to succeed. It’s simple.