It's Green Acres for Mr. Hanie in Bears Quarterback Derby

Paul LadewskiCorrespondent IIAugust 18, 2009

LAKE FOREST, IL - MAY 20: (L-R) Quarterbacks Brett Basanez #14, Jay Cutler #6 and Caleb Hanie #12 of the Chicago Bears watch a kicking drill during an organized team activity (OTA) practice on May 20, 2009 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

          BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – As expected, a Bears quarterback opened eyes in the preseason opener on Saturday night. What nobody predicted was that Jay Cutler wouldn’t be the one.

The quarterback was Caleb Hanie, who wants people to know that any similarities beyond their position and team designation are strictly coincidental.

          “He’s The Guy,” said Hanie, who upstaged Cutler in his much-hyped debut.

          Hanie would be content to be The Other Guy in his second season in the league. The 23-year-old did nothing to hurt his chances in an otherwise lackluster 27-20 loss against the Bills in Buffalo.

Hanie completed 8-of-11 pass attempts for 87 yards and one touchdown, a performance that gave him a substantial lead over Northwestern product Brett Basanez in their competition for the back-up role.

Basanez completed three passes in 11 attempts for 26 yards and one touchdown. Three of his passes were interceptions, one of which was a catchable ball.

          “I showed as much as I could show in one game that I could play in this league,” said Hanie, who did not throw an interception. “But I have to show that I can be consistent every week.”

On a night of precious few offensive highlights, Hanie provided one in the third period. He avoided the rush, scrambled to his right and connected with fullback Will Ta-ufo’ou on a 14-yard touchdown pass.

“We were anxious to see him that game,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “He has a year in the system and a good offseason under his belt. He continues to show tremendous poise and awareness.”

Basanez has the only NFL regular-season appearance among the two candidates, but Hanie didn’t consider that to be a primary qualification for the position. He preferred to be judged on his performance.

 “It’s a reason to be concerned if we go out in the preseason and don’t play like we’re don’t show the flashes and upside that the coaches need to see in order to have trust and faith in us,” Hanie said. “We should be judged on performance.

“Obviously, when you come in as a rookie, you don’t have much game experience.  Everybody has to make the initial step. That’s how it has to be sometimes.”

Regardless of how Hanie and Basanez fare in the final three preseason games, chances are the team will sign a veteran back-up in advance of the regular season. Hanie is well aware that quarterbacks such as Tony Romo and Matt Schaub started their careers in a similar manner before they made names for themselves.

“(The preseason) is a showcase, a platform to propel your career,” Hanie said. “If this is the only thing that they give you to evaluate your career, then that’s what you have to deal with. That’s what a lot of people have done in the recent past.”