Why Chicago Bears' Decision to Bench Caleb Hanie Is Far Too Late to Matter

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IDecember 21, 2011

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 11:  Quarterback Caleb Hanie #12 of the Chicago Bears is sacked by Linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 11, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears announced on Wednesday that Caleb Hanie has been benched in favor of Josh McCown for Sunday night's game with the Green Bay Packers

It had been reported earlier in the week that this move could be made, but the Bears' website made it official on Twitter. 

After Hanie's nine interceptions in just four starts and a 41.8 passer rating, the move to McCown was something that the Bears had to do. There was no sense in continuing to start a guy that has no business playing 60 minutes in the NFL right now.

But was the move made too late for it to even matter for the Bears' season?

There's a pretty good argument for that.

Hanie's first start against the Raiders was the first warning sign that he might be overwhelmed as the Bears quarterback. He threw three early interceptions before putting together a decent stat line (254 yards, two touchdowns) over the rest of the contest. The Bears lost, 25-20.

From that point, Hanie has shown nothing to warrant holding the position.

The Bears scored just three points against the Chiefs the next week, and Hanie threw three more picks while only mustering 133 passing yards. A 10-3 loss probably should have been it for the Caleb Hanie experiment.

But no, Lovie Smith trotted him out again the next week in Denver. The Bears realistically should have won that game if not for two bone-headed mistakes from Marion Barber, but Hanie wasn't the reason for the lead. He had just 115 yards and failed to complete a pass for over 20 yards.

The Bears dropped their third straight game with Hanie under center to fall to 7-6, knocking them out of the NFC playoff picture.

Instead of making the change to McCown before the biggest game of the Bears' season last Sunday, Smith again stuck with Hanie. He threw three picks, including one for a touchdown, and the Bears were routed, 38-14. McCown came in later, throwing another pick-six, but the game was well in hand by that point.

Would have making the switch to McCown saved the Bears' sinking season? Maybe. Who knows? But by starting Hanie for four straight weeks and expecting a different result (the definition of insanity, per Albert Einstein), the Bears' season has all but ended.

They need wins over the Packers at Lambeau Field on Christmas night and in Minnesota in Week 17 to even have a chance. Chicago isn't mathematically eliminated, but they might as well be.

In the end, Bears fans can blame management's ineptitude at the quarterback position for the collapse. We've seen teams (Houston Texans?) lose their starting quarterback this season and continue to keep their head above water.

These Bears, with the anchor of Caleb Hanie wrapped around their neck, are on their very last breath in the 2011 season. It's too late for McCown (or any quarterback, really) to fish them out.