Bears need to find out what they have in Enderle

Posted Dec. 19, 2011 @ 6:22 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

After another poor performance in which he threw three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns, Caleb Hanie is in danger of being replaced as the Bears' starting quarterback this week.

Head coach Lovie Smith said Hanie is the Bears' starter "right now" during his press conference Monday, but he stopped short of naming Hanie the starter for Chicago's Week 16 game at Green Bay. Smith said the Bears are disappointed in their quarterback play, but that no decision for Sunday has been made. It appears the Bears are considering starting Josh McCown or Nathan Enderle ahead of Hanie if QB Jay Cutler, who has been out since breaking his thumb in Week 11, is unable to return, although it appears McCown will get the start if Hanie does not. Hanie was benched in favor of McCown late in the Bears' 38-14 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday and Smith didn't sound like a coach ready to hand to keys to Enderle, a rookie fifth-round pick who hasn't played a down in the regular season.

The Bears have gone 0-4 in Hanie's four starts and he has thrown three touchdown passes and nine interceptions since replacing Cutler in Week 12. Hanie has completed 50 percent or less of his passes in three of the past four games.

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It only makes sense to turn to McCown right now because the Bears are technically still alive in the wild-card race and he at least has some experience, unlike Enderle. It's extremely unlikely that the Bears will somehow find a way into the postseason or upset the Packers, no matter who is starting at quarterback, but Smith says the team is still trying to win.

"This isn't a tryout period," Smith said Monday.

Still, the Bears have to get Enderle prepared to play. Give him some reps with the first-team offense this week because if Green Bay gets out to a big lead Sunday night, it will be time to take a look at the one healthy quarterback on the roster signed beyond this season — Enderle. It would be reckless to trot Cutler out if he's not 100 percent, and it would be stubborn and pointless to be playing Hanie or McCown if the game, and the playoffs, are out of reach.

The Bears' lack of quality depth at quarterback was an issue last season, too, when Todd Collins showed he had no business being on an NFL roster. Collins is out of the league and Hanie might be playing himself out of it, too. McCown was signed a few weeks back because he had familiarity with Mike Martz's offense, but he'll be a free agent after the season and probably isn't going to be back next season. The Bears should give Enderle a look sooner rather than later and then use the offseason to find a veteran backup for Cutler that won't consistently set the team back with mistakes.

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