The Chicago Bears have been down this road before when the starting quarterback goes out.
It happened during the 2005 preseason when a fractured leg sidelined Rex Grossman for four months. The Bears turned to Kyle Orton, then a rookie fourth-round draft pick, and excelled. They won the NFC North with an 11-5 record and Orton was 10-5 as a starter, winning eight straight games at one point.
The hope is Caleb Hanie can produce similar results as a “game manager” as he replaces Jay Cutler, who is out for at least the next month with a fractured thumb in his right throwing hand. The Bears had the right mix of a running game, the league’s best scoring defense and top special teams to win in ’05 when middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was named the NFL’s defensive player of the year.
Hanie has not started a game in his four-year NFL career, and he’s thrown just 14 career regular-season passes, but he did lead the offense on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter of the team’s loss to the Green Bay Packers in last year’s NFC Championship Game.
Urlacher suggests maybe Hanie could get a little Tim Tebow thing going. No, we’re not joking.
“He's got some ability,” Urlacher said. “He runs really well. He's going to be able to move around in the pocket a little bit, maybe do a little bit of things with that — a little Tebow offense maybe. You know, who knows? He'll have a chance to show us what he can do. These games all matter for us so they're a big situation, just like the NFC championship was for him last year.”
We doubt we’re going to see much Tebow. But the Bears might lean even more on Matt Forte and Marion Barber.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune