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Who is Caleb Hanie?

Bears will look to backup QB in wake of Cutler's injury. Greg Gabriel

Print This November 21, 2011, 01:30 PM EST
17 Comments

With Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler probably being out the rest of the regular season, the job of leading the Bears into the playoffs falls on the shoulders of backup Caleb Hanie. Hanie has not had a lot of regular season experience since he has been in the league, and he has a huge job over the next two months. It’s a job that will, in essence, define his career.

Just who is Caleb Hanie and how did he become a member of the Bears?

As Director of College Scouting for Chicago in 2008 I was much involved with the process of “recruiting” Hanie. Going into the draft we knew we wanted to either draft or sign as a free agent a young developmental quarterback. That class was not a very strong quarterback class, with only two being drafted in the 1st round. They were Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. The 2nd round also had only two quarterbacks taken (Brian Brohm and Chad Henne). After that is was a crap shoot and the chances of getting a good developmental type were just as good in free agency as they were in drafting a prospect in the late rounds. What we wanted was a strong-armed athletic type with solid leadership skills and strong football character.

Caleb HanieICONCaleb Hanie will step in for Jay Cutler as the Bears starting QB.

During the evaluation process we knew that we weren’t in position to draft a quarterback high because of other needs at running back and the offensive line. If you remember, our first two picks in 2008 were tackle Chris Williams, who is now a starting guard, and running back Matt Forte. In December 2007, I spent a good part of that month watching tape on a number of late round/free agent quarterbacks. By the end of that month I came up with 3 names…Hanie from Colorado State, Josh Johnson from the University of San Diego and Nick Hill of Southern Illinois.

Hanie was a two-year starter at Colorado State and though the team wasn’t a big winner, Hanie had good stats, showed a strong arm, was athletic and tough. Hill led Southern Illinois to the semifinal game of the I-AA playoffs, losing to Delaware, which was led by Flacco. Johnson was a kid from a low level of competition who showed talent but was very raw. In his early years at San Diego he was coached by Jim Harbaugh, who had strong things to say about Johnson as a prospect. Both Hanie and Hill played in All-Star games so we were able to spend some “quality time” with each of them. We sent our quarterback coach (Pep Hamilton, now the offensive coordinator at Stanford) to the games and he probably spent a good 3-4 hours with each of the two, getting a good feel for their intelligence, ability to pick up concepts, personality etc. I was also at the games and sat in on the meetings and they were impressive. Neither quarterback was invited to the Combine, which can be a good thing when you like a down-the-line player. Johnson was at the Combine and had a poor workout so we eliminated him from consideration. Because neither Hill nor Hanie were at the Combine we invited them to Halas Hall for a physical and interviews. We told both that we liked their talent but that under no circumstances were we going to draft them. We wanted them as undrafted free agents and told them they would compete against each other for the 3rd quarterback job and that they were going to be strictly developmental players their first year.

After their visits I would call each of the two about every 10 days and reiterate what our plan was. I knew that both could get drafted but it was unlikely. What I wanted to do was develop a good relationship with each, so that if they didn’t get drafted, they had a trust in me and then it wouldn’t be that hard to sign them. As it turned out neither was drafted and we actually signed both within minutes of the draft ending.
During the offseason program and OTAs it became apparent that Hanie was clearly the more talented player, so we decided to cut Hill after about a week of training camp. What we didn’t expect was for Hanie to play as well as he did in the preseason games. Going into the preseason, we felt that we could cut Hanie at the final cutdown and sign him to the practice squad. When he had two strong games it became apparent that cutting him would be to risky a move, so we kept him as the 3rd quarterback behind Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman. Through the season he only got reps as the scout team quarterback but you saw his talent, work ethic and passion for the game. Good things to build on.

In 2009, the Bears made the trade for Jay Cutler and Grossman wasn’t re-signed, so Hanie became the primary backup. He only got to play a few snaps and threw only 7 passes during the regular season but like his rookie year he had a strong preseason.

In 2010, Mike Martz was brought in as the Bears offensive coordinator. After a few weeks in the offseason program, Martz felt that Hanie had talent to be a quality NFL quarterback but would prefer to have a veteran who knew his system as the primary backup to Cutler. By this time I had left the Bears, but the front office decided to wait and see how the preseason went before bringing in a vet. Hanie played well early in the preseason game but injured his shoulder. Because of the injury the Bears were forced to sign a vet and ended up signing Todd Collins. Looking back, the move probably hurt Hanie’s development in Martz’s system; he couldn’t get the reps in practice during the week to develop. When Cutler was hurt during the season, Collins was the one to play and did nothing. It wasn’t until the NFC Championship game last January that Hanie got an opportunity to play. Without the benefit of reps during the week, Hanie still played well in the second half, completing 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. He also threw 2 costly interceptions, the last of which ended the Bears hope of making a comeback in the Championship game.

With six games to go in the 2011 regular season, Hanie gets his first real opportunity to show what he is. The Bears are in position to be a Wild Card playoff team with at worst a 3-3 record in the final six games. The schedule is in Chicago’s favor, playing three games against AFC West clubs and Seattle in the next four games. Hanie is going to have to play well and the already strong running game is going to have to be even better.

I know this about Hanie — he is a gamer and a winner. His strong points are he is an excellent athlete with a strong arm and good accuracy. With his athleticism he can extend plays with his feet and is a good runner. His main weakness is his lack of regular season game experience. This I know: he is respected by his teammates, is a good leader and, now with two years in the system, feels comfortable. My gut feeling is he is going to play well and lead the Bears to the playoffs. The whole scenario couldn’t come at a better time for Hanie. He signed a 1-year tender as an RFA before training camp. A strong showing will put him in good position as a UFA going into the offseason. If he plays well the Bears will have to pay him to keep him. Of course a poor showing could end his career. Knowing him the way I do, I bet that he will be one of the big stories of the last weeks of the 2011 NFL season.

Comments

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Mr.Murder
Nov 21, 2011
03:45 PM

Think the two things to work with on young players at the position is to make a good believable fake on play action and not to telegraph screens. Left side throws usually seem to be more crisp as well, less tendency to star people down on that side so the defenders don't get an extra step.

Let's see how it goes, the team has some good players and interesting chemistry at play. How does he add to the mix?

rotunder
Nov 21, 2011
03:58 PM

Good article, I love this "behind the scenes" stuff about what really happens around drafting players. All the best to Hanie!

matrixnov
Nov 21, 2011
04:02 PM

Hanie was a lights out kind of QB at CSU - remember him well, they had some good receivers in David Anderson & Dressen as well during his time there...that being said he's more or less a Cutler lite...nobody has the arm that The Prez (cutler) has in the NFL; however, they will not have to shorten the routes or break them off as the Bronco's did when Kubiak would come in for Elway, that's why Kubiak always looked great coming in for Elway during a game or at most with only a game missed as defenses figured out they could roll up on Kube's...not the same weakness IMO with Hanie - he may struggle a bit, that being said he has the tools to be able to go 3 - 3 and possibly 4 - 2 and get the Bears into the playoffs, at which point then of course the decision will be based on the functionality of Cutler's thumb and game conditioning if they get to that point...could see Hanie playing a playoff game even the rest of the season depending upon Cutlers situation - and totally agree for Hanie this makes him a "kolb" kinda guy if he performs, as he can flat out put it out there, and in my opinion a bit better athlete and able to take the hits than kolb, so yeah - could payoff for this kid big time as well - after all in life as well as sports timing really is everything!!!

Perno
Nov 21, 2011
04:48 PM

This kind of stuff is great, thank you for the insight.

SilverBlack
Nov 21, 2011
04:52 PM

As a CSU alumnus, Hanie did have reasonable numbers in a lower level IIIa school. He has some film from last years playoffs, and is an average clipboard holder. Given the level of competition coming up this Sunday, with reasonable assurance the Raiders will be forcing the issue while stacking the box. He'll have to win with his arm. I'm already drooling in anticipation of another nfc north kill.

BearMarket
Nov 21, 2011
05:39 PM

Word from Lovie's presser today was Cutler will not miss the entire season. If we make the playoffs he will play. Maybe, if he's a fast healer, the Vikes game.

Man, I was really looking forward to that Christmas game with GB.

jshalk123
Nov 21, 2011
06:00 PM

Um as a CSU alum I would hope that you realize CSU plays D1 college football in the MWC and not D3.

jshalk123
Nov 21, 2011
06:00 PM

Um as a CSU alum I would hope that you realize CSU plays D1 college football in the MWC and not D3.

Greg Gabriel
Nov 21, 2011
06:10 PM

BearMarket,

I listened to the press conference, I know this....until the surgery is complete they are only guessing. I know who the Dr. is and he's one of the best hand surgeons in the country. If there is a way for Cutler to play in the last game, he will but it's a biig ? right now.

Joe
Nov 21, 2011
06:14 PM

Great insight. This is why i read NFP

jmscooby
Nov 21, 2011
09:32 PM

This is usually my favorite part of the website. Thanks.
Greg, what is your opinion on Trestman's online scouting course for someone looking to one day become a scout?

Greg Gabriel
Nov 21, 2011
10:00 PM

jmscooby,

If you are talking about Mark Trestman's course, I now nothing about it. Trestman has a good reputation as a coach but he has never been a scout and there is a huge difference. There is the old saying...coaches coach and scouts scout....that's not to say that the couse isn't good...it may be outstanding but I will also say I have been around many coaches who weren't very good talent evaluators but were top coaches. It's an entirely different skill. I can't coach but I will go up against anyone when evaluating. Sorry I couldn't help more>

JonathanEdwardK
Nov 21, 2011
11:59 PM

Greg, thank you for your article. As a lifelong Bears fan I believe in Hanie, and this article makes me feel more confident about the season.

Johnny Hatelak
Nov 22, 2011
09:44 AM

Caleb will open even more eyes than he did in the NFC Championship game. Like one of the posters mentioned earlier Hanie has a similar skill set to Jay. They won't really have to do much to change the offense. And Martz seems to have added a moving pocket to the arsenal too, so that definitely falls in line with one of Caleb's strengths. Not only do I like Hanie's physical talent, but I do love his intangibles too. He seems competitive and a natural leader as most QB's are. It just comes with the position. I thought Hanie would be kind of a hot commodity before this opportunity. After it I feel he will get signed to at least compete for a starting job. Good find btw Greg.

Josh
Nov 22, 2011
03:31 PM

Great article, but you forgot to include one of Hanie's biggest strengths: his ability to wield an intimidating and enigmatic playoff power 'stache.

That is all

Mr. X
Nov 27, 2011
10:42 PM

The Packers whiffed on the Louisville QB in the 2nd round, but any regrets not taking Matt Flynn in the 7th round?

Big Fan
Dec 12, 2011
08:04 PM

So, here we are 3 weeks later and the QB play has been a tad above Jonathan Quinn, the worst player to ever throw a football in the NFL.

Oakland, Denver, KC...these are not great defenses!

And Caleb Hanie is NOT an NFL QB, sorry.

Mr Gabriel, I dont know where things went wrong with you and Jerry Angelo, but even when you were there the drafting was never great by any means.

Caleb could very well be out of work next year.

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