Teammates making it hard for Hanie to succeed

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Teammates making it hard for Hanie to succeed

As the Oakland Raiders game ended, Caleb Hanies quarterback arrow was pointing decidedly up. Since then

What has happened to Hanie?

It is not as simple as just declaring him an unfit quarterback for the NFL, denigrating Bears personnel staff for allowing 2011 to begin with him as the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler. Or ridiculing the coach staff for going with him as first alternate.

Thats hindsight, second-guessing, selective memory, whatever you want to call it. And it somehow doesnt add up to an adequate explanation for three straight losses with an increasingly inept offense.

Something isnt making complete sense here. Maybe its as simple as. Maybe its. Answer at the end.

Respectable history

On three separate occasions last season Hanie entered games as an emergency throw-in after utter Todd Collins failures. One was against the New York Giants after their nine-sack half against Cutler. Hanie threw four passes, completed three for 36 yards, and his 102.1 passer rating was a relief from Collins 8.1.

A week later Hanie succeeded Collins again and completed two of his three attempts for 19 yards.

Hanie didnt play again until the NFC Championship game when he again replaced Collins after Cutler was lost to the knee injury. Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes, threw an INT that was returned for a touchdown, but recovered from that to a degree that even doubting coordinator Mike Martz was impressed. Hanie had the Bears with a third-and-3 at the Green Bay 27 before Martzs end-around call to Earl Bennett backfired and Hanies last attempt was intercepted at the Green Bay 12.

That was enough of a body of work for the Bears to invest some hope in Hanie, who managed to spit the bit for a time in training camp with his interceptions but not enough for the organization to make another Collins-type move.

Put another way, Hanie gave the Bears more on-field reasons for at least guarded optimism than Matt Cassel had by the time he succeeded Tom Brady several years ago, than Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates had by the time they came on for Matt Schaub in Texas, and any number of backups.

Oakland fourth quarter, and then

In the second half of the Oakland game, Hanie recovered from the interception nightmares of the first two quarters and posted a passer rating above 97. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 182 yards and a TD in the second half and directed three straight scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

The problem is that hes managed just 13 points in the eight quarters since then.

The problem I have with that is its not a full picture.

Hanie has made too many bad passes to escape any sort of blame. He whiffed on Bennett in the Kansas City game and on Marion Barber in Denver.

But whats wrong with the Bears offense right now is so clearly Barber, Roy Williams and points given away. This isnt all that complex.

Hanies problem is that he has not been able to raise his game enough to overcome the 14 lost points by Barber (formation) and Williams (drop) against Kansas City, plus the missed Robbie Gould field after sacks on consecutive pass calls at the Chiefs 7-yards line. And the Gould opportunity that vanished in Denver with the Barber fumble.

The difficulty right now is knowing exactly how good or not good Hanie is. Hes been without franchise running back Matt Forte since mid-first quarter vs. Kansas City. Leinart and Yates at least still had Arian Foster to hand off to, and Carson Palmer threw more INTs (7) in his first three Oakland starts than Hanie (6) has in his first three.

Hanie isnt good enough yet to carry a team past the plays of a Barber and a Williams (at least not both).

Maybe nothing actually has happened to Hanie after all.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.