Bears plan to stick with Hanie at quarterback

The Sports Xchange
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For better or worse, it appears the Bears are going with Caleb Hanie at quarterback until Jay Cutler is healthy enough to play or Josh McCown knows enough of the playbook to run the offense.

"Caleb's our quarterback," coach Lovie Smith said. "He, like the rest of our team, didn't play well (Sunday). But give us a little bit of time. Hopefully we'll see some improvements this week for our football team."

The question is: How much worse does it have to get before rookie Nathan Enderle gets his chance? Enderle was the only other quarterback active in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, but the fifth-round pick is not ready to start an NFL game.

Smith quickly rejected the notion of bringing in Chicago native and free-agent quarterback Donovan McNabb -- or any other outsider.

"We have our quarterbacks here now," Smith said. "We have three of them, and another one is rehabbing who will come back hopefully this year. Those are our quarterbacks."

Smith believes strongly that time and effort is better spent on improving players who are already in the system rather than in bringing in another quarterback off the street, and that would apparently include the notion of plucking Brett Favre off his riding mower and swapping his Wrangler jeans for a Bears uniform.

"We're not looking on the outside," Smith said. "We're not having a quarterback tryout or anything like that. These are our guys, and we're all going to get better. That's our group. We're going to make improvements with our group, like all positions."

Since the starting quarterback gets almost every practice rep during the week, it's Hanie who must improve.

"Like most teams in the league, you spend most of the reps on the guy who will be playing," Smith said, "and you get some reps for the next guy. That's what we'll do this week, next week and in the future."

That would hopefully include tweaking the offense to adapt to and accentuate Hanie's skill set, but whoever the starter is, he must be able to function in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme.

"It's a combination of both, which we've done," Smith said. "Just like if you put in a new offensive lineman, a new running back, or a new wide receiver, you adapt some. But it's not like you're going to throw out what we do and change our philosophy completely. We're not going to do that. Caleb can run our offense. We had opportunities (Sunday). We need to hit a couple of routes."

McCown has been on the roster since Nov. 23, and he continues to get a firmer grasp of the playbook. But because of the practice format, he is given little opportunity to practice what he's learned. He didn't play football last season, and he threw just six passes in 2009 and none the year before. Smith admits he faces an uphill battle.

"It's hard to just come in off the street," he said. "Josh is listed as our third quarterback. And the third quarterback is not getting a lot of reps (with the first team). He's been taking a lot of the look-squad reps right now (running the opponent's plays). He's a veteran, but hopefully we won't get to our third quarterback."

McCown said he will have learned enough of the playbook to be active next week, but Smith isn't so sure.

"That's hard to say this week," he said. "We have time -- unless there's an injury. Nathan Enderle is our backup quarterback right now. We'll see how the week goes. I can't look that far into the future. Josh is doing everything we're asking him to do and he is making progress, but our focus is somewhere else right now."

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