Collins flunks starting test
Backup QB can do nothing right; Hanie poised to move up on depth chart
On the NFL
October 11, 2010
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Let's say Jay Cutler can't go again Sunday against Seattle.
Do you go down the same road that led to four interceptions, a 5.3 yards-per-completion average and a 6.2 passer rating?
Or do you give Caleb Hanie the chance he has been working toward for almost two and a half seasons?
Me, I'm calling for No. 12.
You are, too, I bet.
And Bears coach Lovie Smith may even be. But he wasn't ready to say so Sunday.
"It's a little early for us to get into that," Smith said. "We're just trying to enjoy this win right now. Hopefully Jay will be able to go and we won't have to go down that road."
Hanie's appeal still may be that he is the devil we do not know. But on Sunday Todd Collins became the devil we do know.
What Collins did well Sunday was hand off to Matt Forte and Chester Taylor without incident.
Everything else a quarterback is supposed to do, he did poorly.
Given the nature of the game plan, all the Bears really needed from Collins was for him to convert some third downs. He had eight chances to throw on third down and failed at every one of them. He threw three interceptions, he was sacked once, he had three incompletions and he had one completion for 4 yards when the team needed 7.
Each of the Bears' five wide receivers was on the active list Sunday, but they all could have been inactive for all the impact they had on the offense when Collins was at quarterback. He threw eight passes to wide receivers and got 14 yards out of it. On Collins' passes to wide receivers, the Panthers caught as many of his balls — three — as did the Bears.
Even Collins understood why Smith pulled him late in the third quarter.
"It was probably my worst game ever, since I've been playing any sport," said Collins, who has probably played in thousands of games in his 38 years. "It's not like it was a surprise getting pulled. It's disappointing, but I was most disappointed in how I played."
What was so disappointing about Collins' performance is it wouldn't have taken much for him to look like a savior.
The Bears were going against an outmanned defense that was missing its starting free safety. The Bears took command early and didn't have to take risks. The run game was humming. The Panthers' defenders were crowding the box as if it were the office elevator seconds after the 5 p.m. whistle.
And Collins took advantage of none of it.
It makes you wonder if Collins, who last started a regular season game three years ago and was resting comfortably in retirement when he was called by the Bears in August, has anything left.
Asked about the possibility of pulling Collins at halftime, Smith said, "We were in control for the most part then, and we knew we were committed to the run so we felt like we can keep going, and you wanted Todd to finish up on a high note. We got to the point where we felt like we couldn't let them back in the game."
He threw only three passes, so there wasn't much to judge him on.
But for the second straight week, he threw the best pass by a Bears quarterback. A week ago, against the Giants, it was a 26-yard completion to Johnny Knox. Sunday it was a 14-yard strike to Knox.
The best thing about the throw to Knox on Sunday is it came on third-and-7.
"We felt good about Caleb playing," Smith said. "He came in and did a good job."
It was a nice way for Hanie to get his feet wet without putting his face in the water. The Bears had a 17-6 lead when he came in, and all he had to do was not screw it up.
What Hanie did that Collins did not was play with composure and confidence. He said he wanted to show his coaches he could make good decisions. He would have liked to have had more chances to throw, but he understood why he did not.
"I want as much experience as I can get in case I have to come in and help the team win during the season," Hanie said. "So it's good to come in and get a little bit of work and be ready for next time."
Next time could be next week for Caleb Hanie.