Hanie has no favorites, but ...
But Knox and Bears quarterback appear to have strong bond
Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie chats with offensive line coach Mike Tice as quarterbacks coach Shane Day looks on. (JosÃ© M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune / November 29, 2011)
Fred Mitchell 7:54 p.m. CST, December 2, 2011
One quarterback's "go-to" receiver might be another's "go-after" receiver.
Johnny Knox caught the wrath of Jay Cutler (broken thumb and all) on the Bears sideline after he slipped during his route to allow a pass to be intercepted Nov. 20 against the Chargers.
Cutler could be seen gesturing wildly while screaming at Knox after the turnover.
When Caleb Hanie took over for Cutler, he targeted Knox as his favorite wideout — 10 times (the same as running back Matt Forte) for 145 yards against the Raiders. Knox caught four of those passes, including one for an 81-yard touchdown. (4 catches, 3 drops, and 3 incompletions isn't a very good day despite all the yardage and the TD. Catch all 3 of those drops and make a tough catch to turn on of those incompletions around and then you have the kind of a game that a true #1 WR has. I hate to sound like sour grapes but he could have had 200 yards receiving from that many balls coming his way)
"(Knox) came in here a year after me, but we've been here three years together," Hanie said. "I have a great relationship with him and I trust him. I trust all of the guys."
Hanie says he wasn't targeting Knox so much as it was the way the plays developed.
"I have to play each play with the coverage they give me. That's where I am going with the football. It's not playing favorites or anything like that."
Hanie, who will make his second NFL start Sunday against the Chiefs at Soldier Field, need not apologize for staying within his comfort zone.
"I can only tell him so much. He has to go out and learn for himself," Cutler said. "That second half (against the Raiders) was night and day better than the first half."
Cutler said he was more preoccupied with yelling at Knox along the sideline two weeks ago than the condition of his thumb.
Cutler broke his thumb while trying to tackle Antoine Cason, who made the interception.
"In that particular instance … we were playing so well and Johnny was having such a good game … as soon as I let go I knew we were in trouble," Cutler said. "I took off running because I knew that Johnny was down. You know, that's just how I play football. It's going to be hard for me to change that."
Cutler's favorite receiver typically has been Earl Bennett, with whom he teamed up for one year at Vanderbilt. Cutler targeted Bennett a team-high nine times against the Chargers, followed by Roy Williams (eight).
Cutler says he would like to see Hanie avoid "over-thinking and trying to do too much."
Perhaps Hanie, as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State, feels a special kinship to Knox, who was a fifth-round draft pick out of Abilene Christian who defied the odds to perform respectably in the NFL as a returner and receiver.
Unlike Cutler, Hanie does not plan to yell at any of his receivers.
"These guys are professional," Hanie said. "They know that drops aren't acceptable. If a guy is in a rut, maybe you give him a little extra prodding to get him going. But for the most part guys have sure hands.
"I don't need to do too much yelling with those guys. It's more encouraging and saying, 'Hey, I trust you, I believe in you. You're going to make the play the next time.'"