In the 2010 NFC Championship game, backup QB Caleb Hanie nearly brought the Bears back from a two-touchdown deficit to the Green Bay Packers. Despite that performance, coordinator Mike Martz has been noncommittal regarding Hanie's future with the team.
Most just assumed Martz would sing the praises of his fourth-year quarterback. Despite being the third-stringer, Hanie engineered two 60-plus yard scoring drives in the second half of the championship game. Yet at the recent NFL Scouting Combine, Martz couldn't have been any more obtuse about Hanie's role on the team going forward.
"I don't know. We will see," he told the Chicago Tribune. "We don't have to worry about any of that right now."
This is a very interesting situation. The front office just tendered Hanie to a low-level contract and only has right of refusal. Meaning Chicago can refuse to let him play elsewhere if another team shows interest, yet will receive nothing in return if they choose to let him walk. This, in itself, demonstrates the Bear's resistance at making Hanie part of the team's future.
His current tender is for $1.2 million. Yet had Chicago offered a $2 million tender, another team would have to compensate the Bears with a second-round pick if they choose to sign Hanie. The front office obviously feels saving $800,000 in 2010 is more important then securing Hanie for the long term.
It is not overly surprising Martz won't commit. While everyone was enamored with Hanie's performance against the Packers, many forget the touchdown that lost the game came from a Hanie interception to DT B.J. Raji, the biggest player on Green Bay's team, which was returned for a score. Most don't blame Hanie because he hadn't played all season and was thrust into an extremely tough situation. But looking back at the tape, Hester was wide open just a few yards to Raji's right, with no one within 20 yards of him downfield. If Hanie makes the right decision on that play, it's a whole different ballgame.
QB Andy Dalton
It's safe to assume Martz has re-watched that play countless times. And it may be the reason Chicago has scheduled a private workout on March 17 with former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton.
Dalton was the nation's leader in career wins by an active quarterback last season. He posted a 42-7 record in his four years as a starter for Texas Christian and was a three-time bowl game most valuable player. Dalton set TCU single-season records in 2010 with a 66.1 completion percentage and 27 touchdown passes. He threw just six interceptions. He holds every major TCU passing record and was a two-time MWC Offensive Player of the Year. He was a finalist for the Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Award while being a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award and Davey O'Brien Award. He finished ninth in Heisman Trophy voting.
Most analysts have him as a top-five to top-10 quarterback in the upcoming draft. At his pro day last Friday, FOXSports.com NFL analyst Adam Caplan reported that Dalton completed 49 of 52 passes – two of the incompletions were drops. He also completed a 60-yard pass on the run, curbing some concerns about his arm strength. He looked decent at the combine as well, completing a few deep passes of more than 40 yards.
The 6-2, 215-pounder is not an athletic freak,but he is a very experienced, accurate thrower. Given time to learn the game, he has the potential to be a starter in the NFL. Mock drafts have him going anywhere from the second round to the fifth round.
"Yes, we need another quarterback because we only have two right now," Martz said.
Martz likes experienced QBs on his bench, so Chicago will most likely try to sign a veteran signal caller in free agency. Marc Bulger, who played in Martz' offense in St. Louis, is a legitimate option. So that only leaves one more quarterback slot available. Will the Bears grab Dalton in the middle rounds, foregoing other more-pressing positions of need and essentially kicking Hanie out the door? It seems unlikely, but so did drafting Dan LeFevour last year.
Odds are Dalton will end up elsewhere, as his pro day probably propelled him a few rounds higher than Chicago is willing to take him. He has additional workouts scheduled with the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings. Yet just the fact the Bears are spending so much effort looking at quarterbacks in the draft says a lot about how uncomfortable they are with their current backup.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.