Making Sense of Enderle

The reaction to the Bears' fifth-round selection of quarterback Nathan Enderle has been emphatic. While many question the pick, there may be a method to Chicago's madness.

When the call came in to Halas Hall, the groans in the media room commenced. To most, it was déjà vu.

In 2010, the Chicago Bears used a sixth round pick on former Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour. The Chicago-area native – he was raised in Downers Grove – failed to make the team after the ensuing training camp. The Bears tried to sneak him on to the practice squad in the hopes of activating him at some point down the road, but the Cincinnati Bengals swooped in and claimed LeFevour.

When Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle was announced as the Bears' fifth round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, many felt it was just the same story with a different player. Current backup Caleb Hanie showed in the NFC Championship exemplary poise and determination. So at first blush, it seemed as if Chicago spent one of its five picks on a third-string quarterback.

The Bears have a well-documented history of less-than-mediocre passers. Erik Kramer is the most productive signal caller of the past three decades, with Rex Grossman at the top of the list of single-season performers. This goes a long way toward explaining why Chicago hasn't won a Super Bowl in more than 25 years.

Obviously, GM Jerry Angelo feels the same way. It's the reason he gave up Kyle Orton, two first rounders and a third rounder to acquire Jay Cutler from Denver. Tally it all up though, and in essence, the Bears have used five draft picks in the past three drafts on quarterbacks – LeFevour, Enderle and three for Cutler.

Such an investment in only one position has the potential of stalling any NFL team's overall development. So the backlash to the Enderle pick shouldn't have been all that surprising to Bears brass. Yet team officials insist it was the right move, based on what he could become.

"He's a guy that has potential," said Tim Ruskell, Bears director of player personnel. "We all know the quarterback deal, you can't have enough of them, you can't stop looking at them, and you have to look at them every year. It doesn't matter what your position is, where you are, and this guy is a guy that has potential."

What the Bears see in Enderle is a player with good size (6-4, 240) and a cannon for an arm. Coordinator Mike Martz was on hand for Idaho's pro day last month and put the former Vandal through a personal workout.

QB Nathan Enderle
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty

"Martz went out and worked him out this year and really kind of fell for the kid in terms of the intangibles that he brings," Ruskell said. "Obviously, the size and obviously, the arm strength. I just know that this kid right here is a guy that [Martz] really [likes]. And he's done a good job over the years if you look at his track record on guys that maybe weren't at the highest tier, he's done a really good job with finding these guys and developing these guys. So, that certainly weighed into the decision."

Enderle ran a 5.12 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, so he's not going to punish defenses with his feet. He's a pure pocket passer who isn't afraid to stand in and take a shot – something he had to do plenty of last season, considering the mediocre pieces with which he was surrounded. Yet even though his collegiate win-loss record is less than stellar, he shows the intangibles a player needs to be an NFL quarterback.

"He's a very intelligent man, intelligent quarterback," said Ruskell. "I saw him two years ago when I was in Seattle, I saw him play against quarterback Jake Locker and Washington, really went toe to toe with them; very impressive in that game. Just kind of kept watching him. He didn't have the stats his senior year, lost a lot of guys from the team from the year before that was a good team. But, you saw the traits that I'm talking about. You saw that this year."

Still, it doesn't make a lot of sense for a team that was one win away from the Super Bowl a year ago to draft a third-string quarterback. In no way would that help the team take that next step … unless the plan is for him to take over Hanie's position on the depth chart. Martz recently hinted to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun Times that may be the case.

"We didn't draft [Enderle] to be the third quarterback," Martz said. "If that was the case, then there was no reason to draft a quarterback. You have to be good at that position to win, and one just isn't enough. We feel really good about Caleb, but what if Nate is better? Who knows? I don't know that he is or isn't."

The one obvious thing to take away here is that Martz does not have faith in Hanie. He chose the exceptionally inept Todd Collins over Hanie last season as Cutler's backup and, even after Collins demonstrated how awful he was in the Carolina game earlier in the season, Martz still put him in over Hanie after Cutler left the NFC Championship game. Only after Collins had stunk up the field did Hanie then get his shot.

He played well, nearly bringing the Bears back after Collins had left the team for dead. But what most forget is that Hanie's awful interception to B.J. Raji, which was returned for a TD, was the score that cost the Bears the game. He also threw a second pick in Packers territory when the offense was driving for a game-tying score with time running off the clock.

No one is saying Hanie isn't a good quarterback but he has major flaws. Martz has watched him play every day in practice and he's fully aware of what he has in Hanie. Which I believe is why he was so adamant about selecting Enderle. He just doesn't think Hanie can handle the job.

The two players will compete in this year's training camp for the backup quarterback position. If Enderle wins out – and there's a good chance at that, considering how infatuated Martz is with him already – the pick may not be looked back upon as a total bust. The problem is, if Cutler goes down at some point in the season, are the Bears going to hitch their wagon to a rookie quarterback? That has disaster written all over it.

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider

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