Nobody said playing quarterback in the NFL would be easy, but for Caleb Hanie, who has been watching from the sidelines for almost his entire four years in the league, the demands of the job came as somewhat of a surprise.
"So much more intense than I had imagined," Hanie said today. "It was fast and tough. I knew immediately that I still had a lot to learn. I was absorbing things I needed to know relatively quickly out there but there is absolutely no margin for error. At least there was a measurable improvement in my play from the first to the second half. Was I perfect? No. Can I get better? Absolutely."
Hanie admitted to being jittery before the game and said that was a factor he'd have to deal with in the future.
"I guess that is the way I play when I am a starter," he said. "I don't think I'll be quite as nervous this week, but I expect to be somewhat uneasy until I get out there and start playing."
In Oakland on Sunday, Hanie was able to complete 18 of 33 pass attempts and earned a quarterback rating of 56.9. The Bears had 18 first downs and a third down efficiency of 43 percent. Yet the dagger in Chicago's heart came from Hanie's three interceptions.
"I've watched those plays repeatedly on film. If I could redo the game again right now, I would not make those mistakes," said Hanie.
Offensive captain Roberto Garza was more generous in his assessment of Hanie's play than was the quarterback himself.
"I think he did a good job out there," Garza said. "It was a difficult situation coming in like that. We're getting into the end of the season and the playoff pressure is on. Hanie knew he had to perform at a high level immediately. I think it is expecting too much to have him come in under those circumstances and perform flawlessly. He did very well. This week he'll be even better."
For both Garza and Hanie, communication will be key going forward.
"We have to be on the same page at all times," said Garza. "That is something that will come with practice during the week and with game experience. We expect to get better and that's what it's all about. We'll be going out there today to start work on that. The most frustrating aspect for our guys in Oakland was coming so close but not winning. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We do not want that to happen again."
"I know these guys," he said. "I've worked with them many times before but it's different in the situation we had last Sunday. I need to increase our communication so that translates well to the field. I feel confident about that. I know that we can score points and go forward at a high level."
Looking back on last week's game, Garza felt many scoring opportunities for the Bears were left on the field.
"There needs to be a good balance carried between running and passing," said Garza. "Caleb generates things, but it is our job on the line to carry through, to be sure that the plays he's working are successful. We need to be better. Anytime there is an opportunity to score, we must take advantage of it."
One aspect of Hanie's game that Garza hadn't expected was the quarterback's enthusiasm.
"He's talking to us all the time, coaching us, encouraging us," Garza said. "I thought we'd have to be the ones to encourage him but it didn't turn out that way at all. Caleb is a fierce competitor. It was tough on him taking practice reps up to game speed. He did a great job. We have complete confidence in him. We know Caleb wants to give us every opportunity to win."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.