Status Quo

Bears head coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Terry Shea offered some confusing logic Monday for sticking with struggling rookie quarterback Craig Krenzel.

"Right now it's Criag Krenzel's team," Shea said, "and I say that not because it wasn't Jonathan Quinn's team, but I believe the players have responded to Craig in such a way that, yes, he is our quarterback, and that's where we're headed."

Sure, the offense has responded to Krenzel. It has responded by averaging 221 yards of total offense per game in his four starts, which is 104 yards per game less than the NFL average. It has responded by plummeting into a tie for 31st in total yards per game in the 32-team NFL and to No. 30 in sacks per pass play. The Bears' offense is dead last in passing yards per game, average gain per pass play, first downs per game and third-down efficiency. They're No. 30 in scoring.

The only place they're headed is south, and not just for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys in Dallas. But Smith and Shea refuse to go back to No. 2 quarterback Jonathan Quinn or consider No. 3 Chad Hutchinson regardless of how badly Krenzel struggles and even though both coaches recognize the offense isn't pulling its weight.

"Obviously not good enough by any standards," Shea said of the offensive effort Sunday. "But the most disappointing feature of our game right now is the fact that we're giving the ball away like we are. If there's been one impact that we've tried to make with our offense from the very moment we stepped here into the Bears complex, it was that.

"If you turn it over in the NFL, you lose."

In Krenzel's four starts, the Bears have turned the ball over 13 times, including 11 by the rookie quarterback, who has lost six fumbles and has thrown five interceptions. Quinn was responsible for just one turnover in his three starts, and that was the only turnover by the offense in the 10 quarters that he played.

Hutchinson has been in the system for nearly two months, but you can count the snaps he's taken with the first-team offense on one hand. Trailing 41-3 in the fourth quarter Sunday, the coaching staff found significant playing time for offensive lineman Marc Colombo, who hadn't played in the base offense in a game in more than two years. But there was no opportunity for Hutchinson.

"There's an opening for everyone," Smith said. "Everyone has to perform at a certain level; that's what we've said all along, and if they're not, we'll look elsewhere. I think Chad has done a lot of good things out on the football field, but Craig is our quarterback. We've had too many turnovers lately, but it's not all his fault. We have to protect him better. Of course he has to hold on to the football and make some better decisions, but it's just not all the quarterback."

Smith is right about that. Krenzel has been sacked 19 times in four starts -- only one team in the NFL has been sacked more than the Bears -- but a supposedly strong offensive line has been a gigantic disappointment in pass protection.

Krenzel's performance has been about what would be expected from a rookie chosen in the fifth round of the draft. That's why most teams don't hitch their offensive wagon to a rookie quarterback selected with the 148th pick. But Bears coaches remain resolute.

"In terms of Craig Krenzel, we are committed to him," Shea said. "We've got a great opportunity to see what he can do for us, and we will look forward to having him play quarterback some more for us. (But) we are going to make sure that we find out everything we can about the players that we have on our roster. So therefore there's an opportunity somewhere down the road to find out about Chad."

After Thursday's game in Dallas, there are only five games remaining until the road -- and the season -- ends.


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