Holcomb has Right Stuff

There can be no doubt general manager Jerry Angelo and the Bears' coaching staff will avoid letting the quarterback debacle happen again. <P> If they don't, they will likely be writing their own tickets out of town.

The lack of a suitable backup quarterback behind Rex Grossman ruined the ‘04 season.

Before Grossman's season-ending injury in Week 3, the Bears averaged 20 first downs a game. The rest of the season, they averaged 13.1 first downs. They had a high of 24 first downs with Grossman and a high of 14 with Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn running the show. Chad Hutchinson bumped the number to 21 in his first start, but averaged 13.5 over his final four appearances. Grossman averaged 192.6 passing yards. The rest of the season the Bears averaged 124.2 per game through the air. The third-down conversion rate was 37.1 percent with Grossman and 22.9 without.

The trickle-down effect of an incompetent quarterback reached other areas of the offense.

The development of a young group of wideouts was stymied. David Terrell and Bobby Wade led the group with 42 receptions apiece, which is the lowest output to pace the receivers since Wendell Davis caught 39 balls in 1990.

Justin Gage was expected to challenge for a starting role after a strong second half during his rookie campaign. However, Gage suffered a hamstring pull early in training camp and he never got involved in the offense. Fullbacks Bryan Johnson and Jason McKie walked away with more receptions than Gage's total of 12.

Bernard Berrian had a few big receptions as a rookie, but his ability is relatively unknown.

Because they couldn't pass, teams choked off running lanes. With Grossman at quarterback, they averaged 152 yards rushing. They averaged 62 yards less per game on the ground without him.

Obviously they have to have an experienced, proven backup, or even two. They have some conditions. It can't be a quarterback who has Grossman looking over his shoulder all the time, and he has to come cheap. But it must be someone who has played.

While names like Warner, Fiedler and Johnson are being thrown around, there is one ideal backup fit among the free agents this year and that's Cleveland backup Kelly Holcomb. He has been around eight seasons, has started in the playoffs, is mobile and has an accurate arm.

Holcomb has been a backup without causing a ruckus about starting and doesn't command a huge salary. He signed a three-year deal in 2002 for only $2.3 million and a $375,000 bonus, with a salary of $975,000 this year. He's likely to command more this time around, but would still come cheaper than Warner.

The other reason Holcomb is an ideal fit? He has a Bears connection, and it has nothing to do with the fact he went to the same school as Jonathan Quinn (Middle Tennessee State).

Holcomb's real name is Bryan Kelly Holcomb. His dad, John, named him Bryan after Bears running back Brian Piccolo. The two had attended military school together in Tennessee and became great friends.

The bloodline, cash requirements and talent fit is there for Holcomb. If the Bears want the safest route to improving their backup quarterback situation in 2005, they'll start with him.

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