That's not to say Kyle Orton didn't do some good things for the Bears, as he put together a better-than-expected first half of the season before severely spraining his right ankle in Week 9 against Detroit. After sitting on the sideline for one game and watching Rex Grossman play his typical brand of uninspiring football, Orton probably came back too early and limped his way through the balance of the schedule. The offense as a whole was especially effective on the opening drive and at the end of either half, although it sputtered badly in the second and third quarters more often than not.
Head coach Lovie Smith was satisfied with Orton's performance overall and seemed to indicate that the bearded one would be his starter once again in 2009, although general manager Jerry Angelo was singing a different tune and promised competition for the incumbent going forward.
Inside the Numbers
It's reasonable to think Orton can improve next year since he's still only 26 years old and has tremendous work habits both on and off the field, but he doesn't look to be on the verge of any appearances in the Pro Bowl. Angelo was crystal clear at his season-ending press conference that games are won and lost in the NFL with quarterbacks, meaning an addition in free agency like Byron Leftwich or David Carr could be on the horizon in order to push Orton further. There are too many needs on both sides of the ball to expect the Bears to address the position on Day 1 of the draft, so a second-tier prospect like Cullen Harper of Clemson or Hunter Cantwell of Louisville might make some sense.
Hanie won himself a lot of support around the Windy City playing as well as he did in a handful of exhibition games, but asking him to challenge for the starting job in 2009 won't give Orton any reason to be nervous.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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