|Martz has been calling screen passes for 20 years, Hanie just didn't execute it properly against Oakland. (AP)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Before Caleb Hanie made his first NFL start last Sunday, replacing Jay Cutler in the lineup when the Bears faced the Raiders, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who coached the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis earlier this century, said that he wouldn't ask Hanie to be Kurt Warner in Chicago's offense. (That didn't go without saying?)
Not surprisingly, Hanie looked like an inexperienced quarterback against the Raiders. He would occasionally flash potential, but he also threw three first-half interceptions, the last coming with Chicago deep in Oakland territory. The sequence led to a Raiders field goal and a spot in this week's Coach Killers (Hanie's delayed fake spike to end the game helped, too). The play -- Hanie rolled right and threw a screen pass across the field to his left -- is a lot to ask of a young quarterback. CBSSports.com MLB blogger Matt Snyder, a huge Bears fan, was apoplectic after the play. Not because of Hanie per se, but because Martz would think Hanie was capable of pulling it off. On Wednesday, Martz was asked about the decision.
“I’ve done that for 20 years, and it’s never anything but a good play really,” Martz said, via John Mullin of CSNChicago.com. “We didn’t execute it very well. The ball got tipped. So when you throw a screen and the ball gets tipped. . . . Screens aren’t hard. It’s just something that happened. No, I’m not aware of [any criticism for the play call]. I didn’t think twice about that call. I thought it was OK.”
To be fair, that wasn't your garden-variety screen pass (you can view it here). And while Cutler (and Warner) might've had little trouble executing it, Hanie, who had a grand total of 14 attempts and eight completions prior to Sunday's game, could've benefitted from a more conservative play call.
Just ask Cutler.
“We’ve just got to be really careful what kind of situations we put [Hanie] in,” Cutler said. “Mike’s got be careful with that. We don’t really know what Caleb’s comfortable with; Caleb doesn’t know what he’s comfortable with. He hasn’t run a lot of these plays, hasn’t run a lot of this stuff in the offense in game situations, in high-pressure situations. We’ve just got to take care of him.”
In theory, yes. But Martz is the same guy who, for the first month of the season, thought it was a swell idea to let Cutler stand in the pocket all day with little protection and take a beating. That strategy finally gave way to more Matt Forte, quicker throws from Cutler and -- wait for it -- more wins.
Can Martz adapt the Bears' offense to fit Hanie's strengths? Sure. The only question is if he'll get around to it before it's too late and the season's lost.
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