JENSEN: If it’s any consolation, Bears fans, Jason Campbell is a lot better than Caleb Hanie
BY SEAN JENSEN email@example.com
Houston Texans v Chicago Bears
Jason Campbell isn’t Jay Cutler.
But, perhaps more importantly, he’s also not Caleb Hanie.
Or Todd Collins.
After Cutler was ruled out at halftime with a concussion, Campbell took over for the Bears, trailing 10-3 against the league’s third-ranked defense.
Campbell completed four of his first five passes, including an 18-yarder perfectly placed to the sideline on third-and-8 to receiver Brandon Marshall.
Then, with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Campbell lofted a deep pass to Marshall for 45 yards.
“We let him down and let the team down,” Marshall said.
Campbell wasn’t faultless.
He protected the football, and he wasn’t sacked. But he was still a pedestrian 11-for-19 for 94 yards, nearly half of which came on that one bomb to Marshall.
“The whole time, I was trying to get the ball down the field,” Campbell said. “They were taking that away.
“You can’t just force anything.”
With the exception of the long ball to Marshall, Campbell checked the ball down, even on the final drive, when the Bears — with one timeout — had to go 62 yards in 2:35 for the game-tying touchdown.
And still, Campbell played it safe: a pass for a three-yard loss to Matt Forte; a seven-yarder to reserve tight end Kyle Adams and a short pass to Marshall on a crossing pattern for eight yards on third-and-long.
Then, on fourth down, he tossed a feeble attempt to Forte, who was surrounded by three defenders.
But here’s the encouraging part: Campbell gave the Bears a chance.
Could you imagine Hanie, in his 2011 form, against the Texans’ talented defense?
The game might well have been over by the end of the third quarter.
The Bears were 7-3 when Hanie replaced Cutler, and he failed to lead his team to a single victory in four starts, dooming what was an otherwise promising season.
The blame wasn’t his alone; Hanie was in over his head.
The Bears didn’t have a capable answer when Forte was sidelined, and they remarkably squandered leads, most notably against the Denver Broncos.
But Hanie couldn’t get out of his own way, turning the ball over with ridiculous frequency and unable to complete routine plays. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Hanie completed 11 of 24 passes for 133 yards with three interceptions.
The Bears lost 10-3.
And by the end of the season, when Josh McCown replaced him for the meaningless finale, Hanie had a passer rating of 41.8 that included three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Asked about the pressure on the team without Cutler, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, “That’s why we got Jason.
“We’re better off now than we were last year at this time.”
But Campbell was available for a reason.
A former first-round pick, Campbell has posted a record of 31-39 as an NFL starter.
In six seasons during which he started at least six games, Campbell never led his team into the postseason.
But landing a player like him — not over the hill, not angling to bump the starter — is a coup these days. Quarterbacks are expensive, and the Bears have made a hefty investment in Cutler, which is why they carried Hanie for as long as they did.
A new car isn’t feasible — or affordable — so a team tries to find a backup with just enough shine, just enough skill to keep the team moving in a positive direction.
Signed to a one-year deal, Campbell, in essence, is leased for this season then likely headed elsewhere.
“Jason Campbell is more than capable,” Marshall said. “He came in and did an amazing job.”
Just not enough to rally the Bears to a victory and impress potential suitors.