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Counterintuitive struggles for Caleb Hanie

12/21/2011

In case you missed it, the Chicago Bears have made the relatively easy decision to replace quarterback Caleb Hanie for Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers. Veteran Josh McCown will get the first chance in practice Wednesday, reports my ESPNChicago.com colleague Jeff Dickerson.

A much more difficult decision looms ahead: Should the Bears bring back Hanie next season as Jay Cutler's backup, or has he played his way out of any future role with the team?

As they evaluate Hanie's performance, I'm sure they'll come across an oddity that will take some time to sift through. In short, Hanie made most of his plays when under pressure and most of his mistakes when he had all the time he needed.

ESPN's Stats & Information judges each NFL pass to determine whether it was thrown "under duress," defined as any time a quarterback is forced from the pocket, had his throwing motion altered or faced a defender with a clear path in his line of sight. When under duress, Hanie threw all three of his touchdown passes and two of his interceptions. When not under duress, he threw seven interceptions.

Some context: Hanie is the only NFL quarterback with at least 80 attempts this season who hasn't thrown at least one touchdown pass when not under duress.

An optimist would suggest that Hanie has the hard part figured out -- how to perform under pressure -- and was just over-thinking the rest of the time. On the other hand, a cynic would wonder why a quarterback with nearly four years of NFL experience couldn't perform better when given the best opportunity to do so.

Hanie's future is tied into some bigger decisions that have yet to be made, most notably whether the Bears will re-sign offensive coordinator Mike Martz. But whoever evaluates Hanie's 2011 performance will have to reconcile its counterintuitive nature.