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Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Updated: October 23, 11:18 AM ET
Chandler is in, Stewart and McQuarters out for Bears

ESPN

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears are shuffling again. And unlike 1985, no one's laughing or smiling at these moves.

Desperate for any kind of spark, the Bears made some big changes in the lineup Wednesday. Chris Chandler will get his second start at quarterback, and not just because Kordell Stewart has a gimpy leg. Cornerback R.W. McQuarters, in his third season as a starter, was demoted.

"I was a little surprised. I wasn't happy about it," McQuarters said. "The focus now is just going out and winning. If we can get some more wins with the changes, great call. Great call. I don't argue that at all."

At 1-5, it's no real surprise the Bears are tweaking their roster. But it's the way these changes came about that was interesting.

Chandler, a 16-year veteran, got his first start of the season last week because Stewart has an injured left leg. While Stewart said Wednesday he still isn't healthy enough to start, coach Dick Jauron said the decision to start Chandler on Sunday against Detroit didn't have anything to do with injury.

"The change was made because Chris should have the chance to play our quarterback position," Jauron said. "We'll see where it goes. I expect every guy that's starting to do well. If he does well and we win, then obviously we're not going to make a change."

That would seem to signal a quarterback controversy, considering Stewart signed a two-year, $5 million contract in February under the assumption he would be the starter.

But whether Stewart is in denial or just touting the team line, he refused to say anything inflammatory.

"To be in this situation right now, having to answer these questions and go through all of this, it's tough. It's not easy -- at all," said Stewart, who's already been through one revolving quarterback door in Pittsburgh. "I had high expectations, we all had high expectations.

"The only thing I can do, really, is just be supportive of the issue. Just move forward and first of all, get myself healthy again so when the bell does ring for me now to get in there and do it, I can go in and give 110 percent."

Stewart was calm, almost self-deprecating, when he talked after practice. No matter how he really feels, he knows things haven't worked out the way he -- or anyone else -- had hoped so far.

Stewart has a 56.0 quarterback rating after five games -- a perfect rating is 158.3 -- and has completed 75 of 144 passes for 745 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions. Aside from the fourth quarter against the Raiders, when he rallied the Bears for their only victory, he's looked shaky in every game.

Chandler's 31.8 rating is worse, but Chicago's offense seems to click with him. After a shaky start, he settled down and was 19-of-34 against Seattle. The offense only scored one touchdown in the 24-17 loss, but the Bears were at least still in the game late in the fourth quarter, tying it on Chandler's 2-point conversion run with just over four minutes left.

"The more you're out there, no matter who you are, the more comfortable you feel, and I'm no different," said Chandler, in his second season with the Bears.

Even Stewart agreed.

"In order to keep it rolling, it's only fair to the situation to allow it to keep going the way it's going until I am healthy and have a chance again," he said.

McQuarters simply hasn't had the production the Bears expect -- especially not from someone with a five-year, $21 million contract. His 28 tackles for the season are third among the defensive backs. Rookie Charles Tillman has only been a starter for three weeks and he already has 19.

Against Seattle, former Bears receiver Bobby Engram caught a touchdown pass over McQuarters -- Engram's first TD reception in three years with the Seahawks.

"For me to play bad, it hurts me, too," McQuarters said. "In this business, you don't get paid to play, you get paid to win. Right now we're 1-5."