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