The lesson from Josh McHanie

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Josh McCown will start for the Bears Sunday. (Chris Walker/Tribune photo)

Josh McCown will start for the Bears Sunday. (Chris Walker/Tribune photo)

I’ve been waiting for a “gotcha,’’ but I guess it’s true and official: Bears coach Lovie Smith named Josh McCown to lose to the Packers on Christmas night.

Smith admitted he hasn’t seen a lot from McCown, and what’s more, Smith’s lack of traditional and sometimes nonsensical optimism makes you think he chose McCown simply, precisely and expressly because he isn’t Caleb Hanie.

McCown, meanwhile, admitted it’s a bad situation when you’re coming in off the street late in the season for a team in a four-game death spiral and you haven’t started a game since before your failed predecessor came into the league --- and you weren’t much good back then, either.

Oh, and you’re facing the best team in the league that happens to be the defending Super Bowl champs. Merry Christmas to ya.

As evidenced by Jay Cutler and his backups (cough, cough, ralph, ralph), the quarterback is the most important position on the field, and his backup is second.

Don’t believe me? Fine. Then explain how Julius Peppers could be so important if he couldn’t win games that Hanie was losing.

Same goes for Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

Waiting. Wait. Ing.

Cutler went down, and so did the Bears’ season. One guy. One guy got hurt, and the Bears died because they were unprepared from the general manager to the head coach to the offensive coordinator to the backup.

This isn’t a new story. But the point is to demand the Bears look at their mistakes in a new way.

The first problem is the Bears pay backup quarterbacks like scrubs because, well, because everyone else does. The NFL is a lemming league.

But let me ask you this: Would the Bears have been better off paying $3 million for a quality backup quarterback or Brandon Meriweather? Would Angelo have better job security if he had given half of Earl Bennett’s extension to someone who would make Bennett relevant? I’ll hang up and listen for the hummena-hummena-hummena.

Whichever way Angelo chose to manage his salary cap, he managed not to value the second-most important position on the field. If he had made it an organizational mantra, then presumably Smith would’ve found an offensive coordinator less ridiculous than Mike Martz, or at least demanded that the backup quarterback get practice snaps with the starters. It’s a joke that the Bears don’t work it that way. Almost every backup eventually takes actual snaps with the first-string in games, which makes Martz’s plan and Smith’s support of it a pretty stupid way to conduct business.

As for Hanie, he appears to be bad and stupid. He doesn’t know what he’s seeing, so he doesn’t know how to react, and he does it almost every week, which forces everyone to admit the worst: Hanie hasn’t learned how to learn in the NFL and Angelo hasn’t learned how to scout the most important position on the team.

Hanie won’t be an issue next year. Angelo might not, either. But the problem is, the Bears’ continued neglect at the second most important position in the league will be. The Bears never seem to out-think anyone, mostly because they’re too busy out-Bozoing the league.

But this season that started 7-3 and became a funeral because one guy got hurt ought to be an object lesson. It’s so obvious that even the Bears can understand it and understand thed need to change their ways. The Bears have look so inept offensively that they appeared to be in the “Suck for Luck’’ derby. Bad scouting, bad coaching, bad development --- a whole bunch of bad, but the worst of all is the fear of paying a backup quarterback like he matters.

We’ve seen the position matter, haven’t we? Hel-LO. We have not seen, however, a big commitment to that spot, and the more embarrassing part is the Bears’ having a pile of money under the salary cap. Money not spent, playoffs not reached. Connect the dots, Jerry or whoever succeeds him.

The lesson from this disaster couldn’t be simpler: Pay the No. 2 quarterback more than any other team and let him practice with the starters so you have the best insurance.

Just because other teams don’t devote a lot of money and time to the No. 2 quarterback doesn’t make it right. Look how wrong that policy has been this year. Understand how seasons work. And how they die. Is anyone home at Halas Hall?

As much as it runs counter to their DNA, the Bears must be forward thinking. It’s time. The Bears are due. They haven’t come up with an original idea since George Halas founded the league.

 
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