The Bears have spoken


Posted Nov 4, 2004


Lake Forest - As long as Craig Krenzel remains undefeated as the Bears' starting quarterback, there won't be any controversy at that position.

"I thought (Krenzel) managed the game well," coach Lovie Smith said of the rookie's first start. "Did he play his best game? No. Will he get a lot better? Yes. He was able to lead us to victory."

But what happens when the Bears lose and Krenzel gets sacked five times, fumbles on one of them and the ball gets returned 80 yards for a touchdown, as happened vs. the 49ers? Do the Bears go back to Jonathan Quinn, who was 0-3 as a starter and produced 12 points in 10 quarters? Do they hand the ball to Chad Hutchinson, who would be their fourth starting quarterback in 2004?

The coaching staff isn't playing any hypothetical games for now, preferring to focus on the improvement it believes is inevitable with the increased experience that Krenzel has gained the last two weeks. Just like last week, the rookie will get almost all the practice reps with the first team this week in preparation for his second start, against the Giants on Sunday.

"Craig is our starter right now," Smith said. "I'm not looking into the future anymore than that. I like everything that he did the other night. We're not rotating this week. He's our quarterback. I like the progress Chad has made since he's gotten here. He had a good week of practice last week, also. On the offensive side we know we have to pick it up even more, and I think we'll do that. Craig's second time starting this week, there should be a big improvement from there."

But there will also be a steep increase in the level of competition and a less-hospitable locale to contend with this week against the Giants at the Meadowlands. The Giants and the 49ers have allowed similar yardage totals, but New York's defense has forced 18 turnovers, tied for the most in the NFL, and it is No. 3 in points allowed, compared to No. 30 for San Francisco. Only two teams have more interceptions than the Giants' 10.

Krenzel's only interception Sunday night led to a 49ers field goal. That and the fumble gave San Francisco 10 points that the Bears probably can't afford to give the Giants if they hope to start a winning streak.

Offensive coordinator Terry Shea doesn't see Krenzel as a quarterback prone to turnovers despite his inexperience.

"In the pocket, he's got good mechanics," Shea said. "He's very strong in his fundamentals in terms of ball protection. That (fumble) was really unforeseen that he would allow that to happen, and now we're going to have to go back and re-address that. His interception was just a product of trying to make a throw with his feet not in the right place. He threw the ball across his body and the ball sailed and, whammo, we have an interception.

"A couple of other potential interceptions were just decisions that a young quarterback has to learn not to make. Those are things that we're going to go back and make sure that all of a sudden we don't have three giveaways (Anthony Thomas also lost a fumble) in this game. That hadn't been part of our profile from Day One, and now all of a sudden we've put our defense 10 points to the short end of it with three giveaways."

After turning the ball over four times in the season-opening loss to the Lions, the Bears had given it up just seven times in five games before Sunday night. Despite his lack of production, Quinn was adept at avoiding fatal mistakes. He threw only one interception just once in 77 pass attempts.

According to both Smith and Shea, Krenzel brought more than enough poise, intelligence and intangibles to the huddle to offset his turnovers against the 49ers.

"As long as Craig functions the way he did Sunday night, you can't help but say, 'Hey, there's some energy there. There's some quarterback play-making skill there. There's some movement in the pocket there,' " Shea said. "So you've got to go with a young guy like that, even though you're going to have to suffer through some tough mistakes, which occurred again Sunday night.

"So from Krenzel's standpoint, we're going to continue to build and see how far he can carry it. If anything is an indication from (Sunday) night, he's just unflappable. He's very brilliant, and he handles everything pretty darn well for a young player. We had no issues with him at the line of scrimmage. He handles the functioning of the quarterback position very well for a first-year player."


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