Commentary

Should Bears sign Donovan McNabb?

The Chicago Bears' season is slipping away. Could the free-agent QB save them?

Originally Published: December 5, 2011
By Vince Verhei | Football Outsiders
Donovan McNabbAP Photo/Andy KingWould Donovan McNabb be more effective in Chicago than Caleb Hanie right now?

In Week 12 against the Oakland Raiders, we saw what the Chicago Bears' offense looked like without Jay Cutler, and the results weren't pretty. Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, we saw what they looked like without Cutler and without Matt Forte, and the results were unwatchable. Quarterback Caleb Hanie's performance was so hopeless that the Bears are reportedly looking to pick up Donovan McNabb off the scrap heap to try to save their season. It's obviously a desperate move, but could it be a wise one?

Hanie's first start was a defeat to the Raiders, and as we talked about last week, Oakland focused its resources on shutting down Forte. While Oakland won the game, Hanie was able to make a few big plays in the fourth quarter and nearly rally the Bears to victory. Forte missed most of the game against Kansas City, and as a result all the big plays were made by the Chiefs defense. Hanie was sacked seven times and threw three interceptions, to go along with only 11 completions for eight first downs -- yes, he turned the ball over or hit the turf nearly as often as he connected with his receivers, and more often than he picked up a new set of downs. The Bears went 0-for-11 on third downs and were 0-for-2 on fourth downs to boot.

Which brings us to McNabb. The veteran quarterback was waived by the Minnesota Vikings last week, and after every other team in the league (including the Bears) declined to pick up his contract, McNabb is now a free agent. Though he has now been dismissed by three teams in less than three years, McNabb's on-field performance in that stretch has been far from embarrassing. He ranked 20th in passing DVOA (Football Outsiders' exclusive metric analyzing play-by-play data -- more information can be found here) with Philadelphia in 2009, 29th with Washington in 2010 and 23rd this season. Since more than 40 passers qualify for the leaderboards each year, it's fair to say that McNabb has been better than about one-third of the starting quarterbacks in the league. That's not going to get him into Canton, but it's a big improvement over what the Bears have gotten from Hanie.


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