The doctor asked him how many fingers he was holding up, and
answered: "That's not important right now. What's important is that it's not easy being Joan of Arc, especially when you're being followed as closely as I am by government operatives."
This was the second quarter Sunday, and although those weren't the words coming out of Chandler's mouth, the body language was such that you didn't have to be fluent in Drunken Sailor to understand that
quarterback was wobbling his way through another concussion. He stumbled, he veered, he fell down. Mostly, he wanted to know why Turkey had been denied entrance into the European Union.
This was the perfect public face for the teameyes glazed, words slurred, a man dumbstruck by what had just hit him. A tractor-trailer of a season had hit him; reality with a chrome bumper had flattened him. Technically, Carolina's
had pile-driven him into oblivion.
With Chandler way gone, the Bears were down to quarterback
and an offense in need of a guide dog. It felt like open tryouts for
That had a lot to do with another Bears loss, this one of the 24-14 variety to the lowly Panthers, though a loss from the same general family of losses that has produced a 4-11 record.
"We stunk the joint up," guard
said. Yeah, that family.
You can pretend Sunday didn't exist, and that certainly would go a long way toward protecting brain cells from throwing themselves against the skull. But it did exist, and it exposed a team with a roster as deep as spilled milk. You can pretend this season didn't exist, but you'd be fooling yourself.
What this season proved is that the Bears were woefully inadequate when it came to identifying talent. Whoever fills out general manager Jerry Angelo's annual review might want to point out that the Bears' collection of backups couldn't keep up with a bad Carolina team Sunday. This would have been a blowout if
had had someone other than
isn't the answer at running back, and he replaced the previous wrong answer, Anthony Thomas. After the game, Villarrial had to pause a moment to remember the name of the other guard on the Bears' line. That would be
. On defense, the Bears featured seldom-used defensive linemen Joe Tafoya and
"It's great to see the young guys, but it's not like we're trying to work the JVs up to the varsity," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.
The lesson of this season, as simplistic as it seems, is that injuries happen and that the good teams are ready with capable backups. The Bears have been plagued by injuries, more than most teams, but very few backups showed themselves capable of being NFL starters. Who proved himself a player?
? Bernard Robertson? Burris averaged 2.3 yards a pass attempt Sunday.
This is a failure to identify talent.
One replay in the third quarter showed Burris with his eyes shut as he threw a pass, bracing himself for contact. The only surprising thing was that he opened them again.
"I'm not running around there in Pampers," Burris insisted, though he might want to stock up. The Bears will face one of the nastiest defenses in the NFL next weekend when they try to stand up to Tampa Bay.
Sunday confirmed that Burris has very little idea of how to play quarterback, though he wasn't helped by an offensive line that had very little idea of how to block. The best thing that can be said about Burris is that the man doesn't lack for confidence. The burden of proof would give anyone else a hernia, but not our Henry.
"I've played against these guys before, this caliber of players," Burris said.
I played basketball against
in grade school. I took the hint.
"Maybe with a week of practice, we'll see a different quarterback next week," offensive coordinator John Shoop said.
It would be hard to imagine how the Tampa Bay game could be any harder on the eyes than Sunday's game was. The last two minutes of the first half were what football in hell must be like, full of reviews and timeouts and Pat Summerall filling time. There were 21 punts in the game, so
probably had to fight off the special-teams groupies afterward. They're the ones carrying the kicking tees and the portraits of Ray Guy.
It takes effort and lots of faith to follow these Bears. Next year usually provides hope. But think of the Bears coming back with oft-injured
and Burris at quarterback. Or think of a rookie quarterback getting burped by large defensive linemen. Think of injuries hitting the roster again.