The Bears are turning to newcomer Josh McCown in a last-ditch attempt to make the playoffs.
McCown, who had been coaching high school football in Charlotte, N.C. when he was signed by the Bears on Nov. 23, will start at quarterback Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in place of Caleb Hanie, who was 0-4 with a 41.8 passer rating in a disastrous stint as the Bears' starter after Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb.
McCown, 32, was out of football since being cut by the 49ers prior to the start of the regular season. Until he replaced Hanie in a mop-up role against the Seahawks last week (1-for-2, 12 yards and an interception) he had not thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game since the opening week of the 2009 season with Carolina. He relieved starter Jake Delhomme against the Eagles and was 1-for-6 for two yards before suffering a sprained knee.
He played in the United Football League last season. He went to training camp with the 49ers, but was cut in favor of former Fremd and Wisconsin star Scott Tolzien as the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback.
After Cutler suffered a broken thumb, the Bears signed McCown because of his familiarity with Mike Martz's offense. He was a backup quarterback with the Lions in 2006 when Martz was the offensive coordinator for head coach Rod Marinelli. His only contribution was two catches for 15 yards and a penalty for offensive pass interference as a wide receiver in a 28-21 loss to the Patriots.
McCown has taken a crash course in Martz's offense since signing with the Bears. Asked if it is any trickier learning Martz's offense on short notice than any other offense, he said, ''No. It's not hard. It is in a sense that if you've never spent a full year in this system, then it definitely could be hard. Your head could be swimming. At the same time ... I just think you have to maximize every rep that you get and try to get better.
''But there's a lot. It's a high-volume system. But I don't necessarily think that this system is why the backups struggle. We've just got to play better.''