It's probably not the can of worms Dan Hawkins planned on opening up this week, but Tuesday afternoon, there they were, wriggling all over the floor at the Dal Ward Center.

In a candid moment Hawk likely wishes he could have back, he said, "I think there is a very good chance you could see both of them."


"Both of them," of course, means Colorado's two quarterbacks.

One is the recently benched starter (and the coach's son), Cody Hawkins, who got the hook in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss at Texas. The other is newly anointed No. 1 Tyler Hansen, who is scheduled to start Saturday against Kansas and can only hope his first mistake won't be his last.

Dan Hawkins insists that isn't the case. After opening up the possibility of both playing against the Jayhawks -- and for the rest of the season, for that matter -- Hawk also made it clear that Hansen is the starter.

"Tyler's the guy," Hawkins said, repeatedly. "You've got to have some continuity. I don't want him out there and have that hook hanging over him."

I believe him. But I also know the mere suggestion that Cody Hawkins might not be an observer for the rest of the season left Buff Nation in a tizzy (not to mention the media).

Hawkins' statements were broken down, analyzed and scrutinized as if there were hidden meanings and secret codes tucked carefully inside. Message boards lit up immediately, television stations breathlessly carried the "news" and even my own paper ran a headline on its Web site claiming that Hawkins had performed a "QB flip-flop.



At the risk of injecting just a little rational thought into theconversation -- something I admit does not fly well in the age of Internet anonymity and instant accusations -- I`m going to say there really wasn`t any secret meaning behind Hawkins` statements.

The guess here is that unless Hansen implodes on Saturday -- say, three interceptions and a couple of fumbles in the first half -- he`ll finish the game. He deserves at least the same chance that his counterpart received; I would hope that CU`s coaches give him that chance.

The best-case scenario, of course, is that Hansen renders moot all the hand-wringing and over-analyzing. The best-case scenario is that Hansen comes out and plays well against Kansas, proves that he deserves to keep the job and turns Cody Hawkins into the league`s most experienced backup.

"If Tyler gets out there and rolls, Cody may never play again," Dan Hawkins said.

But given that Hansen is likely to experience his own struggles, it does open up the question as to just how much latitude he will be given.

One interception? Two? One interception and a fumble? Three straight non-productive drives? Four?

In other words, will he be given the same opportunity and the same room to make the same number of mistakes as Cody Hawkins?

When I asked Dan Hawkins on Tuesday whether that would be the case, he answered in the affirmative.

Certainly that was the message that emanated immediately after last Saturday`s loss at Texas, when the head coach said, "We`re going to get him (Hansen) in there and he`s going to be the guy. Cody wants to be a coach; he`s going to learn what it`s like to be a coach."

That same night, offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said, "I don`t want to get into the back and forth, back and forth or having packages," Kiesau said. "I want to have a guy. I want the team to see that."

Here`s hoping Hawkins and his staff stick to their guns in that regard.

I`d like to see Hansen get a couple of starts under his belt, no matter what happens. Cody Hawkins was afforded that opportunity against Colorado State and Toledo; Hansen should get the same chance. If CU`s coaches were really considering a quarterback rotation of some sort, they should have done it at the beginning of the season.

But now it`s too late. Throw Hansen into the fray and see what happens. Let him establish some rhythm, give him a chance for at least a couple of games and live with the results -- good or bad. We`ve seen what Cody Hawkins can do. Now it`s time to see whether another option might not be better, particularly when you take the long term into account.

What I think Dan Hawkins should have said Tuesday was that there was no way he could guarantee that Tyler Hansen would take every snap of every game for the rest of the season. No one can foresee every scenario, and if Hansen does inexplicably suffer some kind of meltdown (or injury), the option of returning to Hawkins has to be available.

But such a switch should be a matter of last resort. Anything less will bring into question credibility issues. If Kiesau is indeed in charge of the offense, he needs to remember his words: "I want to have a guy. I want the team to see that."

What`s clear is that CU`s coaches promised Hansen a legitimate shot at the job, a job that his counterpart lost only after four losses and a heartbreaking interception against the No. 2 team in the nation.

Hansen should get the same chance, and not just because it might make a difference for a game or two. Rather, there`s far more at stake here.

CU`s coaches gave their word to a player and made it public. They said a change was in order.

Now they need to let the kid play -- and let the rest of the team see that their word is good.