Chicagoans finally have a QB amongst the NFL's best
Posted: Monday October 2, 2006 11:33PM; Updated: Tuesday October 3, 2006 2:54PM
Rex Grossman is steadily climbing up the charts of Bears quarterbacking greats, leading his current club to a 4-0 start.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
CHICAGO -- Folks in Chicago are pinching themselves giddily, because for the first time since Sid Luckman lined up behind center in the 1940s, da Bears have a quarterback who can legitimately claim a place among the league's best.
Sure, it's early. Of course there's a long way to go. But that doesn't diminish what Rex Grossman has done in the first four games of the season and the resulting swagger he's put into this city and team. Injury-plagued in the first three years of his career, the 26-year-old Grossman is emerging as a star. He's now tied for most TD passes in the league (eight), and leads in most yards per attempt (8.49). He has the league's fifth-highest QB rating (higher than Peyton Manning's) and is fourth in total yards (1,061-- only 61 yards behind Manning in 15 fewer attempts).
Grossman was the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month for September, an award never before won by a Bears QB, and that was before leading Chicago to an eye-popping 37-6 Sunday-night drubbing of the previously undefeated Seattle Seahawks, last year's Super Bowl representative from the NFC. The Bears are for real, and, for the first time in at least 20 years, multidimensional. Already in the young season, Grossman has completed four passes for more than 40 yards -- the same number the Bears managed all last year -- introducing the bomb into an offense that since Luckman hung up his cleats has believed that the only good thing about a ball in the air is a punt.
Even in the Super Bowl season of 1985 the free-spirited QB Jim McMahon's primary role was to hand the ball to Walter Payton and rap to the Super Bowl Shuffle. McMahon passed for only 15 touchdowns and 2,392 yards that season, totals Grossman could eclipse by early November. Since then, a long and sorry string of hapless Bears QBs have tossed their wayward wobblers skyward in the name of the forward pass: Craig Krenzel, Henry Burris, Cade McNown ... come on down! We're Bears, ground feeders! Why fly when you can plunge? We live and die by defense and the running game. Let the Brett Favres of the world take to the air.
Which they did, with devastating results. Before losing to the new-look Bears 26-0 in the 2006 opener, the Packers' Favre had a lifetime record of 21-7 against Chicago. For many of those wins his coach was aerial guru Mike Holmgren, now the Seahawks coach, who before Sunday night's thrashing was 14-2 lifetime against the Bears. Soldier Field fans knew from grim experience that defense and a running game could only take a team so far. Bears coach Lovie Smith found out exactly how far last season when, with rookie QB Kyle Orton filling in for an injured Grossman, the Bears -- behind a superb but exhausted defense and a one-dimensional offense -- went 11-5, then lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Carolina Panthers, 29-21. Pass denied. End of the line.