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For Bears to win title, Grossman must remain the QB

Posted: Tuesday December 12, 2006 12:56PM; Updated: Tuesday December 12, 2006 12:56PM
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In leading Chicago to a relatively easy win over the Rams, Rex Grossman quieted many of the calls for him to be benched.
In leading Chicago to a relatively easy win over the Rams, Rex Grossman quieted many of the calls for him to be benched.
Al Tielemans/SI

Let's hope the caterwauling calling for Rex Grossman's head on a platter will now take a rest. To have listened to the blathering on Monday Night Football -- take a bow Tony Kornheiser, Joe Theisman and, most inanely, Michael Irvin -- you'd have thought that last night's game against the St. Louis Rams was a do-or-die affair that could make or break Grossman's young career.

Never mind that Bears coach Lovie Smith, who's trying to build a Super Bowl champion, had consistently and resolutely said that Grossman was his starter, and that the team had put together a 10-2 record (now 11-2) with the 26-year-old QB at the helm. Never mind that Grossman had only 19 career starts before last night's 42-27 win and was a pup in terms of experience. Or that the Bears had already clinched the NFC Central. The MNF story line was that Grossman's head was on the chopping block after two poor performances in a row, and they were sticking to it. Grossman had to perform, or backup Brian Griese was stepping in.

Griese had taken more reps during practice that week, but that was more to send a message to Grossman than a signal of impending change. The 31-year-old Griese is a solid backup, but he's no one's idea of a championship quarterback. Inheriting a Denver Broncos team that had won back-to-back Super Bowls before the retirement of John Elway, Griese was just 27-24 there in five seasons as a starter, and never won a playoff game. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who knows something about quarterbacks, released Griese when he was just 27. After signing with Miami, Griese couldn't unseat starter Jay Fiedler and was released again after one season. He then played two seasons for Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, starting a total of 16 games before being released because Gruden didn't want to Griese a roster bonus of $2.6 million. In short, he's had his chances and has never been able to stick.

Smith knows that if the Bears have to turn to Griese when Grossman is healthy, it'll damage his young quarterback's confidence, slow his learning curve and disrupt the chemistry of a winning team. Is Grossman the Bears' QB of the future, as he looked in the first five games of the season? Or is he the scatterbrain who threw four interceptions against Arizona on Oct. 16, a game in which he had a 10.2 quarterback rating, only to be surpassed in ineptitude on Dec. 3 by a three-interception performance against Minnesota, in which Grossman was 6 for 19 for 34 yards, compiling a mind-boggling 1.3 rating?


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