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Jim Trotter
November 26, 2007
Him Again?
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November 26, 2007

The Nfl

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Him Again?

Bears fans may grimace, but Rex Grossman is back as the starting QB—and may be the best option in 2008

AS HIS smartly dressed teammates got away for dinner after arriving in Seattle last Saturday, Bears quarterback Rex Grossman shed his travel attire of slacks and blazer and slipped on gym shorts and flip-flops. The only thing he hungered for was a chance to get on the field.

The previous seven weeks had been hell on Grossman. A Super Bowl quarterback just last February, he had been benched three games into this season with his team 1--2 and his quarterback rating a dismal 45.2. As he sat on a couch in the Bears' hotel on Saturday night, he rubbed his palms together, excited about returning to the starting lineup for the next day's game against the Seahawks.

"What happened was disappointing," said Grossman of being replaced as starter by Brian Griese, who sat out Sunday's game with a sprained left shoulder. "But I feel like I have a new lease on football life. It's one more shot to let everybody know who I am as a quarterback."

Most cities would gladly tolerate, if not embrace, a QB who has twice as many regular-season victories (18) as defeats (nine) as a starter. But in the eyes of many in Chicago, the book on Grossman is already closed. The only question now is whether the Bears feel the same way. His 24-of-37, 266-yard passing performance in the 30--23 loss to Seattle will do little to change his critics' minds. Yes, he was efficient in taking what the defense offered underneath. But he failed to throw a touchdown pass and lost a fumble midway through the fourth quarter when Chicago was trying to erase a seven-point deficit.

Grossman is in the final year of the contract he signed after being drafted in the first round in 2003, and the Bears (now 4--6) must decide in the off-season whether to commit to him or pull the plug. If he stays in the lineup the rest of the way, Grossman will have had almost two full seasons as a starter. The consensus is that that's ample time to determine whether a player at the position has the goods. "That's enough time to understand the offense, get a taste of the league," says Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who has worked with Steve Young, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck. "You get to observe how he handles pressure, how his teammates react to him. If he can play at two years, you should have an idea, and then you commit."

The problem in evaluating Grossman is that he's wildly inconsistent. In 23 starts over the last two seasons (including the postseason) he has had seven games in which his quarterback rating was 100 or higher and six in which it was below 37. Against Green Bay in the 2006 season finale, he had a rating of 0.00. Which is the real Rex?

"The hardest thing is evaluating results as compared to evaluating someone's ability to play," says Chargers coach Norv Turner, another quarterback guru. "A lot of factors go into the quarterback's success other than just his ability—how your offensive line is playing, where your team is in terms of development, the health of the defense, the style of offense."

As much as critics might cringe at the thought of Grossman returning next season, coach Lovie Smith says he can envision the fifth-year pro being the "long-term solution." The reasons extend beyond Grossman.

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