Paul Ladewski: A smidge of hope on the QB front?
They have become the saddest words in all of Bears Nation, if not Chicago sports. More feared than “personal seat license’’ and “ticket price increase.” Even worse than “no beer sales after the third quarter.”
Rex Grossman is our quarterback.
So one could feel the hopes of a frustrated city rise ever so slightly on Monday — a day after the Dallas Cowboys took his team behind the woodshed in front of a national audience — Bears head coach Lovie Smith actually did not say, “Rex is our quarterback.”
“Will Rex Grossman start Sunday?” said Smith, the most stubborn Texan this side of the mechanical bull at Gilley’s bar. “Well, our evaluation is going on right now. When you come out to practice on Wednesday, you’ll have a better idea who will be starting at all positions.”
Hey, in this town, that’s known as progress.
A change of quarterbacks isn’t only warranted, but as the 34-10 stinker confirmed yet again, it is long overdue. At a time when his team desperately needed more consistent play at the most important position on the field, Grossman turned the ball over three times and was outplayed from here to Charleston, Ill., by Tony Romo, who looks like a more mobile Troy Aikman every week.
Worse yet, the Gross baggage finally seems to have weighed down a battered, beaten defense that is on the field much too often and has MRIs to prove it. I won’t say the “D” quit in the fourth quarter, but while Cowboys instigator Terrell Owens tried to pump up the boos on the sideline, it sure did look like a spiritless bunch.
“Frustrating” and “embarrassing” and “disappointing,” Brian Urlacher called the performance.
Urlacher the Linebacker could have added the word “unnecessary” while he was at it.
Not even Britney Spears has been analyzed and overanalyzed more than Grossman in the last year, but the issue isn’t that complex, really. Pure and simple, the more opponents see of the guy, the more he regresses. It would take a search party to find his 45.2 passer rating, which ranks 33rd among 34 quarterbacks in the league.
“It’s something we feel, I feel, is almost there,” said Grossman, still in denial. “I mean, we’re right there and still not being productive. It’s frustrating, and we’ll use this week to figure it out, but we know we’re a good football team. We know we’re a good offense, and we’re not playing like it.”
Let’s be fair here. The guys around Grossman haven’t exactly circled the wagons lately. Wide receiver Bernard Berrian scissor-handed a sure touchdown, one that would have given his team an early lead and Grossman some much-needed confidence. Feature back Cedric Benson (46 yards, another fumble lost) left more than his mouthpiece in the locker room. The O-line continued to show its age, especially against twists and stunts.
Still, the fact remains that no matter how much the Lovie bunch wishes for it, hopes for it and prays for it, Grossman will never be Tom Brady or even Kyler Boller for that matter. The guy is who is he, which is to say a backup for a good team and a starter for a lesser one.
But enough already. I refuse to pile on Grossman anymore. It’s not like the guy intended to throw the interception that cornerback Anthony Henry carted back for six points in the second half. (Think: Kelvin Hayden in Super Bowl XLI.) This has nothing to do with effort but everything to do with football smarts, athletic skills and mental toughness, none of which are Grossman strengths.
No, it’s time to pin the tail where it belongs — on the behinds of the honchos who make the personnel decisions.
Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo have been loyal to Grossman to a fault, and in this day and age of knee-jerk reactions, the long leash is to be admired to some extent. But at what point does loyalty become hardheadedness? At what point does loyalty sabotage a team that has Super Bowl-caliber defense and special teams but precious little time to waste?
Hasn’t that point arrived finally?
If ever there is a time and a place to hand the ball to Brian Griese, then this Sunday in Detroit is it. The game will be the first of three against NFC North opponents in consecutive weeks. Lose this one and you’re stuck in third place, two games behind the Lions and possibly three behind the improved Green Bay Packers at the one-quarter pole of the season.
I’m convinced the more savvy, less mistake-prone Griese would do just fine against a dysfunctional Lions defense that was toasted for 42 points in the first half Sunday. Otherwise, if Griese fares no better in the next couple or three weeks — honestly, how could he do worse? — switch back to Grossman. Maybe the time on the sideline would allow the poor guy to step back, take a deep breath and return with a clear head for a change.
Until then, my advice to the Grossman critics is to lay off the boos for awhile. Save them for Smith and Angelo until one or both fess up to their mistake and finally say the most welcomed words in Chicago sports.
Brian Griese is our quarterback.
Paul Ladewski can be reached at email@example.com
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