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Chicago Sun-Times: Time to start over at QB -- again


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With Bears at a crossroad, Grossman's knee injury should close this chapter on the Bears' perennial and futile quarterback search

December 7, 2007

BY JAY MARIOTTI Sun-Times Columnist

LANDOVER, Md. -- With the gnarled, hideous twist of his left knee, followed by the mortified moans of human beings who know body parts don't bend that way, Rex Grossman was gone. And with his departure Thursday night came the final, conclusive piece of evidence supporting an inarguable truth.

He cannot be the Bears quarterback any longer.

Nor can Brian Griese, who replaced Grossman and allegedly threw two balls toward Devin Hester that wound up in the mitts of Redskins late in the first half. He played better later, but not well enough to avoid a 24-16 loss that puts the Bears out of their 2007 misery. If Kyle Orton would like to play next week, fine, but I'm thinking a better idea might be the bucking-bronco loon who rushed onto the field toward the Bears defense and had to be subdued by 10 cops. At least he had a pulse, though my first thought was Billy Ligue and his kid at U.S. Cellular Field and how such a security lapse still can happen these days.

It officially can be declared now that The Rex Era was a monumental error in Chicago sports history, as some of us have known for some time. This means Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith need to move on to Plan Q -- or is it R or S? -- as the Bears enter a tense transition period following their one-and-done Super Bowl loss and rapid demise as a pro football operation. Determine if Donovan McNabb wants to return home and whether the Eagles will make him available in a trade. Consider surrendering two high draft picks to the Cleveland Browns for upstart Derek Anderson. Investigate trading up in the April draft and picking Brian Brohm, Matt Ryan or Andre Woodson. Ponder the intriguing possibility of Sid Luckman, still the only Bear who ever resembled a franchise quarterback, being reincarnated in his leather helmet.

But end this insanity right now about Grossman continuing as the No. 1 man with an inexpensive offseason deal, which was the new mentality at Halas Hall before his injury.

``It didn't look good when he was injured. He didn't finish the game, which never is good,'' Lovie Smith said near midnight by the Beltway. `` It's a serious lower-leg injury that could take awhile.''

Orton, anyone, for the final three games? ``Everyone wants to get a chance and help the team,'' said the forgotten third-stringer. ``That hasn't happened for me the last couple of years, but if this is my chance, I'll be ready.''

As if Grossman's radical performance swings aren't torturous enough, now we have the return of durability issues. Just what is the point of remaining loyal to The Rexperiment, after five years of waiting and hoping and ultimately cringing, when he's an unreliable player who has been injured throughout his pro career? If nothing else, he had remained healthy these past two erratic seasons, shaking the Wrecks Grossman/Rex Glassman tags that dogged him his first three years -- a broken left ankle in 2005, a ruptured right knee ligament in 2004, a finger injury in 2003. But now, four weeks before a season mercifully ends and his free-agency kicks in, he has to deal with another wounded knee, injured when Redskins defensve tackle Cornelius Griffin plowed him into the turf early in the first quarter.

Minutes before, analyst Steve Mariucci had said on the NFL Network: ``Rex Grossman is auditioning for his next contract.''

Turns out he was waiting for his next X-ray.

At least he limped into the tunnel under his own power, unlike the day in Minnesota and the night in St. Louis when he was carted off. Jason Campbell, Washington's work-in-progress quarterback, wasn't as fortunate. On an evening when the motorized cart at FedEx Field got quite a workout, Campbell was whisked away in the second quarter after a similar, hard-to-watch bend of his knee, resulting in a dislocated kneecap.

Neither team is going anywhere without a serious, healthy quarterback. It's hardly coincidence that the NFL's four best teams feature elite QBs -- New England and Tom Brady, Dallas and Tony Romo sits to pee, Green Bay and Brett Favre, Indianapolis and Peyton Manning. Why have the Bears reached one Super Bowl since 1985? Because they've had a pathetic succession of passers in that period. I'm tired of running through the list, the CIty of Big Shoulders curse.

I want Angelo to do his job and fix the black hole. But is he capable when he can't even acknowledge his mistake?

``I certainly can't look at anything from a personnel standpoint that we look back at and would have done a little bit differently,'' he said. ``I'm not really one to do that as we're living in the present and certainly moving forward.''

Having plummeted into the NFL dregs, the Bears are at a crossroads. They must replace a decrepit offensive line that might lead any quarterback to get hurt, even Favre the ironman. They must find a legitimate running back. They must address issues at receiver, especially if Bernard Berrian -- who made a spectacular, elbows-down touchdown catch late in the third quarter -- signs elsewhere. Even more troubling are the holes of a once-dominant defense, which played OK against the depleted Redskins but has been manhandled of late and makes us question if Smith's pride and joy -- and the reason he's an NFL head coach -- is falling apart.

But first and foremost, the Bears must locate a quarterback for once in our lives. As we saw the previous few years, it doesn't matter how awesome your defense is if the quarterback sabotages your total cause. ``You don't build a team around one player,'' Angelo protested.

In the Bears' case, you do. It's beyond ridiculous that a team founded in 1920 calls Luckman its only great quarterback. The best during my 16 years in town was Erik Kramer, a journeyman by any name.

Lately, the Bears haven't hid their desire to bring back Grossman. To his credit, he decided to have more fun after reclaiming the starting position from Griese last month. He joked that he'd already blown his hoped-for big contract and just wanted to show he could play after his September benching. ``I want to maintain a level of performance that people can expect,'' Grossman said recently. ``That's my No. 1 goal in my career now -- to just play at a high level and stay there and stay at a version of that for the rest of my career.''

He can't. It's not in the cards, the karma. As for Griese, he was left to explain the pick that killed the Bears. ``Shawn Springs didn't move an inch,'' he said. ``With a guy like Devin, you'd think (Springs) would give a little bit. He just sat there, made the easy play.''

And the season that wasn't? ``It's tough,'' Griese said. ``Our goal was to obviously get back (to the Super Bowl) and finish business.''

That can't be done with the current quarterbacks. That hasn't been done with any Chicago quarterback since Jim McMahon. As Bill Parcells points out, poor quarterbacking is the reason for so many mediocre teams. At 5-8 -- and no longer a winning operation -- the Bears fit that ugly description.

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If I were Angelo, Anderson WOULD be a worth a 1st/3rd rounder(assuming the Browns put this tender on him following this season).

Sure-the Bears have had a very off year, but outside of the QB/RB positions, this IS a very good team, when healthy. It's too bad while 95% are playing their tails off, the other 5% at the very key positions are weighing down the team.

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Chicago needs to accept the fact that they could have a genetic combination of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and Steve Young and he would still probably suck in the 2nd half of the season when it's -90 degrees in Chicago in 10 feet of snow with 400 MPH winds. They should just say **** it and put Kyle Orton back in there...just spend every single draft pick on a good o-lineman, running back, or defensive player at any position, and when it becomes early to mid November every season just start running the ball 75 times per game and grind out those wins that look ugly on paper like 10-9...13-10, 7-6, etc.

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Wow, I can't believe they're lumping last night's game into the negative column for Grossman when he played two snaps and was done. It's not his fault he got injured. I'm not saying they shouldn't ditch him cause frankly he's got 3rd string written all over him, but counting last night's loss against him is a cheap shot.

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With a slightly better QB, bears might have won SB last year. NFL coaches are stubborn and arrogant. If they had sign jeff garcia this year, they would have been in playoff already.

Injuries aside, them letting go of Ron Rivera may have been the biggest blow. Sure-his game plan in the SB was pretty bad(why he played alot of zone against Peyton instead of trying to bring alot of pressure is anyone's guess), but he was nonetheless one of the better and more respected DC's in the league.

Seriously-you don't fire a coach just b/c he happened to have a bad hair day.:2cents:

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Grossman had better developed talent at the skill positions at UF than he had with the Bears last week. Consider a few facts regarding the Bears:

1) Receivers lead the league in drops.

2) Enterring this year, they had the oldest OL in the league.

3) They have the lowest ypc average in the NFL.

Peyton Manning and Brady would do OK, but few others would last the season with this team. Like Dungy's Bucs, Chicago has put most of its money towards building its defense and it shows.

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Derek Anderson's going to land a HUGE contract somewhere with $30m guaranteed. Not saying he deserves it, but there's going to be a bidding war for his services.
He has "sign me to a big deal and I'll turn into a bust" written all over him! These fluke QB's seem to show up once every couple of years.
Grossman had better developed talent at the skill positions at UF than he had with the Bears last week.
He was a Spurrior guy and I will never see him as anything more than that. He is not going to be a great NFL QB, sorry.
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One thing I was arguing with other fans about was if Derek Anderson had receivers that can't catch, an O-Line that can't block, a bad running game and a proven inept offensive coordinator, Anderson wouldn't be doing **** either.

They say the injury is 3-4 weeks, but since they can't get a clear assessment on him, I don't know what they're gonna do. I would probably let him go, then take my chances with Woodson or Ryan (former sig). The talent was there, injuries and inconsistency just didn't let it happen.

I think the biggest problem is the philosophy, coincidentally, the 5 best teams in the NFL (Patriots, Colts, Pukes, Packers, Steelers) all use their quarterbacks to win games, not not lose them. That way, the quarterback is exposed to more situations and doesn't feel limited. The Bears have always used their quarterbacks to not lose games.

BTW, **** Jay Mariotti. I don't think I say that enough.

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2) Enterring this year, they had the oldest OL in the league.

Their RT is Fred Miller-he's solid, yes, but nonetheless, I'm shocked he's still starting in this league. Remember that '99 Super Bowl(when he was with the Rams), Jevon Kearse just took him to the woodshed that entire second half, which pretty much summed up his entire career.

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