Friday, February 9, 2007

Is Grossman Man Enough?

Greg Couch of the Sun-Times pounded the Rex Grossman stump again the other day. It's overkill at this point, but the fundamental question he's posing is a legitimate enough: Can Grossman recover right here in Chicago?

Let me be blunt: I don't think Rex Grossman can recover from this. Not here, anyway.

That's Couch's take on it.

What will he be like the next time we see him? The pressure, focus and criticism, and all the boos -- especially the boos -- will not go away with rest and sun. It's going to get much worse next season.

Couch is correct about this, unfortunately. Here's the thing: this statement is more about the fans at Soldier Field than it is about Grossman.

If you ask me, the fans were unfair to Grossman this season with the booing. It's the oldest joke in sport that the most popular guy in town is the 2nd-string QB. We all know better than that damn coach of ours. But usually the joke gets put on mothballs when the team's 9-1.

Not to come up with logic or set rules & regs for booing, but I think booing has its place and can be productive, primarily as a way to jostle management types and tell them we're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

On that level, the booing of Grossman this season wasn't helping anything. The team was winning games and no one was going to stop showing up. They're booing Lovie Smith for sticking with Grossman, but Lovie had already stated a dozen times that he wasn't going to make a change.

I'll stop short of saying anyone should have given Grossman a show of support, but at times I felt the booing going on was unwarranted and showed a certain level of unsophistication.

So Couch is right. The Bears had a great season and there was booing, so there will certainly be more booing next season to pay Rex back for the Super Bowl. Maybe they'll even do the hockey-game cheer where everyone points at the goalie and chants "It's all your fault! It's all your fault!"

The question is whether Grossman can improve his play with the booing going on or he'll cave under the pressure and have even more blunderous yips than before.

95% of the boo birds would have bet you a beef with hot peppers that Grossman would be on IR by week 6. 100% of them would have wagered that this Grossman pussy wouldn't start 16 games. They were wrong, but that doesn't take away their God-given right to keep on booing.

If you're booing a 15-4 team because your answer is Brian Griese, I'm not so sure you understand the question.

I've prattled on for a while now. Is Greg Couch still here? Go ahead, Greg.

It's not just that he didn't play well, but that he flopped so colossally on the biggest stage. Sure, he's still young. But what did he learn this season? He didn't get better as the season went on. He got worse.

The fact that he flopped on the biggest stage ensures the jeers next season, no question. But let's not go overboard here or confuse reality with what we know-it-alls think is going on.

Did he really get worse as the season went on? I don't think he did. This is trying to put a logical trend on something that is as maddening as it is because it's so wildly inconsistent.

We've all seen the statistics. I'm not going to look up the exact numbers. Basically he led the league in games with a passer rating over 100, as well as games with a rating below 40. Within that, he had games where he was mostly fine but flipped out and engineered turnovers in ways you would never imagine happening in an NFL game not involving Jake Plummer or Aaron Brooks.

Point is, he was bad in game 3 -- he threw a fairly typical Pick Six, and Minnesota would have won if not for a miraculous fumble. Obviously he was horrible in game 6 in Arizona. To cut to the chase, two of his better games, against Tampa and St. Louis, were late in the season. There was not a steady decline.

What I really meant to pick on from Couch's statement was his claim that Grossman didn't learn anything. I mean, come on.

The guy had played in 9 NFL games. This year he played twice that, including the Super Bowl. I'm quite sure he learned a lot. Couch is on the same level with the boo-birds there if he's going to say "See, right there, he threw an interception. I told you - he's learned nothing!" It's not that simple, there's no direct correlation.

This was my favorite line.

The humane thing would be to let him go, find someone who will take him for a decent draft pick.

The "humane" thing to do, like we're talking about Zippy the Chimp on his deathbed here. Pull the plug!

The knee-jerk is to ask which someone "will take him for a decent draft pick," but the Wannstedt Bears traded a high first-rounder for Rick Mirer and he was already confirmed lousy.

The Bears can sign Jeff Garcia or Damon Huard and let him compete with Brian Griese and Kyle Orton for the job.

A Steamed Reader azibuck refers to this recurring Garcia/Huard idea as dumpster diving. Brian Griese's already here. If you want a raw rookie, I'll take my chances with Kyle Orton instead. He was lousy, but he has a right to improve.

For some reason, there are many pretending Lovie Smith and the coaching staff blindly decided Grossman is the starter and these people now demand an "open competition" next season.

Guess what? There was an open competition. Grossman won it by open lengths. I have to stop and ask myself why any knowledgeable football fan would have a hard time believing Brian Griese belongs on the bench. Sounds very plausible to me.

They can't afford another season of hearing Lovie Smith intone "Rex is our quarterback. Next question."

This is just media speak. The only reason Lovie "intoned" this answer 200 times is because you guys asked him 200 times. As much as you wanted him to live on the edge of a knife and whip out the hook if Grossman threw an interception, the man's telling you that the competition between Grossman and Griese isn't close. He's suggesting you ask about something that is in question.

Couch ends up saying Grossman is another Corey Patterson or Eddy Curry -- young Chicago players who were booed and whose games apparently took a steep downturn as a direct result, who've subsequently resumed their careers with more success in other cities.

This is the humane path Couch suggests for Grossman. I don't fully accept the comparison. Grossman was the QB of a Super Bowl team in his first full season. Patterson and Curry were the easiest targets on lousy teams whose only attraction was showing up to boo. And Grossman's problem is wild inconsistency more than it is constant underachievement.

At this point, there's not much the Bears can or need to do. Grossman is not a disappointment of the Patterson or Curry order, as troubling as his Super Bumbling was.

The comparison will become more apt if Grossman does come out next year and wilt under the pressure of the boo birds, instead of taking the step forward expected of a young quarterback who gained as much seasoning as he did in 2006.

If Grossman does flop, 2007 is the final year of his contract anyway. The Bears aren't in jeopardy of being on the hook for a huge salary and a player they need to trade away for pennies on the dollar.

I'm not going to play amateur psychologist here. Couch says Grossman can never recover and he may be right. But Grossman's shown more than enough (such as 23 TD passes) that he's a better bet than Griese, even if he doesn't make the strides one might expect.

If Grossman's simply too weak to handle the criticism and his game regresses shitcan-ward, the demise will be recognizable early next season. They'll pull the precious Griese out of its case and things will move onward.

It'll all sort itself out, Papa Bear will see to that. Hard decisions about Grossman would have needed to be made if he had any more or less than the 1 year remaining on his contract.

Though Couch didn't pursue this angle, I'd give Rex some advice with regard to the comparison. Corey Patterson and Eddy Curry started hearing the boos when they weren't reaching their obvious physical potential fast enough, and that can be a little unfair.

But things didn't become irreconcilable until those two guys demonstrated that they simply didn't give a shit. Grossman's going to be held to a higher, sometimes impossible, standard by Bears fans next season. As much as the Super Bowl pain has to do with that, the vitriol stems from the nagging suspicion that the mistakes are the result of him not giving two damns, just like he didn't for the Packer game on New Year's Eve.

Chicago doesn't abide that type of thing humanely.

1 comment:

freen said...

Aaap, I still like our guys.