Things change. Even in Chicago. Even at quarterback. Rex Grossman is no longer the crown prince, who plays quarterback because he inherited the position when the Bears drafted him in the first round six years ago. He’s now back on the throne by default, thanks to Kyle Orton’s ankle sprain.
Even in Chicago.
Even at quarterback.
Rex Grossman is no longer the crown prince, who plays quarterback because he inherited the position when the Bears drafted him in the first round six years ago. He’s now back on the throne by default, thanks to Kyle Orton’s ankle sprain.
This is Rex’s last stand. We’ve now seen what an actual NFL quarterback can do in Chicago’s offense. You can’t blame Chicago’s patchwork offensive line and nondescript receivers, not when the unheralded Orton starred with those same tools.
In the past, Grossman’s assets, to some, outweighed his warts, but that view was skewed by watching Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Brian Griese and Orton, as a callow rookie, throw passes whenever Grossman didn’t. None of that motley crew even hit 76 on the passer-rating scale.
Neither did Grossman.
But Orton grew from a 59.7 rating as a rookie to 90.8 this year after two years buried on the depth chart as the No. 3 quarterback.
Can Rex do the same after a pair of half-season demotions?
It might help if Rex didn’t still act like the Crown Prince QB. A year ago, after Devin Hester saved the Bears with two return touchdowns against Denver, Deadspin’s Will Leitch ridiculed Grossman for “jumping around like he just pulled off the Flutie Heave” and added: “We’ll say it one more time: Bring Back Orton.”
Well, after a 1-yard TD on a second-down quarterback sneak Sunday, there was Grossman again, running around, spiking the ball with gusto and giving a teammate a chest bump.
“It was a fun play,” Grossman said.
Was it personal satisfaction?
“No. It was team satisfaction all the way,” he said.
That looked no more about team than any celebration by T.O. or Chad Ocho Cinco. It looked like Rex defiantly declaring he was back.
He also talked about how “the last couple of months have been tough.” And alibied his 49.9 passer rating against the Lions by saying: “It’s not easy to sit there for an hour and a half, not thinking you are going to play at all, and then be brought into the mix.”
Did he learn anything by sitting on the bench the last two months?
Grossman just glared. “No,” he said.
Contrast that with Orton. He went from starting in 10 Chicago wins as a caretaker rookie — second in NFL history to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger — to third string the next two years.
Orton was given no chance to compete for the starting job. None. Yet he didn’t complain.
Instead, he spoke about how much he learned sitting on the bench.
Orton gets it. He knows how to lead. Does Rex?
Most of that simply depends on his strong right arm. But if he can’t cut it this time, there should be no more excuses.
If it’s so hard to come in on short notice against the NFL’s worst team, how come Pittsburgh backup Byron Leftwich had a 145 passer rating in the second half Monday against Washington?
And don’t say tipped passes aren’t Rex’s fault because he’s only 6-foot-1, as Hub Arkush said on WSCR radio; Erik Kramer was even shorter at 6-feet-tall and never had that problem.
Don’t say booing Rex is mean and unfair, as Arkush and so many others do. Vince Young and Tarvaris Jackson were booed out of the starting lineups in Tennessee and Minnesota, and deservedly so.
More pressure is on Rex than ever before. The defense has slipped, so a caretaker quarterback is no longer good enough. Orton led the Bears. Grossman needs to do the same.
The Bears say he can.
“We’ve won with Rex playing,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “We know we can win with him. He’s very talented.”
Now is the time to show it. Now or never.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or email@example.com.