Que Sarah, Sarah

Monday, March 24, 2008

Love It Or Hate It: Rexstacy/Train Rex Edition

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

Rex Grossman knows a thing or two about love and hate.

The inconsistency of the much-maligned Bears QB has caused him to be cheered and jeered with equal aplomb during his tenure with the team.

On Saturday, Grossman was awarded a one-year contract with a base salary of $3 million and up to $2 million in incentives. The deal is modest as far as starting QBs go, but then who's to say whether he'll even be the starter come September?

The former Florida standout's pro career has been riddled with injuries and defined by extreme highs and lows. He's been seriously injured in three of his four years with the Bears, and when he does play, the results are staggeringly inconsistent. Even now, in the offseason, Chicagoans are tortured by their love-hate relationship with him.

In 2004, after being named the starter by new head coach Lovie Smith, Grossman tore his ACL in the third game and missed the rest of the season. His knee was rehabbed and ready in time for training camp in 2005, but he broke his ankle in a preseason game and missed most of that season as well. He returned to play in the last two regular season games, victories against the Falcons and the Packers, that sent the Bears to the playoffs.

He was awarded the starting job for that first round playoff game, but the Panthers capitalized on his inexperience, beating the Bears 29-21. After just seven career NFL starts, Grossman's tendency towards injury and penchant for throwing interceptions were already creating a stir in Chicago.

Despite starting every game and leading the Bears to their first Super Bowl in over 20 years, Grossman became an even more polarizing figure in 2006. "Good Rex," as the Chicago papers dubbed him, had a passer rating of at least 100 in seven games, which was the highest in the league.

Meanwhile, "Bad Rex" also led the league with his mark of five games at a QB rating of 37.0 or below. Included in that bunch was a New Year's Eve game which saw Rex throw three passes to Green Bay and just two to his own team. That equaled a passer rating of 0.0. Throughout the playoffs and the Super Bowl, Chicago fans cautiously supported the embattled signal caller while nervously watching every snap and every pass, praying for the best.

Last season, Lovie once again put his faith in Grossman, naming him the starting QB again. Three games, six interceptions, a passer rating of 45.2 and roughly 200 Lovie Smith repetitions of "Rex Grossman is our quarterback" later, Train Rex was benched in favor of journeyman backup Brian Griese.

The former Michigan QB didn't last long, though. Grossman was back on the field November 11 after a shoulder injury sidelined Griese late in the first half. After fumbling on his first snap back, Rexstacy went 7-of-14 for 142 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. The score, a 59-yard pass to Bernard Berrian, gave the Bears the lead and resulted in an ecstatic Grossman leaping into his teammates' arms.

Thrust back into the starting role, he seemed more poised and more thoughtful on the field. After his hiatus on the pine, Grossman returned for five games and threw for 913 yards with three touchdowns and a pick, for an average passer rating of 80.2. Unfortunately, Good Rex's return was brief.

On December 6, Grossman was knocked out of the Bears' contest with the Redskins after suffering another knee injury. The sprain wasn't serious, but it did end his year and put Kyle Orton (a 10-game winner in 2005) back into the starting spot for the remainder of the season.

And so the Bears' management is left with another offseason full of questions.

In the last week, the team's re-signed both Grossman and Orton to one-year deals. Grossman's decision-making is questionable and his size is a factor, but overall he has more physical skill than most of the QBs in the league. Orton's a decent game manager, but his record as a starter is inflated by a 2005 defense that carried him to most of his victories.

Neither QB has the faith and trust of the organization or its fans, but of the many doubters, no one's come up with a better plan. Some want the team to go after Donovan McNabb. Others (who apparently aren't aware of the team's offensive line issues) want to see the first round pick go toward Kentucky's Andre Woodson. A surprising number of Chicago fans see Orton, he of the neckbeard, as the future of the team. Those who support Grossman do so quietly and cautiously.

Rex Grossman truly is the Jekyll and Hyde of today's NFL. Just when it seems Bad Rex has sealed his fate as backup, Good Rex shows glimpses of greatness. Then, when the fans begin to support him again, Bad Rex returns to lose their faith with fumbles and picks.

Some outsiders wonder how anyone in Chicago could support the re-signing of such a controversial player. The sad truth is, Chicagoans have had it much, much worse. A quick look at the recent history of Bears QBs says it all.

Rather than re-hash the horror that was, oh, 1993 to 2004, I'll direct you to this article that does just that for me - http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=fleming/050914.

If you've been driving a Pinto for long enough, even a Saturn can start to look like a Benz. That's why I'm resigned to loving the re-signing of Rex Grossman, but I reserve the right to hate it within mere moments of the 2008 season opener.

So, how 'bout it? Are you lovin' or hatin' Rex Grossman getting another chance with the Bears?


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