Sunday, December 23, 2007

Official Stance Concerning Rex Grossman

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Official Stance Concerning Rex Grossman

I thought Rex Grossman would be better than he's been this year. That said, he's still the least of the Bears' problems.

Rex Grossman had a solid season in 2006. He was a world beater in the first month, and was in the early season MVP talks. I'm not exactly sure when the Good-Rex-Bad-Rex talk came into play, but it was in full effect by the time the two-week Super Bowl frenzy rolled around.

I can remember two bad games for Grossman last season. (OK, three...but the New Year's Eve scrimmage against the Packers doesn't count.) He was awful against the Cardinals on Monday Night Football. The Bears won that game. He was bad in the Super Bowl. The Bears lost that game.

But he was great in the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl. He was clutch against Seattle, and made enough big plays to blow out the New Orleans Saints. Beyond that, l can think of a couple games he single-handedly won with his arm last year as well. He wasn't just a game manager. The Bears' weren't always just winning IN SPITE of their quarterback. But the media created such a monster that almost everyone started to buy into it by the time the preseason rolled around this year. Including Rex.

Rex dropped three fumbles in a preseason game against the Colts this year. All of a sudden, "he's awful!" It was preseason! I truly feel like those three fumbles doomed him though. Remember...when he was benched this season he was only 1-2!!! The Bears' had the Lions next, and I truly believe with all my heart that Chicago would have beaten the Lions and the season would have been a completely different story if they had just let Rex ride it out.

Instead, they jacked with him...benched him, put Griese in, Griese got hurt, put Rex back in, Rex got hurt, and now you STILL don't know what you have in Rex Grossman. If you were going to have a losing season anyway, at least find out what you have in your would-be franchise quarterback.

After Griese's initial debacle at Detroit, he actually looked solid for a couple games. People got excited. They wondered why the Bears didn't make the switch earlier! They thought it justified their Rex hatred.

It didn't. Aside from changing quarterbacks, the Bears changed a lot of other things. First of all, they got a couple of the key defensive players back. Then, they started playing Adrian Peterson a little more. Peterson offered a pass-catching threat out of the backfield that Cedric Benson did not. That was a new wrinkle. So was Greg Olsen--the first tight end taken in the 2007 draft. He was a new weapon. Then they started playing Devin Hester on offense. That opened things up and Griese had a lot of fun with that. They completely changed the offensive game plan and put in a lot of safe passes for Griese. He found moderate success.

Rex wasn't so lucky when he was in there. I can look at a couple key point this season that turned it upside down. One was Ryan Longwell hitting that kick at the gun to beat the Bears after their frenzied comeback. One was the inability to pick up one little first down late against the Giants. Oh there were others. But the single play that stands out in my mind was the deep ball in the first game against San Diego when Bernard Berrian ran the wrong route.

This was supposed to be the year that Bernard Berrian emerged as a true number one receiver. Muhsin Muhammed is getting older. Berrian had a terrific run in the playoffs last year, and he and Rex established an exciting longball threat last year. But he got off to an awful start when he ran that bad route against the Chargers. Rex had been flawless up to that point, and the Bears were driving. At this point in the season, no one's confidence had been shattered yet. No one knew Rex would eventually get benched. No one knew Berrian would have a horribly inconsistent season. All we knew is that the Bears were the defending NFC champs, and that the CHI/SD game was a "possible Super Bowl" preview.
It had been a huge defensive struggle, so the Bears called a TD in the left corner of the end zone. Rex threw a TD ball, but Berrian did not run a TD route. It was picked off. Troy Aikman immediately pointed out that it wasn't Rex's fault. It was Grossman's only pick of the day, but it sent everything in a downward spiral. Not only for the game, but for the season, Rex's confidence, and unfortunately Grossman's career likely.

In fact, the Bear receivers were awful all year long. Especially when Rex was in there. They made the occasional bail-out spectacular catch, but didn't convert the easy chances consistently. Simply put, they didn't help out Grossman at all. Key drops repeatedly when he was starting to find his niche. It killed him over and over and over. You can hide a maybe-mediocre quarterback if you have reliable receivers. The Bears did not.

You can also hide a mediocre quarterback with a good offensive line. The Bears were not good on the O-line. At all. Nor was their running game much of an option.

And let's not forget the Bears traded their best offensive player by a long shot. Thomas Jones was actually the Bears' leading receiver two years ago. Rex had grown to really depend on him in the passing game. At the time I was in favor of the Jones trade in order to go with the much younger Cedric Benson. Then I saw how unreliable Benson was in the passing game.

I don't blame Benson for the Bears' lack of running game. I do, however, think his absolute incompetency in the passing game destroyed Rex and the Bears' offense.
I think it speaks volumes that the three times the Bears' offense looked good this year, they had thrown away their game plan. The final drive to beat Philly when Brian Griese's headset wasn't working. The hurry-up mode in the comeback against Denver where Rex called his own shots and engineered three clutch drives. And the beginning of the Giants game this year when they went no-huddle and Rex was extremely efficient.

That tells me something about the offensive coordinating and the overall game plan. It also tells me Rex is at his best when you turn him loose.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid another team is going to find that out before the Bears do.


Friday, December 21, 2007


I like Bob Sanders OK, I guess. But I actually liked him better the first time around when he was known as Mike Brown.

It's starting to seem like people don't realize that Mike Brown was Bob Sanders before Demond Sanders was Bob Sanders. Needless to say--living and working in the Indy market, I have just about ODed on one Sanders talk this Fall. On the show I produce, they often do a bit called "Sanders' Snaps," where the hosts speak in hyperbole about Demond Sanders as if he were freaking Bill Brasky (of SNL fame). Trust me, it's absolutely hilarious.

One of them is "Seventy-one percent of the Earth is covered by water...the rest is covered by Bob Sanders." See I told you. They're really terrific. Just fantastic stuff.

But it got me thinking about how different the Colts' defense looked toward the end of the regular season last year. They were the worst. Then Demond Sanders comes back and they win the Super Bowl.

Then it got me thinking about what a difference Mike Brown makes in the Bears' defense. And how no one talks about it. The Bears' defense was flat out dominant in the season opener at San Diego. They absolutely shut down LaDanian Tomlinson, and overcame a pathetic offensive performance to even keep it close. But Mike Brown got hurt in that game.

The next day I was listening to Colin Cowherd before the news came down that Brown was out for the season. Despite the Bear loss, Cowherd was going on and on about how awestruck he was by the Bears' defense. "If the Bears' defense stays healthy," he crowed, "you can pen them in the NFC championship game. Write it down."

Then Brown was out for the year. Then the Bears lost 34-10 to the Cowboys (their only blowout of the year, by the way). All of a sudden, "Man, the Bears' defense sucks!!!"

I asked Brian Peterson right around that time, "How come it is when Demond Sanders is hurt and the Colts' defense sucks it's 'because Bob Sanders is hurt,' but when Mike Brown is hurt and the Bear defense struggles it's simply 'the Bears' defense sucks'?"

He had no answer, but the fact of the matter is...Brian Urlacher is the superstar of the Bear defense. Mike Brown is the leader, best player, catalyst, and biggest run stopper. Sound like someone else you know?

When Mike Brown is out, the Bear defense becomes normal. (As an aside, when you also take Nathan Vasher, Lance Briggs, Dusty Dvoracek, Charles Tillman, Adam Archuleta and Tommie Harris away from the Bears' defense and they become downright pathetic).

But no one ever mentions it. Nor do many experts remember that Brown didn't play in the Super Bowl last year. However, I have had had more than one level-headed Colts' homer tell me that "the Super Bowl would have been a completely different story if 'you guys' [sic] had Tommie Harris and Mike Brown healthy."

For some inexplicable reason, people think that Demond Sanders ushered the era of the little hard-hitting strong safety into the NFL. "He changed the way the position is played." That's not true. I don't know who did, but Mike Brown was doing what Demond Sanders does as far back as 2000. Demond came into the league in 2004.

The only real difference between Mike and Demond is that Brown has big play capability. He absolutely made a name for himself with a lot of late-game exploits in 2001. Other than that, they're both run-stopping, hard-hitting, undersized, oft-injured strong safeties. Let me show you what I mean from the pro-football reference site.

Mike Brown is a 1-time Pro Bowler & 2-time All-Pro.

Demond Sanders is a 1-time Pro Bowler & 1-time All-Pro
(forgive me, I wrote this a few weeks ago before the 2007 announcements came down...)

Mike Brown was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2nd round of the 2000 draft.

Demond Sanders was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft.

Mike Brown is 5'10, 212

Demond Sanders is 5'8, 200.

Mike Brown has missed major portions of three of the past four seasons.

Demond Sanders has missed major portions of two of the past three seasons.

They're both energetic, over-achieving players with good speed and good field awareness. Both have variations of braided hair, and are both good for an interesting quote or three in the postgame.

Now the differences...

Mike Brown has 14 career interceptions. Demond has 4. Brown has 4 sacks. Demond has none. Brown has 7 TDs. Demond has 1. And Brown single-handedly won multiple games with clutch play in 2001.

I'm not saying that Mike Brown is as good of an NFL football player as Bob. I'm saying that he's no less important to his team. And that Sanders did not re-invent the safety position.

Does Mike Brown hit as hard as Demond Sanders? Hey maybe not. But the point is, they both transform the run defense for their teams. And neither of them can come close to staying healthy, so maybe it's actually a moot point.

There has been talk that the Colts do not wish to re-sign Sanders when his contract is up, and that the Bears plan on pursuing him. My thought? Maybe...but I'd rather see what you can do with your own healthy "Bob Sanders" before pursuing a duplicate. Especially one who is only three years younger.