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February 24, 2008

The Rex Grossman Era is officially ov... Wait, what?!

In the roller coaster that is Rex Grossman, news of his re-signing to a one-year deal can be compared to the corkscrew after the giant drop - my stomach hadn't completely settled from the 400-foot free-fall that was the Chicago Bears 2008 season, and now this new turn of events has left me shaken, slightly disoriented, and confused about which direction we're now headed. I'm frightened what my souvenir picture is going to look like after this one...

It was supposed to be over. It WAS over. When Lovie Smith benched Grossman in lieu of Brian Griese after Week 3's game against the Cowboys, that, for all intents and purposes, was it for the former Florida quarterback. But then Griese, as career backups tend to do, struggled as well, and when Griese was injured against the Raiders, Grossman came to the rescue. Griese's mysteriously ailment kept him out of the following game, opening the door to Grossman, and to be fair, Rex played a consistent mediocre for the next several games. It was no longer over. There was talk about how to handle the situation this off-season, but Grossman appeared to take care of that, as he, through no fault of his own, once again found himself on injured reserve. The door was shut and the key was hidden in Kyle Orton's beard. That was that, right?

But these last several weeks, quotes had been coming out of both camps that Rex wanted to give it another go with the Bears... and that the Bears were open to it. Now here we stand, with Grossman signing a one-year deal and a chance to compete for the starting quarterback position. And after the sense of nausea finally subsided, I think it was the right move.

Obviously, some explanation is required on my part here. Despite what the last three paragraphs might suggest, I have never been a Grossman-hater. I believe he has the ability to perform on the NFL level. But after the years and years of injuries and frustrations, it just seemed like the right time to part ways. Both the Bears and Grossman appeared to need fresh starts. If the two were dating, the breakup exchange would have assuredly contained the line "I know we have a lot of history, and maybe someday things will be different, but I need to see what else is out there..." But in the NFL, you're allowed to look, get a feel for what else is out there, all while still remaining committed to your player or team. After each had a chance to survey the field, we got to this point for three key reasons:
  1. Lack of Options for Rex - With the number of quarterbacks to enter the league the last several years and the number of solid signal callers expected this April, the probability of Grossman going elsewhere to assume the starter role seemed remote at best. Most likely, Grossman would be asked to compete for the job, so if he was going to compete anyway, why not stay within a system with which he is familiar?
  2. Weak Free-Agent Quarterback Class - For all the criticisms of Grossman, he's got nothing on most of the free-agents floating around. Have you seen this list? It's headlined by Derek Anderson, whose late-season decline should have the Browns concerned and Brady Quinn ecstatic. And improbably, the talent level drops significantly after him. Daunte Culpepper? Byron Leftwich? Trent Green? What year is this?
  3. Lack of Trade Options - Donovan McNabb is the name most often included in trade conversations, but how much would the Bears have to give up to get McNabb? In case you haven't noticed, the Bears currently have a lot of holes, and sending draft picks over to the Eagles for a quarterback who has missed three to seven games in each of the last three seasons isn't going to solve that problem. And what does Philadelphia need? Wide receivers, of which we currently have none. The other alternative I have heard is J.P. Losman, but he's essentially the Buffalo version of Grossman anyways - skilled but erratic - and not exactly an upgrade. Surveying the rest of the teams, it doesn't get any prettier.
Of course, even though Angelo has potentially solved the quarterback issue for this season, this should not prevent him from picking up a young QB in the draft - Chad Henne, I'm looking in your direction in Round 2. I'm hopeful Angelo feels the same way. And I believe he does. Grossman didn't exactly come in hoping for a one-year deal, but the Bears are hedging their bets. They know that this signing is a risk. But the one-year deal means that there are only three ways that this can turn out:
  1. Grossman Struggles - This is the option most of us believe has the highest probability of occurring. In this scenario, Grossman either leads the Bears through another sub par season or finds himself on the bench in favor of Orton. Easy enough, end of season, and the Grossman story is over without any impact to the salary cap. Really this time.
  2. Grossman Succeeds, Re-signs - The best case scenario is Grossman finds the magic that carried him through the first half of the 2006 season (Arizona game, excluded). The Bears tag and/or re-sign Grossman, hoping to build upon his newfound confidence.
  3. Grossman Succeeds, Leaves - We've all learned that in sports, loyalty only goes so far, so what if Grossman miraculously puts forth a Pro-Bowl performance, highlighted by his extraordinary stats despite the lack of a receiving core? You don't think another team would want to sign him? Well, thank you for your time, Rex. We now turn the team over to 2nd-year quarterback-to-be-named and once again roll the dice.
So in the end, it is not what I expected, but all in all, not the worst of choices. This now becomes a one-year salvage experiment with little to lose. Grossman is the best of a bad set of options. Succeed and we all prosper, fail and the Bears cut their losses and move on. So Grossman gets at least $3M he probably does not deserve, but he and Orton together provide whomever the Bears draft a year to sit on the bench and watch them play without wide receivers, a running game, or an offensive line, and gives Angelo another year to fill the holes. Just like any roller coaster ride, I don't know if I'll be satisfied or disappointed when it's over, but I can expect plenty of twists and turns ahead.

Grab the handle bar and let the screaming begin.

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