Chicago Bears and fans hopeful that Grossman is long-term QB solution

By Majesh Abraham

Peter Tom Willis, Steve Stenstrom, Jonathan Quinn – do you recognize these names?

The common thread that connects these three names is that they all have started games at quarterback for the Chicago Bears (No, these guys aren’t from 50 years ago – they all started games since 1992).

The quarterback is the highest profile and quite possibly the most important position on a football field, yet the Bears have had terrible luck at finding a quality player to fill that position. Since 1992, Brett Favre has been the only QB to start for the Packers, while the Bears have had 20.

So who was the last great quarterback that played for the Chicago Bears? Many people would say Jim McMahon, but if it wasn’t for a legendary defense and his off-the-field antics, he would have joined the ranks of the previously mentioned.

You have to go all the way back to Sid Luckman from the 1940’s to find the last true Bears Hall of Fame quarterback. Back then, most of the parents of the students at this University weren’t even born yet.

Fast-forward to 2006, and at the helm stands fourth-year QB Rex Grossman. Where Moses – Moreno that is – failed, Bears fans are hoping that Grossman can succeed, which means leading the Bears back to the promised land, i.e. Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

It’s going to be an uphill battle, considering that Grossman has started a measly seven games so far in his three-year career. The Bears will be thankful to see Grossman get to double-digit starts, as he has been brought down by major injuries in his last two seasons.

But it might be his psyche that is more fragile than his body, considering last year’s disappointing playoff loss, the mountain of expectations this year, and backup QB Brian Griese breathing down his neck.

Especially since Griese comes in with nine years of NFL experience, has been a Pro-Bowler, and has out-played Grossman during the preseason. Griese’s 84.8 career passing rating already ranks 14th in NFL history, and his career totals in passing yards, attempts and completions are more than any Bears quarterback in history.

Compare that to Grossman, whose passer rating last year was a woeful 59.7, exactly the same as maligned QB Kyle Orton. Yet, when Orton was replaced by Grossman last year, there was a wave of excitement among Bears fans, as the thought was that Grossman could vastly improve the struggling offense.

While no Bears fan in his right mind wants to see Orton starting again, you have to wonder if the fans are setting themselves up to be disappointed by pinning their hopes on such an unproven commodity as Grossman.

True, Grossman has potential (so did Cade McNown), but if the Bears are going to finally win a playoff game this year, they need that potential to be translated onto the field. The Bears’ last two playoff appearances, both years where the team had a great defense and woeful offense, saw the Bears sputter out in their first game.

This year’s defense should be even better than last year’s version, considering the team spent four of its first five picks on defense and the addition of free agent cornerback Ricky Manning. Also, another year of experience under head coach Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 scheme will have the team wreaking havoc on opposing QB’s.

However, the offense needs to raise their level of play for Chicago to be considered a favorite for the Super Bowl. Even the ’85 Bears had Walter Payton, a Hall of Famer, on offense. This year’s running game has reverted from a strength into a big question mark, with both Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson nursing injuries.

This puts the pressure squarely on Grossman’s shoulders. Not only does he have to manage the game, but he has to ignite the offense and be a leader like all great quarterbacks are. Nobody knows if the boy from Bloomington, Ind. can be the man to lift what seems to be a life-long curse of bad Chicago Bear quarterbacks.

If the guy born in Hoosier territory doesn’t pan out, let’s hope that Griese can finally be that great QB, even though he is a (cringing.) Michigan Wolverine.