If we'd all listened to what the players were saying instead of paying attention to the media, we would have known that Grossman was something special. Again, a case of sports reporters not letting facts get in the way of their stories.
Look at what Grossman accomplished. Behind a makeshift offensive line, he was terrific. Rex only was sacked once and he had tremendous presence on the field.
Grossman showed the kind of maturity that can only come from top coaching. He was brought up in the Steve Spurrier system at Florida and he attended the quarterback camp run by Steve DeBerg. It's hard to get better training than that.
I felt that Grossman played better than either Chris Chandler or Kordell Stewart. This is not intended as a slam at either of the veterans, but at their coaches in Lake Forest. Yes, some of Grossman's early passes were inaccurate, but a lot of that was due to nervousness. That's understandable given the circumstances. Rex had an excellent quick release and pretty good accuracy. He had no interceptions, which made a tremendous difference in the outcome of the game.
In many ways, the game yesterday reminds me of my first NFL regular season contest. When I was a rookie back in 1961,we played against the newly formed Minnesota Vikings. It was the first game of the season, and the first home game for Minnesota. We were beaten badly that day all because of the Vikings rookie quarterback, Fran Tarkenton.
At that time, our offensive line was composed of players who were either new to football or new to the Bears. I was the rookie Center. Art Jones, also a rookie, lined up at LT. Mike Ditka was the TE and Bill Wade, who was experienced in football but hadn't played for the Bears during the regular season, was the quarterback.
The Vikings were fired up that day and everything seemed to be going their way. We were in the huddle about half way through the game and everybody was getting pretty down on themselves. Then all of a sudden, Ditka started screaming at us "Where are your guts? Where are your hearts?" along with quite a few other phrases that are unprintable in a family newspaper.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Ditka who was one of our youngest players, yelling things like that at veterans Roger Davis, Bob Wetoska, JC Caroline, and Rick Casares? I was sure that they were going to kill him. Ditka just wouldn't quit. ‘Do something,' he kept shouting. And what he said that day raised our level of play immediately. That is the kind of spirit and motivational ability that I see in Grossman.
Grossman even raised Shoop's level of coaching. Now, it's no secret that John Shoop isn't on my list of favorite offensive coordinators. In fact, I'm probably one of his biggest critics. But, I have to admit that yesterday he showed up with a pretty competent game plan. The Bears came out strong and went for the big plays deep down field. They did this at the beginning of the game, and later when they were in third down situations.
You would have thought that with the makeshift offensive line, Shoop would have been even more cautious than he usually is, but no. He let Grossman go for it.
Shoop and Greg Olson conferred with Grossman before the game to find out what the rookie felt he could handle. Rex said he was ready so they put in the big plays. Hooray.
This isn't to say however, that everything that Shoop did was wonderful. There were the usual miscues, but less of them. I did have to chuckle when I heard earlier in the week that Shoop had Grossman practicing indoors so he could ‘get accustomed to crowd noise'-Hello, John? Grossman knows all about crowd noise. He played for Florida. That stadium tends to be a lot louder than Soldier Field ever gets.
Now it's time for my version of Beat the Press: I'm sure that the ‘second guessers' in the media will say this week that Grossman was fine but that his overall rating was mediocre. OK press people, think about this. Grossman was rushed into bad timing by the Minnesota defense. He had some broken plays. What he did was to stay with it, not get rattled, and get the points on the board when it counted.
Yesterday alone, he had more completions than many of the big name quarterbacks in their games. Michael Vick had 6, while Tim Couch had 8. Grossman did fine and he inspired his entire team in the process. That's what you want to see from your quarterback.
No discussion of yesterday's game can be complete without giving credit to the Bears defense. Way to go guys. You were fabulous. It's rare when the Bears gain a total of 232 yards and the opposing team has almost 400 yards, yet the Bears end up winning the game. What does that say? That the defense never let down. They never gave up and they kept the Vikings out of the end zone to a greater extent than anybody had anticipated.
What about the second quarter when the Vikings had that 19 play drive? What did they get out of it? Only a field goal. The Charles Tillman interception at the end of the game was wonderful. He plays with passion and skill. I see Tillman as a future star for this team.
The Bears had the ball for 22 minutes during the game; Minnesota had possession for 37 minutes yet the Bears won. That shows me that the defense bends but doesn't break. They stepped up when they had to and helped Grossman when he needed it most. That's the way to play football.