Catch-22

Dick Jauron can't win. <P> That may be the reason he's fired at the end of the season -- because he's only had one winning season in five years as Bears coach -- but the reason he can't win has to do more with Rex Grossman.

It was a no-win situation for Jauron, who started the franchise's quarterback of the future Sunday in a 13-10 win over the Vikings. If Grossman played bad, it would have been because he's an inexperienced rookie. But since he won, Jauron was questioned why he didn't start Grossman sooner.

It just doesn't seem to get any easier for Jauron, even after beating a team that was the NFC North leader going into the game.

"It's not anything we'll ever know the answer to so there's no point in me certainly pursuing it," Jauron said during his Monday press conference. "Rex, obviously, is a guy we've been monitoring through the whole year. I thought he did a nice job for his first start and I think he'll continue to get better."

Grossman might get better, but it could be under a new coach. Ironically, Grossman's former college coach, Steve Spurrier, will be on the opposite sideline Sunday when the Washington Redskins come to Soldier Field. Spurrier was Grossman's coach for two seasons at Florida, before making the plunge to the NFL. Jauron could be Grossman's coach for one year, considering he's rumored to be out after the season.

Grossman opened a new chapter on Sunday when he started his first career game. He only passed for 157 yards and completed just 13 of 30 passes, but the bottom line is he didn't turn the ball over. Mistakes kill teams at any level, but Grossman managed the game well enough to keep the Bears offense moving and let the defense keep them in the game.

"All we ask of our offense is not to turn the ball over," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "They didn't do that (Sunday). We never feel we have to compensate for what they can't do, but they didn't have any turnovers."

Grossman, an Indiana native, didn't throw a touchdown or complete 50 percent of his passes, but he didn't do anything crucial to cost the Bears the game. He overthrew a few receivers, but he also got rid of the ball -- as in out of bounds -- when nothing was there.

"He played well. Only time will tell; this is his first game," wide receiver Marty Booker said. "You really don't get graded on your first game -- it's pretty much how you handle it on a consistent basis.

"We'll find out."

The Bears (6-8), who have played with a patchwork offensive line all season, were even down to Terrence Metcalf and Qasim Mitchell as starters. Metcalf made his second career start at guard and Mitchell was making his first NFL start. Mitchell started at left tackle and was responsible for protecting Grossman's blindside.

Wearing No. 8 might bring nightmares back to Bears fans -- Cade McNown wore the same number -- but Grossman will get the benefit of the doubt right now. He just needs to improve his performance against Washington in the final home game at Soldier Field, and then at Kansas City in two weeks. He'll then go into next season as the team's No. 1 and have a full season to show what he's got.

It's way too early to say he's going to be special, but defensive end Alex Brown, who played with Grossman for three seasons at Florida, answered that Sunday.

"Oh, yeah, without a doubt," Brown said. "He will."


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