Rex Grossman: What If?

Grossman's second strong effort raises uncomfortable questions

Rex Grossman's impressive performance in Sunday's 27-24 win over Washington led to a familiar question for Bears coaches.

Should you have been playing prior to the final three games of the year?

"I definitely needed time to learn," said Grossman, who threw for 249 yards on 19-of-32, including touchdowns of 59 yards to Marty Booker and 11 yards to Justin Gage. "I think playing has definitely helped increase the speed of learning. Who knows? I don't know.

"That's a hypothetical question I don't even want to answer."

Grossman beat his former college coach, Steve Spurrier, in his second start and showed continued progress by recording a 91.8 passer rating.

"I'm just glad I got to play and get some experience done because I know going into next year if I hadn't played at all I still wouldn't know what to expect and it would be hard to prepare for it," Grossman said. "I'm just glad I started two games and won two games. I'm ready to go for next year."

Grossman got sacked twice, but eluded the rush much of the game and bought time until receivers got open. He did this perfectly with a 22-yard pass to David Terrell on the Bears' final play to extend a drive on third-and-11. The Bears were 9-of-16 on third down in the game.

He felt much more at ease than in the first game against Minnesota.

"I really felt a lot more comfortable going into the game knowing what to expect," Grossman said, "being able to critique myself from one game to another."

Neither a rocky start nor the emotion of facing Spurrier got to Grossman.

"It was fun to see him," Grossman said of Spurrier. "It was ironic looking over to the sideline during the game to see him. It was kind of weird that we're in this position because two years ago at this time we were getting ready to go play in the Orange Bowl and this year I'm playing with the Bears against him with the Redskins."

Beyond that, they only exchanged a few post-game pleasantries.

Grossman's completions went to nine different receivers with no one getting more than four catches.

It was hardly a smooth start, though. He got picked off by Fred Smoot at the Bears' 9 on the second drive on a ball that hit Marty Booker's hand and caromed into the air. Smoot picked it up and scored, but referee Larry Nemmers ruled the play dead on Coach Dick Jauron's replay challenge.

"It was just a weird drive," Grossman said. "Their guys jumped offside (first down), and I jumped offsides (next play) and I couldn't get the grip on a brand new ball. It was kind of slick.

"Then I didn't want to throw behind the receiver (Booker). I led him a little bit and then it got tipped up in the air."

Grossman did something else in the passing game both Sunday and in his debut that the Bears hadn't seen much until he started -- he checked down in reading his targets and threw to the backs. Anthony Thomas caught a key 8-yarder on third-and-two falling out of bounds three plays before the Bears went ahead 24-17 on Thomas' 3-yard run.

"He does a nice job catching the ball out of the backfield," Grossman said of Thomas.

Bears records on the matter only go back to 1965, but Grossman Sunday became the first Bears quarterback in that span to win his first two starts as a rookie.

So the question remains unanswered: Should he have started sooner?

"He wasn't ready to play and he'll be the first one, I think, to say that," Shoop said. " The way he prepares now and the way he gets himself ready to play, I think, he's benefited from watching the other guys.

"And he's got a chance to be a good player. He's got talent. But a lot of guys have talent. It's going to be up to him."

After two games, he looks like he's already there.

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