Bear Report Rant: Grossman's Last Chance

The Bears have shown more patience with quarterback Rex Grossman than any player on the roster. It could be because of his draft status, the nature of the position he plays or the fact that no one can be certain about his abilities.

In a sense the Bears were lucky in 2005. There's no denying the defense complimented by a strong running game carried Chicago to the NFC North title with an 11-5 record.

After Grossman broke his ankle in the preseason the season looked to be over before it started. Chad Hutchinson quickly proved he wasn't up to the challenge. With no other option, Lovie Smith turned to Kyle Orton to run the offense and the rookie won 10 games.

Although Orton's number weren't impressive, his play far exceeded expectations of a fourth round pick. With a scaled back version of the offense, he wasn't asked to win games and he didn't lose them either.

Still when the passing game hovered at the bottom of the league, Smith inserted Grossman as soon as he was healthy enough to play.

Grossman added some downfield ability to the offense, but with just six quarters of regular season action it's hard to get enthusiastic. His play was up and down in the playoff loss to Carolina, yet it was the defense that let the team down.

With 21 of 22 starters under contract for next year the Bears appear to be the favorite to repeat in the NFC North. However, the other teams in the division have all made major moves in free agency and are trying to close the gap between them and the Bears.

With a small window of opportunity, general manager Jerry Angelo may have made his boldest move when he inked Brian Griese to a five-year deal worth $14 million including $6 million guaranteed.

While the Bears won't come out and say there's an open competition at quarterback, if Grossman struggles or goes down Griese will be ready. He has experience in the west coast offense and should be able to adapt to Ron Turner's version of the system without much of a transition.

Still the Bears have to find out what they have in Grossman. He's a first round pick that can't truly be evaluated. That doesn't mean going through a developmental year to find out what Grossman can do. Even though he's only started seven games in three years, he has experience of breaking down opponents and reading defenses. If he can stay on the field he should be ready to help win games.

Smith has shown he will go with the best player at each position. Still to some degree, the Bears have to see Grossman fail in order to put the dream of what he could become behind them and move forward. On the other hand, if he succeeds then they look like geniuses. If Grossman goes down or struggles, Griese is waiting in the wings.

The defense proved last year they were good enough to win with mediocre play at quarterback. Grossman is further along than Orton and Griese's experience trumps them both.

One way or another this is Grossman's last chance to prove he can be the leader of the offense. Whether he succeeds on the field is up to him. His health is not. Either way, the Bears are now equipped to handle either scenario.

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