It's Only August, People

When Rex Grossman is good, he can be as good as almost any QB in the NFL. But when he's bad, he can be as bad as anyone to ever take a snap from center. After last week's preseason game, simply taking a snap from center looked to be perhaps his biggest challenge. While Bears fans do have reason to be nervous right now, they should wait until any real bullets are fired before passing judgment.

It appears that Rex Grossman can look forward to another year of being arguably the most heavily scrutinized player in the entire NFL.

In Week 1 of the preseason, Washington's Jason Campbell completed just 6 of 14 passes for 104 yards. Like Grossman, Campbell is a second-year full-time starter with the weight of the world on his shoulders and must play well if his offense is going to succeed. However, not many Redskins fans in D.C. were clamoring for veteran Mark Brunell to take over under center after one shaky exhibition start.

On top of Campbell's lackluster performance that same weekend, Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia was 1-of-4 for 4 yards, Green Bay's Brett Favre was 2-of-7 for 7 yards, and Miami's Trent Green was 6-of-15 for 60 yards and an interception.

Moving on to Week 2, Tennessee's Vince Young was only 5-of-17 for 102 yards through the air after being suspended for the preseason opener when he violated a team rule. Young took the league by storm during the second half of 2006 as a passing-and-running dual threat, but, like Grossman, he too has a long way to go before proving to be a precision passer on Sundays. Nevertheless, nobody in Titans country was calling sports talk radio shows and openly questioning on the air why Kerry Collins isn't being given a chance to compete for the starting job.

Peruse some of the other box scores from that weekend and you'll see that Jake Delhomme of the Panthers was 9-of-18 for 78 yards and an interception, Carson Palmer of the Bengals was 5-of-11 for 41 yards, and Chad Pennington of the Jets threw two INTs on just 10 attempts.

Even Tom Brady of the three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots – Mr. Golden Boy himself – tossed a pair of picks, but there was no emergency meeting of the Matt Cassel Fan Club in New England as far as anyone can tell.

Like it or not, Bears fans, Grossman is going to be your quarterback in 2007. Everybody remembers his 20 interceptions, the five lost fumbles, and those borderline-comical passer ratings against the Cardinals, Vikings, and Packers last season – two of those games the Bears actually won, by the way, and the other was the meaningless season finale with home-field advantage wrapped up already. Detroit's Jon Kitna and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger both threw more interceptions last season, while Kitna and Palmer each lost more fumbles.

Grossman wasn't all bad a year ago. His 3,193 passing yards was second best in Bears franchise history. The 23 touchdown passes was seventh in the entire NFL and more than either Philip Rivers of the Chargers or Tony Romo of the Cowboys – both went to the Pro Bowl, you'll remember. He was sacked only 21 times, which tied for third fewest among quarterbacks who played all 16 games. And since football is a team sport, Grossman must be given at least some credit for a 13-3 regular season record, a second consecutive division title, the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, winning a pair of postseason games, and sending the Monsters of the Midway to the Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years.

There have been myriad messy outings by starting QBs across the league thus far in the preseason, yet only Grossman was the subject of a talking-heads debate between Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon – two self-professed "Sexy Rexy" supporters – on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption.

Overall, Grossman has thrown the ball pretty well so far during the exhibition schedule. In the opener at Houston, he completed 8 of his 10 passes for 50 yards without a sack or a turnover. While he has been accused of being overly aggressive in the past and locking on to his primary read too often, he had no problem checking down to his secondary targets against the Texans and was finding open receivers left and right.

 QB Rex Grossman (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The raw numbers were again pretty good the next week against the Colts on Monday Night Football, hitting 9-of-11 for 59 yards including a gorgeous 27-yard strike to Bernard Berrian after scrambling left out of the pocket to buy some extra time. However, Grossman was intercepted once trying to force a third-down quick slant to Rashied Davis over the middle and also lost a fumble when Robert Mathis blew past Fred Miller from his left defensive end position. Interceptions happen, fumbles happen, but the most glaring concern in Indianapolis was much more simple.

Believe it or not, it was problems with the snap from center that sent the Windy City into a collective Chicken Little-like frenzy.

This meeting of the Brian Griese Fan Club will now officially come to order.

Olin Kreutz, Chicago's All-Pro center, jumped on the grenade and refused to give fans and media alike any more reason to doubt his signal-caller.

"I take all the blame," Kreutz said. "I'll get the ball up. I'll get it to him, and we'll try to eliminate it. Like I said after the game, it's unacceptable. We're going to work on it and go from there."

After originally saying post-game that crowd noise at the RCA Dome affected his cadence on one dropped snap and a sweaty spot on his hand caused yet another to hit the turf, Grossman took responsibility for the miscues two days later at Halas Hall.

"I should always get it no matter what," Grossman said. "If it's a bad snap or not, I should always at least get it. And it wasn't a bad snap. It's just something that we're going to work on, and hopefully it doesn't happen again for the rest of the season."

Remember, folks: it's only August. Nobody gets suicidal if Paul Konerko of the White Sox goes 0-for-4 at the plate in a Cactus League game in March. Just like nobody believes Armageddon is imminent if Ben Gordon of the Bulls goes 2-for-11 from the field in a preseason game in October.

Grossman's mistakes are largely correctable mistakes: securing the snap from center, stepping up in the pocket, throwing the ball away when everybody's covered. When you take into account that he has a career completion percentage of 54.4, Bears fans should be somewhat encouraged that he was successful on almost 81% of his throws the first two outings. And with the influx of talent now surrounding him – most notably rookie tight end Greg Olsen and newly-converted receiver Devin Hester – he has more weapons at his disposal than ever.

If he lays an egg in the real Week 1 against the Chargers, by all means, put on your No. 14 Griese jersey and boo Grossman vociferously in the home-opener at Soldier Field against Kansas City the following Sunday. But until these games actually mean something in the grand scheme of things, as Sergeant Hulka might say, "Lighten up, Francis."

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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