QB Stability Starts from Within

As always seems to be the case in the Windy City, the Chicago Bears are searching for a starting QB in 2008. Rex Grossman has proven to be no Sid Luckman, but he's no Moses Moreno either. If the Midway Monsters want to return to relevancy next season, they need to look from within.

Let's not kid ourselves here. The Monsters of the Midway have largely been a league-wide laughingstock at the quarterback position since FDR was in office.

The last time the Bears had a Pro Bowler under center, Katrina and the Waves were Walking on Sunshine. Mario and Luigi had just made their first appearance on Nintendo systems everywhere. Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War by defeating Ivan Drago.

In the 22 years since Jim McMahon and Co. won Super Bowl XX and put together arguably the greatest campaign in NFL history, Chicago has had 14 different QBs lead the team in passing. Furthermore, not one player has managed to be the club's passing-yardage leader in back-to-back seasons since Jim Miller in 2001-02. It was Kordell Stewart in `03, Chad Hutchinson in `04, Kyle Orton in `05, Rex Grossman in `06, and then Brian Griese this past year.

By contrast, in the NFC North, Jon Kitna has led Detroit in passing since he signed with the team prior to 2006. Before Kitna, Joey Harrington topped the list for four seasons. And before Harrington, Charlie Batch was the team's top passer three out of four years.

In Minnesota, the organization just handed the reigns to Tarvaris Jackson in 2007. Before Jackson, Brad Johnson got the job done for two seasons. And before Johnson, it was Daunte Culpepper for five straight years.

As for Green Bay, this Brett Favre guy has been there quite a while.

That being said, the Lions have not exactly been a model franchise for quarterback stability. They've had their Chuck Longs and Bob Gaglianos and Gus Frerottes in recent memory. And the Vikings aren't much better. One good season for Jeff George right after one great season for Randall Cunningham. Even one year for the aforementioned McMahon back in `93.

However, no franchise has had a more desperate dearth of talent at the game's most important position than the Chicago Bears.

Incredibly, after the explosion of passing offense in the NFL over the course of the last generation or so, Sid Luckman – he last suited up in 1950 – is still the team's career passing leader with 14,686 yards. Peyton Manning of the Colts surpassed that total midway through his fourth season in the league.

Alright, enough with the history lesson. I'm not exactly revealing top-secret information here, like Carly Simon finally disclosing to the world who was so vain.

The $64,000 question is: Where do the Bears go from here?

Unavoidably, the conversation begins and ends with Grossman. To call his career in the Windy City up and down is to call the Spears family less than stable. We get it.

The ups: first-round draft pick; NFC Offensive Player of the Month in September 2006; 19-10 career record as a starter; Super Bowl XLI.

QB Rex Grossman
Ted S. Warren/AP Images

You know, Good Rex.

The downs: injury after injury after injury; benched by Week 4 in 2007; more career interceptions (33) than touchdown passes (31); a passer rating of 70.9 after five years as a pro.

Yep, Bad Rex.

A free agent for the first time once his contract expires in March, believe it or not, it's a distinct possibility that Grossman will be the top signal-caller available on the open market.

Honestly, who's a better option? Josh McCown has been in Arizona, Detroit, and Oakland the past three seasons, and not once has he established himself as a long-term answer. Culpepper was a top talent once upon a time, but he's also had three different addresses the last three years – Minnesota, Miami, and Oakland – just like McCown. And who would trust the future of their offense to the likes of Ken Dorsey (10 career starts), Cleo Lemon (8), or Quinn Gray (3)?

Yes, Grossman was terrible in `07 before getting yanked in favor or Griese. Yes, the majority of Bears backers are ready to close the book on him and move in a different direction. Yes, it's quite possible that he doesn't even want to come back after everything he's gone through as a Midway Monster – from fans and media alike.

Nevertheless, he did play much better upon his return in Week 10. The overwhelming majority of his teammates continue to believe in him. He knows offensive coordinator Ron Turner's system better than anybody. His arm strength is unquestionably among the best in the business. And he truly appreciates what it means to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League and works tirelessly to be the great player many still believe he can be one day.

When asked about his future after he was atop the depth chart once again in Week 11, Grossman admitted he had missed out on the opportunity to sign a Tony Romo-like $67 million extension. There will certainly be teams interested in his services once free agency begins, but don't expect general managers around the league to throw big bags of money at his feet and hand him a starting gig. He'll ultimately have to win the job no matter where he lands.

But if Grossman's No. 1 goal is to be a starter somewhere in 2008, his best chance remains with the Bears.

Jerry Angelo said in his season-ending press conference that stability at the quarterback position is his chief concern this offseason, and while he would like Grossman to return, he'd have to win his old starting spot back in training camp.

We know who Griese is: A veteran who can step in for a start or two, but his days as a top dog are over. We think we know who Orton is: A game-manager who won't make big mistakes, but he won't make many big plays either.

Grossman, Griese, and Orton have all proven that they can win football games and play very well. Likewise, they've all shown that they can lose football games and play very poorly.

But all you have to do is attend one practice at Halas Hall, and it's crystal clear to everyone in attendance that Grossman is the best of an average bunch.

The word stability is defined as "the strength to stand or endure." Stability does not mean investing a first-round selection on Andre Woodson from Kentucky when there are gaping holes to fill at other positions. Stability does not mean trading valuable draft picks to Philadelphia for a possibly washed-up Donovan McNabb.

If the Bears want to have a shot at Super Bowl XLIII, they just need the strength to endure another season of No. 8.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report 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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