CHICAGO (MCT) - Before debating whether the Bears are indeed a team of destiny, as coach Lovie Smith dubbed them late Monday night when he acknowledged feeling a little lightheaded from the excitement, a more relevant question emerged after one of the most unusual victories in years.
Is Rex Grossman still your Super Bowl quarterback?
Not surprisingly Tuesday, that issue dominated discussions among people in Chicago still trying to digest how the Arizona Cardinals forced Grossman into six turnovers yet still let the Bears slip out of the desert with a 24-23 victory.
For the first time all season, the NFL's only 6-0 team won in spite of Grossman and not because of him.
He was historically bad, completing 14 of 37 passes for 148 yards with four interceptions while being outplayed by rookie Matt Leinart. The Bears had the ball eight times in the first half and all those series were either three-and-outs (four) or Grossman turnovers (four).
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Grossman's passer rating of 10.7 was the lowest for a winning quarterback since Cowboys quarterback Drew Henson posted a 7.6 against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day in 2004.
That's why wondering whether Smith should turn to Brian Griese if Grossman struggles mightily again represents a natural reaction among Bears fans.
But it's also a knee-jerk one.
Despite the chatter on the radio and online, there is no quarterback issue on the Bears. There is no simmering controversy ready to boil over the next time Grossman blindly throws a ball off his back foot into the arms of a defensive back minding his business.
For Smith to show even the slightest loss of confidence in Grossman now would be even more remarkable than anything witnessed Monday night in Arizona. Smith can base his faith on the tangible evidence Grossman produced over the first five games when perhaps only Donovan McNabb played better among NFC quarterbacks.
Teammates also believe in Grossman just as much as they believed they would come back from a 20-0 halftime deficit Monday, and that counts for more than a little.
Grossman is going to throw more interceptions this season and probably even have another bad game or two. Remember, he is a de facto rookie coming off his 13th career regular-season start, and his confidence remains slightly ahead of his ability. But Grossman's talent allows him to make those plays only he believes he can make, and that talent provides the Bears with obvious reasons to stick with him.
Think of the 15-yard touchdown pass to Rashied Davis falling backward against the Bills … the perfectly placed 40-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian between defenders against the Seahawks … the game-winning 24-yard touchdown laser to Davis at Minnesota.
Would every quarterback have tried those throws? They were high-risk but resulted in high rewards. That's life with Grossman, and the Bears have accepted it or else they would have pulled the plug long ago.
As erratic as Grossman was, offensive coordinator Ron Turner's play-calling did him no favors. Earlier this season, Grossman acknowledged how much he liked having a couple of safe, short pass plays early because it helped him build a rhythm and manage an anxiety level that tends to be higher than many NFL quarterbacks'.
But on the first play against the Cardinals, the Bears called a deep pass to Berrian, who was open, and a revved-up Grossman practically threw it to the Colorado River. Good-bye, rhythm. Good night, composure.
From that bad miss on, Grossman looked like he was either rushing his throws or aiming them. It also didn't help that Cardinals pass-rushers pinned their ears back against a Bears offense that abandoned the run once the Cardinals took an early lead. The Bears passed on nine of their first 10 plays and 15 of 23 times on first down.
Ideally, the Bears would let Grossman get comfortable early next game by working the intermediate areas to find the forgotten Muhsin Muhammad, who has only three catches for 12 yards the last two games. They need to help Grossman get into the flow faster because the more relaxed he is, the more dangerous he is.
Nevertheless, he will be better for how bad he was against the Cardinals and so will the Bears.
Consider that Grossman probably cannot play any worse than he did, and the Bears still overcame it and won. In doing so, the Bears showed more overall strength in coming back than vulnerability in falling behind.
An uncannily opportunistic defense affords Smith the luxury of being more tolerant with Grossman. That same defense is good enough to question all this romantic talk coming out of the locker room about the Bears being a team of destiny.
Destiny implies the Bears have been the beneficiaries of good fortune, and maybe that's partly true. But the Bears created their own luck against the Cardinals to score 21 points without any offense.
Every young quarterback should be as lucky as Grossman to have that kind of support. And every Super Bowl contender should be as lucky as the Bears to have a quarterback the franchise trusts enough not to overreact to one bad game.
(c) 2006, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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