Editor's note: Clark Judge, Pete Prisco and Mike Freeman are traveling to every NFL training camp and filing daily reports and analysis. Next camp report from Freeman: Lions.
CHICAGO -- The former Chicago Bear, Tank "Gatling Gun" Johnson, was tossing the football recently with several other defensive linemen at Dallas' training camp. They were chatting and joking and Johnson's voice boomed loudly. When the topic suddenly turned to Johnson's old teammate, quarterback Rex Grossman, Tank was even less shy.
Johnson didn't seem to care that a journalist and several fans were well within earshot. Johnson called Grossman brittle and, in so many words that can't be repeated, he also called him soft.
|One man vs. One fan|
patg006: "The key thing about this year is pressure. There is none. And there is no reason why the Bears shouldn't win 8-10 games."
Tell us how you really feel, Tankster?
Fast forward to the Bears' preseason game Thursday night against Kansas City on a gorgeous night at Soldier Field. Grossman, Tank's favorite quarterback, was on the sideline as Kyle Orton started. Orton looked solid at one moment and discombobulated in others. Once while scrambling he fumbled the football. The game was a chance for Orton to develop a foothold in the starting lineup and finally force Grossman to take a foothold in oblivion.
"I don't think you can hang your hat on one night to win any job," Orton said following Chicago's 24-20 loss to Kansas City. "I thought I played solid and made the right reads and ran the offense. That has been my goal. As long as I continue to do that, I'll be fine."
As usual, however, due to the theory Grossman possesses a wicked voodoo doll or compromising photos of competing throwers in a mid-sex act with Yogi Bear in Jellystone Park, Rex is still alive in the quarterback race.
He won't go away. Drop a nuke on Grossman and he arises from the radioactive rubble, ready to throw an interception. He laughs at the Andromeda Strain. He spits on your mocking of him. Cockroaches say the only thing that will outlive them is Grossman. No, he won't go away. He just won't freaking go away.
It's one of the greater mysteries in football over the past few years. Why hasn't Grossman become an ex-Bear? For that matter, how is Sexy Rexy still in this league?
The answer is that the coaching staff is doing everything in its power to help a player with limited ability succeed. The reason why the Bears are doing this is inexplicable.
|Out of Nowhere Man|
|Quarterback Caleb Hanie is an undrafted rookie from Colorado State and under normal circustances would have little chance of making the team. But these are the quarterback-challenged Bears. There has been the predictable and silly clamor from some Bears fans that Hanie should start. Well, that's just dumb. But Hanie has a solid chance to earn a spot on the roster.|
|Who is your Out of Nowhere Man?|
I was once suckered by Grossman's hypnotic appeal several years ago, just like the Bears' coaching staff is. I thought he would dramatically improve and lead Chicago to another Super Bowl appearance.
Many fans have clearly tired of Grossman. During one of their recent training camp practices, Grossman was booed. Against the Chiefs he received a lukewarm greeting and was booed after he attempted an errant Brett Favre-like flip of the football while scrambling.
Grossman was booed again when, after taking the snap from center, he tripped and fell. It's a scene all too familiar to Bears fans.
The Bears have other problems, of course. Their offensive line remains horrid and just got worse with news that tackle Chris Williams, the team's first-round pick, is out for an extended period following surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. The Bears state privately there's a chance Williams could play this year, but if you believe that then you believe Grossman will one day enter the Hall of Fame.
No, Grossman and Orton aren't the only problems, but they remain a symbol of a franchise that has stubbornly stuck to its Grossman guns. There's an arrogance about how the Bears have dealt with this situation. Even if Green Bay would've been willing to trade Favre to Chicago, it seems the Bears weren't all that interested.
Positives: Speed, speed, speed. Those highlight plays Hester makes as a return specialist could happen on offense if he gets the ball in space. With Chicago lacking talent at receiver, Hester has the chance to play a lot. If Rex Grossman wins the job, look for at least 2-3 deep-ball chances in Hester's direction every game.
Negatives: He looked lost on offense last year and could struggle with his routes. Grossman and Kyle Orton aren't exactly good quarterbacks, and either one could miss on getting Hester the ball. He might not beat out Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis or Mark Bradley for playing time.
Outlook: Hester is a decent late-round flier in all Fantasy leagues. If he pans out, he's a steal because of his ability to catch the deep ball and score touchdowns. If not, release him the first time you need someone off the waiver wire.
-- Jamey Eisenberg
RB: Matt Forte (67th overall)
QB: None drafted
WR: Devin Hester (147th overall)
TE: Greg Olsen (141st overall)
|2008 Fantasy Draft Prep|
While Lovie Smith is a smart coach and defensive heavyweight, both he and general manager Jerry Angelo have been woeful in nurturing the quarterback position. The New York Giants and Bears were once in very similar circumstances. The Giants struggled to find a franchise thrower post-Phil Simms the same way the Bears have post-Jim McMahon.
The Giants had some interim success with players like Kerry Collins, but it took a huge gamble by Ernie Accorsi, the former general manager, to make a bold move to grab Eli Manning. Now they have a thrower for the next decade. The Bears have really taken no such gamble. They've done very little to improve their fortunes.
Since the late 1990s the Bears have started Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris, Kordell Stewart, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn (yes the Jonathan Quinn), Craig Krenzel (no relation to Kris Kringle), Orton, Grossman and Brian Griese. That's not exactly a sparking quarterback roll call.
The Bears, in all probability, will be forced to change their approach to the position after this year. Neither quarterback is lighting up camp and there's no reason to believe that will change once the season begins. Even the Grossman-tolerant Bears must reach their fill, right. Right? RIGHT?
Just remember this Grossman statistic: 32 regular season games and 33 interceptions.