Ask anyone at Halas Hall, from general manager Jerry Angelo to coach Lovie Smith, offensive coordinator Ron Turner, every player on the roster and on down to the ball boys, and you'll get the same response: "Rex is our starter."
But that was the plan the past two seasons. Rex Grossman was to be the Bears' starting quarterback and provide the offensive leadership they envisioned in 2003, when they drafted him 22nd overall in the first round.
|In '05, Rex Grossman spent more time on crutches than on the field. (Getty Images)|
Grossman rehabbed fanatically and was back at the top of the depth chart for the start of last year's training camp -- but he didn't even make it to the opener. He suffered a fractured ankle in the second preseason game, which forced him to miss all but two regular-season games and a playoff loss to Carolina.
Now Grossman is healthy again and has the backing of everyone in the organization, despite paltry statistics. In just seven NFL starts he has just four touchdown passes, six interceptions and a passer rating under 70.
"I've got a great opportunity to be able to prove I am the right guy," Grossman said. "That's all I can ask for. You have to perform to keep your job. That's true in every profession. I may have to do it sooner and quicker, and that's what I expect of myself. It may be a little bit more crucial to do it quickly because I haven't done it before for an extended period of time.
"I just have to stay healthy, and I know I'll do that. I am going to work hard and put myself in the best position."
Grossman, 25, is entrenched despite the presence of Brian Griese, 31, who signed in March to give the Bears their most accomplished backup in a long time.
Considering Griese's career numbers, the case could be made that the backup is more qualified to lead the Bears than the starter. Only once in the past 22 years has a Chicago quarterback had a higher single-season passer rating than Griese's career mark of 84.8. That was by Erik Kramer in 1995. Griese's 16,344 passing yards are more than anyone in Bears history.
Nevertheless, it's clear Grossman is the man.
How long will Rex Grossman last as Chicago's starting QB?
9 to 12 games
Half the season
Four games or less
More than 12 games
He'll get hurt in preseason
Total Votes: 4,515
"There shouldn't be any misunderstanding," coach Lovie Smith said. At every position we have a rotation, and at quarterback it'll be Rex, Brian and Kyle (Orton)."
Although Grossman's career win-loss record is a modest 4-3, his intangibles have endeared him to the coaching staffs of Dick Jauron and then Smith, who took over after Grossman's rookie season.
Grossman always seems to know exactly where the ball is supposed to go and is decisive and cool under pressure. The Florida product gets rid of the ball quicker than most NFL quarterbacks, avoiding sacks as a result. In 2004, the 6-foot-1, 217-pounder was taken down once every 17 pass attempts. The Bears' other three quarterbacks that season were sacked once every 6.3 pass attempts.