Poor Rex Grossman can't catch a break.
After fighting injuries in his first three seasons, Grossman finally survived a full year at quarterback in 2006 to lead the Bears
to the Super Bowl.
But what would normally have been a career-defining achievement was overshadowed by Rex's much-publicized failures.
Grossman flailed and flopped in several late-season games, causing fans and media to call for his head. The comedy of errors reached such awful proportions that many observers felt the Bears won games despite their quarterback—and some openly speculated that Grossman was the worst signal caller to ever play in a Super Bowl.
A giveaway clinic against the Colts
helped spark a full offseason of second-guessing and hand-wringing. Now, Grossman is right back where he started: trying to convince everyone he's the right man for the job in Chicago.
So far, he hasn't been very persuasive.
To think that Grossman will be better in 2007 than he was in 2006 is completely unfounded. His overall play suggests lame duck much more strongly than it suggests Pro Bowler.
That said, a return to Grossman's stellar play of early last season isn't completely out of the question.
Don't forget that 2006 was essentially the former Florida standout's rookie year—and it wasn't a terrible one. The experience gained and lessons learned from a full season under center should help tremendously when Grossman takes the reins again this fall.
Grossman will get help from the the Chicago receiving corps, which should benefit from the opportunity to build rapport with a regular quarterback. The backfield, on the other hand, may be a different story:
Leading rusher Thomas Jones is out; unproven third-year back Cedric Benson is in.
The former Texas star showed enough promise spelling Jones in 2006 to earn a shot at feature-back duties. Benson has averaged more than four yards per carry in each of his two years, and he capped last season with his first 100-yard game.
Not only do the Bears need Benson's best if they hope to succeed—Grossman's play depends on it.
Jones' presence in the backfield took pressure off the inconsistent Grossman. Benson has shown signs that he can handle the load,but if he can't, Grossman's development will take far longer than expected.
In any event, the stakes are high in Chicago, where many believe the Bears are destined to reign over the NFC again. But while other teams were making splashes in the offseason, the Bears were taking a dive.
In addition to moving Jones, the Bears cut DT Tank Johnson and have endured LB Lance Briggs— ugly holdout. The defense still has stud LB Brian Urlacher, and the return of S Mike Brown and DT Tommie Harris will help offset the offseason losses. As was evident at times last year, though, the Bears D isn't strong enough to win games on its own week-in and week-out.
This is where Grossman comes in. The Bears expect nothing less than a return trip to the Super Bowl—and their quarterback, despite his detractors, will have to bear far more of the burden than he did last year.
The Bears most certainly didn't make it to Miami on the arm of Grossman, but they'll need him to get back to the big game this season. Though Grossman should be better in his second full year under center, nothing ever seems to go as planned for poor Rex.
Until it does, the Bears can put their next NFC championship on hold.
Projected finish: 10-6, 1st NFC North
Keep your eyes on: RG Roberto Garza—Linemates Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown made the Pro Bowl last year; Garza will join them this year.
Take your eyes off: SS Adam Archuleta—A missed-tackles machine.