Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton—Who's the Better QB?

Jimmy MacAnalyst IJune 3, 2008

A line has been drawn in the city of Chicago. A line that goes right down the center of Soldier Field. On one side stands the supporters of Rex Grossman, while on the other, the backers of Kyle Orton.

Some in Chicago feel that despite an up and down career that obviously isn't all Grossman's fault, Rex can still be that guy they dreamed of on draft day in 2003, when he was selected 22nd overall by the Bears. Others cheer for Orton, stating he hasn't yet got the chance he deserves, and he can lead the Bears offense better than Rex Grossman.

We could go back and forth all day on what we think, but let's lay down what we know, and make a judgment based off that for the time being. We'll break down the two QBs piece by piece, and base a prediction off of what we find there.


On paper

First, let's look at the records of our two QBs. Grossman has compiled a solid record of 23-12 as a starter, while Orton has approximated just as noteworthy of a record at 12-6 as a starter. Most Orton fans will laugh in triumph over the one victory lead that Orton holds for the time being, but let's break this down logically and look at the details of those records.

Orton, in his two major seasons, 2005 and 2007, has lost only six games as a starter. But it's not as great as it sounds. Though Orton's 10-5 record in 2005 as a rookie is impressive, he was far from the reason for the Bears' victories. Orton finished with an overall rating of 59.7 in 2005, the second to worst in league history for a rookie with 10+ wins.

And his losses came against what are considered bottom-feeders in the NFL right now. He has losses to Washington, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota twice. Except for the 2005 Champion Steelers, the rest have all dropped off in the league, and only two of the five teams have made the playoffs in Orton's time, Pittsburgh and Washington. Cleveland barely made it this year, but have yet to be noted as a solid playoff contender.

Grossman, on the other hand, has lost only seven regular season games in his two major seasons, 2006 and 2007, while playing nearly double the games; and they have been to the absolute cream of the crop in the NFL.

He's lost to New England, Green Bay, Miami, San Diego, Dallas, Seattle, and the recent Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. The only lowlight on the list is the Dolphins, other than that, you're looking at the NFL's elite—the absolute best. Six of those seven teams went to the playoffs, one of them won the Super Bowl.

New England has been in the postseason both season that Grossman has started, as has San Diego, Dallas, and Seattle. Green Bay nearly went to the Super Bowl this year.

Grossman also holds a better overall rating in both his starting seasons, and has postseason experience that Orton does not. Grossman is also one of three QBs ever in the NFL to reach the Super Bowl in his first full season as a starter.



On the field

Orton holds a clear advantage over Grossman in terms of height. Grossman's height has been skewed between 5'11" and 6'. Orton's nearly an entire head taller at 6'4". But in terms of the pocket, Orton doesn't have much more over Rex.

Grossman has been criticized for his "failure to take a snap" miscues that have been largely overrated. For example, in 2007, Grossman had only one botched snap, as opposed to Griese and Orton who combined for nine, Orton taking the cake with five in three games. Perhaps people should start looking more at center Olin Kreutz before they name the QB as the scapegoat.

Both lack great skills in the pocket. Grossman needs to work on stepping up into the pocket rather than running backwards, an area in which he displayed great improvement on when he returned from the bench for a three-game stint in which he put up better numbers than both Orton and Griese.

Orton isn't quickest either. He lacks the ability to scramble, though his height advantage makes it easier for him to make logical decisions under pressure because he can see more of the field. However, we haven't seen enough to say that he actually does that, as his INT-to-TD ratio is worse than Grossman's.

And although Grossman's play in the pocket was much improved, he can't ever make himself taller or have a better overall view of the field. Grossman's pocket presence is easily better than Orton's when the offensive line provides a solid pocket for him to throw in, but there's no substitute for height and better vision. Although I still tend to think that Grossman is the better pocket passer, Orton has the better tools.



Orton may have the height, but the stats and on-field performances don't lie—Grossman is easily the better passer. Grossman is somewhat of an anomaly at the QB position. His accuracy increases with the length of his pass. In passes of 30+ yards, Grossman is one of the best QBs in the league, pulling in a 142.6 rating. Orton, on the other hand, has a strong arm as well, but nowhere near the accuracy.

Orton's biggest problem is that he overshoots his receivers, or puts a bit too much zip on the ball in tight situations. He needs to learn when to rocket the ball into a receiver's arms and when to put touch on it. Both have a similar short game, Grossman having only a slightly better rating of passes inside 25 yards.

But Grossman's short game is on when it counts.

In the Super Bowl, he completed a clutch pass on the five-yard line to Muhammad to put the Bears ahead 14-6. In 2007, Grossman completed a beautiful pass to Berrian off the one-yard line against the Denver Broncos to tie the game and keep the Bears' season alive.

Both need to work on decision making. In Orton's 18 starts, he has thrown 16 INT, five coming in one game. Grossman has been just as INT-happy, but has made up for it in throwing 31 TDs in his 32 regular season starts. Both have a tendency to throw into coverage, though Orton's passes are many a time overthrown or are inaccurate, and therefore are out of a defender's reach.

Both have their problems and areas that need work, but based off the stats and what we've seen, Grossman is clearly the better passer.



And last but not least, we'll touch on the "clutch" aspect of the game. When it comes down to it, who's hands do you want the ball in for that last minute drive to come from behind and win the game.

Most Chicagoans have delusionally labeled Orton as "more dependable"; a QB who won't turn the ball over and won't lose the game for you like Rex will. This has me confused.

Rex Grossman, in his career, has a 98.8 passer rating when the Bears are behind by 16 points or less and has brought his team back from the dead many times, be it a clutch TD to win or tie the game, or a beautiful pass to set up a Robbie Gould field goal in overtime.

Grossman's interceptions have been costly, indeed, but Grossman's ability for the big play and his on-paper ranking as a great QB when the Bears are down aren't arguable—they're fact.

Orton, on the other hand, has been labeled as a "hand the ball off QB", which is true. However, this doesn't mean Orton's "better" at managing a lead or putting the Bears in position to win. When the Bears are behind by 16 points or less, Orton has an ugly 57.0 QB rating. But that's not the worst part. Despite the label Bears fans have put on Orton of being a great QB to manage the lead, Orton only has a 22.0 passer rating (yes, that's 22) when the Bears are AHEAD BY 9-16 POINTS. Grossman's rating when the Bears are ahead is actually better, he rates at a 40.

So, where the delusion that Orton can manage a lead or not lose a game for you came from is beyond me.

But you need to ask yourself, when the game's on the line, and you need a big play to get you into field-goal range or to possibly score a TD, do you want the ball in the hands of a QB who has one of the league's most accurate arms, or the QB who can maybe get you to mid-field on a couple of run plays and the short passes that he hopefully won't overthrow.



While this is only a preliminary analysis, I brought this up because the reality behind most people's logic to start Kyle Orton, is simply the fact that he's not Rex Grossman. They don't look at the stats, or the logic. As long as his jersey doesn't read "GROSSMAN", they're fine with it.

Most of them forget that this was the same Kyle Orton they booed off the field in Week 15 of 2005, in favor of Rex Grossman who came in and demolished the Falcons and gave us the lead.

I'm eager for a good competition, but right now, despite the logic of some sports analysts and bandwagon fans who want Rex Grossman gone simply because he's Rex Grossman, and cheer for Kyle Orton simply because he's NOT Rex Grossman, I have to put my money on the guy who's shown he can do a better job. That's Rex Grossman.

Rex Grossman will be the starting QB for the 2008 Chicago Bears.


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