Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm Not Loving John Czarnecki's Take on the Grossman Situation

Let me get this straight, media and fans want Grossman benched, Grossman gets benched, then media kills coach for benching Grossman. Interesting.

The title of John Czarnecki's column on Chicago's decision to go with Griese over Grossman is "The Desperate Bears turn to Griese." I know that generally the writers don't choose the headlines associated with their work, but not only is the headline not true but it doesn't really reflect what Czarnecki said in the article.

First, nowhere does Czarnecki suggest that the Bears are "panicking." He spends most of his time discussing how flawed the team is as a whole and questions the decision because he is not convinced that an average, "no mistakes" QB is what this team needs. He implies that the offense as a whole needs to be taken in an entirely different direction and Chicago's front office is at fault for not going after one of the several veteran QBs available this offseason. He reasons that Lovie had no other choice but to go with a different QB after the poor performances and the lightning rod status of Rex. It was panic as much as it was a concession that Rex may be hurting this team more than he's helping it. But through it all it seems clear that this team really is a couple decent performances from their QB away from becoming one of the top 3 teams in the NFC. When a top 3 team who is 2 fewer mistakes per game away from a NFC title is able to effectively remove those 2 mistakes per game, that's not "panic" as much as it is just common sense.

But the meat of Czarnecki's article is that Lovie Smith was motivated by factors other than the performance on the field to make the change from Rex Grossman to Brian Griese (hence the opening line: "Talking Heads and the Media 1, Lovie Smith 0."). Czarnecki reasons that because Smith stuck with Rex last year and then the Bears didn't pick up major competition for him this offseason and didn't snatch up Leftwich at the beginning of the season (not to mention that publicly Smith talked about Grossman like he had all the tools of Dan Marino), that he was ready to go 16 and the playoffs with Grossman and was confident he could get the job done. He further suggests that if Lovie was really motivated by on-field factors like interceptions and whatnot, he'd have given Griese a shot last year when Grossman starting feeding defensive backs heavy doses of pigskin. It's because of this loyalty to Grossman and non-moves in the offseason that Czarnecki is convinced that something else (the media) must've motivated Smith to make the change. Essentially, Grossman has been doing this sense he's entered the league, so if you weren't unimpressed with him before, why change now? His answer is because the media told him so. I disagree.

For the same reasons Czarnecki argues that nothing had changed in terms of Grossman's on-field performance and therefore something else must've influenced Lovie's decision, I'd say that nothing has changed in terms of off-field pressures trying to convince Lovie to make the change. In fact, I think the week 3 cries for Griese are nothing compared to the Week 13 cries from last year. Last year, in week 12, the Bears lost to the Patriots 17-10 in Foxboro. Rex Grossman was 15-34 for 176 yards and 3 interceptions. And the interceptions he threw were awful. The following week, the Bears beat the woeful Minnesota Vikings 23-13. The Bears scored on a punt return, an interception return, a rushing TD by Benson and a safety. Rex Grossman was 6-19 for 34 yards and 3 interceptions. Despite the fact that the Bears were headed to the playoffs, the QB controversy was brewing big time after the New England game. There were articles (requires Westlaw subscription) about Griese getting more reps, about how it might be time to give Griese a shot and calling out Lovie for coninuing to support Grossman even though he was really the Bears ONLY weakness. AND THIS WAS A TEAM THAT WAS IN THE PLAYOFFS ALREADY. They were killing Grossman. So to suggest that now, IN WEEK FUCKING 3, Lovie is succumbing to the media pressure and that Rex's on-field efforts aren't the most significant factor for the QB change is just wrong.

Here's the real reason Grossman was benched in favor of Griese: Rex Grossman is a bad quarterback and the NFC is a bad conference. Rex Grossman SIGNIFICANTLY limits your ability to win 8 games. And all you have to do to be competitive in the NFC is finish somewhere around 8-8. Last year, Rex never had 3 straight games as bad as the 3 he began this year (though weeks 11-13 of 2006 were really bad). He's thrown 1 TD and 6 Ints. If you cut those turnovers in half, it's at least arguable that the Bears are 2-1 and not 1-2 (there was no way they were winning the Dallas game with all of those injuries.). It's that simple. The Bears will go the playoffs if they have a guy who completes 55% of his passes and throws less than an INT per game. Griese can give you that and Grossman cannot. It has nothing to do with media pressure and eveything to do with a sad reality that Lovie had to eventually face. In fact, the media's insistance that a change had to be made was probably one of the reasons the change took so long. No head coach wants to be told what to do. And it had to be very satisfying to have "your guy" take you to the Super Bowl. In the same way it had to be depressing as hell to come to the conclusion that "his guy" was the reason they were losing games.

More than anything, I just think it's shitty of the media to call for Grossman's head for 10 months and then call out Lovie Smith for making the move for "non-football" reasons after it's made. The media wanted the move made for football reasons, wouldn't it then make sense that the head coach--a guy you would think would know more about the on-field crap than any pencil-pusher--would make the move for football reasons? Rex Grossman is on the bench because he sucks. That shoulda been the end of the story.

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