The Chicago Tribune’s Fred Mitchell wrote an article Tuesday that featured scathing comments made by Dan Grossman, Rex Grossman’s father, about how the Bears’ organization has handled fielding a competent offense over the years.
My initial thoughts were that Dan Grossman’s views would be viewed negatively by a fan base that, for the most part, hated his son with a passion for his inconsistency on the field. I was surprised to find that many fans supported those comments and actually agreed with them. There were a handful of writers who came down hard on the elder Grossman and thought he had no business sticking his nose in the Bears’ affairs. Still, other members of the media agreed with his assessment.
I couldn’t be any more pleased with what I read in Mitchell’s article. Rex, although lacking the ideal physical characteristics, had many of the skills needed to be a good NFL quarterback. His biggest problem, as we came to find out, was his decision making and risk taking. Jay Cutler — different from Grossman in that he has the physical characteristics and has better talent — exhibits the same poor decision making and risk taking that Grossman did for the six years he spent in Chicago.
What the two quarterbacks also shared in common was the lack of tools surrounding them to give them a chance to lead one of the league’s top offenses. That’s something that Dan Grossman pointed out as a major fault for the Bears’ organization.
With the Bears having a rich tradition of solid defense and Lovie Smith being a defensive-minded head coach, it only seemed natural that the defensive side of the ball would have the bigger paychecks. Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, and Nathan Vasher all got big contract extensions within the past few years. Defensive ends Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye are being paid handsomely as well. The balance of money has been poorly allocated and, as a result, the level of play has mirrored that for years. That is, until recently. Now, both sides of the ball are failing equally.
In fairness to the Bears’ front office, they did try to surround Grossman with some offensive weapons. They brought in offensive linemen John Tait, Fred Miller, Ruben Brown, and Roberto Garza. They gave a big contract, as soon as the 2005 free agency period opened, to wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, who had led the NFL in 2004 with 1,405 yards and 16 touchdown receptions.
Grossman clearly had better weapons in 2006 — his first full season as a starter — than Cutler does now, which is part of the reason why the Bears made the Super Bowl that year (a Top 5 defense, a solid run game, and a “ridiculous” kick returner were the primary reasons).
Many fans have been questioning the Cutler acquisition since the Bears made the deal in early April. If they didn’t then, they are now as Cutler currently leads the NFL with 17 interceptions. It’s not so much getting rid of Kyle Orton and receiving Cutler that has some people skeptical of the deal — although there are a handful of football dummies who actually think Orton is the better quarterback. It’s how many high draft picks the Bears gave up — two first round picks and a third — to land the Pro Bowl quarterback.
It’s not time to panic about whether Cutler was worth acquiring. Even I thought he was overrated ever since the Broncos drafted him in 2006, but he is a solid quarterback with loads of upside and could become a Top 5 quarterback in the league when given some talent with which to work.
But the Bears have to commit to doing so first, and that’s something that they haven’t done, at all or well enough, in the Jerry Angelo regime. They have to do a better job of identifying talent in the upcoming drafts as well as developing that talent so as not to waste it.
Cutler’s 17 interceptions this season are almost all his fault. Some can be pinned on his receivers, but most have been the effect of poor decision making by a guy who likes to take risks. But Dan Grossman was right. Until the Bears make a commitment to the offensive side of the football — the passing game in particular — they could have the best quarterback in the league and he would still struggle.