- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

If his team’s fans had their way, Rex Grossman would be on the bench today for the Chicago Bears’ NFC Divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. That’s how little confidence they have in the quarterback with 20 interceptions and a history of maddening inconsistency.

But while Grossman isn’t the people’s choice, he does have the public support of his coaches and teammates and will start for the 13-3 Bears without having worry about Brian Griese replacing him.

“I’ve been through some ups and downs but as a team, we’re healthy and we’re a confident bunch and we’re going to play our ball,” Grossman said.

Among the downs this season:

• Four interceptions and a 10.7 passer rating in a win at Arizona.

• Three interceptions and a 36.8 rating in a home loss to Miami.

• Three interceptions and a 23.7 rating in a loss at New England.

• Three interceptions, 34 passing yards and a 1.3 rating in a win vs. Minnesota.

• And three interceptions, 33 yards passing (2-for-12) and a 0.0 rating in a loss to Green Bay.

“I’ve never lost my confidence, I’ve just had bad games,” Grossman said. “There is a rhythm and momentum to certain games and sometimes, you hit bumps in the road. We need to make sure that if there are a couple of bad plays early, we stick with things, handle the adversity and move on. Hopefully we get into a rhythm early by running the ball and completing a high percentage of my passes.”

Grossman does have 23 touchdown passes this season, so he is capable. During Chicago’s first five games, he had 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions, and he has seven games where he registered a 100-plus passer rating. The Bears defeated Seattle 37-6 in October and Grossman threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

“We like Rex being our quarterback,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We think he can lead us to where we need to go. I can’t wait to see him play this week.”

Said Grossman: “I have a lot of confidence because I have such a great team — defense, running game, offensive line. I’m excited about the opportunity. If I do what the coaches ask and make the plays when they’re there and when they’re not there, minimize the damage by checking down, I’m confident that I can be extremely effective.”

Grossman’s counterpart, Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck, hasn’t had a great season either, but he at least has a track record — 24 touchdowns and a 98.2 passer rating last year in helping the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl.

A big part of Hasselbeck’s problems this year have been injury-related. Seattle started 4-1 but its sixth game against Minnesota, Hasselbeck sustained a knee injury and missed the next four games. Upon his return, he has (including the Wild Card win over Dallas) 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“We’ve been careless with the football all season,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. “He has way more interceptions than he should. By his own admission, he would say he’s tried to do too much. The number of injuries we’ve had has had an effect on him.”

The Seahawks have patched together several different offensive line combinations, played six games without Shaun Alexander and their receivers/tight ends have lost 19 man games to injuries.

“I think he has a chance to be great,” Holmgren said of Hasselbeck. “He’s a good player and had a great season last year. But he has a chance to be great and to be great, you have to find a way to get through things. I can’t coach it out of him. He doesn’t have to play the game by himself. He is absolutely capable of shooting lights out but the other guys have to help him, too.”

Said Hasselbeck: “It hasn’t been great — the stats are terrible. Some of that is the injury, some of that is bad weather and some of that is me not playing well. …There have been plays where I’ve [tried to do too much], definitely. There are all kinds of things I can improve on. I’m going to try and tighten my game up a little bit and try to make my decision-making process a little less risky.”

The Seahawks had many problems besides Hasselbeck when they last traveled to Chicago. And Holmgren made sure to emphasize the low points of the game.

“I want to show them how bad we played,” he said. “No one wants to be embarrassed but it’s OK to talk about it. I remember when I was teaching high school, going through teacher training programs and they would say, ‘Be careful of negative reinforcement.’ … Every once in a while, you need to hit them between the eyes with something.”

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