- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

MIAMI. - I come not to praise Rex Grossman this morning but to exhume him. He has, after all, been virtually buried by the sporting public in recent weeks, dismissed by some as the Worst Quarterback in Super Bowl History.

Rex Grossman, the Worst Quarterback in Super Bowl History? Not even close, my friends.

In fact, if passer rating is the yardstick, there have been no fewer than 10 Super Bowl QBs whose season was worse than Grossman’s (73.9). And get this: six of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Have I got your attention now?

I’m talking — cover your ears, idol worshippers — about Bart Starr (64.4) in Super Bowl 2, Joe Namath (72.1) in Super Bowl 3, Len Dawson (69.9) in Super Bowl 4, Johnny Unitas (65.1) in Super Bowl 5, Terry Bradshaw (a ghastly 55.2) in Super Bowl 9 and John Elway (73.7) in Super Bowl 24.

Funny, I don’t remember any of them being called the Worst Quarterback in Super Bowl History. But then, they weren’t being compared to Peyton Manning.

We tend to forget how wretched Bradshaw’s career had been before he began filling his fingers with rings. Through that 1974 season, his fifth in the NFL, he had completed a mere 48 percent of his passes and had racked up many more interceptions (81) than touchdowns (48). Indeed, he had started the year on the bench and played in barely half of the Steelers’ games; in none of them did he throw for more than 146 yards.

The Pittsburgh running game, meanwhile — Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier and Co. — averaged 191 yards in Bradshaw’s seven starts. Talk about a quarterback who was Just Along for the Ride.

Granted, it was a different game then. The rules allowed for more jostling of receivers, and passing statistics weren’t nearly as gaudy as they are today. Still, Bradshaw was the 25th-ranked passer that season in a 26-team league. (Grossman, on the other hand, finished 24th this year — in a 32-team league.)

Then there’s Rex’s 23 TD passes. Want to guess how many Super Bowl quarterbacks have thrown fewer than that since 1978 (when the schedule was lengthened to 16 games)? Answer: 28 — almost half. Heck, as recently as 2000, both Super Bowl quarterbacks threw fewer than 23 TD passes (Kerry Collins 22, Trent Dilfer 12).

Let’s face it, the Super Bowl has had its fair share of not-so-scintillating QBs. Vince Ferragamo, pressed into service because of an injury to Pat Haden, had started only seven NFL games before he led the Rams against the Steelers in SB 14. His passer rating that year: A whopping 49. Then there’s Tony Eason, who followed a crummy ‘85 season with the Patriots (11 touchdown passes, 17 interceptions) with an even worse first half in the Super Bowl vs. the Bears (0-for-6 before being relieved by Steve Grogan).

David Woodley, Dolphins ‘82, is another one. He threw for 87 yards (and three INTs) in the AFC title game and followed that up with a 97-yard performance (all in the first half) in the Super Bowl against the Redskins. Fortunately for the Fins, it was the last time Woodley would quarterback them in the postseason. Dan Marino came to the rescue the following year.

So why is Grossman such a punching bag? I mean, he may not be a Pro Bowler, but he isn’t Joey Harrington, either. As teammate Brian Urlacher pointed out, “He’s had some huge games. I heard someone say he had seven games with a 100-plus quarterback rating this year, more than Peyton Manning.” (Actually, Manning also had seven, but you can’t blame a guy for trying.)

What Grossman is is a 26-year-old kid who, because of a broken ankle here and a torn-up knee there, is just now, in his fourth season, getting to show what he can do. Most of the time, he has played well enough for the Bears, with their fearsome defense, to win — 15 times in 18 tries, to be exact.

“Twelve of those games I’m extremely proud of,” he says. “The other six I wish nobody would ever see again. But the experience, good and bad, is only going to make me better.”

Where Grossman gets into trouble, offensive coordinator Ron Turner says, is when he “tries to force things” — as impatient young quarterbacks tend to do. (Thus, his 20 interceptions this year.) “But he’s gotten better at that in the last two games. We’re committed to running the ball, sure, but he knows we’re going to take our shots [downfield sooner or later]. Overall, I think he’s handled everything very well.”

A less confident quarterback might have succumbed to the pressure, but Grossman is still standing. And Sunday night, when they finally get around to playing this game, don’t be surprised if the Good Rex shows up against the Colts.

“You guys tend to exaggerate things,” he tells the media. “If a quarterback plays good, you make it sound better. If he plays bad, you make it sound worse. My family gets a little angry at some of the things that get said about me, but I can take it. It’s part of my job.”

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