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Bears Wed Jul 23 2008

Bears Coin Flip Means No Change

Do we have to do this again? Seriously, are we actually going through this whole audition process again?

It’s getting pretty tiresome having this same conversation every year when it comes to the Bears and their quarterback situation, sort of like being asked “What are you thinking?” by a significant other. You would think by now (injuries aside) the issue would be settled and the question heading into camp would not be “Who?” but “Who else?”

But with training camp only a few weeks away, we once again find ourselves playing Hot Potato with the Bears quarterback position

For most teams, the situation is as cut and dried as beef jerky. The Starter has been established long ago, most likely the same guy who lead the team last season, and it’s the second-stringer’s job to displace him by either stepping up his game or tripping him in the shower room (kidding about that last one… or am I?). Or perhaps the team was so dismal last season that their new stud quarterback obtained in the draft has the job handed to him on a silver platter.

But not here, not in this town where there hasn’t been a quarterback with a secure hold on the job since Jim McMahon. Once again we begin the season by playing Quarterback Roulette, and with basically the same two names no less. Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton. Rex, Kyle. Kyle, Rex. Kex, Ryle. The names begin to meld together into one undistinguishable blob.

At least in previous years we knew where to direct our scrutiny (or anger), thanks to Lovie Smith’s (and Jerry Angelo’s) “Rex is our quarterback” mantra that seemed pre-programmed at the start of every training camp (and after every three-interception game). It was meant as a sign of confidence, to indicate some sense of stability. Only an act of God would remove Grossman from the starting quarterback spot.

But in the end it was like calling a Camero a duck: say it all you want, only a fool will really believe it. I mean, how COULD you believe it when Grossman, in his checkered career, has been supplanted by Orton, Brian Greise, Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel and Chad Hutchinson and not necessarily for reasons involving injury every time. But each time, like an abused wife with self-esteem issues, they came back to him. Until now.

Now, it’s “What have you done for me lately?” Sure, Rex was the Bears starting quarterback for the 2006 Super Bowl (and I’m sure we all get that tingly feeling all over again when I mention that stellar season, right?). But two years later his job is on the line, not because he’s attempting to come back from a crippling injury (although he did miss eight games last season due to injury), but mainly because, well, he’s not that good. I mean, what else does being forced to justify your existence after six years as the starter say? As votes of confidence go, well, this isn’t one.

Not that Orton is anything to write home about either. The fourth-year quarterback (yes, four years!) has been sort of like wallpaper through most of his career, blending into the background with his clipboard and headphones on his helmetless head. When he has been summoned to duty, he’s been more like a bookmark that a quarterback. Manage the offense, handoff, short passes, nothing fancy. True, he has fewer turnovers than Grossman (20 to 49) but that’s what handing off and tossing five-yarders will do for you. Both he and Grossman posses all the fire of a child’s birthday cake. Indeed, faced with the prospect of losing the job he has basically owned since he got here, Grossman goes zen on us and says he’s busy “living in the now”. Huh?

And now it’s come down to this: a coin flip. This is how the Chicago Bears have ultimately determined who will get the best shot at becoming the starting quarterback for a storied franchise. A flip of a coin to determine who will start the first scrimmage of the 2008 training camp and quite possibly the rest of the season. Let other teams rally around a confident leader, await his imminent arrival to training camp, hinge on his every word and follow him like Spartans after King Leonidas. Here in Chicago, we have the flip of a coin here, the ultimate symbol of indecision, of finally admitting that your fate rests not in the hands of a confident, skillful quarterback but of the gods of chance.

Why stop there? Why not draw straws, consult the Magic 8 Ball, spit into the wind, play High-Card/Low-Card? Hey, Bears, I have spare Ouija board that I’m not using.

If ever there was a time for a coin to land on its side…

 
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