Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Exit Polling

A new poll in the Chicago Sun-Times shows that Bears fans, by a margin of 51% to 49%, favor sticking with Rex Grossman at quarterback, rather than replacing him with Brian Griese. Some of the paper's columnists, who were obviously expecting the poll results to vindicate their argument that coach Lovie Smith is letting down the fans by remaining loyal to Grossman, responded as if the fans are idiot children.

Rick Telander, who I actually prefer to most of the city's sports columnists, made it sound as if the fans were insanely clinging to the belief that Smith knows what he's doing. It's like Lovie is serving Kool-Aid, and we're all partaking. Instead, Telander insists, Lovie is insanely gambling his entire career, and the Bears' window of opportunity, on Grossman.

Generally, when everyone disagrees with me about something, I question my assumptions. I don't automatically change my mind, but I at least ask myself, what is it that I might be assuming that would cause me to deviate from the majority viewpoint. Apparently, such thinking is anathema to sports writing. Telander isn't questioning his own assumptions (like the inaccurate assumption that Griese doesn't turn the ball over often), but rather when everyone else went insane.

As I've said, I'm no longer sure whether the Bears are better off sticking with Grossman or turning to Griese. But I hardly think it requires blind, canine-like loyalty to believe that Grossman remains the team's best option. Aaron Schatz put this more succinctly than I ever have, but in essence the reason I've said the Bears should stick with Grossman is this: "Grossman has mixed great games with terrible ones, sure — but while Brian Griese would be more consistent, he also would be less likely to play well enough to win if the defense ever had an off day."

And, Schatz has also succintly summed up why now I'm wavering in that belief: "After this week, I took a closer look, and the Bears may need to switch to Griese anyway, because the Good Rex may not be coming back. . . . Grossman was good for the first half of the year, and he's been bad in the second half. Check out the numbers:
Weeks 1-5: 61 percent completions, 8.2 yards per pass, 249 yards per game, 10 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. DPAR value: 38.4.
Week 9-13: 46 percent completions, 5.3 yards per pass, 157 yards per game, 5 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. DPAR value: -31.3.
That's not inconsistency, that's regression."

There are legitimate arguments on both sides of this debate. That is what the 51/49 split in the Sun-Times poll reflects. Believing that the Bears should stick with Grossman doesn't require blind loyalty to Smith or Grossman, rather just a belief that this is the Bears' window and Grossman remains the best bet to fit through it, even if he's also the best bet to fall off the ledge too.


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