Criticism is gross, man: Rex, Peyton seek respect
MIAMI (AP) -- One has been called Da Worst, the other is Da Man.
Rex Grossman of the Bears vs Peyton Manning of the Colts in the biggest Super Bowl mismatch ever.
Not close to being true, of course, but it's perception that counts.
Rex Grossman can't do anything right, even in Chicago, where every mistake leads to more cries for his benching. He had a passer rating of zero in one game this season and 1.3 in another on a team that is carried by its defense.
Manning, the most talented in a family of quarterbacks, is a two-time NFL MVP who holds any number of passing records. Barring injury, he could retire as the most prolific passer in league history.
About all they have in common is zero Super Bowl victories. Until now, the only real knock on Manning is that he could never win the big one.
"I read the Colts media guide on the way down: 18 pages of Peyton," Bears coach Lovie Smith said after he arrived in Miami. "It showed me what's in store for us."
That compares with three pages for Grossman in the Chicago guide.
There will be more pages next season, but they will have to list games like those against Arizona, when he threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles.
Typically, the Bears won 24-23 on two fumble returns and Devin Hester's punt return, enhancing the perception that Chicago finished 13-3 in the regular season despite its quarterback.
That he has played 12 good games this season and six bad ones, including the playoffs.
But people only remember the bad ones, including two on national television -- the Arizona game and the meaningless season finale against Green Bay when he tied an NFL record with a passer rating of 0.0, throwing more interceptions (three) than completions (two).
Then he compounded his mistake by saying afterward that because the game had no bearing on the standings, he hadn't prepared as thoroughly as he should have.
Not preparing thoroughly is something Manning never does, meaningless game or not.
Yet he has thrown six interceptions in the postseason, compared to just one for Grossman, including one returned 39 yards for a touchdown by New England's Asante Samuel in the AFC title game.
Still, he led the Colts back from a 21-3 deficit and finally got to his first Super Bowl with the most important drive of his career -- taking the Colts 80 yards in the final minutes for the winning score in their 38-34 win.
Grossman's take on Manning: His accomplishments get him a free pass when he makes mistakes.
"It's justified," he said. "Guys like Peyton, like Tom Brady, they throw a bad interception and people excuse it because of what they've done in their careers. When I do it, especially in a city like Chicago, people get all over me. I just haven't realized how exaggerated it can get."
The Chicago reference is relevant because of the Bears' history.
When they've been good, it's because of their defense -- specifically the middle linebackers, a tradition that includes Hall of Famers Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary. Now it's Brian Urlacher, the 2005 defensive player of the year and the NFL's best at that position.
Quarterbacks? The last Bear with any pedigree at that position was Sid Luckman, who retired in 1950. And the 22 seasons between Jim McMahon and the 1985 championship Bears and this one is dotted with names like Mike Tomczak, Steve Walsh, Erik Kramer, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel and Kyle Orton.
Hutchinson and Orton were starters largely because Grossman, a first-round draft pick in 2003, kept getting hurt -- entering this season, he started just nine games in three years.
So realistically, this was his first full season, normally not something you can use to judge a quarterback's career. Manning has started every game in the nine seasons he has played, missing only one play because of injury; he threw 28 interceptions as a rookie in 1998.
He also has classic bloodlines: his father, Archie, played 15 seasons, most of them for terrible New Orleans teams. Both Peyton and his brother, Eli, were the first overall picks in the NFL draft. In fact, Eli, who has had an up-and-down three seasons with the New York Giants, suffers, as Grossman does, from comparisons with Peyton.
Conference in the 1940s, for the Baltimore Colts, who became the Indianapolis Colts in 1984. His father, uncle and cousin played at Indiana University and his parents have been Colts season ticket holders since the team moved to Indiana.
Manning went out of his way Tuesday to defend his counterpart.
"If you're a quarterback who's taken a team to a Super Bowl, you've done a good job," he said.
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