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Columnist
Can Rex convert time on sidelines into headlines?
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/3/2008 12:04 AM

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The question was one of those thrown against the wall Sunday in hope of an unexpectedly revealing answer.

To paraphrase, Rex Grossman was asked whether he is the same quarterback he was before losing his starting job to Kyle Orton.

Grossman clearly felt genuine disdain for the question, similar to that of the columnist in the seat next to me.

"Stupid (bleeping) question," he wrote in his notepad.

The expression on Grossman's face was "Stupid (bleeping) question" as he responded with a shake of the head.

So naturally I pursued - yes the original question was mine - by asking Grossman whether taking a step back from starting helped at all.

Same expression on his face - same shake of the head - same old quarterback?

Well, the same old Grossman isn't good enough, even though a female fan in Soldier Field held up a sign that read, "Rexy is still sexy."

To his credit, Grossman was in the game when the Bears rallied in the second half for a 27-23 victory over the winless Lions.

Grossman played because starter Kyle Orton injured an ankle during the final minute of the first half.

"We'll have to wait and see," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Orton's ankle. "I'm still hopeful that Kyle will be able to come back soon."

If later than sooner, though, the first-place Bears' offense will belong to Grossman during the season's second half.

Will that be good enough? Will the backup play as well as the starter played? Will the Bears hold off Green Bay and Minnesota with Grossman?

No, no and no if this is the same old Rex, if he hasn't taken a personal inventory of why he lost the quarterback derby to Orton, if didn't benefit from his time running the opposition's plays in practice.

"I was Dan Orlovsky (last week)," Grossman said of the Lions' quarterback.

Grossman played poorly enough last season and this preseason to be displaced by Orton, himself not exactly Peyton Manning.

Orton was capable of leading the Bears because he spent his time on the bench learning, maturing and improving.

Good for Grossman if he spent the past two months doing the same; bad for the Bears if he didn't.

Remember, Grossman isn't going to be any taller than short or quicker than slow. All he can be is smarter and more efficient than he was.

To his credit, Grossman didn't look like quintessential Orlovsky against the Lions and even better didn't look like his old self either.

Instead of flashing that so-called gunslinger style that led to too many mistakes, Grossman let others do the heavy lifting.

That meant running back Matt Forte and his offensive linemen, who pounded the ball at Detroit.

"(Rex) is better because he's been in the system," said Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner. "He's done a great job of preparing each week."

As a result, Sunday was how it's supposed to work in the NFL: A team has two capable quarterbacks, one goes down and the other becomes the winning pitcher.

Grossman always could do well for a game, a couple of games or even a few games. But if Orton is out the rest of this season -

Rexy can still be sexy, but Grossman can't be the same old Grossman.

mimrem@dailyherald.com