If Super Bowl history is a guide, Peyton Manning will come up bigger than Rex Grossman tonight

In his shadow

Super Bowl

February 04, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun Reporter

MIAMI — MIAMI-- --Warm weather, exotic parties and disparity in quarterbacks.

That's what the Super Bowl has become when the sport's biggest event comes to South Florida.

Eight years ago, it was Denver's John Elway vs. Atlanta's Chris Chandler. Twelve years ago, it was San Francisco's Steve Young vs. San Diego's Stan Humphries.

Now, it's one that could trump them all: Indianapolis' Peyton Manning vs. Chicago's Rex Grossman.

This could rank as the biggest quarterback mismatch in its 41-year history and remains the main reason why the Colts are a seven-point favorite over the Bears today.

Manning has been the most prolific passer of his generation. Grossman has been the most erratic passer of the season.

"You can compare very few players to Peyton Manning, but Rex and Peyton are not the only two guys playing," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We liked him leading our team, which he has done very well all year. Again, we like him being on our side."

The quarterbacks differ in nearly every way, from pedigree to size to experience to passing numbers.

Manning, 30, comes from the first family of quarterbacks, has won two NFL Most Valuable Player awards and finished as the league's top-rated passer this season (101.0).

Grossman, 26, the NFL's 24th-rated passer, is trying to become the first quarterback not rated among the top-10 passers to win an NFL title since Trent Dilfer did it with the Ravens in January 2001.

After a week of hearing how he could be the worst quarterback ever to start a Super Bowl, Grossman called reporters "ignorant" on Thursday because they don't understand the Bears offense.

"I am judged completely as a quarterback on every pass," Grossman said. "If I throw a great pass, I was a great quarterback. If I throw an interception, I was a bad quarterback. Just give me some time to fully evaluate me."

No one can dispute Grossman's record. His 17-6 mark (.739) is second to only New England's Tom Brady among active quarterbacks with at least 20 starts.

The trouble with Grossman is no one knows which quarterback will show up.

Six times he has posted a quarterback rating over 100.

Five times he had a rating below 40.0, including a 0.0 in the regular-season finale on Dec. 31, a loss to the Packers that he called a "meaningless game" and one he failed to adequately prepare for.

Manning delicately danced around a question about the disparity between him and Grossman.

"If you're a quarterback and you get your team to the Super Bowl, you are doing a good job," Manning said.

Surprisingly, Grossman enters the Super Bowl with a better postseason rating than Manning.

Before rallying the Colts in the second half of the AFC championship game, Manning had thrown one touchdown and six interceptions in 10 quarters.

Grossman said Manning's accomplishments allow him to get 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."

Still, the lasting images of the quarterbacks in their championship games show the gap between the two.

In the AFC, Manning was calling plays at the line of scrimmage, commanding his offense down the field in the biggest comeback ever in a conference championship game.

In the NFC, there was Grossman trying to call a second timeout near the goal line before a teammate told him it's against the rules.

It's that sort of bone-headed play that cause Chicago fans to worry and the media to use Grossman as a punching bag.

In what could be a first at the Super Bowl, a reporter asked Smith what scenario other than injury would prompt him to bench Grossman.

"I'm just wondering if Peyton Manning will be asked that question - probably not," Smith said. "Rex Grossman should not be asked that question. I shouldn't be asked that question. Rex is our quarterback. I should not have to continue to go over that. I am not planning to pull Brian Urlacher or Olin Kreutz either."

History favors the Colts when there is such a disparity at quarterback.

Teams have won with Young, Elway and Terry Bradshaw and struggle with Humphries, Chandler and Vince Ferragamo.

"We give Peyton Manning all the respect that he deserves. He's a great player, and I've known him for a long time," Smith said. "But we expect Rex to lead us to a win."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Manning vs. Grossman

Comparing Peyton Manning's and Rex Grossman's 2006 regular-season statistics:

Stat Manning Grossman

Completion pct. 65.0 54.6

Passing yards 4,397 3,193

TD passes 31 23

Interceptions 9 20

QB rating 101.0 73.9

Tonight's game

TV -- Chs. 13, 9; pre-game show 2 p.m. with James Brown, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe; game coverage at 6 p.m. with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms; kickoff at 6:25 p.m.

Radio -- WBAL (1090 AM)

Pre-game entertainment -- Cirque du Soleil, Stevie Nicks

National anthem -- Billy Joel

Halftime entertainment -- Prince

Interactive -- Fans can vote for Super Bowl MVP in fourth quarter at Superbowl.com or by using wireless service providers to text the player's first and last name to 99777 (standard message rates apply).

Weather -- Windy and possibly wet, winds of 10 mph to 20 mph, temperatures in the mid- to upper-60s, possible scattered showers throughout the night.

Online: Are you rooting for the Colts? To vote, go to baltimoresun.com/poll.

Bears vs. Colts, Dolphin Stadium, Miami, tonight, 6:25, chs. 13,9

line: Colts by 7

weather: windy and possibly wet

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