- Michael Smith, NFL Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
MIAMI -- There's been one Super Bowl Most Valuable Player to come from the losing team.
There should be two.
Peyton Manning received the Pete Rozelle Trophy, presented to the game's outstanding player, for completing 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But as patient and efficient as Manning was, Rex Grossman deserved the award as much as he did. Grossman's play was as sloppy as the conditions at Dolphin Stadium on Sunday night and was as much, if not more, of a deciding factor in the Colts' 29-17 victory as Manning's passing, Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes' running, or Indy's defensive intensity.
At the very least, Manning should seriously consider shipping Grossman the red Cadillac XLR he now owns as a show of the Colts' appreciation for his assistance in delivering a long-awaited Super Bowl title to the city of Indianapolis. Then Grossman could, as the popular song says, throw some D's (those would be Dayton rims) on his ride, although as poorly as Grossman played Sunday, he might have difficulty throwing anything effectively.
I like Grossman as a person, and I think he'll evolve into a decent quarterback. But for now, I find myself wondering whether he looked at the film of last year's Super Bowl, saw that Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers won the game with him completing nine passes and throwing two interceptions, and somehow thought that was the blueprint for victory.
Amazingly, the Bears trailed by only five early in the fourth quarter despite Grossman contributing next to nothing. Indianapolis would seal it on Kevin Hayden's pick-6 -- Grossman's third turnover (second interception) and the fourth of five for Chicago.
This isn't to take anything away from the Colts, who made the necessary plays in the game and proved with their gritty playoff run that faith and persistence pay off. But just as coach Tony Dungy acknowledged that this edition of the Colts isn't the most talented in his five years there, Indianapolis' performance wasn't one of the more impressive in Super Bowl history. The Colts turned it over three times themselves. They punched it in just once in six trips to the red zone. Chicago held the Colts' offense to two touchdowns and three field goals. Yes the Bears' defense could have covered and tackled better, but overall it played courageously, often bending but not breaking despite being on the field for a backbreaking 81 plays and 38:04. Anyway, everyone knew to begin with the Bears' defense wasn't that great.
Chicago got a Devin Hester touchdown on the game's opening kickoff. Thomas Jones finished with 112 yards on the ground and set up Grossman's only highlight -- a 4-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad -- with a 52-yard gallop in the first quarter. Cedric Benson and Gabe Reid lost fumbles that weren't devastating.
What I'm saying is everybody did enough for the Bears to pull off the upset except for Grossman, and, by extension, Chicago's passing game. The first 11 times the Bears' offense had the ball, it ran more than four plays only once and managed six first downs. Grossman and All-Pro center Olin Kreutz fumbled two exchanges and lost both. Grossman was what his doubters predicted he'd be: a hindrance. The maligned quarterback finished 20-for-28 -- stats padded on the Bears' final two drives when the Colts were playing soft defense. He was off target all evening. When offensive coordinator Ron Turner dialed up deep balls, Grossman's passes looked as if he'd thrown it up and was just hoping for the best.
Perhaps no Super Bowl quarterback has been dissed as much as Grossman was leading up to the game. I found myself defending him a lot this past week against accusations that he was the worst quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl, so I was rooting for him to prove everybody wrong. Indy had little trouble defending him Sunday, which is why he's my MVP.
The Bears converted three of 10 third-down situations Sunday and went 4-for-29 in the postseason when facing third-and-4 or longer.
During one stretch in the first half, Chicago had five straight possessions of three or fewer plays. It ran just 19 plays in the first half as opposed to Indy's 46. The Bears didn't sustain a drive longer than 2:22. No defense can be expected to hold up against an offense like Indy's when it's on the field for that length of time.
"We just never really established any kind of rhythm, running or throwing it, until it was too late," Grossman said.
The Bears won 15 games this year with Grossman at the helm. Sometimes in spite of him, yes, but I think he did enough this year to establish himself as the quarterback going into next season (a contract year, by the way). He has a lot of work to do this offseason, and the Bears can't be sure he's the long-term answer at QB. He isn't the first or last quarterback to have a bad Super Bowl, but considering how little he has to do for the Bears to win, his performance and that of the Bears' passing game goes down as one of the most inept in recent memory. Without it, the Colts don't win.
Still, as they have all season, the Bears stood up for their quarterback. "Yes, he gets too much of a bad rap," receiver Bernard Berrian said. "It's not just Grossman. It's a whole lot bigger than just Rex.
"We're not going to turn on him just because we lost this game. I mean, it's the biggest game, but that's our teammate. That's our family. Our brother. There's always going to be questions circling around that, [but] in my opinion, he should be the starter. Until someone else can beat him out, he's going to be the starter."
Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley, thanks to his two picks in Super Bowl V, holds the distinction of being the only losing player to be selected MVP. If you ask me, he should have company. The Colts are finally champions, thanks in large part to Grossman, who was more awful than Manning or any other Colt was great.
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Someone re-count the ballots. The real MVP and the main reason the Colts won Super Bowl XLI is Chicago QB Rex Grossman, writes Michael Smith.