It was Oct. 5. I remember sitting at my local Buffalo Wild Wings. My head hurt, my stomach churned and my heart ached.
The night earlier, my beloved Chicago Cubs were swept out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers. A season that looked destined to break the franchise’s century-long duck crashed quicker than Wall Street.
It hurt. It hurt bad. So after six shots of Patron and countless cans of ice cold Schlitz, I forced myself up by noon the next day to catch the Chicago Bears game. I needed something to make the hurt go away, and I figured a game against the Detroit Lions usually does the trick.
It was the perfect hangover cure.
In fact, it alleviated more than my residually booze-induced haze. It took care of another hangover 13 years in the making.
The Bears Quarterback Carousel has been well chronicled. In the glorious 1995 season, Erik Kramer led the Bears offense (coordinated by Ron Turner) to great heights. He set franchise single season records for attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes. But Kramer couldn’t stay healthy. And his lack of health led to a Who’s Who List of Junior Varsity All-Stars (as if Erik Kramer was anything but).
That list follows….
You want to know how starved Bears fans were for a decent quarterback? Jim Miller was treated like the second-coming of Lou Diamond Phillips in “La Bamba.”
I mean, what’s not to like about a 30-year-old journeyman backup, who leads the team to an 11-2 record in 2001, throws just 13 touchdowns in 13 games, averages a meager 164 yards a game, all the while failing a drug test for steroids.
Miller’s defense: “You guys have seen me naked in the locker room. Am I on steroids?”
Jim Miller ladies and gentlemen.
That’s why non-Bears fans will never understand.
That’s why we stuck by Rex Grossman, even when everyone else in the league was laughing at us. Starve a guy long enough and even Subway tuna’s starts to taste like Filet Mignon.
So that brings me back to Week 5 – back to my headache and periodic tequila shits.
There was this bearded chap playing quarterback in the orange and navy. And while I’ve seen more than 20 guys claim “to play” quarterback for the Chicago Bears, this was a rare occasion where one actually was.
On Oct. 5, as I enjoyed six spicy garlic and six sweet BBQ wings, Orton tossed for 334 yards and two scores with precision passing.
And I know it was the Detroit Lions – who have allowed eight passers to have season-best days against them – but there was something about that Week 5 game. It wasn’t just the fact that the ball got to an open receiver. It was how the ball got to the receiver. It was the type of throws. We saw a kid people remember watching in college throw 60 times a game and do so impressively. But that was college. That wasn’t the professional version of Kyle Orton. We had seen him before.
We saw him in 2005 as a rookie when he tried his hardest to hand the ball off and occasionally throw it away. In his defense, the Bears did finish 10-5 with him as the starter, but his 59.7 QB rating makes Brad Johnson look serviceable.
But this No. 18 was new. In light of the most recent Bears QB Crash and Burn (Grossman), Orton – bearded or not – was a sight for sore eyes.
So with fantasy managers scrambling to grab him, critics changing their tune and opposing defenses hanging deep, Orton had become a revelation. Finally, the next Erik Kramer?
So imagine how I felt Sunday when I saw the ghost of Craig Krenzel and Moses Moreno.
Orton scrambles to his right, dives out of bounds and has a defender fall on his leg. He’s hurt. Seems hurt bad. Bring out the cart.
God is punishing me. For what, I’m not sure. I’m well aware that it’s probably deserved. But come on Big Guy, have a heart. What you did to me with the Cubs doesn’t need to be expounded upon. You turned my bowl team from a year ago (Indiana) into a squad that has lost to two MAC teams this season and would lose to more if they were on the schedule. You brought me 1.3 points back from a basketball team that spent much of last season among the nation’s top 15 teams (Thanks for that, Mr. Sampson).
Now this!? My only chance to salvage a devastating year of fandom. You take Kyle Orton from me for three to four games. And you’ve left me with Rex Grossman – again.
I guess it could be worse.
He could be Brooks Bollinger.