Some sports seasons become, even years later, synonymous to me with one particular figure or storyline. In the NBA, 92-93 was the year of Barkley, 94-95 the year or Rodman, and 95-96 the year of the Bulls. In the NFL, I always see 1994 as the year of the 49ers (in particular, Steve Young and Deion Sanders), 1993 as the year of Emmitt Smith, and 1998 as the year of Randy Moss. It's not a matter of using hindsight and looking at the eventual champion: it's looking at a particular year and seeing a story line that was prominent from beginning to end.
And that's why 2006 will always be, for me, the year of Rex Grossman. And it doesn't matter what happens in the Super Bowl.
In September the Bears were mauling just about everybody, winning huge blowouts and shutting down opposing offenses. But Rex Grossman was also playing like the Bears had found their best QB since Sid Luckman. He was chucking the ball downfield and showing us a real offense to compliment the always formidable Bear defense.
Then he starting sucking--hard. He was utterly awful in many games--and most of them, the Bears still won. He had some truly atrocious, miserable, completely unproductive and obviously detrimental to his team games: against the Cardinals (Rex is partly responsible for "They are who we thought they were" and "If you want to crown them, then crown their ass," quotes which football fans will forever be thankful), against the Vikings (he had like 0 yards and a bunch of turnovers as the Bear defense and special teams wrapped up victory), and against the Packers (a complete dud of a game, which he blamed on New Year's Eve). He had many other truly terrifying performances, and managed to scatter in a few competent games.
As it became clear that the Bears were head and shoulders above the rest of the NFC, the talk centered on Rex. Could he have three straight competent games once the playoffs came? Should Lovie Smith replace Rex with Brian Griese? How far could the Bears really get with Rex's streaky play? How do the Bear players feel about Rex? What is the meaning of Rex's statistics? Will he personally and single-handedly destroy the Bears' season in January?
And then he played well in a narrow playoff victory over the Seahawks, then he played pretty lousy in a big playoff victory against the Saints, and now the Bears are in the Super Bowl. If he plays well and the Bears lose, he'll still be the story of the season. If he plays awfully and the Bears lose (or he gets benched), he'll still be the story of the season. If he plays great and leads the Bears to a victory over the Colts, he'll be the story of the season. And if he plays utterly awful but the Bears still somehow win, he'll be the story of the season.
For better or worse, the 2006 NFL season is the season of Sexy Rexy.