Rex Grossman is happy to be playing well in second stint as Redskins’ starting QB this season


Rex Grossman’s play the past couple of weeks has made the Redskins’ offense look like a completely different unit than the one John Beck ran unsuccessfully for three games, losing all three. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)
November 30, 2011

The Washington Redskins lost twice to the Dallas Cowboys this season by a combined five points. If they had won those games, they’d be sitting in first place in the NFC East right now.

Or how about this one: What if quarterback Rex Grossman hadn’t been benched in favor of John Beck? Would the Redskins be entering December three games below .500?

“Hypotheticals don’t help anybody,” Grossman said.

What Grossman does know: Washington’s offense finally seems to be clicking. While he has no idea where he’ll be playing next season or what the Redskins’ offense will look like a couple of weeks from now, Grossman knows he can only afford to worry about one thing.

“I try to concentrate on each week being the only week I’m concerned about,” Grossman said.

For this week, Grossman is again a capable NFL quarterback. He is weeks removed from the benching, doesn’t have to look over his shoulder and worry about job security and leads an offense that in the past two weeks has shown the ability to put up points.

“He seems like second time in, he really is more hungry to prove what he can do,” said tight end Fred Davis, “and we’re behind him, too.”

Not surprisingly, Grossman was not in favor of his benching, though he had pneumonia and likely would have missed at least two of those games anyway. His play the past couple of weeks has made the Redskins’ offense look like a completely different unit than the one Beck ran unsuccessfully for three games, losing all three.

Even Coach Mike Shanahan sees differences from the way Grossman played in September.

“I think he’s even more confident now,” Shanahan said.

Last Sunday at Seattle, Grossman had one of the best statistical outings of his 49-game career. His 26 completions against the Seahawks were the second-most he has posted in any game, his completion percentage of 74.3 was the second-highest of his career and his 314 passing yards were his fourth-best. Most importantly to Grossman, the Redskins won, snapping a six-game losing streak.

“To pull out a victory like that and stop the bleeding, it’s definitely gratifying,” he said Wednesday. “We’re not patting ourselves on the back too much. We’re getting ready for the Jets and we want that feeling again.”

Entering Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, Grossman’s interception percentage is still the league’s highest (5.2 percent) and his passer rating (73.6) is worse than all but those of Blaine Gabbert, Curtis Painter, Sam Bradford, Christian Ponder and Tarvaris Jackson.

“Regardless, if you’re up or down, Rex is pretty consistent,” Shanahan said. “He’s got a good attitude. He’s got a lot of belief in not only himself, but the supporting cast. He’s a leader out there.”

In the offseason, Shanahan will have to decide whether Grossman has any sort of future in Washington. His play over the final five games could sway team officials. Otherwise, the Redskins may be forced to draft a quarterback and sign a free agent to provide depth.

“It’s a quarterback-driven league,” Jets Coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday. “Generally, if you hit on that position, you’re going to be set for 10 years. That’s where I think we are.”

But Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is facing similar scrutiny in New York, where fans and media are wondering whether he is a long-term solution. Sanchez, the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft, completed fewer than half his passes and totaled only 180 yards last Sunday against Buffalo. But he did have four touchdown passes, and the Jets won the game.

“I’ll take a horrendous game anytime you can throw four touchdowns,” Ryan said.

“I like judging quarterbacks on wins,” the coach continued, “and if you’re to break it down further than that, it’s probably fourth-quarter comebacks and how well the quarterback plays in crunch time.”

Grossman did well in those categories during last week’s win at Seattle. But his future here won’t be secured by any one game.

Grossman was asked last week whether he feels reinvigorated by his second opportunity to lead the Redskins’ offense this season. “All you want is an opportunity,” he said, “opportunity to go out and play and put some good tape out there and lead your team to a victory.”

Typically, players trying to put plays on tape are aware they’re auditioning for other teams. Grossman knows he has no contract for next season and says he views each Sunday as an audition of sorts.

“Each week in itself is kind of so important to me personally. Just throughout my whole career, every week is an audition,” he said. “Even if you did have a huge contract, things happen fast in this league. You could be the greatest player in the world for three weeks and then you have a couple bad games and you’re the worst.”

Beck is the team’s only quarterback with a contract for next season. On Aug. 2, Grossman signed a one-year contract worth $810,000, with a $100,000 signing bonus. Grossman says he isn’t worried about his pending free agency. “I’ve really been concentrating on performing,” he said, “and don’t let distractions get in the way of that.”

“I’m having a lot of fun right now. . . . It’s still a sport. I love the game of football. Any time you make plays, it’s fun,” he said. “Celebrate with your teammates, step up in the pocket, linemen protecting you — you step up in the pocket and make a play, you celebrate, you win the game. It’s fun.”

Rick Maese is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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