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Kyle Shanahan: Redskins still need a franchise quarterback

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Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has cast further uncertainty on quarterback Rex Grossman’s future with the team after he said the club remains in need of a franchise quarterback and will try to find one this offseason.

Shanahan — who last week said Grossman needs to eliminate his turnovers to succeed — praised the quarterback’s aggressive nature. But at the same time, Shanahan said he would have no problem going with a new quarterback next season, even if the quarterback has no experience in Shanahan’s offensive system.

“You don’t need a guy that’s experienced with your system,” said Shanahan, who is in his second season with the Redskins after directing the Houston Texans’ offense in 2008 and 2009. “When [Matt] Schaub came into Houston in his first year, he played at a very high level. I don’t think it’s a system that takes a long time to learn. You can get better at it, but everyone in the league runs similar plays.”

Grossman played as a backup for Houston in 2009 and then came to Washington on a one-year deal last season. He ended up unseating Donovan McNabb for the final three games of the season and beat out John Beck for the starting job this season. Grossman has a 5-7 record as a starter this year, but has thrown 19 interceptions to 15 touchdowns and has lost five fumbles.

The Redskins’ offense ranks 16th in the NFL, averaging 334 yards per game, but has mustered only 18.5 points per game (26th) while turning over the ball 34 times (fourth-most).

Despite those shortcomings, Grossman — who was benched five games into the season, but reclaimed his job three weeks later — has said he feels good about his play.

“My confidence level is at an all-time high. I just need to eliminate a couple of bad plays here and there that deter a great performance,” said Grossman, who will be a free agent this offseason. “I’ve done a lot of good things this year. We’ve done a lot of great things this year. Just the consistency level, the percentage of bad plays need to go down. I think you’ve seen that for the most part, as far as production for the last six weeks or so, we’ve been putting up a decent amount of points, moving the ball at a consistent pace.”

The Redskins’ confidence in Grossman doesn’t appear to be quite as high. Both Kyle and his father, head coach Mike Shanahan, have remained noncommittal on the quarterback’s future.

On Friday, Mike Shanahan said he started evaluating college quarterbacks midway through the season. “I’ve already looked at 10 or 15 of them,” he said. “I’ll take half-hour a day, early in the morning. The tapes are made up. I’ll look at maybe 75, 80 plays of just a guy throwing the football in game situations and so that’s most of the passes, or at least the good passes during the season, just so I get a feel for the guy.”

The Redskins passed on the opportunity to draft a quarterback last April. They traded down from No. 10, where Jacksonville ended up taking Blaine Gabbert, to No. 16, where Washington took linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, so they could collect more picks because their needs were so abundant.

In next spring’s draft, the Redskins are expected to use what will be a top-10 pick on a quarterback because the free agent class of quarterbacks is weak. New Orleans is fully expected to re-sign Drew Brees, leaving Alex Smith, Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell as the top free agent options.

Stanford’s Andrew Luck is expected to go first overall in the 2012 draft, but Indianapolis is expected to take him if the Colts land the first pick. Washington currently sits in the seventh spot, but may have to trade up to get the next-best quarterback, which is expected to be Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, if he declares for the draft. Oklahoma’s Landry Jones is projected as the third-best quarterback.

When asked Thursday what kind of quarterback he would prefer, Kyle Shanahan said, “My preference is a quarterback that is going to try to win the game and is smart enough to do that the right way.”

In his weekly remarks to reporters, Kyle Shanahan said Grossman is capable of playing the position the “right way,” and capable of making game-winning plays.

“He’s a smart guy,” Kyle Shanahan said. “I think you can calm him down a little and make him feel like, ‘Hey, you don’t have to try to make all these plays to win the game. We’re in the game. We’ve got a lead. We can run the ball. We can do this. We can do that.’ Then, you don’t have to do as many risky decisions that he has done in the past.”

But at the same time, he acknowledged that the Redskins do not have a top-tier quarterback on their roster.

“Everybody’s looking for a franchise quarterback,” Kyle Shanahan said. “You want one of those guys that there’s no question about. There’s probably only about five or six of them in the league. Then, there’s a lot of guys who can play and a lot of guys who need to be replaced. You’re always trying to find that one and [we’re] still looking to do it.”

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