Grossman acquits himself well running the Redskins' offense despite loss to Cowboys

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 20, 2010; 12:51 AM

ARLINGTON, TEX. - As Rex Grossman was whisked to a postgame news conference and then a radio interview and then a television spot, the other quarterback was at his locker, slowly dressing with his back to the rest of the locker room. Donovan McNabb, the six-time Pro Bowler with the uncertain future, declined to answer any questions.

He left the locker room and found his parents and older brother in the concrete concourse beneath Cowboys Stadium. Grossman, meanwhile, fresh off his best performance since 2006, was still doing interviews, talking about how disappointing Sunday's 33-30 loss to the Cowboys felt but how pleased he was with his own effort.

As he finally walked through the concourse himself and sought out his own parents, Grossman said he'd avoided armchair pundits and television know-it-alls who mocked the Redskins' late-season quarterback change.

"I was too motivated to get ready," he said. "In the past, I've lied and said I didn't. This time, I swear to God, I didn't hear one word."

He might want to listen this week, as some might be changing their tunes. After more than 48 hours of endless dissection of Coach Mike Shanahan's controversial quarterback switch, Grossman finally had a chance to answer his critics against Dallas. The immediate verdict: The Washington offense - at least on Sunday - was more productive with Grossman in the huddle than it had been with McNabb.

"I thought Rex did an excellent job today," Shanahan said. "I wanted to give him an opportunity, and I thought he took advantage of that opportunity."

The 30 points were the most the Redskins had scored all season. The four touchdowns were also a season high. The Redskins hadn't had more than three passing touchdowns since 2005. For Grossman, the four touchdown passes also tied a career high. In fact, McNabb, who watched Sunday's game in full uniform on the sideline, hadn't thrown that many since November 2008.

Against the Cowboys, starting his first game in more than two years, Grossman was 25-of-43 passing for 322 yards and a passer rating of 93.4. He also had two interceptions, a fumble and took five sacks.

When coaches gather at Redskins Park on Monday to review film, they'll be especially pleased to see how Grossman's play affected the entire offense, particularly in the second half. He targeted seven pass catchers and took advantage of adequate pass protection. The Redskins were able to find a steady rhythm, build off their momentum and give the organization's talent-evaluators something to finally review.

Coaches praised Grossman for doing some of the things that McNabb had struggled with this season: managing the game, reading coverages, making his progressions, spreading the ball around and finding the right receiver based on each look.

"He executed," Shanahan said. "He executed the offense. We have a system. You've got to go through your reads. It's very complicated to tell you what he did. He just executed. There's a lot of different coverage, lot of different blitzes. We have routes called for different coverages. He went out there and performed like a veteran performs. I was really pleased the way he handled himself."

If Shanahan hasn't already reached his final verdict on McNabb, one game with Grossman running the show won't likely affect plans beyond the 2010 season immediately. McNabb served as the backup on Sunday but is expected to be the team's No. 3 quarterback in the final games, behind Grossman and John Beck.

"We'll get a chance to evaluate Rex for the next three weeks, just like we have Donovan the first 13," Shanahan said.

The reviews from the other offensive players were positive. They had practiced with Grossman since the offseason and know that because the eight-year veteran played under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan last season in Houston, Grossman has a firm grasp of the system. Tight end Chris Cooley said the offense Sunday seemed to find the rhythm it had searched for all season. Center Casey Rabach said Grossman brought a "real upbeat" energy into the huddle. And wide receiver Santana Moss said the Washington offense was "light years from where we were two weeks ago."

"Rex knows this offense," said Moss, who had two touchdowns and 72 yards on eight catches. "Rex has played this offense. For a guy who know what he knows, of course it's going to look the way it looks. He came out and he seen things and he been here before when it comes to this offense. He has the weapons and he took advantage of it. I'm happy to be a guy that's out there with him."

Grossman said that while he was disappointed to lose the game, he felt he played as well as he could. He said the Redskins were able to overcome a 20-point deficit and tie the game late in the fourth quarter because of Kyle Shanahan's play-calling and the players around him. At one point, Grossman led three straight touchdown drives and finished the day 4-for-4 inside the red zone.

"As soon as you pick up first downs, you get more plays, you get more chances at all the great designed plays that we have," he said. "When you go three and out, there's no sense of rhythm."

Shanahan seemed to acknowledge that popular opinion didn't suggest Grossman stood much of a chance Sunday. Following the loss, the head coach defended his decision to yank McNabb.

"People have no idea what I look at every day," he said. "These experts, they're not out at practice. They judge people by what they've seen in the past."

Despite Grossman's performance, there were no pronouncements about the long-term status of the quarterback position, which will likely be among the team's biggest priorities this offseason.

"This is a long process," Shanahan said. "Everybody is going to try to make this a . . . quarterback issue. I understand this game, I understand how it works. As I said after our last game, we're mathematically eliminated. I want to take a look at Rex, see what he can do. And the reason why I wanted to look at him was based on how he practiced. I thought he may look like he did today."

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