by Mike Wise
Monday, December 20, 2010; 12:09 AM
For reasons partly of his own doing and the mean-spirited sports world we live in, most every Washingtonian, Chicagoan and, well, American had been trained to regard Rex Grossman as an enemy of the state, a starting quarterback for perverse reasons only - the NFL equivalent of feeding mice to snakes.
But now it's just past 4 p.m. in Dallas, after an absolute thrill-ride of a second half. And Rex Grossman, Jr., decked head to toe in burgundy and gold, has just bear-hugged his son, patting him on the chest of his pinstripe navy suit, telling him through an emotion-choked voice, "Best game you ever played. Best game you ever played."
And his mother is planting one on his right cheek. And his wife is sharing a private moment with her husband away from the folks.
And Everybody's Favorite QB to Eviscerate, an expendable infantryman in Mike Shanahan's dangerous game of Risk, is trying to hide a smile, say the appropriate things. Because he knows, likes and respects Donovan McNabb, and he doesn't want this to be Rex against Donovan, or Mike Shanahan against Apparent Football Logic.
"He just wants a chance," Chris Cooley said afterward, as the Washington Redskins tight end rubbed a towel through his damp hair. "My impression after today? Rex has two games to win a starting quarterback job with the Washington Redskins next season. I have nothing to back that up, no inside information. But that's my impression.
"Like I said, he just wants a chance."
However unseemly it was and whomever's ego was badly bruised, Rex got one.
And now he will rightly get another next Sunday against Jacksonville. And even if the last 25 minutes Sunday stand up as his best moments of the season, many of us need to issue a mea culpa to the most maligned quarterback in the history of the National Football League to ever play 1 minute 50 seconds and take fewer than 10 snaps a season before Sunday.
(Sorry, Rex. Same goes to Mr. and Mrs. Grossman, too. Apologies. I honestly didn't think he had it in him.)
The mouse didn't just survive the venomous jaws of Cowboys Stadium; Rex thrived, nearly engineering a surreal comeback, throwing for four touchdowns and 322 yards. Four for four on touchdown chances inside the 20-yard line, he found calm amid chaos in the fourth quarter.
If Santana Moss had not dropped one of Grossman's pretty sideline throws on the game's second-to-last possession, the Redskins very well could have won. And as far as historical Dallas scrums go, that comeback would have trumped Mark Brunell's two bombs to Moss in the final minutes that rocked the Cowboys in 2005.
Very shaky early on, Grossman went from almost unemployable in the opening moments of the third quarter, after DeMarcus Ware devoured him and Dallas led 27-7, to a fourth-quarter duel with Jon Kitna that was only snuffed out by an interception on the game's last play.
Unfathomably, Rex became Rocky - before the sequels ruined the original.
The journeyman everyone believed was done may have lost the fight. But he won everyone's respect. And he got the 10-car pileup-cute girl at the end. (Well, okay, he had the girl.)
"You'd like to get a victory," he said atop the postgame podium when asked if his play justified Shanahan's decisions to start him. "I felt like I played as well as I could have and I tried as hard as I could have. It's up to you guys to decide all those things."
Does Shanahan deserve a reappraisal after last week, now that there appears to be at least a method to his madness? Yes, for believing in Grossman's ability. No, when it comes to the handling of McNabb's benching.
Bumping into McNabb after practice to let him know of the change still wasn't the way to do this; a six-time Pro Bowler deserves a sit-down in the coach's office.
But the head coach, who finally got on board Sunday with his son Kyle's desire to start Grossman, also deserves a good vent after all the criticism leveled at the decision.
"People have no idea what I look at every day," he said. "These experts aren't out at practice and they judge people by what they've seen in the past." He went on to recite Jake Plummer's numbers in Denver, which were frighteningly accurate, and reminded everyone of that controversial move.
"'How can you bring a guy to the Denver Broncos that won 36 percent of his games?' Four years later, he had won 72 percent of his games, the best winning percentage in four years."
In defending the Grossman move, he somewhat defensively brought up John Elway and Super Bowls and everything Shanahan the great football man resembled before this season, which, despite Sunday's frenetic fourth quarter, has still boiled down to "evaluation."
Time, not today, will tell if Mike Shanahan was right. Either way, acquiring McNabb and losing him after one season cost an awful lot, not only in building the foundation on the field but in building a relationship with a fed-up fan base.
The one real lament in Washington had to be the further devaluing of the term, "Dallas Week." Part of that is the Cowboys' fault. But never had this rivalry been overshadowed by so much off-the-field drama in Ashburn. By Sunday, the Redskins nemeses weren't as reviled by some of their legions as their own coach.
Whether Rex Grossman can, against all odds, become the 2011 quarterback of the Redskins is still very much unclear. Whether he's the starting quarterback for another NFL team next season is still a loaded question.
But for almost two riveting quarters of football, he was no longer just a subject in a public-opinion poll; he was a journeyman backup quarterback who got a chance and made the most of it.
Used to his own fans mocking him and opposing defenses poised to crush him, Rex Grossman walked into Cowboys Stadium expected to fail by everyone.
Well, everyone except his coach, the coach's son and offensive coordinator, a handful of teammates and, of course, family - including the man who bear-hugged him outside the locker room, Rex Daniel Grossman, Jr., whose son did at least two families proud here on Sunday, if not a few hundred thousand back in Washington.