In Grossman, shades of the past

By Thomas Boswell
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jake Plummer.

That's what's really interesting about Rex Grossman and the Shanahans. Will Rex become Jake II, the reclamation project, thought to be a bad joke, who confirms and showcases the coach's brilliance?

After Grossman's four-touchdown, three-turnover show in a 33-30 loss to Dallas on Sunday, the Washington Redskins coach said, "I understand this game, and I understand how it works." That got noticed.

This didn't: "When I had Jake Plummer, he had a winning percentage of 36 percent" in six years in Arizona, Shanahan said. "Everybody said we were crazy. He had 90 touchdown passes and 114 interceptions. 'How can you bring a guy to the Denver Broncos that had won 36 percent of his games?'

"And four years later, he'd won 72 percent of his games, which was the best in [the NFL in those] four years."

You can't find two quarterbacks in recent times who were more similar and more mocked as they approached age 30 than Plummer, with a career quarterback rating of 68 when Shanahan got him, and Grossman, with a lifetime mark of 69 when he came here. Few if any think Grossman will be the Redskins' quarterback the next few years. I don't. But you can bet it's tantalizing the Shanahans. And sometimes they're right.

It's nice for Mike and his offensive coordinator son Kyle that they get to enjoy the Christmas week crow-feast that's being eaten around the NFL by people who thought that Grossman, even aided by the Shanahan offensive system, could never run the Redskins attack better than Donovan McNabb (I'll have a large drumstick, please).

On his bench-McNabb decision, Shanny got about a 20 percent sanity rating from fans, media and stray dogs. It's cozy being wrong in the middle of a pundit herd, especially because Shanahan, in his de facto GM role, wasted so much time and money, plus draft picks, with his McNabb mistake.

Now, from the remainder bin, we get Grossman. Kyle's makeover may be a beauty.

Many will say, "Not so fast." Grossman next faces two teams in playoff contention, not the Cowboys, who have given up more than 30 points eight times and rank 31st in points allowed. Grossman's QB rating (93.4) was lower than McNabb's a week before (100.7).

The Jaguars and Giants might stampede Grossman. Or not. But it doesn't change what we saw Sunday.

Grossman seems to understand the Redskins' offense better than McNabb, run it more quickly, end up in the right play more often, go through his reads deeper and step up in the pocket as asked. He doesn't have McNabb's arm strength, ability to rip away from rushers to make plays, nor his career-long ability (until this year) to avoid interceptions.

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