One of the more amusing subplots of the Washington Redskins’ training camp has been the fascination over quarterback Pat White and his read-option foot speed, the idea that the former West Virginia star could unseat Rex Grossman as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster behind Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.
Poor Pat. He has no idea who he is dealing with. None.
“I know I can be successful and play in this league,” Grossman says, still with the swagger of a starter. “Even my worst critic, I can point out things that obviously show I can play in this league. I think I can play great. But I haven’t. I just feel like I did something to make that not happen. And I need to correct that.”
Ah, the perseverance of the QB Who Won’t Be Cut.
It’s Year 11 of one of the most statistically inconsistent quarterbacks in modern NFL history, a man with a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 56 to 60, the guy whom Chicagoans long ago dubbed “Good Rex” and “Bad Rex,” depending on which week he let his evil twin escape from the locker room.
And he’s still here, the ultimate NFL survivor despite not having taken a regular season snap since the end of the 2011 season.
Wait, other than making $940,000 to hold a clipboard, why are you still here?
“Everybody knows I can make tons of plays and play well,” he says, pushing his sweaty black hair to the side last week after practice in Richmond. “I’ve also proven I can make mistakes as well. My point is that not everything is statistics. Not everything is going to go well. But I’m going to give you a chance to win and make plays. I’m going to give you a chance to win. Now, it may not always look like it. But at times it will.”
Rex is really still here because he is Griffin’s good cop for Kyle Shanahan, whose offense Grossman has studied and mastered since their first year together in Houston in 2009. “This is my fifth year with Kyle,” he says. “I understand what he wants out of each play and why he is calling the play. And so, more than just the progressions on paper, I understand where his mind-set is.”
Oh, and Rex also bailed the Shanahans out during their most trying times in Washington. In 2010, when the Donovan McNabb experiment failed, Mike summoned Rex to make the end of the season respectable. In 2011, when the John Beck experiment failed, the head coach summoned Rex twice — once when Grossman beat out Beck for the starting job in training camp and, after a four-INT, Bad-Rex afternoon against Philadelphia, again in Week 10 after Beck was so mechanical and robotic that the coaching staff and players gave up on him.
Except when he has torched his own team, Rex has been sort of a human fire extinguisher for the Shanahans in Washington. As the No. 3 guy now, he’s that “Do Not Break Glass Unless Absolutely Necessary” player.
My son has a 10-inch piece of spotted-orange blanket with a giraffe’s head on it that he sleeps with every night. This creature is called Mr. Giraffe. It’s his security blanket. Rex is Mike and Kyle’s Mr. Giraffe.
I know what you’re thinking.
How secure can anyone be when the same man to start a Super Bowl for the Bears also unfathomably has had two 20-interception seasons (2006 and 2011)? If a player has made two fan bases cover their eyes and choke on tortilla chips when he has dropped back to throw into double and triple coverage, he’s infinitely more scary than safe.
Rex knows. In fact, he cringes at the replays, too. He can’t believe the No. 8 guy in the burgundy-and-gold jersey went for broke so often, even though his receivers love that he has that Favre-esque confidence in them to make a play.
“That’s what I’ve been working on — trying to stay consistent and letting the game come to me and making the plays that are there,” he says. “I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to hit a home run. I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to shoot a three-pointer. I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to make the big play. But that’s just who I am. But I have to tame that.”
Rex pauses reflectively. “I still have a winning record in the NFL. Bottom line is my career has not been as good as I wanted it to and not everything turned out the way I planned. But I still think I’m capable. That’s just me with my public statement.”
Privately — let her rip, baby.
He is the epitome of Forrest Gump’s mama, when she said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” With Rex, you really don’t know what you’re going to get.
This being his sixth one-year contract in a row — and third time in four years he’s making the league minimum salary for veterans — he doesn’t exactly convey stability. But something about Grossman sticking around so long, through thick and thin, from Super Bowl starter to third-string backup, makes me admire him.
“I’ve always believed in myself,” he says. “I feel like someone that has taken a team to the Super Bowl, that has talent, that just needs to tame himself every once in a while and be a little more consistent, I think that’s pretty good value.
“I can show you a lot of players around the league are getting paid more than me and better playing time situations that I can make a case for. . . . I know what I can do. The coaches know me, what I’m about and what I can do and what I can’t do.”
He keeps going, beating himself up at times.
“And the number one thing is turnovers — eliminating turnovers. Other than that, I can play. How do you eliminate turnovers? You stay within yourself. Problem is, things aren’t going real well, I try to make ’em go well. That’s been my downfall. But I can also like every throw and get hot and dice you up.”
Rex pauses once more, thinking deeply about the why-are-you-still-here question.
“Pat White did a good job [against Tennessee], and I’m happy for him,” he says. “I want to feel real good about how I played. But it’s not up to me to justify myself.”
Nope. You don’t have to say anything else, Rex.
When cut-down day comes, we know who is staying and who is going, who is a training-camp body who is a lock for eternity — death, taxes and Rex.
For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.