The Washington Post

Rex Grossman’s play is the biggest surprise in Redskins unsurprising season

After leading the Redskins to a season-high 463 yards against the Patriots, quarterback Rex Grossman might have the opportunity to pick his own destination next season, and the Redskins should want him back, Mike Wise writes. (Rich Lipski/Associated Press)

If Mike Shanahan’s second season in Washington is devoid of anything beyond more victories, it’s the lack of upsets. Really, what feat by the team or an individual player has been so remarkable and unexpected that no one saw it coming?

After the Giants in the opener, the Redskins have not beaten a team close to special. Roy Helu and Perry Riley? Surprising. Ryan Kerrigan? Good as advertised for the No. 16 pick in the draft. But name one unheralded soul from September who should now be labeled “complete shocker.”

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

Now, name one veteran on the cusp of pulling a stunner, a guy who is the only thing genuinely qualifying as an upset this season: Rex.

Yes, with three games left, Rex Grossman has earned the right to return at quarterback. Who saw that coming? The high-risk, medium-reward guy referred to as Train Rex, the guy responsible for 11 turnovers in his first first five games this season, has suddenly established a market for himself.

After nearly matching Tom Brady drive for drive Sunday and carving up a porous New England secondary — which, okay, could not cover a Ritz Cracker — Grossman has become the entrenched starter and shows no signs of giving up the job anytime soon.

In maybe a bigger stunner, Grossman actually holds the cards in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Five games after regaining his starting position from John Beck, four of which he has played very well while piling up yards and points, Grossman’s offseason gamble of signing for one year instead of the two years the team offered is about to pay off. He can go play with any team he wants. Yes, another shocker: Actual NFL teams could be interested in his services next season as a backup or better.

It’s Extreme Makeover, Quarterback Edition.

Raise your hand if you believed, four interceptions into an Eagles game at FedEx Field on Oct. 16, the Redskins needed Grossman next season?

When the brain trust put their heads together in April and decide which quarterback after Stanford’s Andrew Luck is the best suited to be Washington’s franchise quarterback, their next decision will be: Who backs him up? Who best to come in when Robert Griffin III/Matt Barkley/Landry Jones goes down or isn’t yet ready to master the offense?

Though Shanahan remained non-committal about Grossman or any player specifically returning when asked Monday, Grossman has made this a no-brainer. Yes, he still has an uncanny knack for the game-ending interception. But, his deer-in-the-headlights stare before he is about to be crushed in the pocket notwithstanding, Grossman finally has the Redskins’ offense moving.

Washington put up 463 yards and 27 points on Sunday. Grossman had six passing plays of 20 yards or more, including a bomb to Donte’ Stallworth. This was remarkable because the words “throw deep” and “Redskins” rarely wind up in the same sentence anymore.

Grossman has taken Washington down to the wire against the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys and beaten the Seahawks on the road in the past month. And he seems to get better the more he’s on the field. With 10 starts under his belt this season, Grossman has now started more games and thrown for more yards (2,426) in 2011 than any other year in his career except 2006 when he started for the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

You know one of the main reasons why Grossman signed for one year instead of two? He read Shanahan’s gushing quotes about Beck during training camp and was worried he would not get a fair shot to start. So he smartly kept his options open.

But if he had his druthers, the truth is Grossman wants to stay here. It’s clear he loves the offense in relation to his abilities and he enjoys working with Kyle Shanahan, whom he was first coached by in Houston.

Sonny Jurgensen has recently stated he believes Grossman is coming back, asking incredulously, “Why wouldn’t he? He’s played well.” When Chris Cooley was asked last week, he replied, “I don’t see why not.”

That the Redskins need Grossman to stay — that he has actually produced to a point where more than a portion of the fan base wants him to return as a back-up option — is clearly the most surprising development by a player this season.

The guy most likely to be voted Most Unpopular Redskin in mid-October, while he was finding Eagles safeties in mid-stride, is no longer the biggest problem or need in Ashburn.

You don’t get an award for that. But, hey, in a 4-9 season you find your comebacks where you can.


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