It's funny how quickly fortunes change.
It was this time last year that Mike Shanahan was introduced as the new head coach of the Redskins, and that trade rumors for former 'Skins quarterbacks Jason Campbell were all a flutter. At the time, many people agreed with the decision. If you asked your average 'Skins fans what the problem with the Redskins was, you'd get a good portion of them who (wrongly), accused Campbell as the source of the problems.
The 'Skins haven't had a franchise quarterback since—well, arguably, they've never had a franchise quarterback. Sonny Jurgensen is the first one that pops into mind, but even he came from the Philadelphia Eagles. Joe Theismann came close, until Lawrence Taylor did the whole "leg breaking" thing (and even then, he came from the Canadian Football League and wasn't drafted by the 'Skins). Doug Williams is amongst the most well known quarterbacks, but he was actually better coming off the bench than playing full time (and also wasn't drafted by the Redskins). Mark Rypien (while highly underrated), wouldn't make many people's lists in terms of franchise quarterbacks.
It seemed that the situation was finally put to rest when the Redskins traded for former Philly quarterback Donovan McNabb. 16 games, two benchings and one ill-advised contract extension later, it seems likely that McNabb will be playing elsewhere next season, as Shanahan begins the search anew for the next great Redskins quarterback.
While there are many opinions on what the 'Skins should do with the quarterback position, it seems there is one position that comes up fairly regularly—Rex Grossman isn't the answer, and shouldn't be allowed to start.
Rex's reputation as a quarterback follows him around like a black cloud, and it likely will no matter how well he plays now. People will always look at his time in Chicago as an indictment of his character and ability as a quarterback. Some people have advocated bringing in free agents such as Alex Smith, trade for quarterbacks like Kyle Orton or Carson Palmer, or draft a new quarterback like Jake Locker or Cam Newton.
Me—I'm on the Rex Express.
Now, this isn't to say that Rex is a long term solution for the 'Skins. He's not. Even though he's fairly young (for a quarterback), the Redskins should still be exploring their options and doing their due diligence.
But for now, I see few problems with Rex starting. In fact, here are several reason while I believe Rex deserves to be the starter for the Washington Redskins.
This is probably one of the biggest reasons why Rex should start next season—he already knows the Redskins offense, and seems to be comfortable with it.
Rex spent the entire 2009 season in Houston, playing behind Matt Schaub and learning the terminology and play calls and X's and O's. This actually made him more qualified to start to Donovan in a sense—he didn't have to adjust. He already knew it.
You could see that he was already more comfortable with it just by the tempo the Redskins kept on the field. The team has been plagued with clock management issues for much of the season, most involving numerous delay of game penalties as McNabb relayed the calls in the huddle. Rex already knew it, which lead to a more high tempo, more efficient offense that didn't have the same issues.
Thinking back a bit, Rex actually outperformed Donovan in the 2010 preseason in a number of ways, including the game in week three, moving the ball effectively against the Jets starters—aside from that whole "the ball went through his hands and the Jets got a safety" thing.
Bringing in a new quarterback or drafting a new one will likely involve the same issues Donovan had as they try to relay the X's and O's. There's already a guy who knows it all, so why replace that guy?
Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak was actually Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan's offensive coordinator for a number of years in Denver, where he helped the team engineer both of it's eventual runs at the Super Bowl.
Kubiak was offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. The argument could be made that you don't need a quarterback coach when you have a guy like John Elway, but it's what Kubiak did after Elway left that helps him make this particular slideshow.
Kubiak helped develop Brian Griese into a long time starter in Denver after Elway retired, and took perennial loser (and jerk) Jake Plummer and turned him into a viable starter. When he took over the head coaching job in Houston, he jettisoned David Carr in favor of a young back-up by the name of Matt Schaub. In 2009, Schaub led the league in passing with 4,770 yards.
Kubiak is an excellent teacher, much like his head coach before him, and I think it showed a bit in Rex's limited playing time. Rex didn't look like the same Rex he was in Chicago, and Kubiak could have been a big part of that.
Adding on to the fact that Mike Shanahan isn't a bad coach of quarterbacks either. Coach Shanahan has been largely credited with helping develop Hall of Famer Steve Young into an eventual Super Bowl champion, and helping to refine Elway in his formative years.
Think of Kubiak as the AP high school teacher and Shanahan as the college professor. Either way, both of them can develop a guy like Rex into a pretty good starting quarterback.
If there's ever been a football team that's had even fewer franchise quarterbacks than the Redskins, it's the Bears.
The only one I can think of is Jim McMahon. When it comes to quarterbacks, the team has never done well in developing a quarterback, or even really tried to develop a guy. The Bears start by building their defense first, and their quarterbacks last—offense has never been their priority.
If you don't remember, Rex did start all sixteen games of the Bears run to the Super Bowl. Before you tell me Rex had nothing to do with that, I will remind you that the Bears offense was ranked first in the National Football Conference in total scoring that year. Rex threw 23 touchdowns in route to the Super Bowl, before the Bears had something of a meltdown in the Super Bowl, and yes, that did have something to do with Rex's play.
But it also had something to do with the normally stout Bears defense springing a leak, their center screwing up several snaps, and fumbles by other members of the offense. The Bears losing the Super Bowl was about as big a team effort to fail as you will see, but Rex takes the sole blame because he was the guy who was under center
For the rest of Rex's tenure in Chicago, he was constantly screwed around with. They didn't try to bring in a new quarterback coach or offensive coordinator to try to keep the touchdowns up and the interceptions down. They didn't develop him and try and refine his skills, while building a solid team around him. They just benched him, and then started him, and then benched him again.
Rex's time in Chicago probably is not the best evaluator of his overall skill. Even when Chicago finally got a solid quarterback in Kyle Orton (who still struggled and was actually benched in favor of Rex at several points), they still traded him for Jay Cutler, and then put him behind a sub par offensive line.
Put Rex's time in Chicago in the back of your mind for now. Rex is not that same guy.
The Redskins have far too many holes to be worrying about a quarterback. Still, there are many people who believe the Redskins will draft one of the big name quarterbacks with their tenth pick overall.
The tenth overall pick would better be served if it were traded away for picks in the later rounds, but if they do use that pick, a quarterback is the least of their worries. They need an offensive linemen. They need a 3-4 nose tackle. Hell, they need a new free safety or even (though I hope they don't spend the draft pick on it) a wide receiver more than they need a new quarterback.
Drafting a quarterback with the tenth pick overall would mean investing a great deal of the future in him, and there are no top flight quarterbacks that are absolute must haves. There are a lot of solid guys, a couple meh guys, and at least one massively overhyped guy.
Sticking with Rex means one less hole that the team needs to fill, at least in the short term. There's no point drafting a new quarterback in the first round if you can't put him behind an offensive line that won't get him killed, or he's playing on a team with a defense that gets shredded on a weekly basis.
Sorry Cam; I'll roll with Rex if it means we can address more spots on the team that, ultimately, have a lot more to do with it's success than the quarterback position does.
Even if the Redskins don't spend a first round draft pick on a quarterback, it wouldn't hurt to draft a developmental guy in the later round.
The tenth round draft pick could be a valuable thing to a team that wants to move up and draft a quarterback. If the Redskins decide to use the pick, they can use the pick on a bigger need.
In the meanwhile, it wouldn't hurt the Washington Redskins to draft a quarterback from round 2 or in the later rounds to develop into the next guy, just in case. It's a case of value over flash, something the Redskins have been pretty miserable at in recent years.
It is far better to take a chance on an Andy Dalton or a Colin Kaepernick or someone available in the later rounds, who are cheaper options who can at least turn into valuable back-ups, than drafting a number one guy who might not pan out.
Taking that second round guy and developing him could be a better long term solution to the teams problems at quarterback, rather than drafting a QB in the first round and having to deal with the constant "when are you going to put the rookie in" questions that will be brought up.
If you looked at the stat sheet, you would say that Rex wasn't a big improvement over Donovan.
If you watched the games, you'd leave feeling something different.
In the thirteen games Donovan played, he only had two games in which he threw more than one touchdown. One of those games was the Monday Night Massacre, which almost shouldn't count. That means his last game as a starter versus the Bucs was the only game in which he threw for two touchdowns, and was also the only game in which he didn't throw at least one interception.
Rex finished out the season with 7 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Grossman very nearly lead the 'Skins to a huge come from behind victory versus the Cowboys, in which one interception wasn't his fault. (Mike Sellers completely ran the wrong route), throwing for four touchdowns in the game.
It's arguable about whether or not he actually threw an interception in the Jacksonville game—the player who intercepted looked like he stepped out of bounds to just about everyone who wasn't the referee that day. Nonetheless, Rex did a relatively good job of piloting the offense, moving them up and down the field, throwing for a touchdown and setting the 'Skins up for a touchdown.
Versus the Giants, Rex again had a solid game, or at least solid enough. He moved the offense up and down the field, scored two touchdowns, and once again threw an interception on a route that wasn't his fault, not surprisingly run by Mike Sellers again.
The offense actually looked like an offense with Rex under center. He still looked rusty at times, but that's to be expected when you don't start for two or three seasons. There were actually flashes of what the offense could be on a consistent basis with Rex, that wasn't there when Donovan was on the field.
To a certain point, I think all the players were happy to see the drama between Shanahan and McNabb come to an end. For all the talk of Shanahan "losing the locker room", the team certainly didn't look like it was losing any continuity, and actually played better.
I already talked about the offense. Aside from Chris Cooley suddenly developing a case of Carlos Rogers hands in the Jacksonville game, everyone finished off the season strong with Rex in the game.
But more importantly, defensively, the team finished a lot better than it started. Though there were many problems with the defense. One of it's bigger problems was the inability for the offense to maintain drives and keep them off the field. The defense does have a lot of older players, or younger players adjusting to new roles—time on the sidelines to listen to what the coaches are saying is pretty crucial in terms of what is happening on the field.
With the offense seemingly always stuck in neutral, it meant the defense constantly had to get put back on the field. This was not a good thing.
With Rex able to move the ball in the last three games, the defense did a lot better. The Cowboys game saw the defense get shredded for most of the first half, but once the offense put points on the board and made things close, the defense performed better on the whole.
The D performed much tighter as a unit in the last two games of the season, despite being a patchwork of guys who haven't played and cornerbacks being force to play safety. (Carlos Rogers even caught an interception!)
The team also played with more energy. Cooley commented that he liked Rex's energy in the huddle—he kept the tempo high, and was constantly on the sidelines, pumping his teammates and keeping the energy up there.
None of the players seemed to have a problem with Rex, so why make them relearn an entire new guy?
John Beck was bought to the Redskins via training camp last season. Upon his arrival, 2008 draft class member Colt Brennan was released, effectively leaving the football team with no young quarterbacks.
Beck competed with Rich Bartel for the third quarterback spot on the roster, and performed admirably in preseason. Reportedly, Shanahan has been impressed by John Beck, particularly with his arm strength.
That said, anyone who believes Beck is a better option than Rex is kind of crazy.
Beck has never seen significant regular season playing time—the last time he started a game was in 2007, when he played for the Miami Dolphins. Since then, Beck has been a back-up, bouncing to the Dolphins before coming to the 'Skins.
I'm not saying Beck can't be a good quarterback, but (love it or hate it), Rex has actually started games, helped a team get to the Super Bowl, and has more game time experience than Beck.
I'm sure Shanahan will allow Beck and Grossman (and whatever rookie quarterback they bring in, most likely), to compete for the starting job, but for the moment, I feel like Rex actually gives the team the best chance to win.
Isn't that a scary thought.
Even though Donovan didn't perform well on the field, there is no denying that he's been one of the best people in the NFL. He's an excellent teacher and an excellent example of what it means to be a quarterback, beyond the superficial, and beyond the play on the field.
McNabb has been credited with helping bring Michael Vick along and making him a better quarterback. McNabb is the first guy in the film room and the last guy out. He and Rex developed a friendship over the course of the season (despite the controversies), and would hang out, go to dinner, and watch film together.
It's a broad statement, but the Rex that appeared before the media this season just seemed like a different Rex. A far cry from the guy who once claimed he didn't study film before a game and seemed as though he didn't get it.
Being Donovan's back-up brings a certain level of maturity to any quarterback. Grossman, Vick, Kevin Kolb—all have talked about what a good example Donovan was for them. Despite all the stuff surrounding him, McNabb was still poised and contained, and still worked hard, and the hope would be that rubbed off on Rex.
Everyone likes a comeback story, right?
Rex hasn't endeared himself to a lot of football fans in his tenure in the NFL, and for good reason. But I think the Rex that existed in Chicago and the guy who has come to Washington are two different people. In Chicago, he never had a team that really supported him, a team that was going to build around him and make him better. When the team performed poorly, the blame was placed squarely on Rex's shoulders.
Such is life in the NFL when you're a quarterback—when the team succeeds, even if you have little to do with it, you usually get the credit. When the team struggles, it's usually placed all at the quarterback's feet.
Rex has never had a team that supported him. When he struggled, he wasn't coached to be better. They put him on the bench. You can't learn anything by being on the bench, and it led to Rex pressing when he got back on the field.
You can dislike Rex, but the guy performed well in a situation that not many other people could've dealt with. How many people can come into the situation he did and not let the pressure get to him? This is Rex Grossman we're talking about—though he's always been a class act, "poise under pressure" was never one of his strong suits.
But with all the circumstances surrounding him, Rex went out and played football, and that was that. He didn't let the fact that McNabb was benched get to him. He didn't let all the naysayers get him off his game.
Even with fans booing him in FedEx Field (when, by the way, did we turn into Eagles fans?), Rex went out and helped keep the final game of the season close.
The question becomes, what's the worse that can happen?
If Rex is the starter and the Redskins have another 6-10 or less season, that puts the 'Skins right back in a good position to take a quarterback next year.
But if he's good? If he can pilot the Redskins to a record of .500 or better? Then quarterback is one less thing the Redskins have to worry about for the time being. If he can come in and have any kind of success, the Redskins get a solid stop gap quarterback while a young guy is groomed to take over when they're ready.
If he's better than good, than Mike Shanahan and the Redskins end up looking like a geniuses, and he potentially helps the 'Skins get out of the cellar in the NFC East.
Rex likely won't win any popularity contest, but he doesn't have to. He's the best we have right now.
And in my humble opinion, he deserves a shot to prove he can still start in the NFL.