I guess we have now reached the point where few things should surprise us about Mike Shanahan's reign in DC. After all, in 20 months the Redskins' head coach has shipped out two starting quarterbacks, benched and then kicked out the NFL's most expensive defensive lineman (albeit one who thought that he was being paid a million dollars a fortnight to sit and do nothing anyway) and out-diva'd Clinton Portis.
Nothing surprised more, though, than his announcement that Rex Grossman was going to start the season behind center. "Pardon," we all thought, "are there two Rex Grossmans, or do you really mean the one that last started an opening game in 2007 and was thought too unpredictable even for Chicago?"
Apparently, it is indeed the same guy. You wouldn't know it to look at him, though. The Bears' version was rightly nicknamed "Nervous Rex," a quarterback so unsure of himself that the only thing you could guarantee was that he was going to have a meltdown at some point during a game.
In 2006 he took the Bears to the Super Bowl almost by accident, throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions during the postseason and barely bettering that ratio during the regular season.
He lost his starting job in Chicago in Week 3 of 2007 after throwing three interceptions in a one-sided loss to Dallas, and he never looked like getting it back again. As quarterbacks went, he was an accident waiting to happen.
Last season, having washed up in Washington by way of one appearance in Houston in 2009, he started the last three games of the season, throwing 7 TDs and 4 interceptions, but his final passer rating of 81.2 hardly suggested that he would be their starter in 2011. Neither did the amount of love that Shanahan poured on John Beck during the truncated preseason.
All credit to the coach, then, for spotting what became very obvious during Sunday's game against the Giants. This is a new Rex.
Yes, he started like the old one, going 0-4 on his first passing attempts. But then everything changed. His passes became harder and more confident. He stopped panicking when things went wrong, absorbing four sacks where, in the past, he would recklessly have thrown the ball away. His pinpoint pass to Anthony Armstrong for a first down at the Giants' 1-yard line was a thing of beauty, threaded between linemen and into the hands of the diving Armstrong.
If anything, his final stats (21 of 34, 305 yards, 2 TDs and a passer rating of 110.5) do not do him justice. This was a far more assured performance than anything Grossman had produced during his pro career to date.
Maybe he isn't "Nervous Rex" any more.