To say the Washington Redskins have a quarterback controversy would be somewhat of an understatement. What they have is more like a quarterback conundrum.
Head Coach Mike Shanahan has a choice. He can start a quarterback who possesses the mentality of a gunslinger but lacks the requisite talent, someone who can throw the ball down field and usually does so right before throwing the ball to the other team.
Or he can start a quarterback only capable of throwing check down after check down after check down, a player whose shaky pocket presence and boyish looks make you want to rub his head and give him a juice box after a tough loss.
It's Rex Grossman or John Beck. Not since the days of Shuler or Frerotte has the Redskins quarterback situation been this compelling.
At this point, it's not likely but somewhat probable that the Redskins will lose all of their remaining games. They will face a murderous schedule down the home stretch and can't seem to find the end zone regardless of who has his hands under center.
On Sunday, conditions were ripe for the team to snap a four-game losing streak against the lowly Miami Dolphins, another franchise whose glory days seem long behind them.
The Redskins defense forced two turnovers, rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson recorded a career day with eight catches for 106 yards, and the team received several very generous roughing the passer calls that extended drives and provided much needed yardage.
Despite all these positives, Grossman found a way to give the game away in the fourth quarter. With the ball on the Miami 10-yard line, the Redskins trailing 9-12, Grossman dropped back and stared down wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. By the time he got around to releasing the ball, Miami linebacker Karlos Danby had put himself in perfect position to intercept the pass.
Grossman's second interception prevented Washington from kicking the tying field goal, much less scoring a go-ahead touchdown, and Miami promptly marched down the field against a Redskins defense that looks a little older and a little slower each week before sealing the win with a Reggie Bush touchdown.
I've written before that Beck is not a legitimate NFL quarterback, and I stand by that assertion. But Grossman's penchant for turning the ball over negates all the positive throws he makes and prevents the Redskins from having a chance to win the games in which he plays.
The nickname Good Rex/Bad Rex used to refer to the way Grossman would follow a good game with an abominable one. Now it can be applied on a much smaller scale: He follows a great throw with an interception at least once a game.
It's clear that Grossman has some talent, and at some point the coaches responsible for designing the offense, Shanahan and his son, Kyle, have to shoulder some of the blame for putting their quarterback in a position where he can turn the ball over on a consistent basis.
I'm not excusing Grossman for his mistakes, but considering that in San Francisco Jim Harbaugh has turned Alex Smith from a joke to a solid quarterback illustrates how coaching plays an integral part in determining a quarterback's success.
Shanahan's tenure in Washington has been defined by personnel problems. It started with the infamous Albert Haynesworth conflict, which was followed by a spat with Donovan McNabb, the quarterback Shanahan signed in 2010 offseason to run his offense. McNabb ended getting benched in favor of Grossman, and some people cried foul at Shanahan's handling of the situation.
This year the story in Washington has been the controversy at quarterback. Shanahan brought in Beck, a career journeyman deemed unworthy of a starting job by the league's other 31 teams, to compete with Grossman. He boldly pronounced that either man would be good enough to lead the team. That statement has proven false, and now Shanahan can't seem to make up his mind over who he wants to lead his team.
Whether Shanahan decides to stick with Grossman or whether he continues to oscillate between the two will tell us more about the state of mind of this once great coach than it will about either quarterback. It's clear neither player has the chops to be an NFL starter, but playing switcheroo with the most important position on the field only illustrates a lack of confidence on the part of the coaching staff.
Changing head coaches can be a tiresome process. But if the Shanahans can't catalyze any offensive improvement in the coming weeks, or at least decide on a starting quarterback, then owner Dan Snyder would be wise to cut them loose.
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