Reporting David Elfin
Columnists can be wrong. Sometimes we can even admit our mistakes.
So here goes. I was wrong in saying that it doesn’t matter if the Redskins play Rex Grossman or John Beck at quarterback.
Washington’s offense, which averaged 11 points during Beck’s three winless starts, has averaged 18.7 points since Grossman got his job back three games ago.
Beck might have matched the swashbuckling Grossman in drawing an intentional grounding penalty that made it third-and-19 with the Redskins trailing the Seahawks 17-14 and just 6:26 left last Sunday in Seattle. But the tentative Beck wouldn’t have responded by hurling the game-winning 50-yard touchdown strike to previously forgotten man Anthony Armstrong on the next snap.
Redskins receiver Jabar Gaffney, who also played with Grossman at Florida, said the hiccup followed by the celebration nicely summarizes his quarterback’s career.
“That’s Rex, always looking to make a play down the field,” Gaffney said.
“(Rex) wants to go downfield,” agreed Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has coached Grossman the last three seasons. “Even when he does struggle, he comes out there with confidence. He plays one play at a time and he’s a guy you believe in for that reason. That’s why the guys follow him.”
Santana Moss, Washington’s best receiver the last seven years, made the Pro Bowl with Mark Brunell as his quarterback, had his highlights with Jason Campbell and Todd Collins and set a career-high in catches with Donovan McNabb throwing him the ball. But for Moss, there’s just something special about Grossman.
“Rex’s not going to be a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning (in terms of efficiency), but he‘s my guy,” said Moss, who re-signed with Washington in July with the expectation that Grossman would be the starter. “Once I got the hang of playing with him … he made me a believer. He’s tough. He’s going to stand in there, take hits and try to make sure that he give you the opportunity to make a play. You give him time and he can throw the ball anywhere.”
Unfortunately for Grossman, that anywhere is to the other team way too often. Among the 33 quarterback with enough attempts to make the NFL passer ratings, only Kyle Orton, who was cut last week, has an interception percentage near Grossman’s 5.2.
And I’m not about to say that Grossman is a quarterback that the Redskins can win with or that he should start instead of a whichever quarterback they draft in the first round in 2012.
However, even though their individual statistics are very similar, there’s a clear difference between Grossman and Beck. The former won more games last Sunday than the latter has during his career. Grossman has won an NFC Championship Game. Beck’s last victory came during that same 2006 season at BYU.
In fact, you’re not going to believe this, but over the last nine seasons, the only Redskins quarterback who has been more successful than Grossman is Collins, who started and won the final three games of 2007 after Campbell (20-32) was hurt. Grossman is 5-6 after last week’s comeback at Seattle (4-4 this season). Beck is 0-3. Last year’s starter, McNabb, was 5-8. Brunell was 15-18. Patrick Ramsey was 10-14.
If Washington upsets the New York Jets on Sunday, Grossman will match Danny Wuerffel (2-2) at .500, leaving him trailing only Tony Banks (8-6) as the Redskins’ most effective quarterback of the 11 seasons since Dan Snyder foolishly let 1999 NFC East championship leader Brad Johnson escape to Tampa Bay where he would direct the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl title in 2002.
Two straight productive games (51 of 73, 606 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions) make for a 96.0 passer rating but are from a guarantee that the Grossman of the four picks in three quarters against Philadelphia won’t resurface as soon as Sunday. But for now, we all owe Grossman a debt of gratitude for making Washington’s offense watchable again.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.