When comparing Rex Grossman to John Beck throughout the quarterback competition, many media members and analysts, including me, considered “upside” an element that favored Beck. Beck has played only five regular-season games, so it stands to reason that he would improve over time as he accumulated game experience.
Grossman, on the other hand, has played 41 games over eight seasons. It’s a relatively large sample size compared to Beck’s. How much better can Grossman get at this stage of his career?
Well, Grossman believes he can be a lot better, that his upside is considerable. It stems from two things: 1) Kyle Shanahan’s playbook, and 2) his experience running Kyle’s offense.
“There were times in Chicago where I’d have a 130 quarterback rating and four touchdowns because most of the plays were working,” Grossman said last week. “When they didn’t work, I was stuck. This offense allows you to have success even if you don’t call the exact right play.
“I’m not totally knocking Chicago, but 20 percent of the plays in Chicago were dead. Now, it’s a very small percentage here because you’ve got somewhere to go with the ball. There were three or four plays in the Baltimore [preseason] game that they covered them. That happens. But I have so much more confidence in how we’re doing things, which allows you to play confident as a quarterback that the play-caller is going to give you a great opportunity to be successful.”
The scheme, combined with his experience in it, has Grossman setting his expectations extremely high.
“I’m playing faster, making faster decisions, getting the ball out of my hands and making the right decisions,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing faster.”
Grossman cited two examples. The first was the touchdown to Santana Moss at the end of the first half of the Ravens’ preseason game. He compared that to a sack-fumble against the New York Giants in last season’s finale. It was basically the same play-call, he said — one a touchdown; the other a turnover.
(Because NFL.com does not allow other sides to embed video highlights, I’ve included pop-up links to the videos below.)
Here’s the fumble. Take a look. Notice that Grossman hesitates and hitches twice after he reaches the top of his drop. He’s slow getting the ball out, which allows Osi Umenyiora time to strip him.
Now, watch the touchdown. Grossman is in-rhythm and decisive at the top of his drop. The ball comes out quickly, allowing the Redskins to capitalize on the advantageous coverage.
“It’s just one example of being a little bit ahead of the game as far as making decisions pre-snap and seeing their disguise and now going to the right guy faster and being ready to throw at all times,” Grossman said. “That’s what allows you to succeed.”
The other example is a play in the Baltimore game that included a pair of two-man combination routes, one on each side of the field.
Grossman’s first two reads were the two receivers on the right side, including tight end Fred Davis in the flat. I’ll let Rex take it from here.
“I knew the coverage was bad over there, so I could quickly come to [read Nos.] 3 and 4 and make a decision like it was 1 and 2,” he said. “That’s all Kyle. He’s drilled that mindset: ‘If you get that coverage, get off it quickly so you can read 3 to 4.’ Those are things that in the game I wasn’t thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to get off that quickly.’ I reacted to it. That’s why I feel as good as I’ve felt in my whole career.”
Is all this a guarantee that Grossman is going to play like a different player? Of course not. He was intercepted by one of the Indianapolis Colts’ reserve linebackers in the second preseason game because he simply didn’t see the linebacker on an easy read over the middle. That’s Bad Rex, and there’s no proof to suggest he’s gone for good.
But Grossman at least isn’t buying the notion he lacks upside. Mike Shanahan isn’t either. He doesn’t care about what Grossman was in Chicago; only what he is now.
“You try to evaluate people from how they perform with me, not how they’ve done in the past or the rumors that I hear,” Shanahan said Monday. “He’s done a good job since he’s been here.”