Rex Grossman met the question head on. When a reporter late Saturday afternoon asked him to explain his latest interception, the one that extended the Washington Redskins‘ deficit beyond their reach in a 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, there was no need to hesitate.
Was it a miscommunication? Did the receiver run bad route? Did the ball float? What happened on that?
“Yeah, it was high,” Grossman said, grimacing. “I could elaborate, but it’s pretty simple.”
And, really, that applies to the Redskins‘ season. One could expound on the variety of reasons they are 5-10 and will finish in last place in the NFC East for the fourth consecutive season, but their predicament results largely from turn-overs by the quarterback.
Minnesota turned Grossman’s lost fumble in the first quarter and interception in the fourth into a total of six points. They were his 23rd and 24th giveaways of the season. No one in the NFL has turned the ball over more.
In contemplating Grossman’s future with the organization, then, it will be difficult if not impossible to look past his turnovers.
“One thing I know is Rex has done a decent job,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said last week. “He has way too many turnovers, which is not acceptable. I know not all of them are him. I think you can help around him better. I can do better to help out him not having so many picks, but he definitely needs to get that down.”
As the conclusion of his second season nears, coach Mike Shanahan is about to reach another crossroads at the quarterback position. The trade for Donovan McNabb was a colossal failure last season. Grossman’s habit of turning the ball over this year prompted Shanahan to replace him after five games with John Beck, who lasted only three starts before being benched for ineffectiveness.
So Shanahan returned to Grossman, whose 19 interceptions are tied for the most in the NFL. The other three quarterbacks with 19 - Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman and San Diego’s Philip Rivers - each has attempted at least 506 passes. Grossman has thrown only 413. And it’s no coincidence that each of those quarterbacks will miss the postseason.
With the offseason set to begin a week from Monday, the Redskins‘ top priority will be upgrading the quarterback position. Grossman is a free agent, and Washington could simply let him walk. But Grossman has gone 5-7 as a starter. That might be enough for the organization to bring him back while grooming a prospect.
To expect Grossman to stop turning the ball over, though, would be to ignore his history. The nine-year veteran has 59 career interceptions compared to 55 touchdown passes. He also has lost 19 fumbles. The pattern is firmly established.
“Rex hasn’t made all the great decisions, but a lot of those picks haven’t been his fault. Now, I’m not giving him an excuse. He’s got to play better than that, but when you’re not playing great around him and when he’s not always at the top of the game, I think Rex can cut down on those turnovers.
“I think Rex could get better with some better spots around him. I think he can get better. I still think he can make better decisions, and I’m not just going to say, ‘Hey, no matter what he’s going to always throw picks.’ “
With only one game remaining this season, Grossman is running out of time to prove it.
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