When the airwaves buzzed this spring about the possibility of John Beck skyrocketing from the Washington Redskins' scout team to the starting lineup, Rex Grossman stepped away from the microphones and waited. He would win the quarterback competition on the field, he said then. He once started the Super Bowl. His experience would help him shine.
Grossman's confidence was validated Monday when coach Mike Shanahan announced he will start Sunday's regular-season opener against the New York Giants. Shanahan rewarded Grossman's strong preseason performance, choosing the experienced quarterback over the more mobile Beck.
"You look at [Rex] every day, everything he does," Shanahan said. "It's a big evaluation process. You're talking about seven-on-seven [drills], team [drills], check-offs, audibles, blitzes. I thought he did a great job. I thought John did, too, but I thought Rex won by an edge."
The Redskins did not make either quarterback available to reporters. Grossman could not be reached for comment after leaving team headquarters. Beck declined to comment.
The decision ends months of speculation about the identity of the Redskins' Week 1 starting quarterback. Shanahan hopes he doesn't have to revisit the issue
"Obviously, you make the decision based for the season," he said. "When you pick a guy out, you're not saying, hey, you think that guy's going to fail. Obviously you're hoping he'll be very successful."
Shanahan, however, left open the possibility that Beck could start if Grossman sputters.
"You've got to be at the top of your game to stay at any position," Shanahan said. "I know everyone wants to make the quarterback controversy and how long will he be here, just like any position. You've got to perform. If you're a Pro Bowl player or you're coming in as a first-round draft choice or third-round draft choice, we evaluate you every day."
Shanahan reiterated his belief that Grossman and Beck are capable of engineering the offense, a point he has hammered since the start of training camp in late July.
"I told you guys the truth," he said. "Day by day, practice every day, game situations, just watching guys how they performed in all different areas, and it was close. Very competitive. I have a lot of confidence in both guys after watching through this camp."
Both quarterbacks were told of Shanahan's decision over the weekend. Shanahan informed the team at the start of Monday's practice.
"Rex, I think he played great," receiver Anthony Armstrong said. "He did everything I expected him to do. He went out there and ran the offense well. He was extremely efficient with it. I think he did a good job putting his name in the hat."
A team source last week said coaches at the start of training camp considered the job Grossman's to lose, but Beck made them reconsider with his strong play. Both effectively moved the first-string offense at times during the preseason.
Beck's chances of winning the starting job, however, suffered three significant blows since the end of last season.
First, the lockout resulted in the cancellation of the team's official offseason program. He missed 17 practices that would have helped him get comfortable running the offense after operating the scout team's plays for all of last season.
Then he missed the first preseason game and a week of practice because of a strained groin he suffered Aug. 6. Grossman played well in the preseason opener while Beck watched.
Lastly, Beck struggled in Thursday's preseason finale, admitting he was not sharp. In two quarters against Tampa Bay's defensive reserves, he was 10-of-21 for 108 yards and an interception. It was not sufficient production from a starting quarterback playing against nonstarters.
Grossman believes he is capable of playing better than his eight-year body of work in the NFL suggests. Last week, he said he is making faster decisions because he is familiar with the offense after starting the final three games of last season.
He cited his touchdown pass to Santana Moss in the third preseason game. By contrast, that same play resulted in a fumble against the Giants in last year's regular-season finale when he hitched twice before deciding where to throw.
Beck's upside could be greater than Grossman's because Beck has started only five games, but Shanahan believes Grossman will play above his reputation as an inconsistent passer who is prone to turnovers.
"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. "He's done a good job since he's been here."
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