- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011


We knew this day was coming, didn’t we, Washington Redskins fans? Sooner or later, Mike Shanahan was going to get sick and tired of Rex Grossman being Rex Grossman — just as, last December, he got sick and tired of Donovan McNabb being Donovan McNabb.

As it turns out, it happened sooner - in Game 5, coming off a bye week. After Grossman threw his fourth interception Sunday (and third to Philadelphia Eagles strong safety Kurt Coleman), Shanahan could take it no longer. In went John Beck, the 30-year-old mystery man; out went Rex, about whom Redskins Nation knows far too much.

And with that, the Washington quarterback carousel began spinning again - like a Six Flags ride, if you’ll pardon the expression. It’s the most important position on the field, the QB spot, but the Redskins haven’t much stability there for … has it really been two decades? Naming their umpteen starting quarterbacks since their last Super Bowl has become a parlor game, and doing it in chronological order (Mark Rypien, Cary Conklin, Rich Gannon …) should earn you a Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, or at least a free topping on your next Papa John’s pizza.

In the wake of an ugly 20-13 loss to the Eagles at FedEx Field, it looks to be Beck’s turn at the offensive wheel. Or rather, it had better be Beck’s turn. Grossman is, after all, what we thought he was: a serviceable backup quarterback. Hand him the starting job, though, and you get passer ratings of 74.1, 75.6, 48.5 and now 23.7 in consecutive games.

It’s hard to win with that kind of quarterbacking, with Rex (nine INTs, two fumbles) turning the ball over a couple of times a week. The Redskins are fortunate to be 3-2 and still in the NFC East hunt. The time has come to give the Other Guy a shot.

Besides, the Other Guy has mobility that Grossman lacks, and that could come in handy considering the state of the offensive line. Kory Lichtensteiger blew out his right knee against Philly, and Trent Williams suffered a high right ankle sprain. So, assuming Williams is out a while, the quarterback’s blind side figures to be protected — for the short term, anyway — by Erik Cooke and Sean Locklear. In that situation, it’s better to have Beck (and his wheels) at QB than a sitting-duck type like Grossman.

Shanahan wouldn’t commit to anything, of course. “I would never announce [a quarterback change] right after a game,” he said. But if common sense holds any sway at Redskins Park, Beck will be the starter Sunday at Carolina. He just has to be.

Listening to Grossman explain his four picks against the Eagles was like one watching of those “Law and Order” scenes where they hand the accused a pad of paper and say, “Here, write down a confession. You’ll feel better.” Grossman didn’t sound too disturbed about the first one, which came on third-and-16 at the Philadelphia 38, because it functioned essentially as a punt. (The Eagles would have started at their 3-yard line if Williams hadn’t been drawn a personal-foul penalty after the play.) And interception No. 3, he suggested, might have been the result of some ragged route running by Fred Davis.

But that still leaves picks No. 2 (“I just didn’t throw it far enough to the sideline”) and No. 4 (“I thought Jabar [Gaffney] was coming back for the ball, and the defender was”). Even two are too many.

Not everything can be blamed on Grossman. The Redskins, after a week off, were out of sync on both sides of the ball and fell behind 20-0 before rallying. On one play, the normally nimble Santana Moss simply tripped and fell while running downfield. All their penalties, moreover — nine total — indicated a certain rustiness, too. It looked more like the first day of minicamp than the first day of the serious part (that is, the post-bye-week part) of the NFL season.

Whether Beck can get the offense functioning smoothly is an open question. He’s pretty much a blank slate, a five-year “veteran” who, until Grossman ran aground, hadn’t played in a regular-season game since 2007, when he was a rookie in Miami. His arm doesn’t wow you, and his play against the Eagles (8 of 15 for 117 yards) didn’t dazzle; it was merely adequate. (It was nothing, for instance, like the off-the-bench debuts of Trent Green and Patrick Ramsey in years past.)

At one point, Beck actually knocked the ball out of his own hand while attempting to pass. (Fortunately for the Redskins, he recovered the fumble.) But he also directed two nice drives in his quarter of action - the first of which reached the Philadelphia 26 before it was undone by a holding penalty, the second of which, an 80-yard garbage-time special, produced the only Washington touchdown (one that came on his own quarterback draw).

With so little to go on, you can’t jump to too many conclusions. What you can say is that Beck moved well in the pocket and seemed to get a good view of the field. The latter appeared to be a problem with Grossman, who always was throwing over linemen (and getting balls batted down) or failing to notice lurking defensive backs and linebackers.

Still, Beck would be a roll of the dice for Shanahan, just as Grossman was. And that’s not the greatest position for a coach to be in, not in the second year of a rebuilding project. But this is where the Redskins are — on the verge, quite possibly, of replacing one backup-quality starting quarterback with what could be another. Not that they haven’t been here before, too many times to count.

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