As quarterback competitions go, the Washington Redskins’ battle this summer was a civil affair. Rex Grossman and John Beck dueled like true gentlemen, with nary a barb or dig between them. Teammates expressed confidence in both options and vowed to back whoever coach Mike Shanahan chose.
For all the feel-good vibes and back-slapping, though, there always was going to be one winner, one loser and the full range of emotions that come with such a critical decision.
On Wednesday, both quarterbacks moved forward with dramatically different outlooks. Grossman, the victor, turned his attention to Sunday’s season-opener against the New York Giants. Beck picked himself up from a disappointing outcome.
“I didn’t take it for granted in Chicago, but any time something gets taken away from you and then you get it back, you have a different outlook, a different type of approach and respect for the position you’re in,” Grossman said. “To be the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins is a huge thing. I fully understand it, and it’s my goal to take it and run with it.”
Meanwhile, Beck’s resolve strengthened in the aftermath of his missed opportunity. Over the span of a few days, he went from working with the first string to running the Redskins’ scout team.
“I’ve been trying to climb the mountain ever since I got to this league,” he said. “I know there’s going to be obstacles. I know there’s going to be times where you slip and fall, but I never look at them as I’m down and out. I look at them as, all right, that’s an obstacle. I’m getting over it, and I’m going to keep moving ahead.”
Grossman, 31, hasn’t been a full-time NFL starter since 2007, the season after he played in Super Bowl XLI for the Chicago Bears. He lasted three games before being benched.
He never completed more than 56 percent of his passes during six seasons in Chicago - or in his other two NFL seasons, for that matter.
But these are different circumstances, Grossman insisted. Past experiences have prepared him for what’s ahead.
“The game has slowed down a lot,” he said. “As a younger quarterback, you kind of see everything, and as a veteran quarterback you see what you need to see, which allows you to play faster.
“I’m watching very specific things, going through my reads quickly, where sometimes as a young quarterback you try to be perfect and see the whole defense. My thoughts are simplified now as a veteran.”
That showed in the preseason, at least. Against first- and second-string defenses, he completed 64.2 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 92.3, compared to Beck’s 74.7.
“He’s a gunslinger,” receiver Donte Stallworth. “He can make every throw. He’s very confident. He’s a guy that will sit in there and take hits if necessary. I’m very comfortable with Rex back there, and I know the rest of the guys are, so we’ll rally around him.”
Beck’s characteristically positive disposition did not waver as he spoke to reporters about losing out to Grossman in what he believed was a fair competition. He was disappointed, but his grieving process has ended and he is looking ahead.
He plans to sit down with coaches to formulate a plan for how he can continue to improve in the Redskins’ offense. Beck will get scant practice repetitions with the first string in practice and he doesn’t want his progress to stall.
“I’ve got to find ways,” he said. “I’ve got to find time after practice. I’ve got to come in on the off days like I’ve always done to continually improve so if something does happen, I can be ready for it.”
Beck preferred not to discuss possible reasons for losing the competition, such as the lockout or the groin injury that cost him a week of practice and the first preseason game.
“I have told myself I’m done; I’m not going to think about what happened because I can’t,” he said. “I can’t waste time thinking about the what-ifs. I have to move ahead.”