- Mike Shanahan said Rex Grossman needs more time in the offense before he can be fairly judged. (Photo: Associated Press)
Mike Shanahan didn’t come right out and say that auditioning quarterback Rex Grossman isn’t as far along in the Washington Redskins’ offense as coaches thought he would be. But the head coach sounds as if he may be modifying his expectations for Grossman, who is auditioning for the team’s starting quarterback job next season.
Shanahan has expressed confidence in Grossman, saying at two different points this season that the eighth-year pro -- because of his knowledge of Kyle Shanahan’s offense from -- may give Washington a better chance at winning than does Donovan McNabb. (The first claim came on Oct. 31 when Grossman took over versus Detroit with the game on the line and Shanahan said, "At the end of the game, with Donovan, with Rex knowing the offense, I felt with the time and no timeouts, [Grossman] gave us the best chance to win in that scenario." And then two weeks ago, when Grossman was named starter for the final three games of the season, Shanahan again said “I think Rex gives us a great chance to win” because of how the quarterback had demonstrated his knowledge in practices and meetings).
But following Grossman’s outing on Sunday, which saw him go 19-for-39 for 182 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a quarterback rating of 60, Shanahan says Grossman is showing his inexperience and needs more time in the offense before he can be judged fairly on whether or not he can be the Redskins’ answer at quarterback. (In two starts, Grossman is 44-for-82 for 505 yards with five touchdowns, three interceptions and a 77.5 passer rating.)
“First of all, you’ve got to take a look at Houston,” Shanahan said Monday afternoon. “He only played, I think 12 plays and came into the season very late. Didn’t pick up the offense until training camp. And so, to say that a person has two full years in the system is a little unfair I think. I think realistically, he’s had two games and we’ve got a chance to evaluate him against another team that’s fighting for a playoff spot. This is the third game. Even though he knows the terminology, this is the third chance to see him in live action.”
Shanahan said that early in Sunday’s game, he “thought [Grossman] played extremely well up until the interception.” Until the 2:32 mark of the second quarter, Grossman had completed eight of his 17 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Grossman was in the process of leading Washington on a scoring drive before his interception. He opened the possession by throwing a short pass to the left to Santana Moss, who then turned it into a 13-yard gain. Then after an incompletion to Mike Sellers, Grossman connected with Moss down the right sideline for a 38 yard gain. After an incompletion to Moss and a Ryan Torain run, Grossman went to Moss on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone, but Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox picked off the pass as he was going out of bounds (the play was challenged, and it looked as if Cox’s left foot was out, but the call was upheld).
Kyle Shanahan said after the game that the Redskins got the look that they wanted on that play, and Mike Shanahan agreed. But he said Grossman was too tentative on the play, and that led to the interception.
“He probably should’ve thrown it a little bit quicker to have the timing and have a chance to have a touchdown. It was disappointing because it shouldn’t have been an interception to end up with. But that’s another story in itself. But what you have to do is fight through it.”
From that point on, Shanahan said that Grossman -- who was making the 33rd start of his career -- let his inexperience show, not so much in his mechanics, but in his mental fortitude.
“It looked like he lost a little focus and missed some of the reads he would normally make,” Shanahan said of Grossman, who after the interception completed just eight of 22 pass attempts the remainder of the game. “That’s why you try to put people in game situations to see how they would react. But up until that time, I thought he was playing extremely well. You’ve got to know when to throw it away, when to take your chances. But some of the things he normally does right, some times you lose a little focus after an INT, and I thought that got to him a little bit.”
Shanahan was asked if he was surprised that Grossman struggled to rebound from the interception, but the coach wouldn’t say.
“It’s an evaluation process,” he replied. “You take a look at everything. Take a look at sacks, take a look at interceptions, take a look at dropped passes, and when you take a look at an offense, you evaluate everybody. And I was pretty honest with the assessment with Rex. But you work through those learning experience and hopefully next time he’s out, he takes advantage of those opportunities.”
Shanahan said that Grossman will again start Sunday against the New York Giants in a Redskins’ season finale that will kick off at 4:15 p.m.