- Mike Shanahan said that he wasn't surprised by Rex Grossman's 322-yard, four-touchdown effort against the Cowboys. (Photo: Associated Press)
Mike Shanahan didn’t quite come out with an ‘I told you so,’ after Rex Grossman -- fresh off of his promotion over Donovan McNabb -- came out, overcame a slow start and led the Redskins to their most complete offensive performance of the season. But he did praise the quarterback for his play and send a clear message that he knows what he is doing.
The Redskins ended up losing 33-30 despite an 18-for-30, 214-yard three-touchdown second-half output by Grossman. The eighth-year pro, who made his first start since Nov. 8, 2008, had a shot at throwing a game-winner. He had Santana Moss wide open up the left sideline and put the ball right on the receiver’s hands. But Moss dropped it.
Regardless, Shanahan was pleased with the quarterback’s play, and said he saw what he expected to see out of Grossman.
“I thought Rex did an excellent job,” Shanahan said. “I wanted to give him an opportunity, he took advantage of that opportunity. It’s always tough when you don’t play for a while, and with the tough week we had in practice, not being able to practice fully. But I thought he did a good job, demonstrated a lot of poise. … He executed the offense. We have a system. You’ve got to go through your reads. It’s very complicated just to tell you, but he executed, we had a lot of different protections called based on different blitzes, different coverages, and he went out there and performed like a veteran normally performs. I was very pleased with him, especially being down like we were at the half, it’s hard for young guys to come in and perform at that level.”
Under Grossman’s direction, the Redskins were 4-for-4 in the red zone, and the Florida product became the first Redskins quarterback since Mark Brunell on Dec. 18, 2005, to throw four touchdown passes in one game. Thanks to Grossman, Santana Moss also had his first multiple touchdown game since Oct. 1, 2006. But Shanahan said nothing that Grossman did surprised him.
“People do in practice, and what you see in practice, people do in games,” Shanahan said. “That’s one of the reasons that we wanted to give him the opportunity because of what he’d been doing consistently in practices.”
Shanahan came under fire for benching McNabb because he wanted to see what Grossman could do for the Redskins, and if he could be the team’s solution at quarterback going forward. Grossman had started only one full season, and lacks the resume to rival McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, whom Washington gave up two high draft picks to acquire. But Shanahan said he never was concerned about the critics, and then took a moment to point out that he knows how to run a football team much better than any talking heads, members of the media or the fans.
“People have no idea what I look at every day,” Shanahan spat. “These experts are not at practice. They evaluate off of what they’ve seen in the past. When I had Jake Plummer, he had a winning percentage of 36 percent. Everybody said we were crazy. He had 90 touchdown passes and 114 interceptions. ‘How can you bring a guy to the Denver Broncos that had won 36 percent of his games?’ And four years later, he’d won 72 percent of his games, which was the best in four years. Everybody looks at the playoffs when we were 1-3 with the Denver Broncos. You’ve gotta take a look at all the great things that Jake did. John Elway when I first came back was 71 percent. We were 7-1 in the playoffs, won two Super Bowls. Everybody knows you have to win the big game, and we understand that, but there’s a process that goes along with it, and we evaluate everybody in practices and how they prepare. It’s one game.”
Although it was one game, teammates praised Grossman for his effectiveness and his confidence as he ran the show against the Cowboys.
“Rex is so fast getting in and out of the huddle,” said tight end Chris Cooley, who had a touchdown catch and two-point conversion reception from Grossman. “He is so intense. There is nothing laid back. He has a quick tempo, and he gets us the ball as fast as he can get us the ball. He called a lot of plays on first down; he called a lot of plays quick. He got to the ball when they were moving around on defense and they weren’t able to make adjustments. When he finally got into a rhythm, we got into a good rhythm.”
Said Moss: “Rex knows this offense. Rex has played this offense… I had confidence that he knew this offense. That gave me the assurance that he was the guy that knew what he was doing when it came to running the offense like it was supposed to be run.”
Both of those comments praised Grossman on aspects where McNabb has been criticized: tempo, clarity and decisiveness. But Shanahan still isn’t ready to declare Grossman the team’s solution at quarter for the immediate future, however.
“Guys, this is a long process. Everybody’s going to try to make this always a quarterback issue, but I understand this game, and I understand how it works,’ Shanahan said, reminding everyone again of his knowledge and experience. “Like I said, after last game when we were mathematically eliminated, I wanted to look at Rex based on how he’d looked in our practices, and I thought that he may look like he did today. It didn’t surprise me because that’s how he looked in practice. He took advantage of an opportunity. But Donovan did a lot of good things throughout the year. Take a look at that Houston game. Like I said, it’s a process, and we’ve got a couple games left, and hopefully we can keep getting better as an offense and a defense.”