- Whether it's Rex Grossman or Donovan McNabb, or another quarterback, that leads them next season, the Redskins players say they'll be fine with Shanahan's decision. (Photo: Associated Press)
The biggest decision hanging over Mike Shanahan as the Washington Redskins enter the offseason is what to do about the quarterback position. Keep Donovan McNabb? Cut McNabb and name Rex Grossman the starter? Give John Beck a shot? Draft a quarterback?
Some of those scenarios seem far less likely than some of the others (McNabb remaining with the team appearing to be the most unlikely), but Shanahan says he is considering all of those options. Evaluation begins now, the coach/executive vice president says. How things will end up is anyone’s guess.
"Same thing I said a couple of weeks ago: after the season's over, we'll get a chance to evaluate Rex. We'll sit down, and make the best decision for this organization,” Shanahan said when asked Sunday night where the Redskins stood at the quarterback position. “I said nothing is out of the realm of possibility right now. I'm not going to say one way or another what's going to happen, because I'm not really sure myself. So we'll sit down, evaluate everything over the next couple of weeks and get closer to a decision."
In talking to the Redskins’ offensive players, it seems like none of them really care who Shanahan picks. At least that’s what they say.
“Whoever’s back there, I’m going to be happy with,” center Casey Rabach says. “Be it Rex, be it John Beck, be it Donovan. It seriously doesn’t matter to us. Whoever’s back there, we have confidence in, he’ll be a leader of this team, and we’ll go from there.”
Both McNabb and Grossman had their share of ups and downs this season.
McNabb had a down year by his standards as he worked to learn Kyle Shanahan's offense. But had he not been benched, he would’ve passed for a career-high in yards. Had McNabb played a full season, he would’ve thrown for 4,156 yards, 17 touchdowns and 18 interceptions while notching eight fumbles and completing 58.3 percent of his passes.
Grossman started three games, and in those outings, he threw for 884 yards and seven touchdowns. If he was able to maintain that pace for a full 16 games, Grossman would have tossed for 4,714 yards and 37 touchdowns. But at the same time, Grossman in three games threw four interceptions and fumbled three times. Those numbers converted to a 16 game schedule would translate to 21 interceptions and 16 fumbles. Whether or not Grossman would have actually produced those numbers -- good or bad -- in a full season is hard to say, but one thing is for sure: like McNabb, he is capable of making big plays, but also capable of making plenty of mistakes. And like McNabb, he probably isn’t the Redskins’ long-term answer at quarterback. Also, like McNabb, Grossman can’t be blamed for all of Washington’s struggles.
Many of the same problems that plagued the Redskins under McNabb also remained under Grossman. The team still struggled to convert on third downs, both quarterbacks were sacked roughly three times a game, and there was no clear identity to the offense.
There were small improvements to the offense this season. The Redskins’ ranked 22nd a year ago and this season moved up to 18th in the league. And after mustering just 16.6 points a game in 2009, they squeaked out 18.9 this year. And this season Washington had three receivers with at least 800 yards for the first time since Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders did so in 1989. Based on those improvements, Washington’s offensive players believe that they will take a big step forward in the system next season. But whether it is out of respect for both quarterback’s feelings, out of fear for Shanahan, or because neither passer did enough to distinguish himself, none of them are ready to declare overwhelming allegiances to either McNabb or Grossman.
“I just feel like every new offense is not going to come out the blocks and be great,” wide receiver Santana Moss, who this season set a new career high with 93 catches, and also topped the 1,000-yard mark for only the fourth time in his career and had six touchdowns. “I’m really pleased to see what we were able to do with two different quarterbacks at the helm. I’m really pleased to see what we were able to do through some of our adversity, and with all that said, it gives you that confidence that maybe we can go somewhere. … I like Rex. I feel like if we go out and do what we gotta do together, he can be that guy. I felt the same way about Donovan. No guy should get just one opportunity and be just dealt with. So, you never know what’s going to happen, so I hope the best for us all.”
Tight end Chris Cooley, who posted 77 catches for 849 yards and three touchdowns, had expressed confidence in both McNabb and Grossman at various points this season, and receiver Anthony Armstrong said regardless of who is under center for Washington next season, the offense will make strides.
“I feel like whoever’s back there throwing the ball, we’ll be fine with him,” said Armstrong, who finished with 44 catches for 871 yards and three touchdowns. “I’ve had success with both of them, and Santana has, too. We’ve scored points with both of them, so you can’t sit here and say, ‘Donovan didn’t do this, Rex does this and whatnot.’ Whoever is going to throw the ball, we can put up points and be fine. You could be quarterback for us next year if you read the plays out right and study the offense. Whoever’s out there, we’ll be fine with them.”
Shanahan was asked if the Redskins could realistically expect to make the playoffs next season with Grossman as their bridge quarterback, or if they should just scrap all hope and start all over again with a rookie and delay playoff hopes another year or two.
The coach danced around that answer. He said the Redskins will determine that in due time.