Rex Grossman leads the 'Skins to victory (Mike Nelson- US Presswire)
Let's start with the negatives. After all, this is a column about the much-maligned Rex Grossman.
The demoted Curtis Painter of Indianapolis, rookies Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder of Jacksonville and Minnesota, respectively, the ever-struggling Tarvaris Jackson of Seattle and 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford of St. Louis have something in common besides the fact that they're NFL quarterbacks on bad teams.
They're also the only ones behind Grossman in the passer ratings. And only the recently waived Kyle Orton throws interceptions even close to as often as Grossman.
And yet, the question for Washington fans shouldn't be why is Grossman the Redskins' starting quarterback? The question is why didn't he get the job back from John Beck sooner than two games ago?
Grossman deserved to get benched for Beck after throwing four interceptions in three quarters against the mega-disappointing Philadelphia Eagles. He was so ill with pneumonia the following week that he needed to be hospitalized when the Redskins returned from Carolina, a game in which Beck was decent. But after the subsequent shutout by Buffalo, it was obvious that Beck wasn't giving the Redskins the best chance to win, which is what coach Mike Shanahan always says is his criteria for choosing a starter.
I'm not saying that Grossman is an elite quarterback. Far from it. He's not even in the top half of the league's passers, but the difference between him and Beck is not nearly as small as it appears from their statistics which are very close.
It comes down to two factors. Grossman is 4-4 as Washington's starter. Beck is 0-3.
The Redskins average 18.1 points with Grossman at quarterback, 11.0 with Beck. The average NFL offense scores 20 points a game. With Grossman at the helm, Washington has a watchable, run of the mill offense. Beck delivered unwatchable incompetence.
In Beck's final two games as the starter, he was sacked 10 times during the Buffalo debacle and threw so many screen passes in the followup against San Francisco (in which Washington came close to being blanked for a second straight week) that rookie running back broke Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk's Redskins record with 14 catches.
In Grossman's last two games, the Redskins have scored 47 points and generated 755 yards.
The bad Rex, who can turn 2nd-and-7 into third-and-19 with a boneheaded intentional grounding penalty as he did last Sunday at Seattle, is still there, but so is the good Rex, who immediately responded by with the gorgeous 50-yard touchdown to receiver Anthony Armstrong that put the Redskins ahead to stay during the come-from-behind, losing streak-snapping victory.
"That's Rex, always looking to make a play down the field," said receiver Jabar Gaffney, who played with Grossman at Florida before reuniting with him this season.
"(Rex) wants to go downfield," agreed Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has coached Grossman the last three seasons. "Even when he does struggle, he comes out there with confidence. He plays one play at a time and he's a guy you believe in for that reason. That's why the guys follow him."
Santana Moss, Washington's best receiver the last seven years, made the Pro Bowl with Mark Brunell as his quarterback, had his highlights with Jason Campbell and Todd Collins and set a career-high in catches with Donovan McNabb throwing him the ball. But for Moss, there's something special about Grossman.
"Rex's not going to be a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning (in terms of efficiency), but he's my guy," said Moss, who re-signed with Washington in July with the expectation that Grossman would be the starter. "Once I got the hang of playing with him ... he made me a believer. He's tough. He's going to stand in there, take hits and try to make sure that he give you the opportunity to make a play. You give him time and he can throw the ball anywhere."
The Redskins aren't going anywhere, but if cornerback DeAngelo Hall had stopped Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on those two critical third-and-very longs in the gut-wrenching losses to Dallas, Grossman would be 6-2 as a starter and Washington would be 6-5 and leading the NFC East. That's amazing.
Grossman hasn't convinced me, and almost surely won't, that he should be the Redskins' quarterback in 2012. That job should belong to whichever quarterback they draft in the first round. But Rex is certainly clearly better than Beck and I was wrong for thinking otherwise.
WUSA-9's Redskins Insider, David Elfin, has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of five books on the Redskins including the new "Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History."