It’s been a productive holiday weekend for Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins.
Two days after finalizing his roster and bringing star safety LaRon Landry off the PUP list, Shanahan has named Rex Grossman the starting quarterback for Sunday afternoon’s season opener against the New York Giants.
Grossman beat out the heavily favored John Beck to win the job, surprising those who felt Shanahan had been leaning towards Beck the entire offseason.
"I got a chance to talk to our quarterbacks over the weekend," said Shanahan. "Very good battle. I've got a lot of faith in both of them and it's been very competitive all the way through, but I want to announce that today, the starting quarterback will be Rex."
Ultimately, Beck may have been the favorite, but he did little in his final two preseason appearances to merit that distinction. In games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, Beck went a combined 16 of 31 for 216 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Despite the subpar stats, he was still considered by many to be the top option due to his mobility and work ethic. Beck had been the more vocal of the two and teammates often admired his attitude and leadership abilities. Former coach Jon Gruden also threw his hat in the ring for Beck, leading to speculation that Shanahan had tipped his hand to the ESPN analyst.
Simply put, an overwhelming majority believed Beck would be under center against the Giants whether he had earned it or not.
"It was close," Shanahan said. "Very competitive. As I've said I got a lot of confidence in both guys after watching them through this camp....I like where we're at."
Yet Shanahan was telling the truth when he repeatedly told the media there would be an open competition for the starting role. With all the hype surrounding Beck, it was Grossman who had the edge in play throughout the preseason and Shanahan rewarded him for it.
"All in all I thought [Grossman] did a great job," he said. "I thought John did too, but I thought Rex won it by an edge."
Grossman’s uncharacteristic efficiency in three preseason games made him the logical choice. He was the better quarterback in almost every facet of the game, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for a quarterback rating of 92.3. Criticized for his turnover-prone tendencies and immobility, he threw just one interception and was sacked twice in 55 dropbacks.
Grossman had to prove he could command the offense in his third year in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Though he never emphatically claimed the job with a signature performance in the preseason, he was steady. He dinked and dunked his way to a win over the Steelers in week one and led a scoring drive in a two-minute drill against the Ravens’ starting defense in week three.
That was enough to beat out Beck who failed to distinguish himself with a dismal effort (10 of 21 for 108 yards and an interception) in week four against the Buccaneers.
Even with Grossman under center on Sunday, the situation is far from resolved. Now the question is how short will his leash be? Grossman is known for his multi-interception meltdowns and lead feet. Should he display those traits early on, it’s likely Beck will get a chance as well.
There's no time to rest of the laurels of a preseason triumph and for Grossman the real battle begins on Sunday.
"You got to be at the top of your game to stay at any position," Shanahan said. "I know everybody wants the quarterback controversy and [wants to know] how long will [Grossman be the starter]? That's the nature of the game. You got to perform if you're a Pro Bowl player or if you're coming in as a first-round draft choice [or] a third-round draft choice."