LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Rex Grossman #8 of the Washington Redskins celebrates after a fumble was recovered against the Arizona Cardinals late in the fourth quarter at FedExField on September 18, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 22-21. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Maybe Mike Shanahan isn’t so crazy after all.
Weeks after being roundly criticized for leaving the reins of the Redskins franchise in the hands of a pair of castoff quarterbacks, Shanahan is looking like the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach he is because Rex Grossman -- the guy he picked to start the season -- is undergoing a remarkable career rebirth.
Shanahan put a positive spin on his quarterback situation all summer. He loved Grossman’s competition (John Beck). He loved Rex. He had all the confidence in the world in each of them.
No one was buying.
And could you blame them? Grossman was a has-been; Beck, a never-was. Shanahan passed on Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and a host of other quarterbacks in the draft, preferring to cast in his lot with two players perceived as career backups.
Now just two games into the season, the colossal collapse everyone expected hasn’t happened and it’s Shanahan who’s laughing.
Grossman is currently the ninth-rated passer in the NFL and has thrown for just under 600 yards and four touchdowns while leading the Redskins to their first 2-0 start since 2007.
The early success hasn’t come easily though. There have been times where Grossman’s displayed those same turnover-prone tendencies he had in Chicago, but overall he’s taken what opposing defenses have given him and made some big throws to beat the Cardinals on Sunday.
More importantly, he’s also shown a mental toughness and the ability to bounce back. Several years ago, his two first-half interceptions would have snowballed into a horrendous effort, but that didn’t happen on Sunday.
Instead Grossman passed up an open man in the flat on fourth down and hit Santana Moss in the end zone for a crucial fourth quarter touchdown.
“I’d rather have the touchdown,” he said.
Risky? No question. Arrogant? Maybe. Character-building? You bet.
“He showed the poise after he got a couple of interceptions early, regardless of how it occurred, to come back and fight and find a way to win,” Shanahan said.
Grossman went 18-30 for 203 yards and two touchdowns following his two interceptions on Sunday. After tossing the touchdown to Moss, he led another drive down the field to set up Graham Gano’s winning field goal. That will silence most critics.
“You are going to have adversity throughout the year, and in the NFL it’s how you handle it,” he said.
Grossman’s no stranger to adversity. During his time in Chicago he brought it upon himself, throwing for more interceptions than touchdowns in six years with the Bears. Now he’s making the most of his second opportunity, completing almost 60 percent of his passes for a quarterback rating of 90.6. He's efficient, but, as evidenced by his heroics on fourth down, also a risk-taker and so far he's maintained an intricate balance between the two.
Perhaps it’s just a mirage -- a brief respite from the erratic style of play that made him irrelevant. With Grossman there always will be a concern he could undergo a meltdown of catastrophic proportions.
Yet there’s a calm about him that puts you at ease. He isn’t the same quarterback, and credit Shanahan for helping to orchestrate the mini-transformation.
A pivotal Monday night clash with the Dallas Cowboys this week gives Grossman the perfect chance to win his way into the hearts of the Redskins faithful with a victory.
Think about it: A dominant performance against a division rival on national TV serving as a healthy I-told-you-so for all those who doubted Shanahan’s confidence in his scrappy quarterback.
Wouldn’t the head coach just love that?