Quarterback battles are common during each NFL preseason, similar to a common cold. Moreover compared to a common cold, quarterback competitions are normally settled in a matter of time.
Finding a franchise quarterback can be as difficult as hitting the lottery.
For the Washington Redskins, they have been playing the NFL quarterback lottery since Super Bowl-winning quarterback Mark Rypien retired. They’ve crapped out on many signal callers, most recently quarterback Donovan McNabb who was traded to the Minnesota Vikings shortly after the NFL lockout.
The Redskins don’t have their franchise quarterback on their roster yet, but they will be healed for the seasonal common cold soon, as quarterbacks Rex Grossman and John Beck continue to battle for the team’s starting quarterback position. Normally, quarterback competitions start to take a turn during the third preseason game, but not in Washington.
When was the last time the Redskins had a situation that has gone smoothly, in a good sense? Grossman and Beck are not making the decision of Redskins executive president and head coach Mike Shanahan easy, due to their good competitive play.
“It’s never happened to me,” said Shanahan when asked about ever facing a difficult situation of selecting a quarterback heading into the final preseason game at his press conference on Saturday. “It’s happened to be a number of times when guys were fighting for a position at the quarterback position. I don’t think that’s the question. The main thing is, can guys play?
Both quarterbacks had their chance at center stage.
Beck had a slow start to the field as he was sidelined against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the following week in Indianapolis, Beck led the Redskins on four straight scoring drives, leading the way for the win against the Colts, 16-3.
While Beck has been successful with intermediate passes, leading to scoring drives compiling 248 yards on 20 completions off 27 attempts and a touchdown, Grossman has aired the ball out more. Grossman has completed 34 passes off 53 attempts for 407 and two touchdowns. Grossman has been impressive in his outings, including against an aggressive Steelers defense.
However against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night, who posed as the Redskins’ largest test during the preseason knowing the defensive-minded squad from Charm City was going to attack with their starters for majority of the contest, Beck and Grossman delivered with a solid run game in defeat, 34-31.
“We have two football players that can play,” said Shanahan. “[John Beck and Rex Grossman] have gone out and played well in some crucial situations when they’ve had a lot of pressure against three pretty good football teams.”
The 2-1 Redskins have shown some surprising results in their performance, considering what is expected from them from the public. Other than decent quarterback play with some flaws, the defense has been aggressive, playing with some discipline, and their running game, led by running backs Tim Hightower and rookie Roy Helu, has combined for 343 rushing yards and two touchdowns (Hightower), has been impressive.
“We’ve done a good job overall as a football team,” said Shanahan. “People are working extremely hard and are very diligent in what they do. I see progress made every week. You’re going to have mistakes in preseason games, but, hopefully, you learn from those mistakes and I think we have and we’ll continue to do so.”
The NFL lockout has obviously had its toll on the players as the lack of preparation caused some mistake-filled performances. But Shanahan is confident that all 90 of his current players get to showcase their worth with the deciding game to determine their 53-man active roster.
“This is a lot more unusual than most years going into the fourth preseason game because of the lockout, the evaluation of young players and the evaluation for some of the players that are fighting for a position,” said Shanahan. “Normally, this week, you’ve lost 10-15 guys. We still have the 90 guys all the way through our Tuesday practice, which is normally like a Friday practice. That gives us the opportunity to not overwork players, but they will get a lot of reps.”
Nevertheless, all eyes will continue to be on Grossman and Beck, who both are performing well, as the Redskins will play their final preseason game of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday at FedEx Field. Beck is the team’s favorite, but Grossman’s experience and output has shown a better outing between the two.
“That’s what you want to see. You want to see if the players, when given the opportunity, can go out and prove to their teammates that they can play and play at a very high level,” said Shanahan.
“I think they’ve (Grossman and Beck) done that, which is very positive. Everyone wants to isolate who’s the guy, but we have two football players that can play and our football team knows it.”