LANDOVER - Heading into Sunday's match up against the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins starting quarterback Rex Grossman appeared to have a stronghold on his job, at least according to his head coach. Despite owning a 3-1 record prior to Sunday's game, Mike Shanahan would continue to be peppered with Grossman questions at the majority of his press conferences. The most popular questions were always about how he would evaluate his quarterback, despite the fact that he had committed more turnovers (seven) than touchdown passes.
After each question, Shanahan continually shot down the notion that he's concerned about the team's quarterback play, urging fans and media to look at the their record as the ultimate judge rather than Grossman's touchdown-to-turnover ratio. At the time, he was right. The notion of a quarterback controversy this early in the season with a winning record seemed ludicrous, despite Grossman's erratic play. Even if Shanahan was concerned, there was no reason to show his hand publicly as long as the team was successful.
And then Sunday happened.
Grossman had the type of performance fans feared he could, leaving the quarterback situation cloudier than ever. He threw four interceptions in a 20-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and was benched for John Beck.
It all started on his first offensive possession against the Eagles in their territory, when Grossman dropped back on third and long and threw a deep jump ball to Fred Davis that instead found Eagles safety Kurt Coleman.
"I saw Fred beating his guy," Grossman said of his first interception. "I had to try to put a ball up so that [he] could go out and just get it."
The pick ruined a good chance to score early, but hardly seemed like a deathblow to Grossman's role as the starter. It was simply Rex being Rex and a pick that nearly served as a punt rather than a huge shift in momentum.
But as it turned out, it was a huge shift in momentum, as the Eagles responded with 17 unanswered points, going up 17-0. It was now on Grossman to lead the charge as Washington was forced to rely on the passing game to get back into the contest and make the game competitive. Late in the second quarter, Grossman spotted Jabar Gaffney open on a deep post, but badly underthrew it to safety Nate Allen, marking Rex's second interception of the game.
"The second one was a play that I just didn't throw far enough," Grossman explained afterward. It was another ugly throw in what was shaping up to be an ugly game for the Redskins.
Washington went into half trailing 20-3. At that point, the question to begin creeping into the minds of fans and observers alike: is it possible they could make a change at quarterback?
Grossman emerged out of the locker room after halftime still the signal caller, hoping to shake off his rough start to the game. But he was unable to rebound, as he threw a third interception, this one to Coleman again.
Rex's third pick of led to chants of "We-want-Beck!" at Fed Ex Field, as the fans in the stadium let the team and coaching staff know that enough was enough.
But was it enough for Shanahan? Though Grossman was having a tough day, it'd be a difficult decision to bench him. Clearly, Shanahan didn't want to do that then and send a message to the team about his lack of confidence in their quarterback. Add that to the possibility that a quarterback swap could ignite a media firestorm, and it was easy to see why Shanahan didn't want to make any rash decisions. Either way, the feeling around the stadium was that Grossman's leash was getting shorter and shorter.
Then Rex forced his head coach's hand. After Grossman completed his third pass to Coleman, his fourth interception of the game, it was obvious that he was probably wasn't going to be trotting out onto the field for the rest of the day.
After the pick, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan tapped John Beck's shoulder and whispered something into his ear, presumably to tell him he was going into the game. And with that, Beck began warming up and the quarterback controversy the senior Shanahan didn't want finally became a reality in just the season's sixth week.
"We needed a spark," Shanahan said of the switch, one he made at the start of the fourth quarter with the Redskins trailing 20-6.
"Everybody knows that if you have four picks in a game, good things aren't going to happen," Shanahan said of Grossman's play Sunday.
Beck then came in and performed admirably given the situation, completing 8 of 15 passes for 117 yards and a rushing score, but it was the fact that he had to come in that leaves Shanahan with a long week of questioning with reporters about his two quarterbacks.
Now that a move has been made, fans and observers essentially have to return to the preseason mindset, engaging once again in a discussion about the merits (or lacktherof) of each signal caller.
The crux of the battle between Beck and Grossman seems to have come down to this: does the coaching staff fear the unknown quantity that is Beck more than known one in Grossman? The answer to that question appeared to be yes, as they went with Grossman to start the season, figuring he gave the team the best chance to win despite his penchant for turning the football over. With Beck, there still lies the great unknown. His NFL track record is practically non-existent due to him not starting a game since his rookie year in 2007. That unknown seems to be simultaneously enticing and frightening for both the coaching staff and the fans alike.
The day Shanahan announced he would go with Grossman to start the season, the general sentiment among the fanbase and media was that both quarterbacks would likely see time, as most believed it likely that Grossman would intercept and fumble his way to the bench. But there was also a sense that perhaps Grossman could break from his past tendencies. With good coaching, a solid offensive scheme and better talent around him, he could finally be able to conquer the turnover issues that have plagued his entire NFL career.
Grossman's season certainly started off on the right foot with an impressive performance against the Giants, as it looked as if he could potentially turn the corner. But three games and 11 turnovers later, Grossman has made the decision easy on the Shanahans, fulfilling what most believed would happen prior to the start of the season -- his benching and the appearance of Beck.
In a way, what happened Sunday was a seemingly inevitable outcome, one that now has an organization that hasn't had a franchise-caliber passer in nearly a generation potentially moving on to their next candidate.
Can Beck be the guy? Or will it be someone who's taking snaps in college currently?
Either way, it looks like Grossman may have taken himself out of that conversation for a while, putting the Redskins back at square one at the game's most important position.
Stay tuned to this StoryStream for full Redskins vs. Eagles coverage. Hogs Haven and SB Nation D.C. are your sources for Redskins news, while Bleeding Green Nation and SB Nation Philly offer the opponent's perspective.