ASHBURN, Va - As Washington Redskins players shuffled in and out of the locker room Monday, Redskins Park felt more like the last day of school rather than an NFL training facility. With their season over, they unloaded their lockers of their belongings and left the premises, bags and boxes in tow.
Their departure marks the beginning of the 2012 offseason, one that is sure to spell uncertainty for a number of players who left the building Monday. While question marks permeate much of the Redskins roster going forward this offseason, it comes as no shock that the team's biggest one at the game's most important position: quarterback.
Perhaps the worst part about the quarterback quandary is that the team is no closer to solving it now than they were before the season started.
When Mike Shanahan staked his reputation in August on the fact that Rex Grossman and John Beck would be able to play at a high level, most fans and media scoffed, and for good reason. It was widely believed that Grossman, who last was starter with the Chicago Bears, would not be able to overcome his penchant for turning the football over. Grossman's critics were essentially proven right in 2011. In 13 starts, he had flashes of solid play, but still accounted for 25 turnovers.
The problem is that he'll now enter free agency attempting to shop his wares with those numbers.
"I think that there are definitely things that I've put on tape in the games that we've played to show that I'm fully capable of playing well," Grossman said Monday of his performance this season.
As expected, turnovers proved to be Grossman's bug-a-boo this season. But according to him, not all of them are created equal.
"There's times when interceptions are acceptable," Grossman said. "In a situation [where] it wasn't your fault, or something happened that you weren't expecting, or a tip ball, or things like that ... those are acceptable. A lot of those things have happened to me."
The problem for Grossman is that, no matter whose fault it was, the interceptions kept coming. Because of that, he wasn't able to change his reputation around the league as a turnover machine who can occasionally win games.
As for Beck, he came into this season not having much of a reputation, which worked as both a gift and a curse. The coaching staff was intrigued by his upside, which was mostly fueled by the fact that he was more athletic and thus more mobile than Grossman. It was supposed to be a good fit for an offense that asks its quarterback to run bootlegs and rollouts.
The problem lied in the fact that Beck was a fifth-year quarterback who had only notched five career starts coming into this season, all coming with a Miami Dolphins team that finished 1-15 in 2007. Had he been as highly coveted around the league as he was with the Redskins coaching staff, he would have been acquired for more than practice squad cornerback Doug Dutch.
But Beck got his chance, getting three starts after a four interception performance by Grossman against the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the next three games, he too failed to meet the expectations set by the coaching staff that endorsed him in training camp. Beck threw a paltry two touchdowns and four interceptions in those contests, in addition to contributing to Shanahan's lone shut out as a head coach in the NFL, a 23-0 drubbing by the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.
It was only a matter of time before Shanahan went back to Grossman, which he did. Two weeks later, Beck was benched for the rest of the season.
"I'm one of those guys that had high expectations for myself and for the team," Beck said of his three game stint as the starter. "I had goals, and wasn't able to obtain those goals this year. I want to come back and do everything I can do everything I can to reach those goals next year."
Unlike Grossman, Beck has one more year on his contract, so talk of next year is legitimate.
"I'll definitely want to have a conversation [with Shanahan], to see what's going to take place," Beck said. "The one thing you know is that things can always change."
The problem for both Grossman and Beck is that change could include the team moving on from both of them and getting an entirely new quarterback rotation, whether it be via free agency or the draft.
Shanahan, who only says that he'll "do everything possible to improve at every position", knows his deficiency at the quarterback, and he knows how he's gotten here. 2011 may very well be looked back upon as the season that saw the Redskins pay the true price of whiffing on last season's trade for Donovan McNabb, whose one-and-done campaign in 2010 set the stage for this season.
"But I think it's always worth the chance, always worth the risk sometimes to take a chance to get a possible Pro Bowl quarterback [in McNabb]," Shanahan said. "They don't come very often. But I also made the commitment that, if it wasn't the guy for the future, we weren't going to keep that guy just to keep him."
They did just that, trading McNabb to the Vikings, leaving Shanahan with Grossman and Beck as the only quarterbacks on his roster.
"Sometimes you've got to deal; you've got to make decisions like that," Shanahan said. "And if it doesn't work out, you've got to be able to go on."
But moving on in 2011 at the quarterback position ultimately was a failed endeavor, as the infamous ‘Rex vs. Beck' chapter in Redskins history didn't exactly stack up with prior quarterback controversies of team lore. Its creation seemed nothing more than the result of the failed McNabb deal, and it saw two backup-types essentially compete for who was less ineffective rather than trying to prove who deserves to be the starter for next year.
As this dubious quarterback episode comes to an end; as Shanahan knows full well what his situation is at quarterback, the question now becomes who will return. Will they re-sign Grossman to a one-year deal to bridge the gap to a rookie starter? Will Beck be that guy? Will they get rid of both of them entirely?
Either way, it's a safe bet to say that the ‘Rex vs. Beck' movie is over, and it's likely that Shanahan isn't going to want to see a sequel.
But as both quarterbacks left the building Monday, all they could do is hope for another chance.
"I woke up today with my whole mindset on 2012, because I cannot do a thing about 2011," Beck said. "What's done is done."
As bad as the Redskins quarterback situation was this season, Shanahan is probably thinking the the very same.
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