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Mike Shanahan On Rex Grossman's Second Start

Posted by Matt Terl on December 27, 2010 – 3:51 pm

Mike Shanahan’s press conference this week was blissfully devoid of controversial material. If the Redskins season has been — as many have suggested — an ongoing soap opera, this was one of those episodes that only nods at the overaraching plots to acknowledge them but instead just fills some time before sweeps hit. And, in case there’s any doubt, I’m absolutely okay with that.

But he did say a couple of things that I found interesting. First, his comments on Rex Grossman‘s performance in his second start as in a Redskins uniform.

“I thought he played extremely well up until the interception,” Shanahan said. “And then he had an interception, he looked like he lost a little focus and missed some of the reads that he normally would make. And that’s why you try to put people in game situations, to see how they react. But up to that time, I thought he was playing very well. You’ve gotta know when to throw it away, when to take your chances. But some of the things that he normally does right, sometimes you lose a little focus after an INT and I thought that got to him a little bit.”

I’ve run the numbers on Grossman pre- and post-interception, and here’s what I’ve come up with: prior to the INT, he was 8-of-16 for 80 yards and a touchdown, for a QB rating of 85.4. Let’s let the interception stand on as its own play, as the midpoint where we’re drawing our line, rather than factoring it in to the post-interception stats (as, technically, an interception can’t come after itself).

In that case Grossman’s post-INT line is 11-of-23 for 102 yards and a 60.4 QB rating. The one sack that Grossman took also came after the INT, which squares with Shanahan’s observation about knowing when to throw the ball away.

I see two notable implications in this:

One. that Shanahan believes he’s identified the problem that brings out the Bad Rex who’s the butt of so many jokes — i.e., some kind of difficulty moving past a bad decision in a game situation. I think that Shanahan’s comment about “why you try to put people in game situations” can be taken to mean that Grossman doesn’t show this problem in practice. And that, in turn, might explain why the coaches had so much more faith in the idea of turning to Grossman than the fans did. (Basically, it’s an even more detailed version of Grossman’s own comments on his reputation from last week.)

Which leads to number two: if you’ve identified a problem, you know whether or not it’s correctable … and, presumably, whether or not YOU can correct it. So if nothing else, it sounds like Shanahan sees Sunday’s win as an important data point in evaluating the future value of Rex Grossman.

“You work through those learning experiences,” Shanahan said, “and hopefully next time that he’s out, he takes advantage of those opportunities.” The coach confirmed that Grossman is still scheduled to start next week’s finale against New York, which makes it sound like that game will be a rubber match of sorts in deciding Grossman’s fate.

That was the first Interesting Press Conference Item, The second goes back to my post-game mea culpa yesterday and the decision to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1. “The chances are, fourth-and-1, I’ll be going for it about 90 percent of the time,” Shanahan said. “That’s just me, my personality. If we don’t make it, I’ve got confidence in our defense and if we can stop ’em in three plays, we’re gonna get the ball in position to kick a field goal, at least, maybe one first down later. That’s just me. That’s my mindset.”

And that’s pretty much what everyone on Twitter had suggested. So I guess I can just hold off on second-guessing that playcall when it comes up in the future.

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