By Rich Tandler
Around Washington, it seems that only Congress has lower approval ratings than Rex Grossman. When anyone is asked why the Redskins went 5-11 and were out of realistic playoff contention well before Thanksgiving, inconsistent play at the quarterback position almost always tops the list.
After leading the 49ers to the NFC title game, Alex Smith is the toast of the town in San Francisco. A year ago, he was just toast. Not only did the fans constantly boo the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, but his coaches also publicly questioned him, with Mike Nolan doubting his toughness and Mike Singletary knocking his leadership.
Had the 49ers not changed coaches, or perhaps if they had hired someone besides Jim Harbaugh, Smith almost certainly would have played somewhere else in 2011.
Right now, it looks like Grossman could well be wearing a different uniform next season. If he is back, he is likely to be a reserve or a caretaker until a younger player is ready.
But is it possible the Redskins would be giving up on Grossman a season too soon, as the 49ers almost did with Smith? Take a look at Grossman’s career statistics compared with Smith’s through the 2010 season.
Eerily similar, wouldn’t you say? Smith was a little bit more accurate, while Rex is better in yards per attempt. Grossman doesn’t protect the ball quite as well as Smith did, but they are in the same ballpark. The difference in their passer ratings is statistically insignificant.
What changed for Smith? He didn’t get any new offensive weapons. Vernon Davis has been around for six years now, and Frank Gore is finishing his seventh season. Receiver Michael Crabtree has yet to make an impact and attempts to juice the offense by acquiring Ted Ginn and Braylon Edwards didn’t work out.
Smith got better despite the fact that he was working in his seventh offense in seven years in the league. The most dramatic improvement came in interceptions, where he went from being a Rex-like turnover machine to the best in the NFL in protecting the ball.
Can Grossman duplicate Smith’s sudden rise from the ashes? There really is no way of knowing. You can look at what Smith did and say that it is not impossible. The question is, can the Redskins afford to gamble that Rex can rebound?