It was predictable the quarterback choices limited to turnover machine Rex Grossman or never-was John Beck in a division whose other starters are Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Michael Vick, but poor play at the game's most critical position was a major reason why Washington finished in the NFC East basement for a record fourth straight year in 2011.
The 31-year-old Grossman had some good games while going 5-8 as a starter but gave the ball away at least once in all 12 of his starts after the opening upset of the Giants. His 20 interceptions and five lost fumbles equated to two turnovers per start and dropped his passer rating to 72.4, lowest among the 21 quarterbacks who threw at least 420 passes.
The 30-year-old Beck, who replaced Grossman in Week 6 when the latter threw four picks in three quarters against Philadelphia, went 0-3 as a starter as the offense managed just 31 points and he turned the ball over five times with a 72.1 passer rating.
So if Redskins coach Mike Shanahan doesn't change anything else about his 5-11 team this offseason, he needs to find a quarterback worthy of the Pro Bowl passers who start for the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles and have led those teams to one division title apiece the past three seasons.
In truth, Shanahan inherited a better quarterback than Grossman and Beck from ousted predecessor Jim Zorn. Jason Campbell had a 45-32 touchdown/interception ratio during his three years as Washington's starter with an 80.2 passer rating, but Shanahan traded him to Oakland less than four months after taking command in January 2010 following the acquisition of six-time Pro Bowl passer Donovan McNabb from the Eagles. The fading McNabb never meshed with Shanahan or his son Kyle, Washington's offensive coordinator, and was benched in favor of Grossman in December 2010 before being traded to Minnesota last summer.
So now what, Mike?
"What we're going to do is work as hard as we can -- could be through a trade, could be through free agency (or) could be through the draft," Shanahan said. "We're going to do everything possible to improve at every position. Our job is to try to put a football team together that gives us the best chance to win."
The decision by Matt Barkley to return to USC leaves only Stanford's much-hyped Andrew Luck and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor as the only likely elite quarterbacks in a draft in which Washington has the sixth overall selection but Indianapolis has the first pick and Cleveland has the fourth (as well as another first-rounder to package in a trade to move up).
That means that the Redskins will have to consider signing Green Bay's Matt Flynn, Aaron Rodgers' backup, who torched wild-card qualifier Detroit for Packers franchise records six touchdowns and 480 yards in the season finale. Flynn, a seventh-rounder in 2008 out of LSU, also sparkled in his only previous start last year against AFC East champion New England and is scheduled to become a free agent.
While the McNabb deal was a bust, Kyle Shanahan has positive experience in acquiring an inexperienced backup. He was the quarterbacks coach in Houston in 2007 when the Texans swapped first-rounders with Atlanta and gave the Falcons a pair of second-rounders for Matt Schaub, then Vick's backup. By 2009, Schaub was leading the Texans to their first winning record while leading the NFL in passing yards for the younger Shanahan, who had been promoted to offensive coordinator.
"My preference is a quarterback that is going to try to win the game and is smart enough to do that the right way," said Kyle Shanahan, who worked with Grossman in Houston in 2009 and helped lure him to Washington in 2010 and loves his aggressiveness but hates his penchant for turnovers.
So while the Redskins may well re-sign pending free agent Grossman -- after he learns that no other team wants him to start -- it's well past time for a team that hasn't had a starter with a passer rating of at least 90 since Brad Johnson in 1999, the last NFC East title-winning season, to go get a long-term franchise quarterback.
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