In Washington, it’s always about the quarterbacks. And Saturday at FedEx Field it was situation normal even though both the No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks sidelined with injuries.
It was dress rehearsal day for the Redskins, the common description for the third preseason game on each team’s NFL schedule. But with top QB’s Robert Griffin III (knee) and Kirk Cousins (foot) watching from the sidelines, understudies Rex Grossman and Pat White were in the leading roles.
Mike Shanahan employed an unusual quarterback rotation during the game. Grossman started and played the first three series of the game. White relieved him early in the second quarter and finished the half. When White came out to start the second half, it was assumed by most that the game was his the rest of the way. But he and Grossman alternated series the rest of the way.
“You never know how a game is going to go, how many series you're going to get in a football game,” said Shanahan when asked about the time-sharing arrangement. “When you're the second team and third team or fourth team quarterbacks that's what happens. You've got to come off the bench cold. You've got to produce even though you're not warmed up.”
Grossman confirmed that things do sometimes happen that way. “I wasn't expecting to play against Pittsburgh,” he said. He had to go into the game in the midst of a drive when Cousins suffered a mid-foot sprain in the second quarter on Monday night.
“It happens in practice, and it’s similar to games,” said White. The first string gets most of the reps and the backups have to be able to come in and perform to the best of their abilities with the opportunities they get.”
White didn’t really care about when he played, he was glad to get some extended playing time. “I’m just excited to have an opportunity to get on the field and compete,” he said. “Whether it’s one rep or 20 reps, I’m happy to have the opportunity.”
The two are competing for the third quarterback job behind Griffin and Cousins. So how did they stack up against each other.
Grossman had the better day passing as he completed 11 of 21 for 171 yards and a touchdown (95.5 passer rating). White went 7 of 14 for 96 yards (72.3).
White is much more of a running threat that Grossman and the former West Virginia star picked up 26 yards on three carries including an scintillating 14-yard touchdown run.
“The offensive line did a great job of blocking, we had great blocks from the receiver downfield, and Darrell [Young] did a great job of power driving the guy about 20 yards downfield,” said White of the scoring play. “I just followed his blocks into the end zone.
That second-quarter score gave the Redskins a 17-7 lead and they were well on their way to a 20-7 win that pushed their preseason record to 3-0.
The Redskins scored a total of 17 points while White was in the game, 13 when Grossman was at the helm.
White was thought to be a long shot to make the roster prior to the start of the preseason and he still may be. But he has taken advantage of his opportunities. In the preseason opener against Tennessee he scored a touchdown in the final minutes to pull the Redskins within one and then passed for a two-point conversion to give his team the winning points. He is trying desperately to get back into the NFL after a three-year layoff.
Grossman, meanwhile, is just trying to hang on for another year or two making a living doing a job he loves.
“I enjoyed myself. It's football,” he said with a big smile. “You're getting paid to go to recess. It's [expletive] awesome. I enjoy myself every time I'm out there.”
It still looks like Grossman will end up on the 53-man roster as the third quarterback because Shanahan likely wants someone experienced in that role. White played just one NFL season after the Dolphins made him a second-round pick in 2009 and he has yet to complete a regular season NFL pass. But White will not go quietly and he is making the choice a difficult one for the coaches.
If he doesn’t end up with the Redskins, White could be playing his way onto another NFL roster.