Head coach Mike Shanahan has named Rex Grossman the Redskins' starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Grossman starts in place of Donovan McNabb, who has been benched. McNabb had started every game this season.
"I talked to Donovan [on Thursday] after practice and I told him that once we were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that I made a decision to start Rex Grossman," Shanahan said. "I want to get a feel on how Rex runs our offense the next three weeks.
"I also told [McNabb] that the next two weeks following the Dallas game that John Beck would be the backup quarterback so that I can see him in his role.
"What I would like to be able to do is be able to evaluate where we're at at the quarterback position. I told Donovan that there's nothing he could do in the final three games that would influence me on what he has done over the last 13 games.
"I told him I was proud of him on that last drive (vs. Tampa Bay last Sunday], 75 yards for the touchdown and that could have put us in position to win that football game. I said, 'Right now I have to do what is in the best interest of this organization and that's to get a good feel for where we're at at the quarterback position."
McNabb signed a contract extension with the Redskins on Nov. 15, but this week's benching once again opens the door to speculation about his future in Washington.
Grossman is making his first start since Nov. 9, 2008 when he was a member of the Chicago Bears.
He spent the 2009 season with the Houston Texans working in the offensive system devised by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan before they both came to Washington last offseason.
For his career, Grossman has played in 38 games, with 31 starts, and completed 528-of-978 passes for 6,241 yards, 33 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
Turning the ball over has long been a problem in his career. Along with his 36 interceptions, he has fumbled the ball 21 times and lost 11.
Grossman had a brief appearance for the Redskins earlier this season.
He replaced McNabb in Week 8 in the final two minutes of a 37-25 loss to the Detroit Lions.
On his first play from scrimmage, Grossman was sacked by defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and fumbled the ball. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh recovered the fumble and raced 17 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.
Overall, Grossman finished that game completing 4-of-7 passes for 44 yards.
Beck has served as the Redskins' third quarterback all season.
"I have to find out what Rex Grossman can do and where John Beck is [in his development]," Shanahan said. "I need a chance to evaluate these guys and playing [Grossman] over the next three games against some pretty good competition, I'll get a chance to see where we're at with our other good quarterbacks."
Added Shanahan: "I think Rex deserves a chance to show us what he can do. I have been impressed with Rex since day one with the way he handles practices, the way he runs the offense. But until he plays in a game, you don't know for sure. We have three big games coming up, and I believe that he deserves the right to show us what he can do. I believe in him wholeheartedly.
"Now everybody believes in the second-team quarterback. Can he go out there and get it done? We'll find out. I believe in John Beck. I want to see him as a backup to see what he can do over the next three games. I'll get a chance to look at them and evaluate them."
McNabb, who declinded to talk to the media on Friday, has had an up-and-down season in his first year in Washington.
The Redskins have struggled to a 5-8 record and are mired in a three-game losing streak.
McNabb has completed 275-of-475 passes – a 58.3 percentage – for 3,377 yards, 14 touchdowns and a career-high 15 interceptions.
He is on pace for 4,154 passing yards, which would set a Redskins franchise record for a single season, but it appears he is unlikely to get a chance to break that mark.
The Redskins' offense is averaging 18.3 points per game this season and has struggled with consistency under McNabb. The unit is ranked 17th in the NFL overall, 26th on the ground and 11th in the passing game.