Shanahan still staking reputation on Redskins’ QBs
It was a bold statement, the type that hangs over a franchise
until it’s proven or disproven.
And it came from a coach with quite a track record.
It was on July 29, following the first practice of training
camp. Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan bristled over a
question about quarterback John Beck’s lack of experience, then
expounded by giving the strongest vote of confidence imaginable to
both Beck and Rex Grossman.
”You talk about a guy not being experienced – I believe in the
guys,” Shanahan said. ”I believe in `em. And I’ve been doing this
for a long time. And I put my reputation on these guys that they
If that’s truly the case, then Shanahan’s reputation is in a
very precarious spot.
Eight games into the season, neither Grossman nor Beck has
justified the faith placed in them by the coach who won two Super
Bowl titles with John Elway in the 1990s. Add in the wasted 2010
season with Donovan McNabb, and Shanahan is on pace to go 0 for 3
with his taste in quarterbacks since becoming Washington’s coach
Shanahan obviously didn’t have to make the ”reputation” quote.
He could have just said he had two players that he liked and that
he hoped one of them would step up to the challenge and become the
franchise’s quarterback for years to come.
But now it’s out there, and he’s not taking it back. He gets
asked about it regularly, and he doesn’t back down. He does,
however, spin his answer a bit differently than he used to.
”I believe in both these quarterbacks,” he said Wednesday.
”And I’ve got to give them the right supporting cast. That’s my
job, and I’m going to give them the right supporting cast, but both
guys will get the job done. And it’s my job to give them the type
of players surrounding them that give them the chance to be
That’s not hard to miss. Three times in the space of 15 seconds,
Shanahan essentially said: ”It’s not the quarterbacks – it’s the
guys around them.”
The other point Shanahan has been making more often,
particularly during the current four-game losing streak, is that
there will be ”growing pains” with an inexperienced quarterback
like Beck, who is 30 years old but has played in only nine NFL
games. He’s 0-7 as a starter, including 0-3 since getting the No. 1
job after Grossman was benched last month.
While it’s true that the offense has been hurt by injuries to
receiver Santana Moss, tight end Chris Cooley, running back Tim
Hightower and several others along the offensive line, Beck
deserves his share of the blame for the current skid. He held the
ball too long and took 10 sacks in a 23-0 loss to Buffalo, then had
the opposite problem at times in a 19-11 defeat to San
In both games, he missed open receivers and didn’t show the
signs of a leader who could overcome adverse conditions and take
”If he would have held it a couple of more times against the
49ers, we could have had a couple more big plays,” Shanahan said.
”That’s the nature (of the game). As time goes, he’ll get more
comfortable in the system and more comfortable playing in game
Still, every team has injuries, and there’s no shortage of teams
playing inexperienced quarterbacks much younger than Beck. Yet the
Redskins have the distinction of having the two lowest rated QBs in
the NFC, with Beck at 72.1 and Grossman at 66.5.
While Beck concedes ”it would be nice” to have everyone
healthy, even he says he doesn’t want to be considered ”a victim
”The teams that are really good, they find a way,” Beck said.
”No matter who’s out there playing, they make plays.”
Last year, Shanahan ran into a stubborn student when he tried to
reteach fundamentals to McNabb, who no longer had the ability to
win on sheer talent. This year, the coach couldn’t get Grossman to
stop committing turnovers – nine interceptions plus two lost
fumbles in five starts. Now he’s trying to squeeze all he can out
of a player who hadn’t started a game since 2007.
Beck was asked if he felt motivated to justify the
”reputation” remark from his boss.
”It meant a lot when coach says something like that because you
want a coach that does believe in you,” Beck said. ”That’s when
you get an opportunity, when someone believes in you. But I take a
lot of pride in the work that I do and I want to do my very best.
And that’s what stands out most to me, is that I’m trying to be the
best that I can – because of me.”
Grossman, now watching from the bench, concurred.
”You’re thinking the same way as a player: Coach has confidence
in you,” Grossman said. ”I’m not off to a good start, but it’s
Even so, Shanahan is now looking at the very real possibility of
starting over – again – at the game’s most important position in
2012, his reputation having taken a major self-induced hit.
But he’s not giving up on Beck and Grossman just yet.
”If you believe in people, you put your reputation on people,”
Shanahan said. ”And I understand there’s going to be some growing
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP