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

can play.”

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

last year.

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

of circumstance.”

”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

not over.”

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