Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have both expressed confidence that Rex Grossman and/or John Beck can get the job done at quarterback this season. But one person involved in the situation that has been silent thus far in camp is quarterbacks coach Matt Lafleur.
On Monday, Lafleur expressed the same confidence in the dueling quarterbacks, and explained why one or the other can succeed despite the lack of an impressive resume or extensive experience.
The main reason is the system, said Lafleur, who served as quarterbacks coach in Houston under Kyle Shanahan in 2009. If the Redskins’ starting quarterback plays within the system, success can be had, the coach insists.
“We just want somebody who will go out there and execute how we coach them,” Lafleur says. “Our quarterbacks don’t have to go out and make plays. They can let the plays come to them. I think both of those guys have done a pretty good job up to this point. We’ll see how they do when they get some live bullets flying at them, but with the progress both of them have made – and it’s tough with John being out for the moving of the ball period – but I think they’re progressing good and we just need them making sound decisions and take what’s there for them. Don’t try to force the issue.
Lafleur continued: “When you look around the league, I think our scheme is as good as any. And when you watch film, and when you watch the game, you see people open. I think Kyle does a great job of formationing specific concepts and leveraging to get certain guys open.”
Indeed, there were plenty of opportunities in the offense last season. Even though teams knew Santana Moss was without question the only proven wide receiver, Moss still wound up with 93 catches, 1,115 yards and six touchdowns. And despite his struggles, Donovan McNabb was on pace for the first 4,000-yard season of his career when he got benched with three games left in the season.
But can Beck and Grossman honestly deliver?
Lafleur says both quarterbacks have a good feel for the system. Grossman is entering his third season in the offense, and Beck his second. Beck isn’t at a disadvantage, knowledge-wise, the quarterbacks coach insists.
“He’s done a great job preparing himself,” Lafleur says. “He definitely could’ve benefited from those OTAs, but he did a great job of preparing himself over this time. Before he left, he had all the cut-ups, he had all our games to watch from last year, and he studied them and did a great job. When we get him up on the board, he’s going to tell you exactly where to go. Watching tape, he can see it all. It’s just getting those live reps that’s so important.”
Beck’s arm strength previously has been called into question, and even this week he has struggled with accuracy when going deep. But the Shanahans dismissed that as an issue. Lafleur does as well.
“If you watch him, he can spin the ball. The arm strength is not a concern for us at all. I don’t think there’s a throw out there that he can’t make.”
Lafleur says Beck’s biggest need is repetitions. The more he plays, the more comfortable he will become.
Grossman, meanwhile, needs to remain committed to the system. When he is, good things happen. But when he wavers, inconsistencies follow.
“The biggest thing with Rex is, just continuing to work with him to keep him disciplined with his reads and to stay fundamentally sound,” Lafleur says. “Rex has a big arm. He’s got some great natural throwing ability, but some times he relies on that maybe too much instead of letting things come to him and taking what’s there. But I’m pleased with him. In the three years we’ve had him, he’s definitely come a long way, and we trust him.”
So, you’re saying the Redskins win with either QB?
“Absolutely,” Lafleur says. “Both of them. We’re not going to be handicapped in any way.”
Obviously, you wouldn’t expect Lafleur to contradict his two bosses in any area, but his take reveals the two big question areas hovering over each quarterback:
For Beck: Can an impressive work ethic and knowledge of the system compensate for next to no live experience?
For Grossman: Can he remain disciplined and patient enough to execute at an efficient level?