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Post Leadership
Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 10/20/2011

Can Redskins’ Mike Shanahan pull off another quarterback switcheroo?


Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan replaced Rex Grossman with John Beck as starting quarterback, bringing the tally to 21 starters in 19 seasons. (Jonathan Newton - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Twenty-one starting quarterbacks in 19 seasons is not a good sign. But unless this one works out, three quarterbacks in a season and a half could be a worse one.

Those are the numbers for the Washington Redskins, which will start John Beck in Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers after coach Mike Shanahan pulled a switcheroo Wednesday and replaced Rex Grossman. Shanahan’s second starter (he traded Donovan McNabb in July), Grossman threw four interceptions in the game against the Eagles, bringing his turnover total to 11 in five games, tying him for the most in the NFL.

After the move, Redskins watchers are saying the switch puts the pressure not only on Beck—who hasn’t started a game since 2007—but also on Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Get this pick wrong, and their reputations as people who know the QB position so well could be in jeopardy, as could the franchise’s future. “If the Redskins enter next season without a proven starting quarterback,” writes the Post’s Jason Reid, “they would be right back where they were when the Shanahans arrived. It’s really that simple.”

I agree Shanahan better get it right. The quarterback is the most critical position on the team, and being able to get a good one is among a coach’s most important jobs. Still, I don’t think Shanahan is taking as much of a gamble as many seem to believe. Yes, Beck’s five games four years ago doesn’t count for much experience in the NFL. But Grossman’s numbers were bad enough that Shanahan was left with little choice. According to the Associated Press, Grossman has had more career interceptions (49) than touchdown passes (46) and a quarterback ranking of 66.5, putting him 32nd among 33 signal callers in the league.

What would be much worse than trying his hand at an unseasoned Beck would be for Shanahan to leave Grossman in to potentially make things worse. Trying to make Grossman work to help avert questions about his leadership judgment or ability to choose players might only dig him deeper into a hole. While the move may mean Shanahan has more work to do when the draft or postseason rolls around, standing firm would mean he’s not doing his job.

Leaders may think their most important task is to win games, secure sales contracts or meet organizational targets. But really, once a strategy is set and clearly communicated, the most important job of any coach, CEO or executive director is to put the right people in place to score those goals for them. If Shanahan can’t prove he has the ability to get the right people on the bus, as management expert Jim Collins likes to say, he’ll be failing at his most critical job as a coach.

More from On Leadership:

There’s no such thing as ‘the best manager in baseball’

How to be a great boss

How Tony La Russa rewrote the book

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By  |  12:05 PM ET, 10/20/2011

 
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