Playing quarterback for the Redskins, Gibbs once told me, requires more than smarts and talent. Gibbs created high expectations among fans because of his stellar first stint with the club that included three Super Bowl championships, and he acknowledged there are external challenges inherent in playing quarterback for the Redskins.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure how someone would fare until he is in the role, and the Shanahans undoubtedly would have faced similar questions if they drafted a quarterback to start next season as a rookie. What’s concerning about their confidence in Beck, however, is that he has been in the league for four full seasons and no other proven football people have evaluated him as highly as the Shanahans.
Bill Parcells had Beck in Miami and released him. Ozzie Newsome traded Beck from Baltimore to Washington for little. Joe Flacco is entrenched as the Ravens’ starter, and Beck was fourth string, but if Beck’s potential was so evident, wouldn’t Newsome have found a way to keep him?
Denver owner Pat Bowlen did not question Shanahan’s coaching ability when he fired him at the end of the 2008 season. Bowlen booted him because Mike Shanahan the general manager simply didn’t get it done after John Elway retired in 1999. During the post-Elway period, Shanahan made major mistakes in free agency, had boom-or-bust drafts, couldn’t get it figured out on defense and won only one playoff game, missing the postseason his last three seasons.
After Elway led the Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl titles, Shanahan figured he could plug any quarterback into his system. Shanahan thought it was all about him — and he was wrong. The Broncos had varying degrees of success with Brian Griese, Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler, but nothing approaching what Elway delivered. Last season in Washington, the McNabb situation was a complete debacle. Now, Shanahan is preparing to shift to the untested Beck.
Over his final 10 years in Denver, Shanahan proved to Bowlen he could not be trusted to assemble a championship-caliber roster unless there was a future Hall of Fame quarterback already in place. With what Snyder has observed so far, he may not need nearly as much time to reach the same conclusion.