“There’s always going to be mistakes made in the game, but you can’t constantly turn the football over,” Shanahan said. “And if you do, you’re going to lose your opportunity to lead the football team.”
Shanahan informed both quarterbacks of his decision earlier in the week, and during a drizzly practice session Wednesday, Beck led the first-team offense for the first time this season.
“I’m just going to go out there and do the very best that I can,” Beck said. “Ball security is a point every single week, because it’s very hard to win in the NFL if you turn the ball over. Now it’s on my shoulders to take care of the football and put our team in the best position to win.”
In the locker room, Redskins players seemed to support the move. While Grossman had a strong arm, Beck is more mobile, which might be important this weekend. The Redskins are without left tackle Trent Williams, who is out with a high ankle sprain, and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
“John does a good job of moving around with his feet,” right guard Chris Chester said.
Teammates had watched as Beck and Grossman battled throughout the preseason for the starting job. Though Grossman won it, Shanahan has always said the competition was close. The tipping point appeared to be Grossman’s four interceptions in last Sunday’s loss against Philadelphia.
“I think those guys are pretty much neck and neck,” running back Tim Hightower said. “They’re pretty close, as far as ability-wise. Two different kind of demeanors, but they’re both good quarterbacks.”
Changing quarterbacks with a winning record isn’t common in the NFL, but Shanahan has done it once before: The Denver Broncos had a 7-4 record in 2006 when Shanahan replaced Jake Plummer with rookie Jay Cutler. Redskins players say the early change this season sends a clear message to the entire locker room.
“When you make a quarterback change like that, there’s a standard that’s set,” Hightower said. “I think that sends a very loud message to the rest of the guys on offense that hey, get your stuff together. We need guys to step up and make plays. It’s not later. It’s now.”
While players mostly said the right things Wednesday, the team wasn’t in unanimous agreement with the change. Wide receiver Santana Moss reiterated that he felt Grossman shouldn’t be yanked after last Sunday's bad outing. Still, he likes what he’s seen from Beck.