John Beck has all the votes he needs to become Redskins’ quarterback

Jason Reid
Columnist September 1, 2011

The voting period has ended. It’s time to call the winner. The Washington Redskins should have a new starting quarterback in 2011: John Beck.

There’s no need to wait for an official announcement. Enough has happened to determine that Beck should be the Redskins’ guy.

Jason Reid is a sports columnist with the Washington Post. He joined the Post’s Redskins team in 2007 after 15 years covering many beats at the Los Angeles Times. View Archive

Runner-up Rex Grossman ran a strong race. He proved to be a formidable challenger throughout a quarterback competition that kept things interesting during an unusually quiet preseason at Redskins Park.

In these challenging times, however, Beck is the right man for the moment.

Forget his shaky performance (10 of 21 for 108 yards and an interception) Thursday night as Washington defeated Tampa Bay, 29-24, in the preseason finale at FedEx Field. Washington’s top offensive linemen protected Beck, but the starting backfield and wide receivers did not play.

After directing several scoring drives in his first two preseason games, Beck wasn’t effective at producing points against the Buccaneers. The outing certainly could stir doubts about Beck’s standing, especially since Grossman, who started two of the first three games, and many first-string players got the night off.

Beck didn’t make excuses. “There are throws that I should have made that I didn’t,” he said.

Selecting a No. 1 quarterback is Coach Mike Shanahan’s biggest decision. He’ll consider much more than what occurred in the last tuneup.

As always, Redskins coaches will review film. The team will continue to practice, “and we should make a decision, at least from a coaching staff standpoint” sometime soon, Shanahan said. “We may share it, we may not. It all depends on what we think gives us the best chance to win against the Giants.”

  Until the Redskins’ first regular season snap, Grossman remains in the mix. The possibility exists that Beck’s clunker could weigh prominently in the decision. There’s no way of knowing Shanahan’s exact criteria, so Beck still could lose in an upset. 

It just wouldn’t make sense.

The Beck-Grossman battle has been tight since the beginning of training camp, Redskins officials say. Neither pulled away in what was often described as a neck-and-neck sprint to the finish.

Assuming that’s true, then Beck actually has been far ahead all along, considering his lack of experience.

Beginning his fifth season, Beck has attempted only 107 passes in the regular season — none since 2007. Grossman has started 34 games, including three for Washington last season. As he begins his ninth season, Grossman has 1,104 attempts.

Also, this is Grossman’s third season in the offense Shanahan designed. Beck is only in his second. Grossman failed to take a clear lead despite having more time in the scheme and the league overall.

Beck’s potential is what should matter most now. It’s reasonable to assume Beck could eventually produce more than Grossman if he had even a little more experience.

Shanahan could provide just that.

The most powerful man in Washington’s football operation doesn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to give Beck an opportunity the quarterback is eager to seize. It’s simply a matter of Shanahan, Redskins people say, finally doing what he has wanted to do all along.

Shanahan did not select a quarterback in the draft, in part, because he was grooming Beck for the present and future. He declined to add another viable challenger to the Beck-Grossman battle because he had a plan.

As long as Beck continued to validate Shanahan’s faith in him, people say, Shanahan’s guy was already in place. Beck had to lose his spot.

In my opinion, he hasn’t.

By now, Beck’s story is well known.

Miami and Baltimore, the teams Beck played for previously, evaluated him much less favorably than Shanahan and his son, Kyle, Washington’s offensive coordinator. No one in the NFL views Beck as highly as the Shanahans do, which is good for Beck, because this is their show.

Where others noticed limitations in Beck, the Shanahans saw potential for significant improvement. Although some doubted Beck’s strengths were even enough for him to compete at the highest level, the Shanahans had no such concerns.

The Shanahans, people familiar with their thinking say, believe they know exactly who Beck is and what he could become. To them, he’s not simply another quarterback. Beck is the best choice to assist them in reviving the Redskins.

He’s more athletic than Grossman, which should help in aspects of the running game and play calling. The Redskins believe Beck will be more careful with the football than Grossman, who has 40 career touchdowns and 40 interceptions.

If the Redskins were a finished product, Grossman would be the safer choice. If all Shanahan needed was a quarterback to manage the offense while relying on a dominant running game and an overpowering defense, then he should roll with Rex.

Washington isn’t there yet.

More talented than last season, the Redskins probably still won’t be among the best of the best. Why not develop with Beck? 

“I believe, and will always believe, I can be a starter in this league,” Beck said. “What happens, I don’t know, because I’m not the one making the decision. . . . It’s kind of a tough spot, because you just don’t know.”

One way or another, Shanahan’s choice will have a major impact on the season. A mistake could be another significant setback, and nailing it would provide a big boost. Shanahan brought Beck to Washington to play. It’s time to let him.

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