How can we think of anything else today but Beck and Grossman, Grossman and Beck? I’d like to move on to another topic, but we’re a city held hostage as Mike Shanahan sits in a darkened room, celluloid images dancing on the screen in front of him — well, probably not celluloid, but it makes a better image, more Vince Lombardi, less digital.
What is he watching as he prepares for Wednesday’s big announcement of the Redskins’ starting quarterback? It’s John Beck showing up at Redskins Park after the lockout, only to have the security guard at the gate fail to recognize him. Rex Grossman saying the Redskins would win the NFC East. Beck impressing him during training camp. Grossman being named the starter. Beck holding a clipboard. Grossman throwing lots of interceptions. Beck throwing one great pass against the Eagles, then scoring a touchdown. Grossman explaining his interceptions. Beck . . . well, that’s all we have on Beck. Sunday was his first NFL appearance since facemasks were invented, for Pete’s sake.
It’s not exactly Sonny vs. Billy, is it? We aren’t going to see bumper stickers around town. I doubt even the most entrepreneurial among us are going to print T-shirts. It’s not Ali vs. Frazier. It’s more like a heavyweight bout in this century, between two guys no one but the most dedicated boxing fan has heard of or cares about.
As Washington quarterback controversies go, this one lacks the punch of previous years. It even lacks the oomph of last year’s Donovan McNabb-Grossman controversy, which was less of a battle and more a slow unveiling of the slam book Shanahan thought was hidden in his locker.
But these are the Redskins, and this is Washington, so this is the only topic in town this week: Who will lead this depleted offense into battle against the 1-5 Panthers in Charlotte this weekend? Chat room participants, radio callers — even the occupiers seem to be leaning Beck’s way (although that last group may think they are choosing a singer to make a surprise appearance in Lafayette Square, not a starting quarterback).
Carolina, meantime, has blown three fourth-quarter leads this season and is another of those dangerous, nothing-to-lose teams, just like the Eagles. The Panthers also don’t have a quarterback controversy, although Coach Ron Rivera does have a pet name for Cam Newton: “Mr. Mopeyhead.”
What pet names would Shanahan give his quarterbacks? “QB1” and “QB2” would be too confusing, given that those designations may keep changing like the weather this fall. How about “You there” and “No, the other one”? “The big one” and “The other one”? I don’t see him going with “Becks” and “Rex” any time soon, although I’d love to hear him intone the words “Sexy Rexy” just once. Maybe a charity could sell it as a ringtone. Cha-ching!
But of course if Grossman is on the bench with a frown, that becomes less fun and you’d have to switch back to Beethoven or “Hail to the Redskins” or Beck. And that’s a hassle.
The best course of action, in this year’s version of the quarterback controversy, seems to be to take the middle ground. Neither of these guys is going to take this team to the Super Bowl, especially after Sunday’s injuries. Go with the hot hand — perhaps that’s Beck, although it’s more of a lukewarm hand — until that doesn’t work, then change again.
The Redskins are going for respectability this season, nothing more. And what matters most is not who quarterbacks this team Sunday, but who is quarterbacking this team next year, and five years from now. If the answer to either of those questions is Becks or Rex, then we have a real quarterback controversy.