John Beck took over as starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins three weeks ago, but given his performance the last couple of games, is he on a shorter leash this week?


This week, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had Beck split first-team snaps with second-string quarterback Rex Grossman, who opened the season as the starter but was benched four games ago, according to three people with knowledge of the situation

Grossman got the hook after throwing four interceptions in three quarters against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the first four games of the season, the Redskins’ offense averaged 19 points a game with Grossman at the helm. But the eighth-year pro had nine interceptions and a fumble to outweigh six touchdowns.

Beck came in for Grossman in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia and led Washington on two scoring drives – a scoring drive--, including rushing for a touchdown and throwing for another – and led two scoring drives did the same in his first start (a 33-20 loss to Carolina).

But in the next two games, the Redskins have mustered a total of 11 points with Beck at the helm.

Against Buffalo, Beck appeared indecisive and was sacked a record 10 times as Washington fell 23-0, the first shutout of Mike Shanahan’s coaching career. After the game, both Shanahans said Beck was responsible for some of those sacks by holding onto the ball too long.

Last week Beck got rid of the ball quickly, but 14 of his 30 completions went to running back Roy Helu on swing passes out of the backfield. None of Beck’s completions was for more than 17 yards. With his focus largely on getting rid of the ball quickly, Beck settled for those check-down passes and missed open receivers downfield several times.

Kyle Shanahan said that while he was pleased that Beck got rid of the ball more quickly, the quarterback needed to make better decisions and the offense needs to make more big plays.

Publicly, both Shanahans maintain that Beck – who until this year hadn’t played since 2007 – can blossom into a franchise quarterback.

But privately, they know he must produce some wins soon.

Washington has lost four straight games. No team coached by Mike Shanahan has ever dropped five straight contests.

Grossman struggles to take care of the football, but he has a better feel for the system, and he has a strong rapport with tight end Fred Davis and receiver Jabar Gaffney, the team’s leading pass-catchers.

Shanahan began giving Grossman more first-team snaps in practice last season before making the decision to bench Donovan McNabb for the final three games of the season.

The move to give Grossman first team snaps also could be intended to put more pressure on Beck. Mike Shanahan likes to create competition in practice to spark improvement.