Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck throws the ball at their NFL football training camp at Redskins Park last August. (Alex Brandon)

Of all the strange things that the Washington Redskins have done — or had done to them — in the offseason, the strangest, in my 18 summers here, is the rise and rise some more of John Beck.

Any third-string quarterback can declare himself the starter, of course. That would hardly raise an eyebrow in Skins land. I picture him on the prow of the ship, shouting, “I’m the king of the world!” Of course, that ship was the Titanic.

But not only has Beck declared himself a candidate for the top spot — the Redskins have backed his play. Considering he hasn’t taken a snap in a pro game since 2007, that certainly proves that the utter disdain they’ve shown Donovan McNabb wasn’t an act. That’s their call, and hopefully as soon as both sides are able they’ll work a deal to get McNabb out of here. His relationship with the Shanahans is about as unsalvageable as, well, the Titanic.

But what’s surprising is the unbelievable love that is coming Beck’s way. Listen to Shanahan’s comments after the draft, in which the Redskins picked nary a quarterback:

“Let me say, when John Beck did come out [of college], I had him rated as the top quarterback coming out that year, and I didn’t even think it was close. I had a lot of confidence in John Beck when he came out in 2007. I evaluate the quarterbacks every year, and I do have confidence in John Beck. He was by far my No. 1 guy. I think the world of him.”

That’s more raves than McNabb got at his opening news conference last spring, and that’s saying something.

And Shanahan wasn’t done. Asked about Beck’s strengths, he said, “No. 1 you’ve got to love the game, you’ve got to have passion, you’ve got to have a mindset and what I’m looking for is a guy that’s first to work, last to leave. You’ve got to be able to run this offense at a very high level. He can do some things with his legs that a lot of quarterbacks can’t do. He’s in that 4.675 [40-yard dash] range. Those are some of the things.”

I’m guessing that’s also a fairly comprehensive list of the things the Redskins felt McNabb did not provide. (It also sounds like a less funny version of those “World’s Most Interesting Man” commercials — you know, “His mother has a tattoo that says, ‘Son.’)

So with No. 2 quarterback Rex Grossman unsigned and McNabb about as welcome in Ashburn as a bad case of prickly heat, when camp opens Thursday, all eyes will be on Beck.

If this works — if Beck turns out to be a combination of Red Grange, Joe Montana and John Elway — Mike Shanahan will look like the genius everyone (including, apparently, Mike Shanahan) thinks he is. And it’ll be fun, fun, fun for Skins fans.

If this fails, at season’s end Shanahan will blame McNabb, the lockout and the lack of a new Harry Potter movie, and next spring the McNabb-Beck fawning will all be for Andrew Luck. The caravan moves on. But this particular circus never leaves town.