Senior Writer

Beck to be new Redskins quarteback? Baffling


The Washington Redskins appear ready to turn their quarterback job over to John Beck, who turns 30 in August, has just four starts on his resume and has already been with three teams in four years.

Is it just a huge case of arrogance on the part of Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, the supposed offensive guru, to think he can move the football with anybody as a triggerman? Or is it the unveiling of the next Kurt Warner, a guy who could star at the position if only given the chance?

This much we do know: It sure is risky.

John Beck on Donovan McNabb's likely departure: 'If I want my opportunity, I have to have stuff like this happen ...' (Getty Images)  
John Beck on Donovan McNabb's likely departure: 'If I want my opportunity, I have to have stuff like this happen ...' (Getty Images)  
The Redskins, heading into Shanahan's second season running things, are kicking veteran Donovan McNabb to the curb in favor of Beck, whose only starts came in 2007 with the Miami Dolphins.

Credit that one to the Shanahan family -- son, Kyle, is the team's offensive coordinator. Inside the team's building, there are plenty who wonder why McNabb won't be around to be the starter.

"I'll tell you why," one source said. "The son doesn't like him."

The son does like Beck. In fact, a lot of coaches and players like Beck. He is a likeable kid, they say.

Works hard. Wants it.

But does he have the skill set?

"If they thought so highly of him, why didn't they play him late last year when they benched McNabb?" asked one NFC coach.

The Redskins instead turned to Rex Grossman, in large part because Kyle Shanahan wanted him in the lineup. Indications are that Kyle Shanahan and McNabb never meshed and that the friction was there for all to see. And Mike Shanahan listened to his son's recommendation to sit him down, a son who has more power than most offensive coordinators in the NFL, probably because he has the same last name as the head coach.

That isn't to say Kyle Shanahan can't coach. I think he has talent, just like his father. But can anybody in their right mind think either Grossman or Beck is a better option than McNabb right now?

Yes, McNabb isn't the same player he was a few years ago, but Redskins players insisted late last season there was no way he should have been benched. At one point, there was almost a mutiny of sorts when the Shanahans made the decision to bench him.

That's in the past. It's a done deal now that McNabb won't be back. He will be traded or released, which leaves the Redskins quarterback situation in the hands of Beck for now. The team will also likely bring back Grossman, a free agent who won't exactly have a long list of teams lining up to sign him.

When Beck came out of BYU, I liked him. I thought he had the ability to be a quality NFL passer. He played in a pro-style offense and he saw the field, making nice reads.

But in his four starts with the Dolphins in 2007, he looked rattled at times and struggled for a 1-15 Miami team. He threw one touchdown pass in 107 attempts with three interceptions.

That's his resume for now.

Oh, boy.

The Dolphins released him in 2009 and the Ravens signed him, but then traded him to Washington for a corner named Doug Dutch, who is back with the Redskins.

That means Beck was essentially traded for a ham sandwich.

And he's the Redskins starter?

Beck has put on a confident front so far. He's organizing team workouts. He's also said some cocky things in the media, including saying he was glad McNabb was on his way out.

"I have to say I'm glad it happened," Beck said. "If I want my opportunity, I have to have stuff like this happen so I can get an opportunity. If McNabb stays as starter of the Washington Redskins, I remain a backup, and I want to be a starter. So, I have to hope for things like this to happen."

I like what he said. Most players feel the same way, but just won't say it. Forget all the all-for-one talk. Players are individuals who want to play and get paid. I can't fault him for that, but it isn't exactly how you endear yourself to players who believed in McNabb.

Beck is sure acting like a starter, which Redskins fans have to like. Now he has to prove he can do it. It's just so hard trying to imagine a guy who has been let go by two teams and has just four starts being the answer to the Redskins' quarterback troubles. From what I've heard, he's been just OK throwing during workouts.

There have been quarterbacks who have had success later in their careers. One was Rich Gannon with the Raiders, but he started games in his 20s. A former Eagle Scout, Beck came into the league at the age of 25 after serving a two-year Mormon mission. That's why he's turning 30 after only four seasons.

Mike Shanahan's coaching reputation might be on the line with this decision. Shanahan earned that "genius" tag when he won two Super Bowls with John Elway in Denver. He has one playoff victory since Elway retired after the 1998 season. He hasn't exactly done a great job with his quarterbacks either.

In the years since Elway retired, Shanahan's quarterbacks have thrown 242 touchdown passes and 194 interceptions. They've been just OK. Among those quarterbacks are Jake Plummer, Brian Griese and Jay Cutler.

Griese had some decent moments with the Broncos and Beck has similarities to Griese. Maybe that's why Shanahan recently came out and said he had Beck rated as the top quarterback in the 2007 draft. That's not as big a statement as you'd think, considering the three who went ahead of him were JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn and Kevin Kolb.

Here's another question Redskins fans have to ponder: Is Beck a better option than Jason Campbell, the Raiders starter, who Shanahan wanted no part of for his roster?

I wanted to talk with Beck for this column, but his agent declined in part because of the recent flurry of attention Beck has received.

That might not be wise. If he is indeed the Redskins' starter, which means this isn't just a bunch of offseason chatter, Beck will be the most scrutinized person in the Beltway not named Obama -- or Shanahan, for that matter.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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