Reporting David Elfin
Let’s try to get this straight.
Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Chris Cooley go down in Week 6. So if you’re Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, you bench turnover-ridden quarterback Rex Grossman for the more mobile John Beck although the former had helped your team get off to a surprising 3-1 start.
A week later, receiver Santana Moss and running back Tim Hightower join the injury parade and you stick with Beck, who had produced 33 points in five quarters compared to Grossman’s zero in his final five. Fine.
Williams comes back last week but right tackle Jammal Brown goes down. You announce that Beck will remain in the lineup for today’s game at 1-7 Miami. OK. But then the day before, you change your mind and go back to Grossman because he “gives us the best chance to win.”
“That was my intention to stick with John … but when you have a number of people go down and you’re playing an inexperienced quarterback, you don’t want to throw him to the wolves (so you) go with a more experiences guy,” Shanahan, who had split the reps between Beck and Grossman in practice, said after the 20-9 loss to the previously 1-7 Dolphins.
So starting Beck against the-then 4-2 Buffalo Bills on the road and against the the-then 6-1 San Francisco 49ers wasn’t throwing him to the wolves?
Look, I understand that Grossman is the poor man’s version of Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall in that he makes plays for both teams while Beck didn’t make anything happen the previous two games.
Grossman’s effort today wasn’t all checkdowns to running back Roy Helu as Beck had delivered against the Niners after being sacked a franchise-record 10 times by the Bills. But Grossman’s two picks, one on first and goal from the Miami 10-yard line, gave him 19 turnovers in just nine Redskins starts. And he only managed field goals when Washington’s defense gave him and the offense the ball on Miami’s 5 and 24.
Shanahan shouldn’t have said that Beck was still his guy last Sunday and Monday if he had doubts. Beck who began his NFL career with the Dolphins four years ago – and remains winless in seven starts — answered questions from the Washington and Miami media this week as if he was the starter.
After watching Shanahan humiliate Beck like that and not tell Helu and once-and-again starter Ryan Torain that they were switching places until the weekend, if you were a Redskins player, why would you take Shanahan’s word again?
Beck declined comment. Grossman said, “Yes and no” but declined to elaborate when asked if he was surprised about being back under center. Helu said he was surprised to be benched after generating 146 yards against the Niners while catching a franchise-record 14 passes.
It all added up to the first five-game losing streak of Shanahan’s 17 seasons and the Redskins’ first such skid since then-coach Marty Schottenheimer’s first five games a decade ago. Three of those five defeats have come against teams (Philadelphia, Carolina and Miami) that came in with just one victory apiece.
Offensive guru Shanahan’s attack has just four touchdowns during the post-bye week five games and only one of those scores has come during the past three games and only one before the fourth quarter.
Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver, was supposed to be the coach to turn the Redskins around.
He started 4-3 in his 2010 debut but lost seven of his final nine games. This year is looking like it’s going to spiral down even worse. I don’t think those are the kind of turnarounds that Washington owner Dan Snyder had in mind.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.