Redskins Bench Rex Grossman for John Beck, but Kyle Shanahan Also Deserves Blame

Mike FrandsenCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2011

John Beck has been named the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins against Carolina Sunday.
John Beck has been named the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins against Carolina Sunday.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan will start John Beck at quarterback Sunday at Carolina while Rex Grossman goes to the bench.  

Beck, 30, will start for the first time since 2007, when he started four games as a rookie for the Miami Dolphins.  The move had been expected by many observers after Grossman threw four interceptions in a 20-13 loss to Philadelphia Sunday.  Beck led a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against the Eagles

Rex has the experience, while the unproven Beck provides more mobility and perhaps more upside.

But lost in the background is the fact that no matter whom the quarterback is, if questionable play-calling continues under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins won’t reach their offensive potential. 

Fans and media have been quick to criticize Grossman for his performance in Washington’s 20-13 loss to the Eagles.  To say that Rex was less than stellar against the Eagles would be a gross understatement.  He had a terrible game. 

However, Grossman is being made a scapegoat for the loss to the Eagles as well as for inconsistent play in games against Dallas and St. Louis. Last year, the scapegoat was Donovan McNabb, who was run out of town.

While Grossman and McNabb both deserved criticism for their play, much of the blame has to go to pass-happy offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who calls the plays. 

Members of the national media are quick to point out that Mike Shanahan's teams always use the run as their foundation. This simply has not been the case, however, at least during Shanahan’s Redskins tenure.

Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman was benched after throwing four interceptions in a 20-13 loss to Philadelphia Sunday.
Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman was benched after throwing four interceptions in a 20-13 loss to Philadelphia Sunday.Win McNamee/Getty Images

Last season, the Shanahans led an offense that rushed 351 times and passed an astounding 605 times. That’s not balance. When you read that startling statistic, realize that the Redskins had one of the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL in 2010 and a substandard offensive line.

In 2010, the Redskins finished eighth in the NFL in passing. Where did it get them? Meanwhile, Washington had the second-fewest rushes in the NFL last year. 

Santana Moss is always solid, but lining up across from him at the start of the 2010 season was Joey Galloway, who caught a measly 12 passes in 10 games. Anthony Armstrong emerged as a threat midway through the season, but Washington had no wide receiver depth to speak of. 

The Redskins failed to acquire a third-down running back, McNabb had an inconsistent season and the Redskins still threw the ball nearly twice as many times as they ran it. 

While the Redskins did not feature a strong running attack with Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain often injured, the numbers were still way out of balance in favor of passing, even for a league that has increasingly shifted to an aerial attack.  

Fast forward to 2011. The Redskins have once again passed significantly more than they have run the ball, 180 to 137. Take away the game against the Rams, and the Redskins have passed the ball three times for every two times they have run it.  

The Skins upgraded the wide receiver position during the offseason by signing Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth and drafting several receivers, but Armstrong has been injured and none of the rookies have made an impact.  

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called plays for Rex Grossman (left) and now John Beck.
Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called plays for Rex Grossman (left) and now John Beck.Win McNamee/Getty Images

To go along with Torain, Washington also acquired two running backs in Tim Hightower and rookie Roy Helu, who can both catch the ball.  Washington has upgraded talent at both the running back and wide receiver positions.

So it’s not as if the Skins have an abundance of talent at receiver and no running backs. There’s no reason to pass so much more than run. 

The run-pass ratio was a problem again against Philadelphia. The Redskins ran just 14 times but had 37 passing attempts.  It’s true that the Redskins fell behind 20-0, but the Eagles jumped out to that lead in the first half, with plenty of time for Washington to catch up.

It was too early to pass on almost every first down, but Kyle Shanahan chose to pass on 18 of the 24 first-down plays during the game, a pass-run ratio of 3-to-1.  

It’s true that the Redskins didn’t run effectively, gaining just 42 yards on 14 attempts. But when the defense knows a team is going to pass, especially when the quarterback is Grossman, it can anticipate better, and that showed Sunday.   

While tight end Fred Davis led the team with six receptions, the game plan should have also called for more passes to the running backs, since Philadelphia has three excellent cornerbacks. Yet only one running back (Helu) made any catches, and he only had two.

Three of Grossman’s four interceptions were deep throws, which weren’t likely to work against the Eagles’ trio of Asante Samuel, Nmandi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, though it was safety Kurt Coleman making three of the picks. 

Grossman obviously deserves blame, but Davis admitted that he shared culpability for two interceptions, while a game plan of shorter passes may have been more prudent. 

Kyle Shanahan deserves blame for forcing his “look long first, then look short” philosophy onto the Redskins, which doesn’t work well with an erratic quarterback, average receivers and an offensive line that was shaky to begin with before it lost Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger Sunday. 

Worse yet may be Mike Shanahan’s apparent reluctance to overrule his 31-year old son.  The apologists for Kyle say that he presided over a top-five offense in Houston, but the Texans had the talent to throw deep and still failed to make the playoffs, partly because of the nature of the pass first offense tiring out their defense.  Against Philadelphia, the Redskins lost the time of possession battle, 38 minutes to 22.   

It’s well established that Grossman has a tendency to throw a few too many interceptions. He has also led an average Redskins team to a 3-2 record.

That’s on pace for nine or 10 wins. It may not be done in the style to please fans and the media, but it just might have been enough to get the Redskins to the playoffs.  Beck deserves a shot, but if he falters, the Redskins shouldn’t be afraid to fall back on Grossman. 

Meanwhile, the game plans should be designed to fit the styles of the quarterbacks, not the other way around.