Mike Shanahan had coached 267 consecutive NFL games without ever having been held scoreless. On Sunday, the Redskins, now 3-4, embarrassed Shanahan and ended that streak with a pitiful 23-0 loss against the 5-2 Buffalo Bills.
In his second start of the season, quarterback John Beck was unimpressive. He completed 20 of his 33 passes for 208 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
He is 0-6 lifetime as a starting quarterback.
Shanahan is now 9-13 as the Redskins' head coach. After such a disappointing loss, he may start feeling pressure from fans and ownership to pull Beck and start Grossman again. After all, this league is about wins, and despite Grossman’s recent terrible performances, the Redskins were .500 with him as the starter.
If the Redskins had a legitimate chance at the playoffs, Shanahan would have almost no choice but to try any quarterback who could get his team wins, no matter how ugly they were. Under those circumstances, going back to Grossman makes sense as a short-term desperation move.
After Sunday’s shutout, however, it seems obvious that the offense is in no shape to sustain a run at the playoffs. Kyle Shanahan’s unit averaged a meager 3.3 yards per play against Buffalo, and managed only ten first downs on eleven possessions.
Beck had a bad game, but this loss was not his fault. He took nine sacks as the line struggled without left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, and could never settle into a rhythm.
It is also difficult to blame Beck for not getting rid of the ball quickly. Without his two leading receivers, Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley, his targets downfield were limited. Fred Davis led the team with eight catches for 94 yards, but nobody else could get open.
The Redskins will be without Cooley, Moss, Lichtensteiger and running back Tim Hightower for a significant period of time. Shanahan must coach the remainder of this season without wasting time or money on players that do not fit into the team’s future.
Grossman, whose contract expires after this season, is one such player. After throwing nine interceptions in six games and getting replaced by the inexperienced Beck, it appears that his career in Washington will not extend beyond this season.
What is the point, then, of continuing the quarterback controversy?
The Redskins will probably take a quarterback in April’s draft, but given the holes on the offensive line and the inexperience in the receiving corps, no quarterback can be expected to succeed with the offense in its current state.
So, with next season in mind, Shanahan should settle in with Beck right now and let him gain some experience.
Beck can develop chemistry with the young receivers, and maybe even win a game as a starter. If he can grow into the offense and keep the turnovers to a minimum, Shanahan can ask him to hold down the fort while the Redskins choose and develop their quarterback of the future.
Shanahan has built the Redskins up from nothing through the draft and prudent free agent signings. But because the team’s most glaring weakness is at quarterback, the Redskins appear to be in worse shape than they actually are.
Management needs to exercise patience and stay the current course.
Switching back to Grossman does nothing for the team’s future, but Beck could improve with experience and become a long-term back up, ultimately helping the team more than Grossman ever could.