Is Shanahan serious about John Beck?

May, 18, 2011
5/18/11
12:09
PM ET
A person who runs a professional sports franchise might have any number of reasons for making a public comment about his roster or lineup during the offseason. But since "because it's true" does not generally occupy a prominent place among those reasons, we are required to wonder about motivation.

[+] EnlargeMike Shanahan
AP Photo/Nick WassAfter passing on quarterbacks in the draft, Mike Shanahan said he's OK with John Beck as the Redskins' starter.
This is the case with Mike Shanahan, who explained after a draft that failed to produce a new Redskins quarterback that he was OK with the idea of John Beck as his starter. He might well be telling the truth. But since NFL coaches so rarely do (to us, at least), the first question that popped into this skeptic's head was why Shanahan would come out and say such a thing. How could a coach who decided a year ago that Jason Campbell couldn't be the long-term solution (and spent a high second-round pick to trade for Donovan McNabb because of it) now believe that Beck can be?

The first guess is always "leverage." Assuming Shanahan still has a plan to acquire Carson Palmer or some other quarterback via trade or free agency whenever the lockout ends, it's important to enter negotiations from a position of strength. (i.e., "We don't need your guy. We have Beck.") This is a common coach/GM trick and very well could be the exact thing Shanahan is up to. But with the McNabb deal having gone so wrong, you wonder whether the Skins are eager to go back down the veteran-coming-off-a-couple-of-spotty-years road again.

If they aren't, it might be that they're resigned to Beck as the best option and figured, after not coming up with a better option via the draft, that they might as well prepare their fans for it. With the chances increasing by the day that part or even all of the season will be lost to the lockout, it might be that Shanahan doesn't think it's worth installing a new quarterback this year. All of those missed minicamp and training camp practices would represent lost opportunities to work with a new guy. Maybe it's best just to sit around for a year and see whether you're in position to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck into a full offseason.

Shanahan has been a tough guy to read since he got to Washington. His handling of the Albert Haynesworth situation got a bit out of hand. His handling of the McNabb situation was downright baffling. His motivations are not always clear, and it might be that he has some reason for pumping up Beck in May that we cannot fathom. We assume he has a plan, because he has a track record and a five-year contract and a strong intellect. But from this point, wondering when or if he'll even be allowed to pursue other options, it's hard to know exactly what that plan is.

Beck hasn't exactly been getting traded for first-round picks the past couple of years. And the league hasn't exactly been devoid of openings at the position. So if Shanahan is serious, and if he's right that Beck can be a starter, a lot of other people will have had to be wrong. It's happened before, sure. But hearing this kind of talk at this time of year makes you think something else has to be at work.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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