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What the Redskins see in John Beck

8/15/2011

ASHBURN, Va. -- You've made up your mind on John Beck. You think he's a human white flag -- that the Washington Redskins are out of their minds for even considering him as their starting quarterback for 2011 and that the only thing Mike Shanahan can be hoping to accomplish is to lose enough games to draft a franchise quarterback in the first round of next year's draft. The way you look at it, Beck's been in the league four years, showed nothing in the brief chance he got in his rookie season with the Dolphins and if he was going to be a good NFL quarterback, we'd have seen it by now.

Beck knows what you think. He's not blind or deaf. He's aware of the doubters, but he's not among them. He would like you to consider him and the NFL career he envisions for himself the same way he considers it -- as a work in progress.

"I'm kind of chiseling my way at a sculpture," Beck told me this month after a practice at Redskins training camp. "And I know what I want it to look like, and I believe that it will be. I've been chiseling away, and there's still a lot more to chisel away at. And there's going to be more times where I'm going to stand back and say, 'Okay, now what do I have to do?' And then I'm going to walk towards it and chisel away some things and then stand back again. There's still a lot left to do."

Beck missed practice last week and the Redskins' preseason opener Friday due to a groin injury. Rex Grossman, his nominal competition for the starting quarterback's job, played very well, leading some to believe Grossman had become the front-runner. But those who would say that haven't spoken with Shanahan, the Redskins' head coach, or his son Kyle, their offensive coordinator. When you talk to those guys, you get the definite impression that they want Beck to win this job, because they think he can be great.

"It's kind of funny that everyone gets so surprised about Beck, because everyone in the NFL thought Beck was somewhere from the best to the fourth-best quarterback in that entire (2007) draft when he came out," Kyle Shanahan told me. "That's why he went in the second round. And when I evaluated them, I thought he was the best."

There was some issue last week where a report indicated Shanahan had wanted the Texans, for whom he was coaching at the time, to pick Beck with the 10th overall pick that year. That's not exactly what he told me. He said they'd just acquired Matt Schaub, but that if they hadn't and were looking for a quarterback at some point in that draft, he'd have recommended Beck, who went 40th overall to Miami. I don't think Shanahan would have made Beck the 10th pick in the draft, but he'd have encouraged his team to get in position to pick him.

"Anybody who watched him in college, he's a hell of a quarterback," Shanahan said. "If you look at his career, he really hasn't had an opportunity to show that he can or cannot do it. But everything we see in practice, everything I've seen with him, it's the exact same that he showed in college. He's a very good thrower. He can get rid of it quick -- very similar to Marc Bulger in his throwing motion, how he can just get rid of it at any time. He's got a lot of zip on his ball. He does have a strong arm. And when it comes to his mobility, he'll surprise people. He can move around in the pocket, he can outflank the defense, and he can move the chains with his feet, too."

This is why the Redskins want to see Beck, even having seen Grossman do well in his first crack at it. They believe Beck's athleticism brings an element that Grossman does not. What they don't know is whether Beck can handle the opportunity, since they don't think he's ever had it.

"He's very confident," Shanahan said. "He believes in himself, and he should, because he's a talented guy who should be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Now, we've got to see how he plays when the lights come on. We'll put him in the game and see how he handles the pressure of being the guy. If he can handle the pressure, we know he's capable from an athletic standpoint."

That's the word both Shanahans use when they talk about Beck -- "know," not "think." Kyle and Mike Shanahan project absolute confidence in their evaluation of Beck. They say the four games he started for the 2007 Dolphins -- a 1-15 team that ranks as one of the worst ever -- are a poor gauge.

"I've been doing this for a few years. I know people that can play," Mike Shanahan told me. "So I don't even worry about what people say. I know John Beck can play in this league. Why hasn't he played? Why hasn't he had a chance? I really don't care what the different thought processes are, but I know John can play in this league. He hasn't had a chance. Everybody needs a supporting cast, so we'll do the best we can to give him a good supporting cast -- him and Rex -- and give those guys a chance to compete."

Compete Beck will. We don't know how he'll do. We think we know, and the Shanahans say they think (nay, "know") we're wrong about him. What does Beck think? Well, he's waiting to find out, too.

"There's no secret to what I'm trying to do," Beck said. "I'm still on the road of trying to accomplish this thing. I'm still just working at this goal that I have, and it's work. Every day."