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The Usual Suspects

I’ve taken to calling John Beck 'Keyser Soze’.

Up until last night, everyone had a story about him, but I couldn’t find anyone who’d actually ever seen him.

Beck made his burgundy and gold debut last night in Indianapolis. So what did we learn about the dark, mysterious stranger that emerged from the shadows into the bright lights of Lucas Oil Stadium?

We learned plenty. And not enough.

Beck was more than serviceable in his first NFL 'start’ since Dec 30th, 2007. 14 of 17 for 140 yards, Beck looked poised, comfortable, and every bit the competent game manager. But that may have been by design, as Kyle Shanahan served up a healthy dose of a pounding running game, barely giving Beck the chance to screw up Cinderella’s first public outing in years.

Beck neither dazzled nor made any glaring mistakes, with a poor pass on what should’ve been an easy 3rd down completion the only imperfection marring a performance that should give Skins fans confidence.

Still -Shanahan denials aside – if Beck has quietly been anointed as presumed opening day starter, one has to ask tough questions. If Beck is superior to Grossman, if he’s truly ready for prime time, why is he being spoon-fed, perhaps even protected? One can almost visibly feel the game plan open up when Rex Grossman enters the game.

Grossman shone in the pre-season opener. He looked more pro-bowler than choke artist. Last night, playing with 2nd and 3rd teamers for the 3rd quarter we saw a couple of pro bowl throws with Rex threading the needle downfield for beautiful completions. Rex can move the chains. Then came the familiar moment, the one that’s got Grossman carrying more baggage than almost any other NFL quarterback I can think of – the inexplicable, senseless errant pass thrown up for grabs and an easy Colts interception. Almost 3 quarters of near perfect quarterbacking wiped out with one dumb pass.

Beck? Or Grossman? Ultimately, for this Redskins fan, it’s going to come down to risk vs. reward.

Maybe Mike Shanahan really is smarter than all of us. He’s proven he can succeed at the highest NFL level. He’s done it before, and seems to be doing it the right way now in DC. Fans don’t know what to do with this strange, alien emotion they feel rising in their guts. A sense of real hope, in place of the usual desperate homeristic optimism, has Redskins fans wondering what this team could do in the coming years. Signs of a powerful running game, decent QB protection, speedy and opportunistic players who don’t make a lot of mistakes, and solid play-calling all point to one thing: the Shanahans know what they’re doing.

So maybe John Beck is the answer.

What we observed in Indianapolis last night may have been the first tentative, cautious dress rehearsal of many beautiful performances to come. But I’m not buying a #12 jersey just yet.

When push comes to shove, I have far more confidence in flawed veteran Rex Grossman, than I have in an untested John Beck. Grossman is clearly more comfortable in this offense, makes a much quicker, more decisive read, and poses enough of a downfield threat to keep teams from stacking the box and shutting down our running game . I now know Beck can run the offense serviceably, hand the ball off skillfully, and roll-out and complete the short pass. Beyond that, I’ve yet to see what he can do that Grossman can’t do better or why he’s our presumed starter. That his coaches kept him on a short leash last night only cements that view.

There is a perennial quarterback controversy in DC. How nice is it that this year, there are actually two quarterbacks involved in the controversy? No one’s arguing that either of these guys is a superstar, or ever will be. But fans increasingly believe the Redskins can have a more-than-productive offense with either guy under center. Should Beck emerge as an up and coming future leader of the Redskins offense, Grossman fans everywhere will no doubt throw their crow on the tailgate grill, and dig-in happily. If, instead, it’s Grossman who shrugs off the inner demons of season’s past and starts playing mostly mistake-free football, Beck-lovers will likewise embrace sexy Rexy.

One thing is for sure in 2012.

These Redskins are not the Usual Suspects.

These Redskins have a future. Whether Rex Grossman, John Beck, or a draft pick to be named later is leading them on offense remains to be seen.
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