Going with John Beck at quarterback is certainly a gamble, but here's why it's better than all the alternatives.
Monday's end to the NFL lockout means that the normal hoopla associated with a Washington Redskins offseason will now be condensed to a few short weeks before the September 11 season opener against the New York Giants. In typical Burgundy & Gold form, the Redskins opened the 2011 free agency season with a bang, potentially trading away Donovan McNabb for a bag of peanuts and some diet coke, re-signing wide receiver Santana Moss and picking up free agents Donte' Stallworth and Barry Cofield.
While it remains to be seen if these moves mean the Redskins will yet again follow the Daniel Snyder playbook and throw exorbitant amounts of money at the top free agent names on the market, one major roster issue already seems to be settled: John Beck looks like he will be Washington's starting quarterback entering the 2011 season.
Plugging a relatively unknown and completely unaccomplished NFL QB into the second-most scrutinized job in D.C. is bound to raise some eyebrows, especially among a fan base accustomed to a steady flow of high-profile veteran acquisitions to fill the team's every need.
But to all the skeptics who would rather see the Redskins go after more accomplished, veteran names like Carson Palmer, Vince Young, Marc Bulger or Matt Hasselbeck, I think you are wrong. As crazy as it may sound, going into the 2011 regular season with Beck at the helm is the right move for the Redskins.
Of course, just because I think you're wrong does not mean that your concerns are unfounded. Beck enters this season with a startlingly bare NFL resume. In fact, his stats from the five games he appeared in as a member of the 2007 Miami Dolphins (all losses) are downright atrocious.
That being said, his performance from that season should have no bearing whatsoever on how he does in 2011. At 1-15, the '07 Dolphins were one of the worst teams in recent NFL history in nearly every facet of the game. You could have put any pro bowl-caliber quarterback with that offense and the team would have won no more than four games. Playing behind their porous offensive line and throwing to their terrible receivers, even Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would have likely ended the year with mediocre numbers - at best. Throw in the fact that Beck was a rookie that season, and his 62.0 passer rating becomes almost excusable.
While the quarterback position is undoubtedly the most important one in football, it is still only one of 22 starting offensive and defensive positions. By keeping Beck and not going after another quarterback, the Redskins are conserving the necessary assets (draft picks, cap room, trade pieces) to upgrade the rest of their team. Beck, like any quarterback, will perform better with a better team around him.
That's not to say that, even with a solid team around him, Beck should be the Redskins' franchise quarterback. But history has shown that an elite quarterback isn't a necessary component of a winning team.
In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer, who could be generously described as "mediocre," under center. How did they do it? With an incredible defense and just enough offense to not screw it up. Then, in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won a title with Brad Johnson at the helm. Granted, Johnson was better than Dilfer, but he was still far more of a journeyman than a franchise quarterback. They, too, had a stifling defense that only required a serviceable offense to win games.
Finally, in each of the past two seasons, Mark Sanchez has led the New York Jets to a berth in the AFC Championship Game. While the young quarterback could still end up being a very good player for many years, in '09 and '10, Sanchez was average, at best. The Jets, however, will remain a contender as long as they have one of the NFL's best defenses and an excellent power running game.
Are you sensing a pattern? Each of those three franchises used the bulk of their resources to build solid teams instead of focusing them all on an individual position. The Redskins appear to be doing the same.
It remains to be seen whether this gamble will pay off. Beck, for now, is a completely unknown entity. Still, I'd rather take my chances with an unknown entity who Mike Shanahan believes in than the turd salad of injury-prone, past-their-prime quarterbacks on the market, especially when the cap room and trade pieces necessary to acquire them can be put to better use.
As we've learned from past experience, high-profile players do not necessarily translate to a high winning percentage. By sticking with a low-profile quarterback, the Redskins appear to be taking a different path than the largely losing teams of the past decade. They finally seem to grasp the importance of building a team, as opposed to merely acquiring individuals.
Going with Beck might not be the best solution for the quarterback position. But for now, it's the best solution for the Washington Redskins.