ASHBURN, Va. -- Eight games into the season, neither Rex Grossman nor John Beck has justified the faith placed in them by the coach who won two Super Bowl titles with John Elway in the 1990s. Add in the wasted 2010 season with Donovan McNabb, and Mike Shanahan is on pace to go 0 for 3 with his taste in quarterbacks since becoming the Washington Redskins' coach last year.
Shanahan obviously didn't have to say he put his "reputation" on the line with them. He could have just said he had two players that he liked and that he hoped one of them would step up to the challenge and become the franchise's quarterback for years to come.
But now it's out there, and Shanahan isn't taking it back. He gets asked about it regularly, and he doesn't back down. He does, however, spin his answer a bit differently than he used to.
"I believe in both these quarterbacks," he said Wednesday. "And I've got to give them the right supporting cast. That's my job, and I'm going to give them the right supporting cast, but both guys will get the job done. And it's my job to give them the type of players surrounding them that give them the chance to be successful."
That's not hard to miss. Three times in the span of 15 seconds, Shanahan essentially said: "It's not the quarterbacks -- it's the guys around them."
The other point Shanahan has been making more often, particularly during the current four-game losing streak, is that there will be "growing pains" with an inexperienced quarterback like Beck, who is 30 years old but has played in just nine NFL games. He's 0-7 as a starter, including 0-3 since getting the No. 1 job after Grossman was benched last month.
While it's true that the offense has been hurt by injuries to receiver Santana Moss, tight end Chris Cooley, running back Tim Hightower, and several others along the offensive line, Beck deserves his share of the blame for the current skid. He held the ball too long and took 10 sacks in a 23-0 loss to Buffalo, then had the opposite problem at times in a 19-11 defeat to San Francisco.
Still, every team has injuries, and there's no shortage of teams playing inexperienced quarterbacks much younger than Beck. Yet the Redskins have the distinction of having the two lowest rated QBs in the NFC, with Beck at 72.1 and Grossman at 66.5.
Shanahan is now looking at the very real possibility of starting over -- again -- at the game's most important position in 2012, his reputation having taken a major self-induced hit.
But he's not giving up on Beck and Grossman just yet.
"If you believe in people, you put your reputation on people," Shanahan said. "And I understand there's going to be some growing pains."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press