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Shanahan still staking reputation on Redskins' QBs

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ASHBURN, Va. (AP)

It was a bold statement, the type that hangs over a franchise until it's proven or disproven.

And it came from a coach with quite a track record.

It was on July 29, following the first practice of training camp. Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan bristled over a question about quarterback John Beck's lack of experience, then expounded by giving the strongest vote of confidence imaginable to both Beck and Rex Grossman.

''You talk about a guy not being experienced - I believe in the guys,'' Shanahan said. ''I believe in `em. And I've been doing this for a long time. And I put my reputation on these guys that they can play.''

If that's truly the case, then Shanahan's reputation is in a very precarious spot.

Eight games into the season, neither Grossman nor 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 Shanahan is on pace to go 0 for 3 with his taste in quarterbacks since becoming Washington's coach last year.

Shanahan obviously didn't have to make the ''reputation'' quote. 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 he's not 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 space 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 only 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.

In both games, he missed open receivers and didn't show the signs of a leader who could overcome adverse conditions and take command.

''If he would have held it a couple of more times against the 49ers, we could have had a couple more big plays,'' Shanahan said. ''That's the nature (of the game). As time goes, he'll get more comfortable in the system and more comfortable playing in game situations.''

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.

While Beck concedes ''it would be nice'' to have everyone healthy, even he says he doesn't want to be considered ''a victim of circumstance.''

''The teams that are really good, they find a way,'' Beck said. ''No matter who's out there playing, they make plays.''

Last year, Shanahan ran into a stubborn student when he tried to reteach fundamentals to McNabb, who no longer had the ability to win on sheer talent. This year, the coach couldn't get Grossman to stop committing turnovers - nine interceptions plus two lost fumbles in five starts. Now he's trying to squeeze all he can out of a player who hadn't started a game since 2007.

Beck was asked if he felt motivated to justify the ''reputation'' remark from his boss.

''It meant a lot when coach says something like that because you want a coach that does believe in you,'' Beck said. ''That's when you get an opportunity, when someone believes in you. But I take a lot of pride in the work that I do and I want to do my very best. And that's what stands out most to me, is that I'm trying to be the best that I can - because of me.''

Grossman, now watching from the bench, concurred.

''You're thinking the same way as a player: Coach has confidence in you,'' Grossman said. ''I'm not off to a good start, but it's not over.''

Even so, 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.''

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Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

Tagged: Redskins, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Tim Hightower

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