LANDOVER, Md. — For years and years as an NFL coach or coordinator, Mike Shanahan was hailed as an "offensive genius."
At the moment, there's very little going right on that side of the ball for his Washington Redskins.
Still, Shanahan announced after a 19-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that he's sticking with John Beck as Washington's starting quarterback, rather than going back to Rex Grossman.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Redskins — they're 3-5 after starting 3-1 — and their only points before the closing 75 seconds Sunday came on Graham Gano's franchise-record 59-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
"Right now, you take a look at the offense, it's tough to take. Tough to take for me," said Shanahan, whose son Kyle is Washington's offensive coordinator.
Until last week's 23-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Mike Shanahan never had been blanked in 24 years' worth of NFL games as a head coach or an assistant.
He led the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl championships with John Elway as the QB, while implementing a zone-blocking running scheme that turned all manner of unheralded backs into 1,000-yard rushers.
And these days? How are things going in his second season coaching the Redskins?
"We're not where we want to be right now," he said.
There's an understatement.
Washington's first six possessions against NFC West-leading San Francisco (7-1) went like this: punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, fumble.
"If we come out and get some points on the board early, maybe the game would be different. But these last four games, we've fallen behind in all of them and, it's like, as soon as the other team scores, it's not the same feeling on the sideline. People aren't looking the same, aren't playing the same," said receiver Jabar Gaffney, who caught a 9-yard TD pass from Beck with a little more than a minute left.
"We have to do something to keep that confidence up," Gaffney added, "and stop playing like we're seeing ghosts out there."
Beck was 30 for 47 for 254 yards, a TD and an interception. Not terrible numbers, perhaps, until you consider that 116 yards and the score came in the fourth quarter, when the 49ers were fine with laying back and sitting on their lead.
Over and over, Beck would dump a short pass off to rookie running back Roy Helu, who wound up with a franchise-record 14 catches for 105 yards. That was one more than the mark shared by Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk (who twice caught 13 passes in a game) and Kelvin Bryant.
"That's a privilege," Helu said. "But at the end of it all, I'm leaving teammates with a loss for not executing well."
He was referring to his first-half fumble; Alex Smith threw a 30-yard touchdown pass on the next play for the 49ers.
Facing the best points-preventing and run-stopping defense in the NFL, Washington finished with only 52 yards on the ground.
"I want to put my foot down and have this stop. We have too many good players on this team," said Beck, who dropped to 0-7 as an NFL starter, 0-3 this season. "Losing like this shouldn't happen, and I don't want it to happen any longer."
Shanahan made a point of shifting blame for the offense's problems away from Beck, although the coach did note: "I'm not saying that John played a perfect game."
Throughout his postgame news conference, Shanahan made veiled — or not-so-veiled — references to the various injuries the Redskins have accumulated this season, particularly on offense.
It sounded something like setting up an excuse, but it is true that Washington is without its top receiver (Santana Moss), top running back (Tim Hightower), a Pro Bowl tight end (Chris Cooley) and starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger.
That contributed to the lineup decisions Sunday, including three rookies making a first NFL start on offense: Helu, receiver Leonard Hankerson and guard Maurice Hurt.
"Any time you shuffle people in and out of there, there's going to be some inconsistencies. ... It does look a little ragtag," Shanahan said. "There are going to be mistakes made."
Indeed, Washington turned the ball over three times: Beck's pick, Helu's fumble, and a fumble by Terrence Austin.
This was the Redskins' first home game since Oct. 16, when they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. Grossman threw four interceptions that day and ceded the starting job to Beck.
For now, anyway, Beck is holding that spot.Comment on this story
"Sometimes it looks like it's all the quarterback, and that's understandable," Shanahan said. "When you lose a few pieces of the puzzle, the quarterback is going to look pretty average when we're playing pretty average as a group."
Notes: Washington RT Jammal Brown left the game after hurting his hip. Shanahan said he wasn't sure how serious the injury was. ... Other Redskins injuries: WR Niles Paul (toe), DL Kedric Golston (elbow). ... LT Trent Williams returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained ankle. ... Steve Cox held the previous record for longest field goal for Washington, 57 yards in 1986.