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Looking At John Beck As A QB Prospect

Posted by Matt Terl on May 3, 2011 – 11:19 am

Shortly after the NFL Draft ended, Mike Shanahan addressed the assembled D.C. media. He answered questions about the individual draft picks, about moving up and down the board, about coming away with 12 players … and about how none of those players was a quarterback.

But Shanahan framed the conversation a little differently than most people were. Instead of talking about how he hadn’t drafted a quarterback, or the difficulties with Donovan McNabb, or the enigma that is Rex Grossman, he talked favorably about John Beck.

Very, very favorably.

“When John Beck did come out, I had him as the top-ranked quarterback coming out that year, and I didn’t even think it was close,” Shanahan said.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in John Beck,” Shanahan said.

“I think the world of him,” Shanahan said.

“He has not disappointed me since he’s been here,” Shanahan said.

Response to this has been … mixed, shall we say. People are not inclined to believe that a thirty year-old acquired literally for nothing (the Redskins were able to later re-sign the player they gave up for Beck) can suddenly blossom into a viable starter, and I can’t really blame them.

But what if you view Beck — despite his age — as more of a QB prospect just hitting his breakout year, not as an NFL journeyman?

Before I get to that, though: I know perfectly well that mounting any sort of defense of The Beck Philosophy is going to get me called an idiot, a rube, a shill, and probably worse. Which is understandable, because Beck’s pro career thus far has been underwhelming. He played in just five games after the Dolphins drafted him in the second round (starting four), all in his 2007 rookie year, and even that experience was because Trent Green got concussed (as Trent Green does) and Cleo Lemon couldn’t seem to get the job done.

In those five games, Beck completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 559 yards with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions, along with 5 fumbles. The Dolphins won none of those games. Obviously, none of this sounds very promising at all. But Beck was a rookie project; rookie quarterbacks struggle.

You can’t read too much into the fact that he didn’t return to the starting position the next year. Cam Cameron, the head coach that drafted Beck, was fired, and the new head coach brought in his own guys. Beck rode the bench behind those two — Chad Pennington and Chad Henne — for a season before being cut. Cameron, by then the offensive coordinator in Baltimore, brought Beck in to back up Joe Flacco for a year before ultimately seeing him traded to the Redskins.

So let’s all agree that there’s not a lot of positives there. Understood. In fact, I’ll be even more frank: when I watched Beck in training camp and the preseason last year, nothing notable jumped out at me about his game. (It’s worth noting, though, that he now has a year on the bench in this offense, which is exactly how much experience Rex Grossman had in it prior to last year.)

But at least one of Shanahan’s positives about Beck reflected on his pre-draft rating of the guy, and — as I mentioned above — if you think of Beck as a prospect entering his fifth year who might now be ready to take charge, stronger glimmers of hope emerge. His college numbers were very good — he finished his career as the second all-time leading passer in BYU history — but that’s no surprise. You don’t get drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft without SOME promising statistics.

It’s his non-statistical pre-draft measures that most intrigue me, though. In the run-up to this year’s draft, I came across two separate but compatible ways of evaluating quarterbacks in the draft: The Rule Of 26-27-60, and The Parcells Principle. Each of those two philosophies amounts to a checklist that you can apply to QB prospects, and — taken together — they form a surprisingly solid indicator of success. (Click throught the links to the original articles to see much more legwork, much of it undertaken by Kevin Ewoldt at Hogs Haven.)

So, building off of my “Beck Was Drafted As A Prospect And Maybe Now He’s Ready Theory,” I dug up his college numbers and put him through the whole checklist. Here are the results.

THE RULE OF 26-27-60

1) Wonderlic of greater than 26? Yes. Wonderlic scores aren’t officially released, but Beck has been variously reported as a 34, a 30, and a 35. All of those are greater than 26, so I’m calling it a yes.

2) More than 27 college starts? Yes. Beck had 43.

3) College completion percentage of 60% or better? Beck finished college completing 62.4% of his passes.

Beck sails past the Rule of 26-27-60 without any problem.


1) Must be a senior. Beck was, indeed, a senior when he entered the draft.

2) Must be a graduate. Beck had, indeed, graduated when he entered the draft.

3) Must be a three-year starter. Beck did indeed start for three years in college.

4) Must have 23 wins. This is the one Beck comes closest to missing. His BYU Cougars won 23 games that he started, but Beck left one of those games — a 2004 contest — with an injury. I’m giving it to him, but I suppose you could argue it either way.

The only prospect in the 2010 draft who also cleared all seven of those hurdles was TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who happens to be a player that a lot of fans seemed to want the Redskins to select. And Dalton might very well excel in the NFL.

But Beck has the undeniable advantage over Dalton of experience — in the NFL, and in Kyle Shanahan’s system. If you think of Beck as a Dalton-level prospect, and you consider the fact that so many quarterbacks struggle in their rookie years, maybe Beck’s difficulties in Miami work in his favor now. Maybe the rookie difficulties are out of the way, and he’s ready to become a star in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. (It happened to Matt Schaub in a similar way; his three Atlanta years are unremarkable at best, as is his first year in Houston. Now he’s one of the league’s most prolific passers.)

Or maybe this is all wishful thinking and John Beck is the quarterback we saw in Miami, nothing more. That’s certainly still in play. But — for all the reasons listed above, plus the fact that Shanahan seems to believe in him — I’m willing to at least consider the possibility that John Beck could be a legitimate NFL starter, possibly as soon as this season.

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