Beck already a folk hero, but can he play?

Posted June 06, 2011 @ 3:24 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Meet John Beck, Redskins quarterback and folk hero. So far, his story has been endearing. How it ends, though, is quite another story altogether.

We don't yet know if Beck can be a success in the NFL, much less win the starting job in D.C., but I know this much: It would be a pretty tremendous deal if he did.

As the NFL has ground to a halt this spring, Beck and his fellow Redskins — including Rex Grossman, who played ahead of Beck last season — have gone to work on the practice fields to start the process of figuring out who will be under center in the fall.

The pious, do-gooder Beck has been campaigning in the media that he should be the guy. The NFL might be locked out, but Beck isn't suffering from lockjaw.

"I basically say, 'Screw the awkwardness.' I'm trying to be the starting quarterback," Beck said on SiriusXM Radio. "I'll call whoever, try to set whatever (practice) up. If you don't think like a starter and act like a starter, your teammates probably aren't going to believe you're the starter. So, I'm thinking I'm the starter."

Amen, brother.

Beck, who turns 30 in August, has granted just about every interview that has been requested of him, telling his terrific story.

For instance, we learned that Beck:

• First opened eyes with his arm strength by chucking his bottle in church as a baby. "Quick release," the scouting report read.

• Was an Eagle Scout. His favorite merit badge: dog care. His least favorite: environmental science. These are facts, folks.

• Served two years as a Mormon missionary in Lisbon and got to the point where he was dreaming in Portuguese.

• Bleeds BYU blue and white. As a kid he dressed as Jim McMahon for Halloween and forced himself to throw lefthanded (to honor Steve Young), and as an adult the former Cougars QB named his firstborn Ty (after Detmer).

• Has shot a coyote dead. Beck also makes how-to hunting videos starring his teammates. If I'm making this up, you can shoot me dead.

But before Beck becomes the next NFL fairy tale, a la Kurt Warner or Tommy Maddox, he'll have to prove he can play. He has but 559 passing yards in five NFL games — about what Detmer used to put up in a half against Utah State — and took 10 sacks and had eight turnovers in 107 pass attempts, all coming in his awful rookie season with the 1-15 Dolphins in 2007. He has had zero regular-season pass attempts since then.

Two teams later, after being cut once and later traded for the immortal Doug Dutch, Beck is practically climbing trees to tell anyone who'll listen that he can play in the NFL.

But the sentiment might not be unilateral. Head coach Mike Shanahan, a tough man to impress, has been saying since November that Beck has shown him something. Of course, that also was around the time when Shanahan chose Grossman over Beck after benching Donovan McNabb.

An NFL assistant who remembered when Beck last played in a game that mattered — seriously, I had to ask — said handling the pass rush could be Beck's biggest obstacle.

"He would get flustered," he said. "You'd see him tighten up, doubt himself. We pressured him, and that's how we beat him."

Beck threw the ball well during seven-on-sevens recently, but that's what he should do in May. Come August (or whenever football starts), he'll have to prove he can add a new chapter to his already interesting life. Don't sell the book rights on him just yet.