John Beck knows that he hasn’t been on the field for a regular season NFL game since 2007. But in his mind, he is the best option at quarterback for the Washington Redskins, and he’s doing everything in his power to ensure that he impresses coaches Mike and Kyle Shanahan whenever the NFL’s work stoppage is lifted.
He knows that many signs point to the Redskins drafting a quarterback next week. But he says he “couldn’t care less,” and is aiming to be “the guy” anyway.
Acquired by Washington in a trade with Baltimore midway through last year’s training camp, Beck spent the season acclimating himself to the Shanahans’ system, which he had long believed suited his strengths well.
Before the 2007 draft, Beck heard that Mike Shanahan was a fan of his. Beck passed for 10,157 yards, 74 touchdowns and 29 interceptions in three seasons at BYU.
But Shanahan instead drafted Jay Cutler in the first round, and the Miami Dolphins took Beck high in the second round. Beck appeared in five games as a rookie, before the Dolphins had a coaching and general manager change. They drafted Chad Henne the following year. Beck spent the next two seasons (one with Miami and one with Baltimore) on the sidelines, wishing he could somehow wind up with one of the Shanahans.
“My dad would say, ‘If you could get with the Shanahans, maybe that would be your opportunity.’” Beck said this week, recalling a conversation from the 2010 offseason. “I said, ‘I’d love to get there, but what are the chances of that happening?’ And the day it happened, I can’t tell you how excited I was. I was literally sprinting off the Baltimore field, jumped in my truck and called my wife and said, ‘Meet me at Chick-fil-a. It happened.’”
Beck drove from Baltimore to Ashburn to join the Redskins with roughly three weeks left in the preseason. Beck likens learning the Redskins system on the fly to speaking a foreign language in another country.
“You just don’t feel comfortable. So you’re out there trying to play a high tempo game in a chaotic atmosphere and be comfortable. Well the good thing now is, speaking the language now...I feel comfortable about it.”
Hoping to pen a storybook ascent similar to that of Drew Brees’ or Aaron Rodgers’ – both of whom endured inactivity at the start of their careers before becoming elite passers -- Beck sought out the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and has been training with them in San Diego this offseason.
“I find myself in a similar situation [to Brees],” said Beck. While Beck was in Miami, former coach Cam Cameron told Beck that he saw many similar skills in Beck and Brees. Cameron coached Brees in San Diego. “Someone will say, ‘You haven’t been on a field for three years in a regular season game, how are you going to do it?’ Well, that’s the same thing they told Drew. It’s good to be around a guy like that. The one thing in all of this is my belief in being a starter — I never questioned that. Never once did I let my head think, ‘Maybe I’m just one of those guys who is a lifelong backup.’”
Beck is aware that Rex Grossman -- who ended last season as Washington’s starter, but is a free agent – may have a leg up on him. But he believes if he continues to train, he is very capable of getting the nod this fall.
“What I want to accomplish is I want to be the guy,” Beck said Wednesday following the Redskins’ second day of player-led workouts. “That’s the way I look at it, that’s the way I train. When I’m in the weight-room training, when I’m at home watching tape and going over script and I’m preparing, I’m trying to be the starter. Rex knows that. He wants to be the starter, he knows I want to be the starter, that’s the way this business goes. But in my head, that’s the way I’m preparing.
“No one is going to give you an opportunity if you’re not worthy of it,” Beck later added. “The coaches have to see this guy can do it. That’s what I’m trying to prove: I’m worthy of it. Now I need an opportunity.”