If labor strife is really about to end in the NFL, training camp is a scant three weeks away. In Washington, that means John Beck lining up behind center is a scant three weeks away.
Many people are frightened by this prospect because John Beck has not thrown a regular season NFL pass since 2007, has a career quarterback rating of 62.0 and — this really scares the bejabbers out of the jaded cynics — Mike Shanahan actually thinks he can get the job done.
(My-way Mike likes him? Ha! Kiss of death. He’ll be benched and publicly humiliated by October.)
Look, I don’t know if John Beck can start, lead and win — mostly because I don’t know who he is. There is no NFL body of work to go on, no signature game to DVR and say, with certainty, “This is the long-term answer at quarterback the Redskins have been looking for since, well, Joe Theismann.”
All we can conclude is two other organizations — Miami and Baltimore — felt other people could do the job better and let Beck go. And yet, for a guy who will turn 30 next month, who’s thrown a measly one touchdown and three interceptions in his four years, he sure believes in himself.
Listening to Beck talk himself up to the Redskins’ fan base the past few months, I kept thinking:
Who has this kind of gall? To actually say he’s glad that Donovan McNabb, technically still a teammate, was benched and is about to be sent packing. To insert himself as the heir apparent to a six-time Pro Bowler instead of the guy the Shanahan clan banked on at the end of last season, Rex Grossman — who, for all his warts, once quarterbacked an NFC champion.
Who? The guy the franchise has been looking for going on 20-odd years behind center: Theismann, who also drew the ire of two established NFL quarterbacks when he joined the league in 1974, a couple of guys named Sonny and Billy.
“I was a guy,” Joey T. began, “ ‘Oh, you’re cocky, you’re egotistical.’ ”
“The first thing I did was I went on TV and said, ‘I didn’t come here to sit, I came here to play,’ ” Theismann said of his first Redskins training camp under Coach George Allen, who already had Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer in the stable. “Well, that sort of [ticked] them off a little bit. Then the next thing I said, I started doing TV shows and I started talkin’ about the offense. Well, I wasn’t playing so that didn’t sit very well. Then I wrote a book on quarterbacking having never played quarterback [in the NFL], which didn’t sit very well.”
George wanted Billy. Burgundy and Gold Nation wanted Sonny. Joey T. wanted Joey T., which, looking back, brought the two old guys together.
“I think they were down at the Dancing Crab one night, as legend has it, [Jurgensen and Kilmer] both sat there and said, ‘You know it doesn’t matter anymore which one of us plays as long as he doesn’t.’ ” (Sonny once confirmed this story for me.)
“They bonded,” Theismann added. “I’m one of these cup-half-full guys. I just feel like I was responsible for a friendship that I know has lasted so many years between Billy and Sonny, and that makes me feel warm inside that I was a galvanizing force for them.”
John Beck should know that anecdote, if for no other reason than McNabb and Grossman are probably at Cheesecake Factory in Tysons Corner right now, saying to each other: “Gosh I hope John Beck fails. If not, it means we really were washed up.”
Theismann feels a certain kinship with someone with swagger before ever having started. Many skeptics could point out that Joey T.’s criticism gene rarely can be seen when talking Redskins.
Still, he likes the kid, who will turn 30 next month. “John Beck and Kevin Kolb came out the same year,” Theismann added. “Because [Eagles Coach] Andy Reid named Kevin Kolb a starter for a half of a game, or a quarter of a game, we’ve anointed him the hottest free agent out there. But what has he done? I mean, really, what has he done?” (Other than become the first NFL player to throw for more than 300 yards in his first two starts and lose his job to injury, not much.)
“Then you take a look at John Beck, who sat for a number of years, who was in another bad situation offensively in Miami, which seems like they’ve had way too many of them.
“I really feel like John can come out and take a leadership role and be a quarterback in this town for four or five years. He’s already 30 years old. It wasn’t that John said things that I think were misconstrued,” Theismann said. “He’s a young man that speaks from the heart.”
He added: “I’ll take it to my grave: the single most dependent [important] person on the field is the QB. If you’ve got one, you’ve got a chance.”
Like I said, I don’t know if John Beck can start, lead and win — especially with what’s around him. I don’t know much about him. I’m sorry to say I don’t even know what he looks like. If he tapped me on the shoulder at Petco, I might ask him to help me with my 50-pound bag of dog food and tell him to spruce up the toy aisle.
But I do know what John Beck sounds like: a cocksure veteran who hasn’t been really given a chance and now finally gets one. Let’s see what he can do. After all the horror lately behind center in Washington, what could be so frightening about that?