Tuesday, November 6, 2007

To Beck Or Not To Beck

By now, you've all most likely heard of the writers strike that has gone into effect. The Writers Guild of America has suspended work on all ongoing projects, leaving me to weep over the uncertain fates of my favorite shows like Scrubs, The Office, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The day just isn't complete without seeing Conan. I guess I'll just have to settle for repeats for now.

So, what does any of this have to do with sports? Well, nothing really - except for the fact that I am officially not a part of the writers strike (that might have something to do with not being a part of the Writers Union) and thus I am able to bestow upon all of you the wonderful gift of my writing.

I can already hear the applause.

And mind you, this won't just be any old pointless and arbitrary writing. No, this will only be the sharpest, most decisive writing available. Isn't that right, gorilla nurse using an old-fashioned abdominal exerciser while listening to "Angel of the Morning" by Juice Newton? (If you are a Conan fan, you probably found that last line to be hilarious; if not, you are probably getting pretty annoyed with this article.)

Okay, enough with the shenanigans. It's time to get down to business.

Last week was the bye week in Miami, and for a team that stands at 0-8, the inevitable questions regarding the quarterback situation began to fly.

Should Cam Cameron stick with Cleo Lemon as the starter or hand the reigns over to rookie John Beck, the guy believed to be the future of this franchise?

For most people, the obvious answer is to give Beck the job and let the evaluation process begin. After all, this season is a lost cause, and Miami will most certainly have a top three draft pick come April. If Beck isn't the answer, the team will need to consider taking one of the top QBs in the draft, right?


The understandable rage of being winless halfway through the season has everyone thinking irrationally. Change for the sake of change is not the answer in this situation. Sure, everyone is dying to see what Beck brings to the table. I know I am. We also know that Lemon has probably shown us the extent of his abilities. He's a solid backup, but certainly not a long-term answer at QB for this team.

But let's think about this in a more reasoned manner. As the third-string QB entering the season, Beck worked solely with the scout team offense in practice. When Trent Green was lost for the season with a concussion in Week 5, Beck became the backup and started to receive approximately 20% of the first-team reps in practice. Then, after the Giants game, Cameron declared that Beck and Lemon would split reps with the first-team 50/50. Of course, the team only practiced once during the bye week.

So what does that all mean? Well, for one, it means that going into this weekend's game against Buffalo, Beck will only have participated in a total of 6 practices in which he received half of the starter's reps. He's only been actively practicing with the Miami offensive scheme since Week 6 - all of his work before then was running the scout team offense.

Clearly, by no fault of his own, Beck just needs more time in practice to work on the gameplan that his team will actually be employing in a game. Folks, this is what it's like to develop a QB. It takes time and patience - qualities that most fans lack. It's not going to help Beck's development by just throwing him into a real game situation and hoping he adapts. His introduction to game action should only come once he's established a command of the offense in practice. I really don't think that 6 practices with half of the reps is enough time to accomplish that. Before this season even began, I cautioned against using Beck at all this year, save for perhaps a game or two at the very end of the season. Those expectations weren't based on an estimated record and being winless shouldn't change the plans.

And let's not forget what Cameron's speciality is. If he knows nothing else, at least Cameron can truthfully be called a QB guru. He understands how to bring a young prospect along. He will know when the time is right to give Beck his shot.

As for the argument that the team needs to see what it has in Beck now so that it can decide if it needs to select another QB with their top pick in the draft, that's baloney. This team is not using it's top pick on a QB. The coaching staff has already put its confidence in Beck and you can't decide the value of a rookie QB by half a dozen starts. If he falters mightily next season in extended playing time, fine, then the scouts should start looking at top prospects, but not until then.

There's also a theory going around that Cameron is only sticking with Lemon as the starter until the team notches its first victory. Lemon is more experienced, and so he provides the team with a greater chance to win. The argument is that Cameron is only thinking about himself, because he doesn't want to be the first coach to lead a team to an 0-16 record.

I don't agree with that theory. Even so, is it so wrong to want to avoid going winless for an entire season? Is there really that much of a difference between 1-15 and 0-16? Yes, a huge difference. The simple fact of creating negative history and instantly becoming an embarassing trivia answer will haunt these players, these coaches, and this franchise for a long, long time. New players will be continually hounded by questions about the Imperfect Perfection. For a team that is desparately trying to transform a culture of losing, the seemingly insignificant difference of a single win could mean all the world.

Everyone in Miami needs to settle down over this issue. If John Beck is the future of this franchise, as most of us believe, his development should be given all the time in the world to play out naturally.


Anonymous said...

If beck isn't mentally capable of playing this week who's to blame.. the coaches? If beck isn't physically ready then that's a whole other issue. It's week 9 how much time does he need to learn really? Look at adrian peterson it didn't take much for a great athlete to showcase his talent to the league.

SPL said...

running back is the easiest position to transition from the college to the pro game. QB is the most difficult. You can't expect a guy whose only had 6 practices with 50% of the first team reps to be able to execute the playbook. I'm sure he has a good mental grasp of it, but he needs the opportunity to fine tune it in practice