How John Beck went from NFL journeyman to a top QB guru

Ethan Cadeaux
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How John Beck went from NFL journeyman to a top QB guru originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Kyle Trask will all have their lives change forever come April 29 when the 2021 NFL Draft begins. All four of them will hear their names called during the early rounds with franchises hoping they will be a long-term answer at the most important position in sports.

But Wilson, Fields, Lance, and Trask have something else in common besides being just top quarterbacks in this year's draft: all four of them have directly trained with John Beck.

For the most die-hard Washington Football Team fans, you know who John Beck is. The Beck, Rex Grossman and Donovan McNabb eras are hard to forget, after all. But for those that don't remember, the 39-year-old spent two years as a quarterback in Washington in 2010 and 2011 before the arrival of Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins the following year. 

After playing his last NFL snap in 2011 before a stop in Canada, Beck has transitioned from a journeyman NFL signal-caller to one of the sport's top QB trainers. He's worked with some of the sport's best, including Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott and Drew Brees. In fact, when Beck spoke with NBC Sports Washington he had just finished a throwing session with the New Orleans Saints’ Jameis Winston. The list goes on, and on, and on. 

Sure, Beck didn’t have the professional career he wanted when he was a second-round pick back in 2007. But every experience that he’s had, good or bad, he’s used to his advantage to help prepare his clients -- the next generation of quarterbacks -- as best as he can.

“I wish that my story was one of success in the NFL,” Beck said to NBC Sports Washington. “I wish mine was, ‘Hey, I threw 150 touchdowns. Let me show you how to do that.’ Unfortunately, that was not my story. So much of what I help guys with is the mental side, the emotional side and just trying to face those challenges that are being an NFL quarterback in difficult circumstances.”

Rollercoaster NFL career

After a terrific collegiate career at Brigham Young University where he was named first-team All-Mountain West twice, Beck was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. 

He could not have landed in a worse situation. Beck played in five games for Miami as a rookie, starting four of them. The Dolphins went winless in those games and then blew up the whole operation after the season.

“Coming out of that Miami situation, it was really fun to be drafted, it was super exciting,” Beck said. “And even still to this day, I share this story with all of the young quarterbacks that I train of what it felt like to be drafted in April, to go to a team that says, ‘Hey, we want you to be the future of our franchise and here's the plan that we have,’ and to basically have that plan go up in flames, for me to be the starter by Week 10 when we were 0-9 and then to have every single person that was in the building when they drafted me basically be fired. Like not even the same owner. Not even the same team president.”

In 2008, Beck’s second season in the NFL, Tony Sporano took over as Miami’s head coach and dominoes started falling. 

The quarterback entered training camp in a battle with Josh McCown for the team’s starting QB gig. Then, in the middle of camp, Packers legend Brett Favre came out of retirement and signed with the Jets. That led to New York’s former starter, Chad Pennington, becoming a free agent and Miami immediately signing him. All of a sudden, Beck found himself buried on the depth chart.

“So basically, that situation was gone for me," Beck said. 

After not playing a snap in 2008, Beck was outright released by the Dolphins just two years after they spent a second-round pick on him. Beck signed with the Ravens, but didn’t see the field in 2009.

The following August, then-Washington head coach Mike Shanahan traded for Beck. While the move seemed inconsequential at the time, getting the chance to play under Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, was a monumental moment in Beck’s career.

“To be able to have Mike Shanahan pull me in via trade and say, basically, ‘I watched what happened in Miami. I've always been high on you. I want to bring you in here and have you compete.’ It was so exciting,” Beck said. 

But by arriving late to training camp after the Ravens trade, Beck had to catch up quickly to learn Shanahan’s offense. He again didn’t play in 2010, but both coaches felt confident in the former BYU star’s ability. Entering the 2011 campaign, Shanahan announced Beck would compete with Grossman for the team’s starting job. But, unfortunately, the NFL lockout happened that offseason. 

“The thing that I wish I could have had -- I never had an off­season with Kyle. I got traded during training camp in 2010,” Beck said. “Then that next season was the lockout. ... We would have talks. Like Mike, Kyle, me, we all knew like, ‘Man, yeah, we missed out on what we thought that it was gonna be.’ But at the same time, they were saying, ‘we still wanna see you compete to be the starter.’”

When the 2011 season did begin, Beck was already at a disadvantage without a minicamp and OTAs to get needed repetitions in the offense. Grossman ultimately won the starting job. Beck would get his chance later in the season -- but only when Washington was crushed by injuries.

“Where I felt bad in our situation was when I became the starter and we were dealing with all those injuries, I was not somebody that had played in [Shanhan's] system for 30 games," Beck said. "I was not somebody that had played. I hadn't even been in his system for an off­season. “It was not even close to the team that started the season. That's tough for any coach.”

Washington went 0-4 in Beck's four starts and finished 5-11 and then hit a total reset at the position drafting Griffin III and Cousins in the 2012 NFL Draft. Just like that, Beck’s time in D.C. was done.

Beck made a quick stop in Houston but didn't play. In 2014, Beck tried out for the New Orleans Saints in front of head coach Sean Payton. When Beck impressed during his tryout with the Saints, Payton had one simple question for him.

“Sean Payton called me up to his office and basically just was like, ‘How are you not on a roster right now? Tell me your story of how you ended up in our camp and you're not on a roster because you should still be playing ball,’” Beck said.

Beck told of his winding NFL journey. And while Payton said he couldn’t grant Beck a roster spot on the Saints, he told him to go play in Canada. So, Beck packed his bags and played for the B.C. Lions for two seasons in the CFL. But in his second year there he tore a pectoral muscle. Beck realized it was time to hang up his cleats.

Origins of 3DQB

When Beck was originally drafted by the Dolphins, head coach Cam Cameron -- the former QB coach for the San Diego Chargers -- wanted Beck to connect with Drew Brees, whom he'd coached in San Diego. That eventually happened in 2009 and they spent offseasons training together in California. 

Toward the end of Beck’s career, Brees introduced him to Tom House, the Saints QB’s personal throwing coach who had a long career working with pitchers and quarterbacks on their throwing mechanics.   

During the 2013 season when Beck was out of football and Brees was back in New Orleans, he would drive from San Diego to USC's campus in Los Angeles to work out with House. He did it every day, almost six hours round trip.

During that time, House’s name was starting to gain some traction in NFL circles after a long career in baseball where he was a former big-league reliever and pitching coach and became known for his work with MLB Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan. 

“I would do that three to four times a week. And after a while of me doing that, Tom was getting some interest from outside QBs, calling, saying, ‘I hear you do stuff for quarterbacks. What is it that you do?’” Beck said.

“So in my first year working there as a player, he said, ‘Look, I'll make you a deal. I will teach you everything I know about throwing if you bring everything you know about quarterbacking. And you, me, and a guy named Adam Dedeaux, we're gonna form a company together and we're gonna train quarterbacks.’ And I said ‘deal.’”

When Beck got back into football playing in Canada, he would spend five months out of the year with the B.C. Lions. But as soon as the season was over, he would return to Southern California to focus on the company he, House and Dedeaux created: 3DQB.

In 2015, House, due to Parkinson’s Disease, had to stop doing the day-to-day work that came with 3DQB. He then asked Beck if he could follow him around for two months to get the most out of his day-to-day work to grow the brand.

“I actually rented an apartment, and I would drive up on Sunday nights and drive home on Friday nights, and I just carried a notebook, and I would just follow Tom around. And any time that he was training somebody or training me, I would write everything down in a notebook. I had all these drawings, all these arrows with little notes here and there. And then when I finished playing football, and then Tom was basically having to bow out of doing the every day, me and Adam Dedeaux took over the day-­to-­day for 3DQB.”

Growth of 3DQB with NFL clients

While Brees' status, and the fact they were already training with House, certainly helped 3DQB get up and running, it didn’t take long for the company’s client list to grow exponentially.

Andy Dalton was one of the first to reach out. Then came Terrelle Pryor. Blake Bortles, Marcus Mariota. Others followed. Those QBs spoke highly of their experience and their agency, Rep One, would start asking if they could send more clients.

“Our NFL client list grows every year,” Beck said. “Rep One who represents those guys says, ‘Hey, we'd love to send our guys to you.’ So then it becomes Jared Goff and Carson Wentz and it just grows from there.”

Another major person who helped the company grow is Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who served as Beck’s quarterback coach in Washington where the offensive meeting room featured Kyle Shanahan, LaFleur and tight ends coach Sean McVay, a group of young, progressive minds all in their late 20s or early 30s and all future head coaches.  

When LaFleur was hired by Notre Dame to be its quarterbacks coach in 2014, he was on a recruiting trip to Los Angeles when Beck told him to come check out his program. 

“So [LaFleur] came out, saw it, and then the very next year he gets hired to go with Kyle Shanahan [in Atlanta as quarterback coach],” Beck said. “So then who does he talk to? Matt Ryan. And says ‘Hey, I really think you need to go out and see what they have going on at 3DQB.’ So Matt Ryan comes out and a year later, Matt Ryan becomes the NFL MVP and goes to the Super Bowl.”

After that, Ryan recommended 3DQB to new Rams passer Matt Stafford, because the two quarterbacks live near one another in Atlanta. Then, once Shanahan left Atlanta for San Francisco, he sent his three quarterbacks, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard all to work with Beck and 3DQB.

As of now, Beck says the company currently has over 20 NFL clients, a number soon to grow once the draft is complete. And, they’re just getting started.

“We try to always adapt, grow, learn. I love learning,” Beck said. “My relationship with all those  coaches, I am just trying to continually learn everything that I can from them.”

Working with college quarterbacks

In 2018, 3DQB had already established itself as one of the premier quarterback training companies. But at the time, they had yet to train a college quarterback who went on to be a first-round pick.

However, during that pre-draft process, Beck was approached by his old agency, Athletes First, and asked if he could script Josh Rosen’s Pro Day workout. Rosen, who starred at UCLA, had already been familiar with the 3DQB program having lived in Los Angeles.

After Rosen, it took off.

“The first first­-rounder that we had was Josh and then it just took off from there because then the following year it was Will Grier, Jake Browning, Brett Rypien. Then the year after that it was Justin Herbert,” Beck said of the Chargers' star QB who had a breakout rookie season in 2020. He also worked with 2020 fourth-round pick Jacob Eason (University of Washington / Indianapolis Colts) during the pre-draft process. 

This past fall, no quarterback rose up draft boards higher than BYU’s Zach Wilson. A lot of that can be attributed to Wilson’s outstanding work ethic during the last offseason, where he spent the COVID-influenced summer months working with Beck in Los Angeles. Now, months later, he’s expected to be the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

“We had all these rules, but we were still able to get on the field and train, and Zach took full advantage of that,” Beck said. 

“Zach always flashed ability, he always flashed potential, he's always been such a hard worker. So, there were a lot of things besides just the work that he did with us. But I think where we may have a fingerprint on there is, the work that we did showed up in every game, the work that he put in, the types of throws that he made, some of the throws that people said, ‘Wow! He made that look easy.’ I watched him spend so much time working on those throws.”

That play that went viral on social media from Wilson’s Pro Day? Well, Beck had originally scripted it the previous summer in California. 

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Wilson is far from the only top college quarterback Beck has spent this spring working with, though. He has scripted the Pro Days of Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Florida’s Kyle Trask, too. The first three passers are expected to be top 10 picks, while Trask will likely be a Day 2 selection.

It’s been much talked about that both Fields, Wilson and Lance had incorporated parts of Kyle Shanahan’s offense in their Pro Day scripts. With Shanahan’s 49ers picking at No. 3, it makes sense. Well, who better to help script those sessions than Beck, someone who has experience playing under the coach in his system?

It’s not just Shanahan’s offense that made the script, though. Beck individualizes each Pro Day plan to each one of his clients, trying to maximize what they show to NFL teams.

“It's a combination of things that I experienced as a player, things that I've helped other players with within their offense. A lot of times quarterbacks, when they come and train with us, they bring their playbook,” Beck said. “So I'm constantly getting to learn new concepts, new schemes the NFL teams are using. We watch a lot of tape throughout the NFL season, that's what we do, we watch every single game and every single throw that all of our quarterbacks make during the season.”

What’s next?

While Beck‘s name is becoming a hot commodity in NFL circles as a QB guru, he’s just happy he’s able to influence so many quarterbacks after him.

“I love my job now because the impact I get to have on a lot of quarterbacks,” Beck said. “So much of this journey is about having a mentor that can help you know what's coming your way or what's in front of you. Do you wanna hike a mountain on your own with nobody helping you, or do you wanna go with somebody that's already gone up and down that mountain a bunch of times?”

With the amount of experience and success he’s had as a trainer, combined with his NFL background, would he ever want to be a coach? Beck says no for now, but didn’t rule it out for the future. He still misses the day-to-day NFL grind -- the chess match between offense and defense, the game planning, the intrasquad scrimmages and, especially, the locker room. 

“For me, right now in my life, I love my kids so much, they are such a priority to me, and I have four boys that are highly active and they participate in a lot of activities,” Beck said. “And if I was on a staff, it would be fun to get to have all those things. ... but I know I would not be able to be in my kid's life as much as I am right now. So, I scratch my itch other ways.”