Legend has it around Miami Gardens that a savior will come again.
He will be a strapping young Italian lad and will come from Bethlehem ... or about 300 miles west, to be precise. He will once more come bearing gifts: gold (rings), frankincense (from Greek, meaning "sterling silver trophies"), and myrrh (confetti showers).
Apparently the locals don't remember that the first time their savior showed up, he brought them exactly bupkis. But that hasn't stopped Dolphins fans from huddling under the Ronald Reagan turnpike, waiting for the new savior to come along.
The good news and bad news, Dolphin fans? Danny-boy ain't coming again.
As Tony Sparano begins the arduous task of turning around last year's 1-15 ship (barge, really), one of the first questions he'll need to answer is not how to find the next Dan Marino. Rather, he needs to find out whether John Beck is the quarterback for this team.
Sparano has his work cut out for him. As a former offensive line and tight ends coach, his first priority will most likely be to retool Miami's offensive front. The question is, even if he's able to create a credible line in front, is Beck the right guy to line up behind them?
Beck played just five games in 2007, starting four, but showed flashes of the solid play Sparano can expect in the final game. Although going against an unmotivated Cincinnati Bengals squad, Beck completed 13 of 21 with a touchdown, no interceptions, and perhaps as significant, zero sacks in Week 17.
Sacks are momentum and field-position killers and the Dolphins have to find a way to cut down on the 42 they surrendered in 2007. Sparano will certainly improve the offensive line but it will be up to Beck to honor commandments 3 and 7 of the Dolphins' football capo di tutti capi.
Commandment 3: Fat QBs can't avoid the rush
At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Beck is certainly not fat, and while his 4.7 40-yard dash time won't recall Michael Vick, he has demonstrated the quick feet and athletic ability to sidestep the rush and deliver the ball. He has a very quick release and strong enough arm to make every NFL throw. But perhaps his greatest strength is his preparation and mechanics, two facets of QB play that bode well for him in a system wherein the quarterback is called on to manage the game rather than play the role of hero.
Commandment 7: Throwing the ball away is a good play - sacks, interceptions and fumbles are bad plays. Protect against those.
From his first game to his last, Beck showed tremendous improvement in his decision-making as he began to adjust to the speed of the NFL game. While college success does not necessarily translate to NFL stardom, Beck's 32:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio his senior year at BYU was enough to convince previous Dolphin leadership that he could take care of the ball. With even more emphasis to be placed on throwing the ball away rather than taking sacks, look for Beck to make a significant improvement in managing field position in 2008.
Most of all, the Dolphins have a mature, intelligent leader in Beck. He is smart enough to pick up the new Dolphins offensive scheme and will lead the 'O' by example, working hard to fit into Sparano's system.
And perhaps most important: Unless we see Jessica Simpson move to Provo, I don't think there's any chance of him violating the 11th QB commandment, either.
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