(This is the latest in a series of stories on the 2018 college quarterback class leading up to the NFL Draft.)
It’s easy to see why NFL scouts love the pure passing skill of UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
Watch five minutes of Rosen highlights, and it’s obvious he has a beautiful throwing motion and great fundamentals. The ball snaps out of his hands in a perfect spiral, and he’s in balance pass after pass.
One might not think Rosen would spend a couple of months before the 2018 NFL Draft working on refining his passing mechanics. Yet that has become standard operating procedure for top NFL quarterback prospects.
“There’s a reason why the ball comes off his hands so nice, and it jumps off and it seems so effortless,” said Rosen’s quarterbacking consultant, John Beck. “He’s really, really good.”
“Why does he need to work on it?” Beck says. “I think most people would say the same thing about Tom Brady and Drew Brees.”
Brady and Brees are the two most famous clients of the Los Angeles-based company Beck works for, 3DQB, a business created by famed pitching mechanics expert Tom House and incorporated in 2014.
House started working with Brees way back in 2004, putting the former major-league pitcher on the leading end of the modern, quarterbacking consultant phenomenon. By using high-speed video cameras and digitized, 3-D motion analysis, House recognized that creating an efficient throwing motion is the same for baseball pitchers and football quarterbacks.
Increasingly over the past decade, top draft prospects have used a QB guru to try to speed up their acclimation to the NFL game.
Southern California’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen both are being tutored this spring by former Bengals QB Jordan Palmer. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is being tutored by former Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen.
Beck was a great college QB at Brigham Young and then had a journeyman career over nine pro seasons. Bills fans might remember him as the Redskins QB who took 10 sacks behind a ramshackle offensive line in a game in Toronto in 2011.
Beck’s post-NFL career as a consultant got started via his friendship with Brees.
“I was training with Drew Brees in my offseason, and through my training with Brees, I landed here as a player before it was 3DQB,” Beck said. “That’s how I fell into this position as a coach. It was me seeking to do what the guys who are successful were doing. That’s the way any business works. People ask: What are the most successful people doing? I need to go do it, too.'”
Brady turned to House not too long after the 2012 death of his longtime QB tutor, Tom Martinez.
“I spent a lot of time with Tom over the last five years,” Brady told reporters at the Super Bowl in February. “Just worked really hard on different things with my mechanics and trying to really understand how to be better fundamentally, which is so important for a quarterback.”
“Throwing the football is a skill, and you have to work on it,” Brady said. “If you start let’s say at 100 percent and your mechanics go off 2 percent a week, when you look eight weeks into the season, you’re 15 percent off. And that’s a big difference between winning and losing. I just think I’m so critical of myself and my fundamentals. I really want them to be perfect whenever they can be.”
House has said one of the technical flaws he found when he first assessed Brady was the QB’s front side rotated too much. He wasn’t maintaining his torque through the throw enough.
House, ex-pitcher Adam Dedeaux and Beck are the 3DHD throwing mechanics experts who train about 20 NFL quarterbacks in the offseason. New Bills QB AJ McCarron has worked with them. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan credited 3DQB with his improvement the offseason before his MVP season of 2016. Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and Andrew Luck are among the others who have worked with 3DQB.
“The last eight weeks it’s been primarily all NFL guys prepping for the OTAs opening up,” Beck said. “Then they go out to their teams. Then when the middle of June hits, we see that same crop of guys back out scattered through June and July to prepare for training camp.”
In some ways, the state of college football has created a greater need for top prospects to get more specialized instruction before the draft. Uptempo spread offenses have taken more in-the-huddle responsibility off the quarterback’s plate. And NCAA rules benefiting student-athletes limit players to 20 hours of on-field work a week.
“Nowadays all 11 players look to the sideline and then the quarterback, who stays in shotgun, claps and receives the football,” Palmer told Peter King of the MMQB. “I think college quarterbacks are getting asked to do less and less every year. . . . NFL teams expect them to know more.”
Helping draft prospects learn how to study the NFL playbooks they’re about to receive is another element of the tutoring Palmer, Beck and the other consultants provide.
“I think every quarterback, regardless of the generation, there’s a bridge from where they were in college to where they’re trying to get to in the pros,” Beck said. “You need to have people that can be facilitators, mentors and guides as you’re traveling that bridge. . . . Maybe it’s an introduction to the way the plays are going to be called in the NFL because they’ve never called them that way. Maybe it’s an introduction to different throws that they’re going to need to make that they didn’t make in college. It’s all specific to each guy.”
“Do I think that some of the college offenses today are not totally applicable to the NFL? Yes,” Beck said. “Do the rules in college, not being able to have the coaches around as much, hurt a quarterback some? I do think so, a little bit. I think now in college, quarterbacks need to be finding ways outside of their own coaches for ways to improve. It puts a little bit more on the player.”
The QB consultants also tutor draft prospects on pro-level core and shoulder conditioning to aid in staying healthy through a long NFL season. Brady and Brees have used advances in conditioning science to stay healthier late in their careers.
“With the amount of balls that guys throw when they become professionals, they have to do a really good job of taking care of that arm,” Beck said. “You can have a clean and efficient motion, but if you’re not doing proper training, proper exercising, proper arm care and recovery, that arm can slowly start to hinder in performance. Ligaments and tendons become over-used.”
“We try to help guys build arms so that they can throw throughout an entire offseason and an entire season efficiently and effectively with no arm soreness and pain – and then do that over a 12- to 15-year career,” Beck said.
For a prospect with impeccably clean mechanics like UCLA’s Rosen, the tutoring is more about attention to small details.
“The thing with him was more: Josh, you’re really efficient, this is how the really efficient become even more efficient,” Beck said. “We can chase down the small percentage points.”
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