In the NFL, the term “System Quarterback” is a dirty word. Andre Ware, Gino Torretta and more recently Colt Brennan were all fairly labeled as such.
For the most part the term has proved to be just as accurate for scouts as it is a death sentence to the quarterbacks. Signal-callers in college who have a spread out offense and are not asked to read complicated defenses as well as physical differences seem to be the key attributes of these quarterbacks.
The latest to be termed this is Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell. The former Red Raider is second all-time in NCAA career passing yards and owns the record for career passing touchdowns.
However, the NFL Draft came and went without Harrell hearing his name called and as of now he has not signed with any teams as a free agent (although he will participate in Browns rookie camp).
So, does this mean it’s time for Harrell to put his education degree to work? Most likely, but there’s always a little hope. Harrell was extremely productive which can’t be overlooked no matter the system.
On the flip side, he’s on the short side and has an almost sidearm, shoot-from-the-hip throwing style that most coaches will look to correct.
While the Browns’ run-first, controlled passing game may not seem to fit Harrell. A similar west coast approach may actually work for Harrell.
Remember, the system was designed to hide the flaws of undersized and weak-armed quarterbacks. It’s also dependent upon putting the ball into certain spots.
Harrell is by no means starting quarterback material, however certain teams could use him as a backup.
The Rams, Chiefs and Texans have offenses that could hide some of Harrell’s flaws. Given that they have decent running games to take the load off and receivers that can do most of the work, these teams could be a good fit for Harrell.
There are a couple of wild card teams that could also be a home for Harrell. The Cardinals of course have Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart, but Warner will retire soon and Leinart (the still-presumed heir apparent) will need a back up.
Arizona’s style is the one that is the most similar to what Harrell has played in before. Spread the field, get rid of the ball and let the receivers do the rest—sounds just like the offense at Texas Tech. And don’t overlook the Dallas Cowboys. The native Texan Harrell could be a good project for Jason Garrett.
One last wild card could be the 49ers. Harrell could be reunited with former teammate Michael Crabtree and would benefit from Frank Gore and Vernon Davis. Plus, San Fran’s quarterback situation is far from settled.
System quarterbacks are everywhere in college football with more players in systems that spread the field to their advantage. With that said, the NFL may have to adjust its standards for an ideal quarterback.