Are Two Quarterbacks in College Football Really Better Than One?
Logic has always taught me that two heads are better than one, but is that really true in the world of football?
If you ask Virginia coach Al Groh, his answer seems to be a resounding yes.
"If your one quarterback is Tom Brady [or] Peyton Manning, then there's a great need to have him in the game all the time and a significant comfort level with that," Groh recently said when speaking to the media before training camp. "If that's not the case, the real need is that the quarterback position plays in each game to a standard that's high enough for us to win, however many quarterbacks it takes to do that.”
Groh continued: “If it takes one, then that'd be great. If it takes two, then that's what will do.”
Certainly the statement on its basis makes sense.
After all, no one is confusing Virginia’s top signal-caller on the depth chart, Pete Lalich, as the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
At this point I think Virginia would settle for the next Jon Kitna.
It is not even a particularly new philosophy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneer coach Jon Gruden has assembled so many quarterbacks on his roster that I think he will start bringing in clown cars before the game to introduce them all.
Imagine the circus if he were to add a certain Midwestern quarterback who we usually expect to see in green and gold (but I digress).
Still, the question remains, does the two (or three)-quarterback system really work?
For, in sports, the familiar saying has been if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none.
Well perhaps the best example is “Two-Quarterback” University, better known as the University of Florida.
Current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier revolutionized SEC football by instituting the “Run 'N Gun” strategy. He also introduced the concept of shuffling quarterbacks.
This plan’s shining moment came in 1997, one year after Florida’s national championship run against arch-rival Florida State.
The Seminoles were undefeated and on their way to the national championship game. With last year’s Heisman trophy winner Danny Wuerffel gone the Gators were expected to be little more than lunch meat in the season finale for both teams.
So imagine the surprise when Spurrier decided to use both quarterback Doug Johnson and Noah Brandise in the season finale against the boys from Tallahassee.
Florida won 32-29 and the Gators kept chopping their way towards success since.
In fact, it was the same strategy that led current Gator coach Urban Meyer to a National Championship just a few years ago when he was able to mix his freshman quarterback sensation and future Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow in the offense in between possessions dominated by senior Chris Leak.
It was those plays by Tebow with both his feet and his arms that added an extra wrinkle to the offense and led to some close victories in the always dangerous SEC.
It really is hard to measure how the Gators would have fared with only Leak behind center in 2006.
Of course, these examples are famous because they are so rare.
Steve Spurrier tried to implement his multiple quarterback system in Washington as the new Redskins front man. The result was an ugly 12-20 campaign where the Skins were outscored 85-31 in their final three games under Spurrier.
Even Al Groh has some memories of a two-quarterback system from the not so distant past.
In 2001, Groh’s first season, he decided to split quarterback duties between the incumbent sophomore Bryson Spinner and sophomore Matt Schaub.
The result was a 5-7 campaign with a fair amount of disappointment.
Neither quarterback shined, even though Spinner went 5-1 in the games he started. Instead of making each other better, it simply highlighted the problems each player possessed.
While Spinner was quick and athletic, he lacked the arm of Schaub and while Schaub was an accurate passer he was sitting ducks for blitzing linebackers.
Schaub or “statue” as I lovingly called him during these days did not possess the confidence or experience he needed to become a solid quarterback.
Fortunately for Schaub, he caught a break. Spinner left the team at the end of the season and went on to have some success at the University of Richmond.
The next season Schaub, under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave became the 2002 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, beating current Charger’s QB Philip Rivers.
So my thought is this. Having more than one quarterback in your system is fine if you have very talented players.
However, too often, coaches use two-quarterback systems to try to mask the mediocrity of their signal callers.
Well sorry to tell you, but you are not fooling anyone.
Moral of the Story: An inexperienced quarterback does not need the pressure of looking over his shoulder all the time, otherwise, he will miss the blitzing safety running at him around 100 MPH.
Al Groh would do a disservice to his team by giving fifth-year quarterback Scott Deke and sophomore Marc Verica significant time behind center during training camp this August.
Lalich is not perfect, but he is by far the most talented, quarterback and sending him back to the bench for the second straight year would potentially ruin his psyche for the rest of his career at Virginia.
Groh may feel the pressure to win now but expectations are certainly low this season. If he were smart, he will takes his lumps with Lalich in 2008 and continue to recruit well for a strong campaign in 2009.
But then what do I know, as Al Groh would say, I’m not piloting the plane.
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