Debating the Merits of a 2-QB System in the NFL

Sam Monson@@SamMonsonContributor IJuly 25, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MAY 24:  Tim Tebow #15 and Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets work out at an organized team activity at the New York Jets Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on May 24, 2012 in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Sounds like lunacy, doesn’t it?

In the NFL you have one quarterback, an elite signal-caller leading the team from under center and dragging it to wins. The consensus is that quarterbacks are too hard to find, too valuable and too expensive to realistically have two splitting game reps, but could a two-quarterback system really work?

It wasn’t long ago that the Arizona Cardinals thought so.

They had Matt Leinart under center between the 20s but felt Kurt Warner gave them the best chance to score when the field was condensed.

In the end they decided that Warner actually gave them a better chance to score on every play, so the team gave him the full-time starting gig. But the point is that the notion isn’t as ridiculous as it might at first seem.

Today’s NFL is developing, and the influx of athletic quarterbacks into the league has made for an interesting debate—can you start to integrate those guys into your offense without benching your starter?

I don’t think anybody is proposing that with Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers under center it makes any sense to start throwing in Chase Daniels for a series or a situation—there’s nothing Daniels does that Brees doesn’t do better—but some teams' backups have athletic gifts that their respective starters don’t necessarily possess.

Last season the Vikings looked at their most dangerous when Joe Webb came into the game. Ponder may be a better passer, or at least the equal of Webb, but he isn't nearly as athletic.

Webb has wideout speed and a cannon of an arm that teams have to at least be aware of. When he came in, defensive game plans suddenly went out of the window, and opponents had to deal with a real athlete capable of taking off at any time on the fly.

That is a tough task for a defense.

The Jets are setting themselves up for a media nightmare with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow both on the roster, but maybe they could head it off at the pass by integrating both players into the offense somehow.

Tebow is more than capable of running the ball as a designated running back, but he has the ability to throw it as well. (Better than your average running back, I’m sure we can all agree, however disparaging you want to be about Tebow’s passing ability.)

The success of and fascination with the Wildcat shows that NFL teams aren’t afraid to move the quarterback around and essentially take him out of plays if they feel the benefit is there.

But while some are talking about Tebow being used in some kind of Wildcat package, perhaps the Jets should be bolder and go even deeper down the rabbit hole—put Tebow and Sanchez on the field together as a significant part of the offense.

Part of the problem with using multiple quarterbacks is that the media loves a controversy, and nothing gets the wolves circling more than a team that can’t decide on a starter.

The furor that surrounds the chopping and changing under center during a season is really quite spectacular and makes for some genuinely unreasonable conditions for a coaching and front-office staff simply trying to field the best possible side on any given week.

If you’re going to use multiple quarterbacks, you need to find a way to sidestep that circus.

The only way of doing that is for each quarterback to bring something genuinely unique—and very distinct—to the table. There can’t be two players vying for the same job; you need a way to integrate two wildly differing players into one offense.

The Buccaneers did it on occasion by lining Josh Johnson up at wide receiver with Josh Freeman under center. Seneca Wallace has seen time playing wide receiver in his career, and Joe Webb was actually drafted as a receiver to begin with before the staff saw him sling the ball around in practice.

You can get these guys on the field with your starting quarterback easily enough, but the problem becomes making use of them beyond simply playing wideout.

I kept waiting for the trick play the Buccaneers were going to break out using Johnson, but it never seemed to come. Wallace had more joy, and has been used in a few interesting ways, and Webb was then moved simply to a full-time backup position behind Ponder.

In college often the most unstoppable offenses are those that utilize athlete quarterbacks. For years those systems haven’t translated to the NFL because teams are too frightened to risk their passers and because of the fear that they wouldn’t be able to take the punishment NFL defenses can dish out.

But the game has changed, and now there are so many of these athletic quarterbacks that teams are missing out by simply trying to develop them into prototypical pocket passers while they languish on depth charts and never see the field.

Maybe the future is to develop these players while at the same time making use of them alongside starters. Get them on the field and draw up some plays that can let them make impacts and strain defenses trying to account for multiple players that can pass at any given time.

Coaches are more than creative enough to get the job done these days.

The question is: Are they gutsy enough to give it a go?


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.