In baseball, there are three kinds of basic pitchers: starters, middle relief, and closers. At least, that’s what I think. I’m a football guy talking about baseball, so forgive me if you think I’m wrong. Each kind of pitcher has certain duties they are expected to do.
I got to thinking, why not apply that same theory to the quarterback position in the NFL?
There are always reserve players at each position in every sport, but let’s focus on football. There are third-down backs, certain lineman in different packages, etc. Why is the quarterback position the only one that doesn’t have a substitute unless injury occurs or the starter is having an exceptionally bad game?
My proposal is to have a platoon of two quarterbacks. Maybe even three, but for now let’s stick with two. I thought about different ways to rotate, from every other drive to every other game.
Here’s the catch: both quarterbacks have to be decent. You can’t execute this strategy with Philip Rivers and Billy Volek. This whole scheme isn’t something to be used for a team with one incredibly dominant quarterback that represents the franchise. It’s supposed to work with a rebuilding team, or one that has recently lost their one dominant quarterback to injury or retirement, which brings me to my example: The Minnesota Vikings.
Let’s imagine for a minute that Brett Favre retired this year, and had no desire to come back. You’ve got two non-rookie quarterbacks to deal with: Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. Assuming they both do well in training camp and preseason activities (I know there are some major assumptions, but bear with me), and both of them are known for not being able to play the full 60 minutes at a high quality, why wouldn’t Brad Childress decide to split time between both?
Let’s look at both of them. Sage Rosenfels is 6’4″, 225 pounds, and what is known as a pocket passer. He rarely rolls out, and when he does, it results in catastrophe. Rosenfels has a decent arm but amplifies that trait with accuracy and a sense of reading defenses.
Tarvaris Jackson is 6’2″, also 225 pounds, and much more mobile than Rosenfels. At the much younger age of 27 (Rosenfels is 32), he can roll out and scramble when needed. His arm is powerful and he’s much more agile than Rosenfels, but he’s relatively inexperienced and doesn’t always make the best decisions with throws.
Take the strengths from both Jackson and Rosenfels, and you’ve got a very good quarterback. Sadly, that’s not possible. But what if there was a way to allow both of them the chance to use their skills for the benefit of the team?
That brings me back to the whole point I’m writing this. Switch them off every drive or two. Frustrate defenses occasionally by having Jackson throw often and Sage handing off the ball (the Vikings do have Adrian Peterson if you remember, and Rosenfels running is a terrible idea). I was even thinking so far as to designating certain formations or plays to Jackson or Rosenfels (the cons of that later).
Not to sound like Bill Polian, but this procedure will also keep fresh legs on the field throwing and reduce the risk of injury, but that second part’s not the point of this. It’s just a fringe benefit.
Now, I’ll address some of the cons to this idea. The people I was arguing with stated that switching quarterbacks out during a game repeatedly kills momentum. You know what also kills momentum? Getting sacked. It shakes up the quarterback and causes him to force more throws to try and gain back the yardage he just lost from eating dirt. Plug in the other fresh thrower for a couple plays, even if it’s just to run the ball, and let the sack victim catch his breath and even talk about some offensive adjustments to the coach while on the sideline.
Another issue: ego. A quarterback’s not going to want to split time. He wants the ball, and he’s going to score. My way of addressing this: money. You pay them the contract they want, and they’re required to do whatever job you ask them to, like it or not. Also, if you find two quarterbacks to do this that don’t have very big profiles, they’ll have much less of an ego.
What about playoffs? Who do you go with then? Both. You can allow more playing time to the better quarterback (one will be a little better than the other), but don’t split the time too harshly. Don’t go higher than dividing it 65-35%.
I know people will call me crazy and stupid, but I feel that if this plan was executed correctly (as in planned from the start of the preseason, not a last-minute resort five games in), a team could find success. Feel free to disregard this as incredibly far-fetched, but the theory of two quarterbacks with near equal playing time may come into play with multiple teams sooner than you think.