Sunday, October 2, 2011

SEC Quarterbacks are getting it done

image In one of last week’s installments on the al.com Blogger Roundtable, one of the questions put to the contributors was:

It's not exactly the year of the quarterback in the SEC, but if you could choose one starting quarterback from the league to play for your team, who do you take and why?

My response was that if I had a three-sided coin, I'd flip it and take any one of LSU's Jarrett Lee, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson or Alabama's AJ McCarron.

Yesterday, those three signal callers combined to go 50 of 97 for 819 yards and three touchdowns. The lion’s share of the production came from Wilson, who had an eye-popping 510 yards and two of the scores. But most importantly, none of these three quarterbacks made mistakes that put their teams at a disadvantage. Wilson was sacked four times but none of them threw costly interceptions that flipped the field and allowed their opponent to score off of turnovers. That, gentle reader, is the definition of “game management” in college football and it represents what quarterbacks mean to successful college football teams.

The college and pro games are vastly different in this area. An NFL team needs a franchise quarterback who distributes the ball and has few weaknesses that hurt his team. Think Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. The nucleus of an NFL contender is the quarterback and his ability to make plays. College football teams that place such emphasis on the quarterback had better have an exceptional talent under center, or it’s going to be in for disappointing season after disappointing season.

There are 120 FBS football programs. There are 32 NFL teams. The math and the quality of the information available to talent scouts will always fall in favor of the NFL program making the right decision and the college program taking someone who just doesn’t pan out.

In college ball, you are much better off developing your program around athletic defenses and balanced offenses that can either run or throw the ball whenever it wants to. Third and two is a running play in college. Third down is almost always a passing down in the NFL. QB play is important in the college game, but it’s critical to the pro game.

That’s why I will always take a game manager as my QB at the college level. Give me a smart guy who doesn’t make many mistakes. Give me a guy who knows my offense well. Give me a guy who distributes the ball without taking big risks and doesn’t try to do too much. Give me an AJ McCarron, a Jarrett Lee or a Tyler Wilson, and I’ll be in contention every year, as long as I can rely on my defense and a solid running game.

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