Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In college football, it’s NOT about the quarterback

image We call the Alabama offense “Neanderball” for a reason. The Crimson Tide hasn’t had a stud quarterback since… well, since… hmmm… Kenny Stabler. Or, Joe Namath. Or, Bart Starr.

In the NFL, there are 32 teams. In college football, there are hundreds.

The odds of a college program being able to recruit and develop a “franchise” quarterback in the college game are about the same as a mid-major making it to the BCS Championship Game. Sanchez, Newton, Tyler and Murray come along once in a generation regardless of how storied you think your program is. They just ain’t walkin’ through that door.

Now try to build an offensive strategy around doing that at least once every two to four years. The model is simply non sustainable. The players coming out of high school don’t have the skill set to let a multitude of programs do that year after year after year. So if you’re a college football coach and you think offense and the quarterback are the keys to January glory, you need to ply your wares at the next level because in the college game, you are going to go 11-2, 12-1, 13-1. But you are always going to lose to a team with a coach who gets it.

Nick Saban gets it. Les Miles gets it. I’m not sure how many others do.

In college football, you run downhill. You play great defense. You dink and dunk in the passing game when you need to. But if you think you’re gonna sling the ball all over the field and win consistently, you’re going to be wondering WTF just hit you when it comes to cutting nuts in a championship game.

In the NFL, third and two is always and everywhere a passing down. In fact, I was watching a forgettable Sunday night game last season in which one of the teams faced a third and about 1-1/2. The play ended up being an inside trap that just got the first down, and the announcers began their analysis of the “trick play” they just saw. I laughed.

In college football, if you’re inside the 40 that’s four down territory and the ball doesn’t go into the air unless you’re (1) running a trick play (2) there’s :20 on the clock and you need about 15 more yards for your kicker or (3) you don’t understand the game of college football.

Think of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Tom Brady. Drew Brees. The Manning Brothers. Phillip Rivers.

Now count the number of national championships they won with their college team.

There have been a handful of college football programs with reputations for producing top quarterbacks. USC and Miami have historically been very successful in finding, recruiting and developing signal callers to build an offense around. But there are hundreds of other college football programs who either can’t or just don’t bother because they recognize the unsustainability of the model.

There are two college football coaches with schemes that desperately need a great quarterback, and whose scheme worked well for a while. But Steve Spurrier last won a National Championship when Bill Clinton was getting blo President, and the trophy-less Bobby Petrino might find a job at an East Popcorn State next year.

The simple fact is that the 1996 Gators and 2004 Trojans are the exception rather than the rule.

Mark it down, y’all. The national champions in 2012, 2013, 2014, ad infinitum will all have great defenses, great running games, exceptional balance on offense and so-so quarterbacks.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

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adam cochran said...

It's about time that somebody in the media pointed this out.