I read a very interesting article the other day written by former University of Washington QB Brock Huard. Huard suggested that unlike the NFL, elite quarterback play has not been a prerequisite for championship success in college football in recent seasons. He points out that Tebow and Newton were spectacular during their title-winning seasons, but Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and Greg McElroy, LSU’s Matt Flynn and Florida’s Chris Leak were more of the “game manager” variety of QB than star passers. Compare that to the NFL’s last six Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Eli Manning (twice), Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rogers and Peyton Manning. These names are synonymous with elite quarterback play. As Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider describes it, “they tilt the field.”
Huard certainly brings up some good points, but I would argue that the quarterback position in college football is far more important today than it was 10 or 15 years ago. True like any other position it is still just another piece of the handicapping puzzle, and depending on the QB’s supporting cast, it may be a smaller piece at that. However the examples that Huard uses in his article are of elite teams that possess elite personnel at other positions.
Huard goes on to suggest that if USC’s Matt Barkley had been under center for LSU in the BCS title game last January, chances are, LSU would be getting ready to defend a BCS title right now. I personally don’t agree with this assessment/analogy. Barkley’s style and skill set fits much better with his USC pro style offense than it does with LSU’s hybrid option. Perhaps because of his running ability and intelligence, RG3 might have been a better example to use than Barkley. However I understand the point Huard is trying to make. Even with all their elite talent at nearly every position on the field, LSU could not overcome poor QB play from Jordan Jefferson.
And how many teams in the country possess this elite supporting cast that allows a “game manager” to lead them to the National Championship? Probably the same dozen or so teams we make reference to in our conference familiarity discussion. For the majority of other teams in college football, good QB play is imperative. Do you think that Baylor and Stanford would have had the success they had last season without RG3 and Andrew Luck? I doubt it.
After defense, QB is the first thing I look at when capping a game. Because of the way teams play defense nowadays, with all the different looks and blitz packages they throw at you, a QB has to be able to make reads.
I believe college QB’s can be broken down into several categories, including:
We have already discussed the importance of a QB’s supporting cast. It is another piece of the handicapping puzzle that must be thoroughly analyzed. Despite Andrew Luck’s first round talent, he still wouldn’t have been able to put up the numbers he did without having the luxury of working behind one of the best OL’s in college football.
Another piece of the puzzle that I believe is important when analyzing the QB position is the coaching. The coaching is of course important when analyzing the entire team, but it irks me to no end when some coaches ask a mediocre talent to do more than he is capable of instead of game planning around the things that he can do.
Obviously the quality and value of a team’s QB play is going to be affected by the level of the competition. A good example of this from last year was the Baylor/Texas Tech game. RG3 was injured early and experienced backup Nick Florence comes in and has a career day against a very, very bad Texas Tech defense. Baylor also had a pretty good offensive supporting cast to ease the burden on Florence. However what would have happened if this particular game were against OU or Texas (two teams that Baylor beat with RG3)? I doubt the outcome is the same. A team may be able to get by with mediocre QB play against poor to mediocre competition, but they will be exposed against the better teams.
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