Dig if you will, a picture… of the Chicago Bears with not 1, but 2 quarterbacks out of Ohio State, drafted in the 1st round over 3 years. I know, it sounds bizarre and way too far out there. An extreme improbability. But I’m not suggesting it will happen. I’m asking what would happen, if it happened? That’s what I’m here to tell you.
Position Evolution Inevitability
NFL positions are constantly changing, with new coaches introducing fresh ways to take advantage of strengths and minimize weaknesses. Tight ends now look and run like wide receivers. The zone running game shifted teams from powerhouse 330 pound mauler guards to agile 300 pound pulling guards expected to block at the 2nd and 3rd levels. Fullbacks are no longer carried on many rosters, as teams opt for an H back tight end if they absolutely need an isolation lead block, which itself is relatively rare. Edge rushers went from rare to commonplace. We got so annoyed trying to distinguish a 4-3 DE and a 3-4 OLB, so now we just call them all an Edge.
The quarterback position has gone through shifts as well, but the classic pocket passer like Tom Brady and Joe Burrow can still be successful. Running QBs are still trying to balance the immense run-pass-option (RPO) responsibilities of deciding whether to run, throw, or hand it off, as well as when to slide or take a hit.
Amidst all this, despite never-ending rule changes and equipment upgrades to protect player brains, concussions are a constant concern. Concussion protocols are a necessary step, but it can be difficult for fans to accept the visual of sending a $40 million quarterback to the bench for 2 weeks when he seems or looks fine. Despite the necessity of time for the brain to rest after a concussion, machismo is still a pervasive attitude in and around the NFL.
Quarterbacks are getting more athletic and inclined to run, not less, and defenders are bigger and stronger than ever, which means hits are harder than ever. No rule change can alter impact physics, which means missed games for injuries and concussion protocol will go up as well. So how does a team address quite possibly the most important position in all of sports under these circumstances?
Introducing the 2-QB System, or QB-by-Committee, or QB Platoon
The next evolutionary step for the NFL is a 2-QB system.
I know what you’re thinking; it’s been tried. I can hear your brain ticking off the names. Kordell Stewart earned the nickname “Slash” for his role that sometimes included playing QB/RB/WR all in the same game, even as Neil O’Donnell was the Steelers starting QB. Antwaan Randle El went from Hoosiers QB to Steelers WR, but was always available for the occasional trick play allowing him to reprise the role. Taysom Hill was a Brigham Young QB, but takes on a variety of roles in New Orleans. He even had a year where he got a shot to be the guy at QB, which failed miserably. So now he’s somehow considered a tight end who occasionally takes snaps, making him the most polarizing fantasy football player in every league.
But none of those are what I’m talking about.
So what are you talking about?
I’m talking equal time. Equal value. No competition, only complement. 2 starting quarterbacks, and the only reason a starter is named is because there has to be a first snap. Eventually the backup QB will be recognized as a de facto starter, much like a nickel corner or 3rd receiver over the past decade. A single $40 million man becomes a $20 million each duo.
Why would this absolutely definitely work? I am so glad you asked.
Here are just a few variations, but really, your imagination can run wild with this.
Dual QB Offense
Is your offense heavy on RPO and features a running QB who gets hit far too often? Seems like it would be pretty great to have 2 running QBs. Maybe even 3. Or perhaps you want your offense to be multidimensional, able to adapt from RPO to a pocket game on the fly. Imagine having to prepare all week to face both a pocket and a running QB. It would be a defensive nightmare.
Platoon QB Offense
In baseball, teams will sometimes have a right and left-handed hitter for the same position, and the starter is determined by who is better against a righty or lefty pitcher. So in football, if your scheme is for a pocket passer, what if you could find one who’s better at reading a base 4-3 and another a base 3-4? A true QB platoon. Or one is better at reading blitzes, the other better at reading Cover 2. One can manage the clock, the other can sling it downfield.
You could even extend this to other skill positions and base the QB on who has the most chemistry with whichever RB or WR has the best mismatch.
Maybe you just go with the hot hand. One struggles, let him take a breather and collect himself while the other takes over. Force the defense to adjust to a different style. Let the starter or backup spend some time on the sideline studying what the defense is doing in real time. As the game carries on, he can watch from a different perspective and consider how he might exploit what he sees if he goes back in. It’s a powerful reinforcement, like getting the answer to a question wrong, then hearing the right answer and slapping your forehead because you knew it. Sometimes just stepping aside and out of pressure can make things click. A QB committee of any variation, where you trust both QBs to run the offense, could be a powerful thing.
So, without further adieu…
With the First Pick, the Chicago Bears select…
Okay, the Bears are absolutely not taking C.J. Stroud, and if they did, it wouldn’t be to pair him with Justin Fields. That was a joke. Mostly. But they should think about it. Not to replace one with the other, but to unleash them both.