If you have watched football long enough you have probably heard a phrase along the lines of “if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.”
The thinking behind it is that if you are playing two quarterbacks, then neither of them is playing well enough to prove that they should be the one getting the snaps, or, some people fear, that by splitting snaps between the two, it makes it difficult for either of them to get in a rhythm during the game. With the increased playing time of backup quarterback Justin Thomas, this could quickly become a fear for many Tech fans. If Tech ran a traditional pro style offense I would understand the concern, but with Tech’s option attack, I think splitting time between the two quarterbacks is not necessarily a bad thing.
For whatever reason it seems that people only freak out when the quarterback is the one splitting snaps with their backup. It could be because they are typically looked at as the leader of the team, or maybe it is because it is the only position that ever throws the ball. Teams substitute running backs and receivers all the time, and that is just considered part of the game. Most people actually like when their team has two running backs that are capable of producing, while each is able to bring their own running style to the team. For example, as much as I hate to do this, look at UGA’s backfield. When healthy, they have both Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley at running back. Gurley brings a tough, powerful running style while Marshall is much more of a speedster, home run threat type of back.
For whatever reason it seems that people only freak out when the quarterback is the one splitting snaps with their backup.
With Tech’s offense relying so much on the quarterbacks running the ball, I don’t see anything wrong with splitting snaps between two quarterbacks with different running styles. Thomas is definitely quicker and has more breakaway speed than Lee, while Lee appears to be stronger and has the better chance of picking up that extra yard. Thomas is the second fastest guy on the team and bringing him in for a change of pace will give the defense something else to think about and prepare for.
Another important thing to remember is the number of hits the quarterback takes in Tech’s offense takes compared to other offenses. With the pounding Lee receives while running the option, being able to sit out a few drives throughout the game might benefit him and keep him fresh for the end of the game.
The obvious difference when comparing splitting snaps between two quarterbacks and two running backs based on running style is that with quarterbacks you also have to look at their ability to throw the ball. When I look at Thomas and Lee, I don’t see either one being superior at throwing the ball compared to the other. While I do think Lee has the stronger arm of the two, I haven’t necessarily seen anything out of him that makes me think he is far and away the better passer. Not that Thomas has been outstanding during his limited passing attempts, but I just don’t see much, if any, drop off between him and Lee when it comes to passing the ball.
While I don’t believe that splitting snaps between Thomas and Lee will necessarily help the Jackets, I don’t believe it will necessarily hurt them either. It’s definitely unconventional to split snaps between two quarterbacks, but it has been done successfully in the past. Just look at the 2006 Florida Gators who used both Chris Leak and Tim Tebow on their way to a National Championship. That scenario is a little different since it was more of a running quarterback versus throwing, but Urban Meyer still utilized each of their unique skill sets to maximize their offensive production.
Until either Lee or Thomas prove that taking them off the field in favor of the other would actually hurt the team’s chances of winning, I don’t see anything wrong with Paul Johnson giving each of them the opportunity to prove that they are the one.
Isn’t quarterbacks splitting snaps what all the fans were calling for last season anyway?