Monday, March 26, 2012

Tim Tebow: Redefining the Quarterback Position

This past Saturday Tim Tebow was acquired in a trade by the New York Jets following the acquisition of Peyton Manning by Tebow's former team the Denver Broncos.  Most are surprised by the trade since the New York Jets have promising young quarterback Mark Sanchez.  Most former players, especially former quarterbacks, don't approve of the trade.  The reason typically provided is due to this creating a lack of support and opportunity for Mark Sanchez.  Although this is in play, I think it has more to do with Tim Tebow's long term impact on the quarterback position.

Tim Tebow is the first quarterback that has the potential to make the quarterback position a dual position.  There have been other quarterbacks whose primary purpose was to come in for short yardage situations and run the ball out of a "wildcat" formation.  And although these quarterbacks will occasionally pass, Tim Tebow is the first who has an equal probability of running or passing, and has shown the ability to lead a team to playoff wins.  There are quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick who are extremely effective runners at the quarterback position, but they are starters and are primarily passing quarterbacks, thus don't fit the dual quarterback mold.  

Another position that is currently being redefined and has essentially become a dual position is running back.  There are a few running backs that practically do all of the rushing for their teams such as Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears, Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.  The trend has been a dual running back system, commonly referred to as a "running back by committee system", which features a power back for short yardage and a speedy option for long yardage.  Examples are D'Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers, and Arian Foster and Ben Tate of the Houston Texans.  This shift has decreased the value of the running back position so much that the best running back in the NFL Draft, and possibly the best player in the Draft, Trent Richardson of the Alabama Crimson Tide may not be drafted in the top 10.  In the 2011 NFL Draft, Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram of the Alabama Crimson Tide wasn't drafted until the 28th selection by the New Orleans Saints, while many thought he was the best player in the draft as well.

Considering how the league is so dominated by passing quarterbacks and virtually no teams share time at the quarterback position by design, it's hard to imagine a dual quarterback system.  But on teams where your quarterback is good at times, and unpredictable at others, it's not a bad option to keep defenses off balance.  This is exactly what created the dual running back system.  If you have a mediocre to good running back, why not find another mediocre to good running back with a different skill set to compliment the other.  It's the cheaper option vs. paying top dollar for a superstar, and only makes good business sense.  In addition, you have a back up option for injuries who gets ample reps and a second option when the other is fatigued. 

Kudos to the New York Jets who had enough courage and innovation to improve their team in a different and less costly way.  It's a gamble, but if the 2012 New York Jets are successful with Tim Tebow, prepare yourself for the beginning of the dual quarterback position.

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