News developed at the end of last week that Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly may be considering a two-quarterback system for 2016. Able to choose from Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer (or Brandon Wimbush), can you blame him? Plenty of you do. In this post, I try to convince you to trust in Brian Kelly.
Trusting Brian Kelly is, for many of you, likely more difficult to do than trusting Hillary Clinton. But since I have it on good authority from my friends inside Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service that the word “quarterback” only appears twelve times in the entirety of her thirty thousand “deleted” emails and then always immediately following the words “Monday” and “morning,” you can wager that Brian Kelly knows more about handling the dilemma of having two starters at quarterback she does. He also knows way more about it than you do.
Like it or not, Notre Dame has been a two-quarterback team since 2010. Riding a shutdown defense to the 2012-13 championship game, Brian Kelly enjoyed his best season using Tommy Rees as a Mariano Rivera-style closer alongside Everett Golson. The Music City Bowl win over LSU saw Malik Zaire stand in for Golson. The entire 2015 season was one enormous highlight reel for DeShone Kizer, who probably would not have started a game had it not been for Zaire’s awful ankle injury.
Brian Kelly thrives on having two quarterbacks at the ready. His other undefeated season, 2009, featured Tony Pike and Zach Collaros after Pike broke his arm in a game against South Florida. Collaros ably took over and then played extended cameos after Pike returned. Collaros, the backup, played in twelve games that season, completing 93 of 124 passing attempts for 1,434 yards. He also rushed 57 times for 344 yards. In 2012, Tommy Rees completed 34 of 61 passing attempts for 436 yards.
If you’re looking for a template of how this season will probably play out, look no further than that 2009 Cincinnati season. The difference for BK in 2016 is that both quarterbacks are dual-threat quarterbacks. Neither Pike nor Rees could run worth a damn, but both were expert play-callers. This season, not only can Kizer and Zaire read a situation and a defense, both can extend a play or exploit a breakdown with their feet.
The obvious criticism of the two-quarterback system is that if it worked, everyone would do it. Or, that the axiom “2=0” wouldn’t exist if it were a good idea. It takes a lot for a coach to keep two quality players happy and to ensure that their cadences work for the O-line and receivers.
Brian Kelly is an elite-level two-quarterback coach, perhaps only Urban Meyer is as good at calling names. While 2016 will surely be a test of Kelly’s abilities, what would you rather the alternative be?
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I hear what you’re saying, and I would agree that BK has to be considered capable of using two QBs, given the success he had in 2009 at Cinci. However, I think the decision is clear, at least in my humble opinion: you have a more experienced QB, who also happens to be the younger QB. Don’t you think that, unless Zaire is the clear-cut better QB during fall camp, it would make more sense not only for this year, but the longevity of the offense, to go with the kid who has more eligibility? It will provide a longer, more sustainable offensive identity.
I understand the worst case scenario of not using the two QB system: One of the guys might transfer. But I would rather have a solid, consistent offensive mindset than try to juggle two guys because you’re worried about one of them leaving.
Hi Brendan. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Maybe there’s not a lot of juggling involved, other than in terms of keeping both players happy and the cadences consistent. Kizer and Zaire are very similar players and it’s not like you know there’s a gimmick or a trick coming when one or the other is under center. It’s not like when Tommy was subbed in and you knew there was no QB option on the offering. Personally, I am a lot more comfortable when there’s a clear starter, but I’m not a football coach and Kelly clearly has the demonstrated ability to run an offense through two QBs.
I like the 2 quarterback system. Seems to me Notre Dame Qb’s have a tendency to either start slow or take their foot off the gas while we are ahead. (such as Zaire against Virginia Tech or Kizer vs Boston College). I prefer Zaire to start. Kizer has thrown a few to many questionable balls imo. Plus Seniority rules. My Kelly Trust polling is through the roof
Kelly has to pick ONE QB and tell him this – “I have confidence in you. The job is yours.”
If the guy he picks is having a bad day and starts worrying about getting yanked – it affects him and it also affects the other ten guys out there.