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?