Score Another One For the Mobile Quarterbacks

Could the age of the statue-like quarterback claiming the Heisman statue be going bye-bye?

With Cam Newton’s pending triumph, it means four of the last eight quarterbacks to win the Heisman–and three of the last four–have been of the more mobile variety.  A fifth quarterback–Vince Young–is considered by many as a guy who probably should have won.

Why the move by the Heisman electorate toward mobility?  I think, simply put, the mobile quarterbacks are more appealing to watch.  They produce yardage and touchdowns in the air and on the ground and have a unique ability to take over a game.  They are also the featured weapon in most of the spread offenses that are currently dominating college football.

I think we’ll still see occasional pocket passers in the mold of Sam Bradford winning the Heisman, but only within the context of the current en vogue, wide-open spread systems.  

The day of the I-formation, pro-style passer winning the trophy may be long gone.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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2 Responses to Score Another One For the Mobile Quarterbacks

  1. Sean November 30, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Part of the problem is that to win the Heisman as a pocket passer in a pro-style offense you essentially have to be a 3rd or 4th year guy (likely with a ton of starts) on an absolutely stacked team- simply put its too hard for a drop back QB in a traditional offense to deal with a great defensive line, or good/great coverage (a spread guy will hit the 3rd or 4th option or scramble- even guys like Bradford- because slow spread QBs will have open field in front of them due to the nature of the spread, slow QBs in pro style systems will have LBs to deal with). Frankly, there’s three reasons pro style offenses survive in the NFL and none of those reasons apply at the college level:

    1) Money- all players in college are essentially paid the same and in the event of injury its actually easier to replace a QB in most spread systems assuming equal surrounding talent (though it wont be high level obviously- and there are exceptions highly complex variations on the spread passing and/or spread running system essentially limited to those employed by high end spread teams- your Florida’s, Texas’s, Oklahoma’s, some iterations of Oregon, etc are almost as hard to quickly pickup as a pro style system harder if the QB isn’t used to being exposed).

    2) High end dividends- a pro style system that has been worked in for literally 10,000s of hours is very, very hard to scheme for in college this isn’t possible- not only are players at most there for 6 years (5 is the general max, 4 the norm and 3 the possibility for the truly awesome talents) add to this the fact that there are very few spring practices, no summer practices, and that even in the fall practice time is limited to 20 hours a week and it becomes easy to figure out why Pro Style attacks are almost never all that great and why NFL gurus so often look like jokes at the college level (seriously, there’s no way the average college kid can memorize a playbook like Callahan or Weiss tried to install).

    3) Talent equalization- not as a big a thing as some NFL guys make it out to be, but yes its easier for a QB to outrun college defenses, or to isolate the weak corner (this is somewhat balanced by the fact that only the very best dual threat guys even get a shot in the NFL- if salaries were equalized a team could put say Vince Young, Mike Vick, Tim Tebow and Pat White on the same roster and run a spread option system with some success).

    The final reason is conservatism of the NFL and its owners- simply put its safer to run a mediocre pro style system and if fired move on to the next job than it is to put ones career on the line and try something different.


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