COLUMN: At the very least, intentionally playing two quarterbacks is innovative

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2019

It seems like Rich Rodriguez has gone into full mad scientist mode.

When he talks about the quarterback situation at Ole Miss right now, he said he has two “sort of” emotions. One is that he’s kind of sick of being asked who’s going to start and why. Fair, we’ve asked it a bunch. But there’s also a second emotion, one that brings a weird twinkle to his eye.

He’s getting to try something completely new, and I think Rich Rod is legitimately having fun with this strange, two-quarterback situation Ole Miss finds themselves in.

Email newsletter signup

Many teams in college football find themselves in situations where they’re playing two quarterbacks in the same game. That’s not particularly new by any means. What’s new is the rationale for doing so.

The norm is playing two quarterbacks as a means of finding which one is best for the team for the remainder of the season. Ole Miss’s current plan is playing two quarterbacks, at times even alternating them snap-to-snap, because they truly think it gives them the best chance to win football games.

It’s certainly a unique approach. Will it work? Literally not one person knows. But I applaud them for being different.

One thing that has been proven true over time is that it’s really, really hard to win by emulating the top coaches. This is the reason that former Nick Saban and Bill Belichick assistants have rarely worked out well as head coaches. If you try to mirror Saban, you’re always going to be a step or two behind the actual Saban.

Hear me out with this one, but there’s really not a ton of true innovation happening in football right now, at least not in the way we think of the word. Some of the top ‘innovative’ football minds in the NFL right now are more tinkerers and re-packagers in how they’re innovating. It’s not brand new schematics as much as it is combining older ideas in new ways.

So much of what Sean McVay, for example, does is built on play action and out of what Bill Walsh was doing in four decades ago. Walsh once said about play action passing: “I truly believe it is the single best tool available to take advantage of a disciplined defense.” A year ago, McVay and the Rams just took that to extremes, running play action of 34.6 percent of drop backs.

Kyle Shanahan is another one. He’s operating under the same zone-running principles his dad popularized in the 90s. The 49ers are predicated on having everything look pre-snap like it could be a run or a pass. Then there’s Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona. He came up in the Dana Holgerson air raid, coaching Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M and later Texas Tech. Now, he’s bringing those college principles to the NFL.

And Kingsbury might be the best example of what we’re seeing in Oxford right now. He’s only been in the NFL for six weeks. We have no idea if it will be a bust or if it will modernize the league, but we can commend Arizona for trying something different.

That’s why I like what Ole Miss is trying to do – they’re not trying to emulate anyone. They’re simply looking at a situation, throwing up their hands with the “You know what? Why not?” attitude. And they’re trying something completely off the wall. No one knows if it’ll work, but they deserve at least some applause for being different.