With Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow set to share quarterbacking duties in some still-to-be-determined fashion for the New York Jets this season, the team is about to embark on a campaign that will fly in the face of conventional NFL wisdom. NFL teams simply do not, intentionally, employ two-quarterback systems. The general belief is that if you have two quarterbacks trying to share, you have a quarterback controversy and, in reality, have no real quarterback at all.
By bringing in Tebow, his unique skill set on the field and unique, magnetic personality off the field the Jets have gone out of their way to become a 2012 NFL experiment.
Simply put, can a two-quarterback system work in the modern NFL? I cannot recall a time in the Super Bowl era where a team has, successfully, shuttled quarterbacks in and out of games. Teams have reached the Super Bowl using backups after starters got hurt. Tom Brady won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots after stepping in for Drew Bledsoe, beginning his amazing career. Jeff Hostetler won a Super Bowl for the New York Giants, filling in admirably after Phil Simms was hurt in 1990.
The Jets are not a rebuilding team shuffling a pair of young quarterbacks as they try to figure out which guy can lead them into the future, or simply trying to find a few snaps per game for their quarterback of the future. Rex Ryan had made it clear, again and again, that the Jets want to be about winning the Super Bowl. Can a team do that with a two-headed quarterback?
Outspoken Jets' receiver Santonio Holmes is among those who thinks it can't work unless there is clearly a No. 1 quarterback.
"I don’t think so," Holmes said. "Because you have to allow one quarterback to get into the rhythm of the game. It starts from the preparation in practice, knowing the first couple of plays that he’s going to take these reps. It’s getting a feel for coming onto the field with the crowd awaiting you. It’s the making the mistakes early in the game, to finishing the games at the end. You don’t just change a guy out just because he has a few mistakes early in a game."
In its 2012 Almanac, Football Outsiders reveals that it is not a believer in the two-quarterback system either, saying in part "The Jets are courting disaster in the name of creating a gimmick offense."
Football Outsiders goes so far as to say that it expects Tebow to, sooner rather than later, become the starter. FO writes:
Sanchez is not a high-volume pocket passer, nor is he the kind of ball-protecting, sack-avoiding game manager coaches like Ryan look for when building a defense-oriented team. He is a stopgap, one that the Jets foolishly signed to a contract extension before the Tebow trade.
There’s a good chance that all of the Jets’ talk about their Wildcat package is just coded language, and Tebow will become the starter after Sanchez’s first stalled drive. Keeping Tebow in the game and letting him throw wobblers makes more sense than shuttling Sanchez on and off the bench to attempt passes with slightly less wobble.
This type of expectation, and the questions that will be raised constantly when one quarterback, the other, or both, faile to produce is precisely why teams have traditionally shied away from this type of an arrangement.
Can the Jets make it work? Like Football Outsiders, I have serious doubts. What I don't doubt, though, is that is certainly will be interesting finding out.