THIS WEEK'S TOPIC:
Brian Kelly mentioned in his Tuesday presser that while he got the right response he wanted to see out of Everett Golson the coach plans on playing both Golson and Zaire in the bowl game against LSU. Do you like this decision?
It's good to hear that Everett Golson responded the way that Kelly and the staff wanted him to and considering the brilliance we've all seen him display the majority of his career, in my opinion it's way too early to give up on a guy who was a legit Heisman contender even halfway into the season.
That said, we saw the energy that Malik Zaire brought to the offense against USC and most analysts agree that he has a slightly different skillset (especially physically) which allows him run the zone read more effectively (which led to a big TD run against Souther Cal). And it's not like we're talking about a low pedigree newbie here. Malik now has 2 full seasons (including two springs) with the program under his belt and I believe BK when he says that there would be no handcuffs with the sophomore from Ohio when it comes to running the offense.
I doubt we will know who QB1 is going to be by the end of the Music City Bowl, but we can all agree that both QBs are capable of doing good things and I think by and large having two QBs who will push each other and compete at a high level will do more good than bad for the team. I doubt BK will declare a starter until August 2015 and I expect that guy will be better for the near 9 month competition he went through.
I'm not a fan.
First of all, if we're trying to beat LSU, a QB rotation is a bad idea. It would be one thing if it was a Rees/Hendrix situation - one passing quarterback, one package/short-yardage quarterback - but Golson and Zaire both supposedly have the entire playbook open to them. It doesn't allow them to establish rhythm, it screws with them mentally that if they make any mistakes they'll likely sit, and undermines the efforts Kelly has made to make Golson the leader of the offense.
I'm all for QB competition, but playing both isn't really competition. Who plays better in the bowl practices doesn't really mean much if both are going to see time and rotate. In game reps are critically important to Malik's development, but Golson also has plenty of areas to continue to improve too - it's easy to forget in terms of game experience he's essentially a sophomore. Make a decision based on practice and the player that gives you the best chance to win and tell him for that game only, he's the man. The day after the bowl game the competition picks up right where it left off, and both should still be plenty motivated to compete for the starting job next year.
I don't like the decision. In nearly all cases I'm against playing two quarterbacks.
Most likely we'll see one of two scenarios. One, in which Golson plays most of the snaps and Zaire is used in a change of pace role for maybe 10 snaps. Two, each quarterback gets near equal time. The latter scenario has a high probability of blowing up in Kelly's face, possibly setting back both quarterbacks going into the off-season, as well as seeing a disjointed offensive performance result in a bad loss to LSU. This scenario simply cannot be risked.
Now, if Zaire is used as a change of pace guy, to help out in the red zone, and to get a little extra juice out of the running game I suppose that's fine. If the staff thinks he's earned that through his play against USC and in the bowl practices I won't put up too much of a fight about it.
However, this scenario really doesn't give us a full look at Zaire and I hardly think it can be a springboard to him out-playing Golson and winning the job next season. Maybe, just maybe, Zaire gets those handful of snaps and plays incredible. But what if he makes a couple big mistakes? Is it fair to Zaire that he was put in a situation where almost all non-Tebow quarterbacks fail? Does anyone really think a change of pace quarterback with ~30 career snaps is going to do enough against L-S-freakin' U where playing two quarterbacks was worth it when the game is over?
I abhor two quarterback gameplans. If Zaire were to beat out Golson in bowl practices (unlikely at this point) then start Zaire against LSU. If Zaire doesn't then start Golson and only bring in Malik if Golson struggles. This is the only healthy way to handle quarterbacks, and frankly, the best way to try and beat LSU which should be objective No. 1 right now.
I like this development for a couple reasons.
For starters, this is not out of the norm for Kelly. In his last year at Cincinnati, we saw the Tony Pike-Zachary Collaros tandem in games so it is not like Kelly will be out of his element a la 2007 Weis' Spread Option Fiasco.
I think in the USC game, we saw just exactly how Zaire will be used. His passes lacked touch, but his vision in the zone read game was pretty impressive though not great. I can see Zaire being used as a change of pace QB that will run the ball, likely in the red zone.
Anything beyond that would not be good. Golson needs to get into a rhythm and needs to build (or rebuild) his confidence. Going 50-50 on reps with Zaire would not help Golson or the offense. Golson needs help (establish a running game/short passing game) but another QB isn't necessarily it.
My hope is that Kelly doesn't ask too much of his QBs against LSU but playing both of them is something that I'm on board with.
My prediction: It's going to be like when we threw in Andrew Hendrix when Tommy was the QB. He will rarely, if ever, throw the ball. It will be obvious that it will be a run. It will not work.
I think it's fine for the bowl game. If anything, it means there will be less hysteria if Golson is playing poorly and Zaire enters the game. This will also jumpstart a nine-month race to be QB1 against Texas, which is a very fair way to sort this out. The idea of doing a two quarterback system for the entire 2015 season makes me very uncomfortable, as while there are examples of it working, it is not a very extensive list. But for one game against a good defense that doesn't really have the biggest stakes? Why not.
I'm with Eric: Two-QB systems are a bad idea. A horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad idea. If executed absolutely perfectly, it can add something to the game plan, but not that much, and the odds against it working are massive enough that it's really not even worth trying. I'm not angrily against it for this game, mostly because it's a meaningless game and we're probably going to lose anyway, but if we're doing a two-QB thing in 2015, I'm not going to be pleased.
Were this a regular season game, I'd be pretty angry with this decision. Since this is about as meaningless as game as a team will get, however, I have less of a problem using it like a practice by giving both QBs a chance to play. It's no secret that Golson has played poorly since the Florida State game, and Zaire looked good in limited action against Southern Cal. Kelly has shown a willingness to have a quick hook with his QBs in previous seasons at ND, and if there's going to be an extended QB competition through Spring 2015 and into fall camp, I see no reason why not to start it now.
That being said, I think using multiple QBs puts the team at a disadvantage going into the game. There is a chance, however, it puts us in better position going into next season.
I'm not a fan of dual-QB situations in general, but in this case I think it's a little different. Many of us have been asking for a while now to see Everett face some accountability for poor play; true, not every turnover was his fault and he has some tremendous ability, but you just can't give it away that often without consequences. I don't think Everett has been complacent by any means, but I think he has been a bit frazzled as the season has worn on and has gotten away from what made him successful early on.
If Kelly just named Golson the starter, well, no worries, as you were, etc. Saying he'll play two quarterbacks and making that very public statement that if Golson didn't respond correctly "there wouldn't be a competition" should give #5 a big boost in focus. I expect Golson to start and play, say, 90% of the snaps unless the wheels come off again.
Spring ball should be interesting.
I'm not thrilled with the two-quarterback strategy. Everett Golson is more than capable of running Brian Kelly's offense, as we saw throughout the first half of this season. I could see that Kelly might feel that a little competition and nipping at the heels by a qualified replacement might stoke Everett's competitive fire. I could see that it might keep opposing defenses off-balance with a change of pace signal caller who can run the option. I could see that it might help us beat LSU. I could see all of those things, but the nagging question in my mind is "why didn't we try this before?"
If this is somehow going to be a panacea for a sputtering offense, why was it not attempted when there were very winnable games still on the slate? I really don't know, and it makes me nervous about the results. In general, I don't like the idea of two quarterbacks. I feel like it's tipping your hand. True Zaire has more upside in the pass game than say Andrew Hendrix, but everyone in Memphis will know what's on our mind when he goes out there. Now if you were to put Golson and Zaire in the backfield at the same time and the defense didn't know to whom the ball was going to be snapped...OK I'm going to stop right there. Bottom line: this better work.
I think this is a brilliant move by Kelly. I say it's brilliant because I believe what Kelly meant to say was Notre Dame is going to crush LSU so convincingly that Zaire will get to see the field. Notre Dame's offense, led by Golson, will score often and our decimated defense will hold up just enough to allow Zaire to play.
On a more serious note, I feel it is ill-advised for Kelly to use both quarterbacks in the game given the way Golson has been playing. Regardless of how much blame falls on his shoulders for the recent string of losses, Golson has not performed to the level of his former Heisman-contending self. Kelly needs to either bench Golson and give Zaire a chance to impress him for the upcoming season or give Golson an early chance at regaining his composure going into next season's QB competition. Giving them both playing time against a very difficult opponent will not only prevent both quarterbacks from establishing rhythm throughout the game, but could even cost us the win. Or, depending on your level of pessimism, make our inevitable loss happen by a wider margin.
Two weeks ago, I was at a concert for a singer performing solo. He started with one guitar, but behind on a stand was another guitar. I figured that guitar was a standard back-up, insurance in case he broke a string and didn't want to break the flow of the performance. After the second song, he took off one guitar strap and played the back-up guitar for the next few songs. This guitar didn't sound wildly different; both guitars were played through the same amplifier with minimal effects. The second guitar did have a few strings tuned different to widen its range and make certain chords easier. For the rest of the performance, the singer alternated between the two guitars. Towards the end of the set, a string broke.
I'm not sure how Brian Kelly is going to deploy Golson and Zaire together. Is this system in play to put pressure on both QBs? Will they run different sorts of play sets in order to optimize their talents? How forgiving will Kelly be of mistakes knowing both guys are ready to go? I've seen teams win football games in wacky ways, so I can't buy into the adage "If you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't' have one." In order to succeed though, I believe Kelly and the offensive staff will need a gameplan that caters to Golson's strengths and Zaire's strengths while giving them some freedom to know that if they make honest and explicable mistakes, they will still have a chance to compete.
I generally agree with the consensus here--not a fan, but it is fine for the bowl game. I like the idea of putting in a few wrinkles with both in the field at the same time.
ND is going to have to be efficient and creative offensively to win. This might just do the trick. Then again, it could be a disaster.