The consensus theory about the NFL right now is that it's a quarterback-driven league, and I certainly agree with that theory. There is a high correlation every year between the best teams and the best quarterbacks. Certainly there are some teams with good QB's which don't succeed, and certainly there are teams with mediocre QB's who have a relatively successful season (I'm looking at you, Kansas City.) But in this era, the safest way to have a great team is to have a great QB.
That being said, not all teams can have a great quarterback, virtually by definition. What should those teams do? I think they have three options. Firstly, they can play a traditional quarterback and hope that the rest of the team can rise above his averageness or mediocrity (which I think is a blurry line, but that's not a debate for this post) and try to have the best season possible. This is what most would argue the Broncos are doing with Kyle Orton, and I think that this is what they should be doing (although again, not the thrust of this post.)
Secondly, knowing that the quarterbacks on the roster will never be elite NFL passers, they can try to throw out a scrambler/gamer who can make plays outside of the traditional offense. This offense, the argument goes, has a better chance to be successful because a) the offensive line is deficient and doesn't protect well, b) the WR's are deficient and can't get open, or c) the scrambler is a good enough passer and his legs are an added bonus. This is what many fans would like to see happen with Tebow, because they think that it will win more games than playing with Orton will. The argument against this in general, which I subscribe to, is that the NFL is too violent a sport in this era to rely on your quarterback to make so many plays outside the pocket and stay healthy for a season to be successful. An additional argument is that while this offense may be successful against bad defenses, the better defenses will not have coverage breakdowns and missed tackles which are a big part of the success of the mobile qb offense, and that in the playoffs you are more likely to see good defenses, and thus have limited success. While I think there is some merit in that point, I believe the injured-QB symptom is the bigger issue, and is why, for instance, I think the Eagles may not be as successful as people imagine they will be.
Lastly, and this is the argument that was made about the Broncos on the front page of this website a few days ago, is that you play the pocket passer with all his deficiencies, and if the deficiencies prove too much to overcome, you will have gotten a better draft position, with which you can draft your pocket passer of the future. At the same time, you will have installed the offense for the non-qb players to practice and learn already, so that there will be an easier transition from bad quarterback to good quarterback. I don't think that is expressly what the Broncos are doing, but I do think it is an argument to continue with Orton for most of the season, or to switch to Quinn instead of Tebow.
Still, this background isn't the point of my post. My point is to suggest a completely new type of offense for the NFL, one that is not necessarily superior to that of having a great pocket passer, but might have fewer drawbacks, the primary one of which is "have a great passer or bust." Emphasis on bust. Even the best teams rely their season on the health of a single player, their starting quarterback. When Brady missed the season a few years ago, the Pats went from a 16-0 team to a 10-6 team that missed the playoffs. Peyton Manning's injury this season will almost certainly cost the Colts their season. An NFL team has 53 players, and for one player to be so monumentally more important than the next player seems like an inefficient use of resources, as well as a very high-variance way to compete. And so, the most obvious, if not arguably absurd solution, is to have:
It sounds gimmicky. And to an extent, one could argue that it is, as new ideas are certainly gimmicks until their success has been proven or disproven. But this isn't an idea to be a gimmick. It's an idea to use NFL resources differently, and an idea for some NFL teams to evade the inefficiency being required to use an inferior quarterback, because there are a limited amount of superior quarterbacks out there, specifically superior passing quarterbacks.
One could argue that this is the Wildcat to the extreme, and perhaps it is. But the lineup would look like this:
WR SE LT LG C RG RT WR
Those 2 QB's are both what college fans would call "dual-threat" quarterbacks. They have good enough arms to throw it downfield 40 yards, and they're decent at hitting open receivers. Throwing into tight coverage isn't their strong suit, and they operate from shotgun all the time. But they're also great runners. In fact, they're probably the best runner on their team. Tim Tebow was this type of quarterback. Denard Robinson is this type of quarterback. Antawn Randel-El was this type of quarterback.
At any rate, on any play we have the following options:
1) Hike to LQB, who stands in the pocket as if it were a traditional passing play, and passes to an open receiver if one is available, and otherwise runs with it if none are available. RQB becomes a receiving target. TB probably is used as a blocker, but is obviously an eligible receiver.
2) Hike to RQB, but otherwise same as above.
3) Hike to LQB, who hands to RQB, who runs up the middle as if a traditional running back.
4) Hike to RQB, who hands to LQB, who runs up the middle as if a traditional running back.
5) Hike to LQB, who hands or pitches to RQB, who sweeps right and has a run/throw option.
6) Hike to RQB, who hands or pitches to LQB, who sweeps left and has a run/throw option.
7) Hike to LQB, who rolls left and has a run/throw option.
8) Hike to RQB, who rolls right and has a run/throw option.
9) Hike to LQB, who has a read-option to hand to RQB, or keep it and either pass or throw.
10) Hike to RQB, same as #9
11) Hike to LQB, hand-off/pitch to TB.
12) Hike to RQB, hand-off/pitch to TB.
To me, this system has many advantages. It offers many different play possibilities, both run and pass, from the same formation, which a) means that it is difficult for the defense to know where to go, and b) means that a no-huddle/up-tempo offense is attainable, since the offense does not need to switch players between most plays.
It limits the import of any one player, as if 1 QB gets hurt, all is not lost.
It offers the advantage of the mobile QB offense described at the beginning, but lessens the injury risk and general wear-and-tear, as the scrambling/hits are divided among two players instead of one.
The LQB/RQB is partly designated to distinguish between the two in a non-hierarchical method (as opposed to QB1 and QB2) but also because having LQB be a lefty and RQB be a righty would allow them each to roll out to their preferred side (typically to the left for a lefty and right for a righty.) Typically defenses facing a scrambling QB know to guard against one side or the other, but in the dual qb offense, that anticipation is lost.
The TB would ideally be a larger back who is a decent pass-catcher, like McGahee, or someone like Tolbert, Hillis, Gerhart, etc, as the position would involve less running and more blocking/receiving, since runs are primarily performed by the two quarterbacks.
The SE could be a TE with good receiving skills, or a WR with a big build, like Bey Bey.
The roster construction would be different, but not difficult to achieve. For example, the Broncos currently have 3 QB's and 5RB/FB's on the roster. For this system, you would probably switch those numbers, and have 5 QB's and 3 TB's. Additionally, fewer WR's would need to be carried, as 4 WR sets would be extremely rare, and 5 WR sets virtually non-existent.
There are two drawbacks that I can see. Firstly, it is likely that our offense would be relying on two quarterbacks with some weaknesses. This is relatively a given. I think the optimal NFL offense is still the Brady-led Patriots. But that offense relies on having Tom Brady, who is a rare commodity. This offense is conceding that you don't have Tom Brady, and getting him or a viable proxy is too difficult to be worth it, unless you Luck (hah! Pun!) your way into it. Secondly, it would put an extra onus on the center, who now has to snap the ball back right or back left depending on the play call. Still, I think that most capable snappers could do this with only the very rare miscue. That there are two-qb's and a tailback behind the line of scrimmage mean that the worst that happens with a bad a snap is a loss of yards and not a fumble.
To run this offense (which I'm calling the double-barreled shotgun) the Broncos would obviously keep Tebow, draft the RQB starter (I recommend Baylor's Robert Griffen III) and find backups through free agency (be it rookies or veterans.) In 2013, they should probably draft Denard Robinson. It means you're probably grabbing a QB every year, since you now have 5 on your roster, but since you're not necessarily grabbing a RB or WR every year, and you're also not after the same QB as many teams, you don't need to neglect your defense in the draft, and can grab a QB after the first round, unless it's a very special QB.
Thoughts? Have I missed a glaring weakness? Do I not understand football? Or do you like it and think the Broncos should give this offense a real chance to be successful in the coming years?