Howe: Rudock Should Start, Beathard Must Play

Jake Rudock or C.J. Beathard? The great Iowa quarterback debate rages on during the bye week. While it's far from a black and white situation, it's clear enough for HI Publisher Rob Howe. As of now, Rudock deserves to be behind center.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Everyone in the Iowa fan base, or at least it seems that way, has taken a side in the great quarterback debate. You're either for Jake Rudock or C.J. Beathard, to the point where it rattles your emotions. You take to message boards, social media and radio talk shows to vent.

It's a very strange phenomena, these controversies. It's the single most discussed position in all of sports. It's called Monday Morning Quarterback not Monday Morning Offensive Tackle.

Everybody knows who should be playing quarterback. Well, everyone thinks they know. Actually, they don't.

The majority of vocal Iowa fans prefer Beathard and don't want to see Rudock again. That's the pulse of the Hawkeye Insider message boards and Twitter, at least.

These people are angry at the coaches for not just giving the job to Beathard and being done with it. They're flabbergasted that Rudock would be considered.

Again, if this is you, you don't have the answer. You just think you do.

Beathard might very well be the better quarterback. But you don't know that. You think you know based on what you think you see.

Rudock has shown he's every bit as good as Beathard. Please don't get mad. It's fact.

None of us knows what goes on in practice. All we have to go on are the games. That said, if Beathard was lighting it up during workouts and Rudock couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, Beathard would have won the job last summer or sometime since then.

Before you get all huffy, this isn't an absolute advocation for Rudock. The offense is as inconsistent with him in there as it is with Beathard.

Right now, Iowa has two quarterbacks leading a unit that is painful to watch at times. They're good. They're not great, or at least not great enough to overcome whatever is keeping the Hawkeyes from taking off on that side of the ball. It could be play calling, coordinator Greg Davis and head coach Kirk Ferentz muddling together their philosophies, lack of talent, who knows.

The Hawkeyes rank 98th nationally in scoring at 22.6 points per game. That's not all on Rudock.

Iowa won 24-10 at lowly Purdue on Saturday. An offense led by Beathard put up 24 points against a Boilermaker defense ranked 78th in the country in points allowed. It gave up 34 points to Western Michigan and 38 points to Central Michigan this season.

Beathard completed 17 of 37 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown in his first college start. He also tossed a Pick-6 for Purdue's lone touchdown of the day.

It should be noted that Hawkeye receivers dropped about a half dozen passes in West Lafayette. There were others that they never had a chance with because they were off target or lacked touch. It's hard to say what would have happened had the offense executed better but that's been an issue since Davis took over before the '12 campaign.

Teammates drop passes on Rudock, too. Damond Powell coughed up a well thrown deep ball at Pittsburgh two weeks ago that was intercepted. He caught a 62-yarder with one-hand from Beathard in the second half of that game.

Beathard performed very well at Pitt. He led three second-half scoring drives resulting in 17 points. Iowa overcame a a 10-point halftime deficit to win, 24-20.

Beathard backers point to the Steel City performance as reason their guy should start. He didn't do enough in that game or at Purdue to unseat Rudock at the top of the depth chart. He just didn't.

Beathard's 7-of-8 day for 98 yards was greatly enhanced by Powell catching the 62-yarder, with one hand. Without it, he's 6 of 8 for 36 yards. That's 6 yards per completion.

Critics have knocked Rudock for checking down and throwing too many short passes. Had Powell caught his 57-yard pass at Pitt, he'd have been 6 of 10 for 137 yards and a touchdown. He would have been at 22.8 yards per completion.

It's cliche, but there are 11 players on offense. They all need to do their jobs and Davis has to put them in position to make plays.

Rudock outperformed Beathard to win the job last summer and continued doing so through camp this year. In '13, Rudock completed 59 percent of his passes and posted a rating of efficiency rating 126.5. Beathard was at 33.3 and 86.4. It wasn't close.

This fall, Rudock has completed 66.9 percent of his passes with an efficiency of 129.6. Beathard sat at 54.2 and 120.4. No doubt the gap between the two has decreased.

Beathard has earned the right to play with his performance the last two weeks. He's clearly grown as a quarterback. He just hasn't surpassed Rudock with his performance.

If healthy, Rudock should start when the team next takes the field against Indiana on Oct. 11. Beathard, who only played one series in the first three games, ought to be on the field for, at minimum, one set of downs.

Let the competition continue. Allow their achievements to dictate who starts and how much each plays. If Beathard exceeds Rudock, a year his senior, we'll see it if we look objectively. The coaches will, too.

One of the things that makes this situation unique is that they both retain eligibility after this season. The race will be run through 2015 if they're both healthy and in Iowa City. In theory, that should improve them both.

As much as it's been discussed, this does not parallel the Jake Christensen-Ricky Stanzi setup of 2008, at least not yet. Stanzi clearly gave the Hawkeyes a better chance to win and that played out with three bowl victories.

Neither of the current quarterbacks has distinctly separated himself from the other. Simple put, Rudock has not done anything to lose the starting job and Beathard has not taken it.

Beathard may, may, possess louder tools in a bigger arm and more elusiveness. Again, neither is leading to a high-caliber showing to date. And Rudock's understanding of his strengths and how to utilize them puts him ahead at this point.

The quarterback focus is misguided. It should center on a mediocre offense in Year 3 of Davis no matter who is behind center. Ranking 98th in scoring against a strength of schedule rated 76th by Jeff Sagarin with this much experience is more than a little concerning. And Peyton Manning is not available.

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