Howe: Two-QB System A Slippery Slope

Tuesday's Iowa football press conference was dominated by talk surrounding the coaches' decision to go with a two-quarterback system. It's understandable that the unconventional approach would draw inquiries. HI Publisher Rob Howe believes the uncertainty of the key position needs to be figured out sooner rather than later.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Buckle up. You're likely to experience turbulence.

Yes, this two-quarterback system Iowa plans to employ might be smooth sailing. But there's a reason most teams don't do it. And some of them do carry two capable signal callers.

Successful offenses usually settle into a rhythm. It's easiest to do that with one guy behind center. It's the norm.

The Iowa staff can't decide. It's been watching Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard face off for the last two and a half years, yet here we are. They've chosen to proceed in the face of the notion that when you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.

One can understand the indecision. Each guy has made a case for himself.

Still, it's unorthodox. It's uncomfortable for coach Kirk Ferentz and his players as evidenced by the uneasiness here at Tuesday's press conference. It's midseason with the most important area of the squad stuck in a precarious position.

Most times when two players share the spot, they offer different styles, providing a change-of-pace for the defense. The Hawkeyes won't benefit from that. While Rudock and Beathard boast individual strengths, they're more similar than not.

In a way, the coaches' hand was forced. Rudock missed the last game and a half with a hip injury and Beathard played well in his absence. Before that, the back-up saw just one series in the first three contests combined. Now, he's shown he can lead the team to victory and it's created chaos.

Both quarterbacks have earned playing time. While it could turn out to have a happy ending with them splitting reps during the next season and a half, that's more fairytale than non-fiction.

Ferentz admitted Tuesday, and had in the past, that the quarterback is a "touchier" position than others on the team. He leads the huddle. Dividing that duty brings risk.

"We don't know if it will (work)," Ferentz said. "We haven't gone down that road, so we're about to find out."

Ferentz is in his 16th year running the program. It's telling that he'll proceed down a path untraveled without direction.

"We'll find out, I guess.  We're not even sure what the plan is right now, totally," Ferentz said.

Let's hope the coaches used the bye week to figure out the arrangement more than they're letting on. While that's likely, it might not matter.

Although Ferentz and Davis would prefer a concrete strategy, judgments must be made on the fly. Rudock or Beathard could run away with the job. It seems like wishful thinking, at least in the near term, considering neither man has to date.

Ferentz was asked Tuesday if playing time will be determined by performance.

"If I had the answer, I'd tell you.  We don't have it yet.  We haven't gone down this road, but we're about to," he said.

They're traveling the fast lane of public opinion. Fans took sides before this idea sprung up and the noise will increase Saturday in Kinnick Stadium when we first see this act play out against Indiana. Fortunately, the Hoosiers fall short of being the '85 Chicago Bears on defense.

Rudock hinted that he's heard the swell of support for Beathard. The junior from Florida appeared annoyed by questions regarding it and other aspects of this spot in which he finds himself after being the clear starter just three weeks ago.

"Not everybody is going to like you," Rudock said.

A more upbeat mood emanated from Beathard Tuesday. It was expected from the guy whose playing time has been increased. He said that he and Rudock don't discuss their competition, which says a lot about the uncomfortable nature of it when you consider they say they're good friends.

Many outsiders preferred Brad Banks in 2001. Some of them in Kinnick booed when they didn't get their wish. The experience bothered starter Kyle McCann but he was gone after that season and Banks ended up being the AP national player of the year the following fall.

In '08, Ricky Stanzi and Jake Christensen duked it out during the non-conference portion of the schedule. The former shined, the latter faded and the winner emerged clearly for anyone watching. The loser left after the season.

This competition doesn't feel like either of those examples. It's muddier. And it's happening during a critical time for this team.

Ferentz said no timetable exists. They're not putting a deadline on sorting it out.

"I don't know.  Time will tell.  We'll play it by ear," he said.

Ferentz added: "They've got a great attitude and they work extremely hard and care a lot about each other, so that is the least of my concern.  The biggest thing is us moving the football and scoring points."

From that perspective, this committee avenue would be hard pressed to make things worse. The Hawkeyes are ranked 97th nationally in scoring (22.6 PPG) out of 125 FBS teams.

Even so, one wonders if the juggling routine could impede the growth that might come if their was continuity. There's a reason why programs enjoy returning their starters. They seek cohesion.

Feasibly, the unconventional scheme skyrockets and the Hawkeyes light up the scoreboard like Baylor. More likely, it spells a longer adjustment period for members of the offense. And it's occurring on a team capable of competing for a title in the wide-open Big Ten West Division.

"I haven't had to do that for a while so I can't really answer that right now," Rudock said when asked if it's hard to get in a rhythm not playing every down.

Most quarterbacks don't deal with it. It's a predicament. The sooner the puzzle is solved, the better it will be for everyone involved.

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories