Pat Fitzgerald is known to shut himself off to the outside world and conventional thinking when it comes to his football team.
That old saying that if you have two quarterbacks you really have none? Pat Fitzgerald has not heard it.
He rode Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian to a 10-win season and a bowl victory, defying all logic and having the two literally split snaps. Colter had 170 rushing attempts and 149 pass attempts, contributing directly in 319 of the team’s 964 plays ( 33.1 percent). Siemian had 21 rushing attempts and 218 pass attempts for participation in at least 239 of the team’s 964 plays (24.8 percent).
The two players were virtually contributing the same amount of plays last season with Colter playing a little bit more.
The quarterback situation was one that got a lot of attention last season. No one was quite sure whether it was possible for two quarterbacks to almost equally split time in the way Fitzgerald was proposing. After all, it went against all conventional football logic.
There were hiccups in the first year of this grand experiment. Playcalling became predictable with Colter more than likely running the football and Siemian in the game to throw it. The rhythm was not always the best for either of them. Mick McCall and Pat Fitzgerald made it work though in the end. Winning 10 games and a bowl game was a big sign of success.
And there is no sign that it will stop. Pat Fitzgerald said he plans on splitting the quarterbacks again this year and trying to take advantage of both players’ talents once again.
Conventional logic does not apply.
Indeed, this will continue to be a theme throughout spring practice and into the fall. Teams will have to think about and plan for both quarterbacks.
The questions though still surround this situation. Can one player keep confidence while the other is playing? Will defenses adjust? Can Northwestern maintain a rhythm with the constant switching? What is the right formula?
Even though Northwestern fans are accustomed to and successful with this setup the questions are unending about it. We asked about it in our spring football preview and we point it out now. This is not an issue that is going away. Again, it goes against the traditional notions of the quarterback as the offense’s leader and the need for just one voice in the huddle.
This is not a question that will be answered in the spring. The spring is for laying the foundations for the fall and beginning to develop chemistry. The real work gets done in the fall.
In the next few weeks, you will see Siemian and Colter split time with the first unit. Fitzgerald has also hinted that Zack Oliver will also see some time with the first unit.
The most important thing is that Siemian and Colter are at peace with the decision and are willing to make it work. Both are humble enough and confident enough in their own and each other’s skill to split time and push each other in practice to get better. The rotation worked last year, despite the hiccups, and Fitzgerald has no reason to think it won’t work again.
Consider then this question solved for now. It is not a satisfactory answer maybe for football logic, but it is the one Northwestern will give and continue to experiment with throughout the spring and the fall.