Colter, Siemian will continue to split QB position

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.

  • DarkSide

    Study, work, execute. The road to the Big Ten title starts in spring practice. Our time is now. Go ‘Cats!

  • JimB

    As long as they are not predictable I got no problem with a 2 QB system

    • Scooter


  • JimB

    Or 3 QB if that works too

    • cebpd

      Oliver Rocket Arm

  • PurpleHayes

    Agree with JimB; unpredictability is the key. In the middle of the season, when our staff rejuvenated the 2QB system in earnest, there were a couple of games I thought we were way too one-dimensional (“Kain Karry, Trevor Toss”). Seemed to trust both QB’s a little more later on. The culmination was Siemian’s bootleg TD run to regain the lead in Jax. Running that play demonstrated our versatility. Running it on first and goal showed it was no trick play, and actually (by leaving us a chance if Trevor had been nailed for a 3-yard loss by having it be only 2nd and goal) I thought the call was brilliant. B10 defensive coordinators, take note!

  • Maybe they should be roommates.

  • rararawrgocats

    I think I speak for all NU fans when I say I love it if it works and I hate it and think we should fire every one of our coaches if it does not.

    But really, the 2 QB system showed plenty of promise (and results) last year. Barring an offensive line meltdown, it’s hard to imagine it being anything except better in its second year, with our QBs and key skill players returning.