The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 20, 2009

Pluses, minuses to having QB call own plays

MORGANTOWN — Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of this year’s spring football at West Virginia University was a statement quarterback Jarrett Brown made after the spring game.

“I want to get to the point where I can call plays myself,” the quarterback admitted after the game, repeating something that had been revealed briefly in a pre-spring press conference and at times as the spring went on.

There are two schools of thought concerning the quarterback calling his own plays.

They would be the right school and the wrong school … and it has been well documented over the years that quarterbacks have enough to do without calling plays.

Having a coach call plays began far back in the 1950s, back before we had electronic this and computerized that. A coach named Paul Brown, who simply reinvented the game from the face mask and draw play on up, began sending in “messenger guards” carrying each play.

This evolved into some coaches having the quarterback come to the sideline for plays, sending in wide receivers with the plays, signaling in plays and, in the NFL now, sending in plays via radio transmissions which are received in the quarterback’s helmet.

The idea, of course, was quite simple.

You don’t put your slowest runner at running back. You don’t put your poorest passer at quarterback. What you want is your most qualified player doing those jobs.

Well, Paul Brown wanted the most qualified person he had calling plays — himself.

Coaches spend far, far more of their time studying films of the defense, picking up on tendencies, understanding what will work and what won’t work.

Even though the professionals have their quarterbacks full time all week, every week, they tend to keep their quarterbacks from calling plays.

If that’s the case, certainly collegiate quarterbacks can’t be qualified enough to call plays. All coaches do in their free time is complain that they can only have their players for a limited time each week, so certainly they have enough trouble getting them to remember the plays they are going to run, no less understand the entire playbook enough to call plays while on the field also thinking about their duties on that play.

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Bob Herzel
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