NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: (L-R) Heisman Trophy finalists running back Trent Richardson of the Alabama Crimson Tide, running back Montee Ball of the Wisconsin Badgers, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of the LSU Tigers, Andrew Luck of the Stanford University Cardinal and quarterback Robert Griffin III of the Baylor Bears pose with the Heisman Trophy after a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jim Harbaugh had to catch all the quarterbacks didn't he? While everyone else was piling on Pidgeys and Ratattas, he was ready to load on Charizards and Aerodactyls.
Four-and-a-half years ago, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh approached a 17-year-old Robert Griffin III with an ambitious idea. Griffin, a quarterback and track star out of Copperas Cove High School in Texas, would come to Palo Alto and play for Harbaugh at Stanford, sharing quarterback duties with another Texas high schooler — a blue-chip recruit named Andrew Luck.
A two-man system with the big pocket passer Luck and the athletic Griffin joining running back Toby Gerhart in the backfield, insisted Harbaugh, would put Stanford back on the map and make the Cardinal national contenders.
Griffin, relatively lightly recruited to play quarterback despite eye-popping numbers, strolled Stanford's campus with Harbaugh that afternoon and gave the dual-quarterback system some brief consideration. In the end, though, he declined the notion, thinking, as he recalled earlier this week, "That system almost never works."
Would it have worked? There's a chance it would have been absolute failure, a bridge too far even for the resourceful Harbaugh. Like Griffin says, offenses that run two quarterback systems can muddle down. The quarterbacks keep on having to shuffle in and out, the system changes for the rest of the players, which is hard for them to deal with. For guys as different as Luck and Griffin, the playbook probably changes too. It can often lead to a mess, although Harbaugh has shown he's as adaptable as they come as a coach.
But there's also a chance it could have succeeded and forever changed how teams viewed the quarterback position. Imagine Luck methodically doing what he always does in a football game, finding the tight ends and hitting all the spots on the field. Then when the offense is struggling to deal with more athletic teams, bring in Griffin to unleash devastating strikes downfield. That would stretch defenses even more and allow Luck to work the field even more, and keep defenses on their heels. Cue 60-70 points a game!
It would certainly change the way people view the two-quarterback system, which has often been viewed as (1) bringing in a traditional pocket passer to run the offense, and (2) bringing in an athlete who can make plays with his feet. Why not bring in two guys who can do both? The Cardinal might have never had to punt in 2011 if Luck was taking half the snaps and hitting the tight ends while Griffin came in to unleash deep bombs and scramble for 20 yard gains. They were that good this year, which was why they came up first and second in Heisman voting.
It sure would have been interesting to think about how Griffin would have fared against Oregon. RGIII is definitely the type of game-changing athlete that could elude pressure and perhaps keep plays alive. He could have eluded blitzes and evaded pressure. Apologies to Washington, but Oregon-Baylor would have been a far more compelling contest in terms of matching athletes with speed. Griffin vs. a Nick Holt defense sounds like the plot for a natural disaster movie.
Luck seems like the conventional old-school type of guy you want running the team most of the game. Griffin is the new-school, an evolved form of quarterback that can adapt and adjust as the play is going and beat any college defense thrown his way. Both should be wildly successful on their own. Thinking of them together is almost too much to handle.
I'd love to see a football team one day try out that type of strategy. Thankfully, the rest of the Pac-12 never had to deal with that type of terrifying duo.
Also, Harbaugh needed to go to the pros as soon as possible. Crazy football minds that know their quarterbacks tend to be people you don't want to deal with every week. Otherwise we might be a decade off from Michigan's seventh straight national championship.