Precedents for platooning quarterbacks:
New England firmly believes in the “thunder and lightning” platooning approach for running backs. BB tries to keep a mix of RBs on his bench, from 250 pound guys like Blount to shifty scatbacks such as Finch. That’s because switching running backs works. Defenses usually can’t change gears all game between two or three different running styles, and so defenses play back on their heels.
Miami used the wildcat quite successfully against New England, at least for one game. Effective long-range platooning requires that each quarterback have a fairly complex skill set that can't be easily countered with time.
Tom Brady is a dink-and-dunk passer. Brady never did have pinpoint accuracy at 40 yards. Nor can he run. That said, Brady is a king in the NFL at what he does. He’s not far from tops in the NFL in first and ten situations and he’s number one in the NFL at second and five situations. Brady sells the play-action with devastating effect. Then he gets rid of the ball faster than any other NFL starter. He spots holes in the defense easily. He hits his receivers in stride so that they usually pick up yards after the catch on a three-yard toss. With a full set of hot receivers in the 2012 season, Brady and company set an NFL record for most first downs in a regular season.
However, Brady is worse than 3/4 of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks at third and ten situations, or worse, at third and fifteen. Other teams don’t respect the play action on third and long -- the book says to rush three and drop eight into coverage. Nor do teams cover the deep ball. Brady can’t throw thirty yards with any degree of accuracy, and so no opponent’s defense double-covers deep. They simply blanket the area between 10 and 20 yards deep with defensive backs. Brady eventually throws the ball where his receivers have about a 25% to 50% of catching it, and then more times than not the defense comes gleefully off the field.
Mallett should be a high percentage choice on third and long situations. He can throw the ball 50 yards with accuracy. This means that safeties have to stay deep, which opens up the field between 10 and 20 yards downfield on most third and ten situations.
Whenever Brady takes a sack (not that often), play pretty much stops, which means that the Patriots’ hurry-up stops. It’s not that bad a time to bring in Mallett, especially on third and long. If Mallett gets the first down, he retains the option of sometimes running up to the line of scrimmage and hiking the ball quickly.
Any quarterback including Brady can get a bit gun-shy if he’s being slammed around. On rare occasions, giving Brady a blow after a rough pounding might do him a bit of good.
Jimmy G. has legs. He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. If the Patriots are up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and if everyone in the stadium expects the Pats to run the football, why pretend to pass? The play action won’t fool anyone. The Garopper can still occasionally drop back and set up in the pocket, but he always carries the risk of breaking containment and running for a five-yard gain. He can also roll out and make one cut if no one’s open and if a cutback lane opens. Like Tom Brady, Garoppolo has a lightning-fast release of the football for picking up 6 yards at a clip. He can hit occasional 30-yard passes better than Brady, but that’s not his game.
Naming the Backup:
Tom Brady is 37 years old and is on a pitch count to protect his shoulder. If BB has two good backup quarterbacks, perhaps he should hang on to both of them. Moreover, BB should consider using the backups sometimes to save Tom’s arm.
For game 1 in September, let Miami prepare equally for both backup quarterbacks. Why should Coach Belichick give valuable information, naming the backup, to an opponent’s coaching staff a week early so that they can practice for that quarterback? Why not let Miami be totally unprepared for this contingency?
BB has to designate his emergency quarterback just before game time. If the two backup quarterbacks are equal at this time, Garoppolo should be the third emergency quarterback. Under the rules, Garoppolo can still come in after the start of the fourth quarter, and that’s when he’d be most useful.