Analyzing Purdue's Multi-QB Approach: The Sample Size is Growing

A reader pointed out in a comment that the multiple QBs limit the guys from becoming a strong #1 because they're never really in their a whole game and thus it takes longer to get into a rhythm as a starter -- if it ever happens.

This got me to thinking, especially given everyone's seemingly near-unanimous dislike of this approach... what's the evidence to support it? Either, to support the system working, or to support the dislike from those who hate it to vociferously?

Let's hit the wayback machine.

At the start of the 2011 season, it was clear that TerBush was the starter. Rob Henry was injured and Robert Marve was still recovering from his second ACL injury. However, there was a growing faction of us who were very eager to see Marve get on the field. Danny Hope told us that he would play and that both QBs would see action. I think it's fair to say that we felt this was reasonable, given that Marve was still recovering and TerBush hadn't yet had a lot of time to demonstrate what he was capable of.

Then we began to accept that Caleb was who he was. As the season progressed, the group wanting to see Marve get a few complete games grew, the coaching staff dug in their heels, and the multi-headed QB monster continued to grow, leading us to where we are now.

So how has it worked? Well, would you believe there is now a solid, full season's worth of games from which to choose? That's right, between 2011 and 2012, the Boilers have played 12 games with the QB merry-go-round operating. And, wouldn't you know it! In those dozen games, Purdue is....6-6. 

The wins were over: SEMO, Minnesota, OSU, IU and Western Michigan in 2011, and EKU in 2012.

The losses were to Notre Dame (both years), PSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

Could stability have made a difference in any of the six losses? It's obviously impossible to know, but I might argue that, last year, in the PSU loss (23-18) and the Iowa loss (31-21), I would have liked seeing what Marve could have done with a full game's worth of responsibility. I also think it might have been interesting to see him play the whole ND last year as well as this year. Last year, he was still recovering and it was only his second game back, so let's scratch that one. But this year, I think almost anyone who watched the game will agree that the Purdue offense simply looked more potent with Robert under center.

Let's say that even two of those three losses mentioned were wins as a result of a better and more consistent QB approach (remember Marve desperately trying to score against Iowa and fumbling off the pylon? Maybe that doesn't happen if he knows he's not about to get yanked if they don't score). Suddenly, Purdue is 8-4 in their last twelve instead of 6-6. It's a subtle difference and, as I said, one can never know about the path not taken (unless you're watching Sliding Doors, one of Boilerdowd's favorite flicks), but I do feel fairly comfortable saying that Purdue hasn't won any games as a result of Caleb TerBush's steady hand that Robert Marve could not have won.  

What does all this tell us? Perhaps it tells us that even with a lack of stability at the QB position, Purdue is talented enough to beat marginal to bad teams. One might argue, though, that the mediocrity could just be what Purdue is under Danny Hope, and that could be true... but does 6-6 with losses to petty much any decent team they face (and Iowa) suggest that they've got some kind of advantage by playing two (or three) QBs? It sure doesn't suggest that to me.

In my opinion, this goes into the growing evidence that says that this team is talented enough in several areas to compete with nearly anybody on the schedule, but that the musical chairs under center is going to continue to be an obstacle, not a weapon.

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