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Evolution of the Dual-Threat QB

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When the word came out last week that the Arizona Cardinals were one of three teams interested in signing QB P.J. Walker, the nifty 5-11 dual-threat MVP of the XFL, it made a lot of sense. Walker thrived in the Houston Roughnecks’ spread offense under June Jones—-a system similar to Kliff Kingsbury’s.

Over the weekend there was some speculation amongst Bickley and Gambo and others that the Cardinals’ reported interest in P.J. Walker was designed to put pressure on Brett Hundley to re-sign with the club. Hmmm...

At the same time, the buzz of the NFL was Tom Brady’s decision to sign with Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is fascinating in the sense that Brady, after winning six Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots under the close watch of the fastidious Bill Belichick, is now, at age 42, starting a new chapter of his brilliant NFL career under the watch of the swashbuckling Arians, who is, for all intents and purposes, the anti-Bellichick.

Fascinating too that Brady ensured the inclusion of a clause that said the Bucs cannot place the franchise tag on him in 2022, after his 2 year deal is over. George Blanda move over!

It has been an awkward couple of weeks for Belichick—-first in losing out to the Cardinals in trying to trade for WR DeAndre Hopkins (per reports Belichick offered the Pats’ 1st round pick, #23), but was shunned by Bill O’Brien perhaps very much in the way Belichick shunned O’Brien by barely shaking his hand while jogging past him after the Texans beat the Patriots 28-22 back in early December.

Secondly, although it is evident that Belichick and Brady had a falling out over the past few months stemming back to a press conference months ago where Brady shunned “The Patriots’ Way” in order to promote his own brand “The TB12 Method”...for Belichick it must feel more than a little nettling to see Brady land in the arms of the pompous Bruce Arians, who gloated so effusively about the Chandler Jones trade so much so that after the Patriots beat the Cardinals 23-21 in game one of the 2016 season (with Jimmy Garopollo subbing in for the suspended Brady), when Belichick was asked how it felt to beat a Super Bowl contender on the road with their QB2 to start the season, Belichick quipped, “at least they say they are.”

Usually when Belichick feels a little incensed about another organization, he does what he’s best at—-he finds a spot where the opponent is a little vulnerable and tries to exploit it. Thus, I was wondering over the weekend whether Belichick would make a play to sign QB Brett Hundley away from the Cardinals, knowing the Cardinals very much wanted Hundley back.

Normally, Hundley to the Patriots might seem like a head-scratcher—-but—-what some people have yet to realize is that the post-Brady Patriots want to follow the recent trend of investing in mobile, dual-threat QBs.

This is one of the reasons why Belichick and Josh McDaniels are enamored with 2nd year QB Jarrett Stidham. Not only does Stidham posses an above average NFL arm, he has good mobility, similar in some respects to the kind of mobility Patrick Mahomes exhibits. Thus, adding Brett Hundley to compete with Stidham, felt like a good match because they are the same size 6-3, 220 and Hundley is a touch faster.

What’s fascinating is to go back and look at how ESPN ranked the “dual-threat QBs” coming out of high school.

Going back to 2011, check these ESPN dual-threat QB rankings (with hometowns and college signings):

  1. Jeff Driskel, Oviedo, FL—-Florida

4. Braxton Miller, Hunter Heights, OH—-Ohio St.

6. Brett Hundley, Chandler, AZ—-UCLA

9. Teddy Bridgewater, Miami, FL—-Lousiville

25. Jacoby Brissett, Palm Beach Gadens, FL—-Florida (later transferred to N.C. St.)

33. Cardale Jones, Cleveland, OH—-Ohio St.

39. Johnny Manziel, Kerryville, TX—-Texas A&M

41. Dak Prescott, Haughton, LA—-Mississippi St.

80. Michael Bercovici, Woodland Hills, CA—-Arizona St. (thought you’d like to see this!)

Think of how this high school class of QBs impacted college football and the integration of dual-threat QBs into the NFL.

By comparison, if you go back to Russell Wilson’s high school senior year of 2006, Wilson was just a 2 star recruit, not even ranked among the top high school QBs—-so let’s give credit where credit is due—-Russell Wilson was the trailblazer for dual-threat QBs (even diminutive ones) to make their mark in the NFL. Wilson was, in some many ways, the ultimate outlier.

By the way—-just as an FYI—-in 2013 Chris Streveler of Woodstock, IL, was ranked the #39 dual-threat QB and was signed by the University of Minnesota.

Check out 2014:

  1. Deshaun Watson, Gainesville, FL—-Clemson

16. DeShone Kizer, Toldeo, OH—-Notre Dame

22. Patrick Mahomes, Whitehouse, TX—-Texas Tech

And best of all—-check out 2015:

  1. Kyler Murray, Allen, TX—-Texas A&M (transferred to Oklahoma after year 1)
  2. Jarrett Stidham, Stephenville, TX—-Baylor (tranferred to Auburn after the sex abuse scandal)

9. Joe Burrow, Atlen, OH—-Ohio St. (transferred to LSU after year 2)

17. Lamar Jackson, Boynton Beach, FL—-Louisville

To show how in vogue dual-threat QBs have become, 3 of these 4 players have won Heisman Trophies and 3 of them are 1st round picks (and Murray might be joined by Burrow as a #1 pick).

Facts—-(1) the only Heisman Trophy winner over the past 10 years who wasn’t a dual-threat QB is RB Derrick Henry (Alabama, 2015): from 2010 to 2019: Newton, Griffin, Manziel, Winston, Mariota, Jackson, Mayfield, Murray, Burrow. (2) 4 of the last 6 NFL MVPs—-Newton, Rodgers, Mahomes, Jackson (Wilson has been runner-up in 3 of those years).

So—-yeah—-even though I am talking about a backup QB in Brett Hundley, I was worried that Bill Belichick was going to make him an offer he would find difficult to refuse. Knowing that the Patriots are up against the cap, I figured Belichick would offer Hundley something like a $2M base contract with up to $2-3M in incentives, with the assurance that he could compete with Jarrett Stidham for the starting job.

Well, just a couple of hours after the word came in last evening that Brett Hundley had agreed to re-sign with the Cardinals, the Patriots announced that they had signed Brian Hoyer (who was released over the weekend by the Colts, the very Colts who are hanging on to Jacoby Brissett at $15M, despite signing Philip Rivers at $25M) to a one year contract with a base salary of $1M, but with incentives of up to $2.5M—-and—-get this—-with the assurance that he can compete with Jarrett Stidham for the starting job.

While Hoyer is not nearly the athlete Brett Hundley is, this is his 3rd stint with Patriots and he is innately familiar with Josh McDaniels’ offense.

But—-stay tuned—-with only $1M to lose if they go in a different direction, it will be interesting to see whether the Patriots make a play in the 1st round for Jordan Love, 6-4, 225, Utah St. who curiously enough, compares in a number of ways to Brett Hundley.

While Bickley and Gambo were likely spot-on about the Cardinals putting the pressure on Hundley to re-sign by making known their interest in P.J. Walker (5-11, 216, Temple), the word is that today the Cardinals are still going to try to sign Walker. The Broncos and Seahawks have also expressed interest in signing the XFL MVP—-who spent two years on the Colts’ practice squad behind Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett.

With practice squad rosters expanding from 10 to 12, many teams will want to keep a QB3 on the practice squad—-as the Cardinals did last year with Kyle Sloter and then Drew Anderson, after Sloter was hoovered late in the year by the Lions.

The evolution of dual threat QBs in the NFL—-has become so much in vogue that old school defensive minded head coaches like Bill Belichick and Vic Faggio are becoming fans of the trendy RPO (run, pass option) and jumping on the wagon.

The RPO is largely becoming the standard “pick and roll” of the NFL.