When is it time to make a change?

It is early in the season, and in the first quarter your quarterback is struggling.


Not just a little bit, but looking like he’s never played the game before. A hard worker, good kid and all, but geez, he just doesn’t seem to have it in this one.
How long does the coach wait before replacing him? Or does he not replace him at all?
While there are several possible scenarios, it still comes down to this:.

Is the struggling starter still better than his replacement would be?
As in no other sport where so much responsibility for his team’s success rides on one player, football coaches are hesitant once they are committed to their quarterback to remove him from the game short of serious injury.

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They speak of the importance of timing and rhythm and stability and establishing confidence among teammates, and with good reason, but would all that be jeopardinzed by a momentary substitution to perhaps initiate a change of pace, and with the probable intent of the starter returning to his original spot in the next game?

This is not meant to criticize, or pass judgment, at least for now.

Just asking …

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  • apprentice

    Hey Roger,

    This situation came up in a game last week. Coach took out the starting QB at halftime in order to “spark” the offense. Team came back to win, though the backup quarterback never attempted a pass.

    My question to you. Given that these are still preseason games, what is the true harm to see how the backup handles real game situations, especially if the first string guy is a first year starter himself and might not have that much game experience?

    By the way, how do you enjoy blogging world?

  • Del Rio Alum

    I think there are many things you have to keep in mind when making this decision. One of the biggest points, and as you brought up, how much better is the starter? For example last year el rancho had both toscano and perea to look to, and both were pretty good qb’s aswell, so the descision wouldn’t be as difficult as if you had your starting qb, and a guy that can just throw the ball far. Also, how long has this guy been the starter? If your star qb just graduated, and its between the old backup and the jv starter, I would be more likely to put in the other guy than if this was an established, multi-year/returning starter.

    I feel that if there has been a good battle between the two since spring ball, you might aswell give the other one a shot. Maybe the second guy will be able to step up to the plate and is more of a gamer. Yes they had a scrimmage game to prove themselves, but it is still a different setting than an actual game,especially because now the qb can be hit. Another thing to keep in mind, do you have a running game to fall back onto? yes you still need to be able to pass on 3rd and 15, but you will be less likely to weigh your options if you are a run based team.

    That being said, here is what I would do. I would feel it out into the second. If he is still playing that badly and it is his fault (no blocking, or dropped balls is a different issue), and as a result the team is facing a large deficit (like a 25+ pt spread) not because the defense isn’t getting the job done (although it can be a large part of the issue), but because the offense cannot punch it in due to lacking in the pocket, then i would make the change at the half or early into hte third. If it is still a close game, I would leave him in and see if he can deal with the pressure of mounting a successful comeback, the scrutiny of other teammates and crowd, and simply overcome what is holding them back and make something happen. Since it is still preseason, the record does not matter as much, so if it was a bad decision you live and you learn. afterall, if the other qb wasn’t any better or even worse, you can always switch em back. And who knows, maybe you will end up having a system that can rotate qb’s given the situation.

    apprentice–To answer your question i would say one of the biggest downsides to doing this is it can really change the relationship between the qb and the coach, especially when it comes to trust. From my experiences, many times the quarterbacks will have a large ego and be big primadonna crybabies, and all they will do is sulk on the sidelines. This can not only bring a team down, but also make the player have a “screw the coach” attitude very easily turning it into a TO type situation. Also, some teams might see a preseason loss as an unfortunate event, but its not the end of the world. A team like Santa Fe or La Habra afew years ago, having that winless streak is notonly important to overall program prestige, but more importantly player moral.

  • murray

    Yo, Del Rio Alum:
    That’s a lot of stuff for a coach to consider in a very short time. I realize he probably already has decided what he’ll do and under what circumstances, and when the situation fits the equation, hewillmake his move. Still, I think a gut feeling also figures heavily in the scenario. And sometimes that makes all the cerebral aspects of it moot.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • murray

    apprentice: The preseason, or preleague games are the perfect time to make such a move, but some coaches get caught up in the moment and the potential for winning becomes paramount.
    As for the blogging world, it is … interesting.
    Thanks for asking, and commenting.