Entering his senior year as the starting quarterback for Boston College, Chase Rettig’s style of play may be slowly fading away.
Rettig is known as a pocket-passer quarterback—a quarterback who stays inside the area created behind the wall of the offensive linemen at the snap. When the pocket collapses, Rettig has three options: throw the ball, scramble out of the pocket, or take the sack. While we scream and cringe at a sack, incomplete pass, interception, or fumble, it is that breathless few seconds after the snap that creates the churning butterflies in anticipation of a big offensive play.
Football is now starting to adapt to a new style of offensive where the quarterback doesn’t only have to possess a cannon-like arm, but a Firestone set of legs. (Or, so we think.)
If you look at the past two Heisman Trophy winners, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, both were great passers, but extremely good at running the ball as well. RGIII rushed for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns while Manziel rushed for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. In passing, RGIII passed for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns while Manziel passed for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns.
This ability to pass and run is not solely relegated to the top player of the year, but many college quarterbacks in the nation. And, the bug has started shifting to the NFL. Everyone paid attention to the explosion of Colin Kaepernick under the read option, but RGIII, Russell Wilson, and maybe even Andrew Luck are ushering in a new era-- one in which our view of a quarterback no longer includes Joe Namath's archaic prevalence or Joe Montana's fluid arm--but an era defined by a player's ability to throw like Brady and run like Emmitt Smith Lite.
However, while the numbers display unprecedented results, the most efficient quarterbacks are not those who are mobile. If you take a look at the quarterbacks with the highest ratings, it is those quarterbacks who stay in the pocket, drop back, and sling the ball to a receiver to move the offense downfield. AJ McCarron may not have won the Heisman, but he had the highest passer rating in the NCAA and won a national championship. Manziel ranked 15th in passer rating.
It isn’t how agile a quarterback can be that determines how great they are, but their awareness and ability to read the defense. While RGIII was agile, his ability to pick-pocket a defense was so meticulous, one would have thought he would never make a mistake. This ability is what separates the good from the great. The great quarterbacks weren’t those who ran for touchdowns, but passed for touchdowns.
The rise of mobile quarterbacks yields entertaining results, but it is the pocket-passer who ultimately ends the season on top. It is those who can do both that separate the prototypical quarterback from the new breed quarterback.
As a fan, the crowd’s reaction to a quarterback breaking out to run is one of encouragement and fear. A yelling of ‘Come on!’ leads into a mutter of ‘Don’t fumble…’
I can recall when BC faced FSU in the only night game of the season in 2011 when backup quarterback Josh Bordner dashed 25 yards on his first snap and the crowd erupted in excitement, even though BC was getting crushed by FSU. Fans came back to reality as Bordner botched the handoff a few plays later, and Rettig came back in the game and completed a touchdown pass to Bobby Swigert as the only score that night for BC.
What was an entertaining part of the game the second quarter almost turned into calamity had Bordner’s botch become a turnover leading to a touchdown. Alumni would have been up-in-arms for allowing Bordner to run too much.
This new breed of quarterbacks is great for the sport. It provides excitement and interest, but the end result is still the same. The pocket passer succeeds and is here to stay no matter how good mobile quarterbacks can get. Rettig’s play is the best way for the Addazio era to get on the right foot--or arm, I should say.
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