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NFL Could Try Teaching Its Quarterbacks

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I mean, it's worth a shot.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Senator Blutarsky has linked to a couple of pieces since the NFL Draft began about the pro league being worried about its dwindling quarterback supply. There has never been enough good quarterbacks for every team to have one, of course, but the current set is aging:

It's no secret that the spread offense has left NFL teams leery of college quarterbacks and clinging to their aging pocket passers. The average age of the top 10 quarterbacks last season, as measured by Total QBR, was 33. The 2013 and 2015 classes will do little to alleviate that imbalance, and the 2014 class -- which includes Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr -- can't yet be counted on for salvation.

And the replacements aren't inspiring:

"The college game is killing us," one NFL general manger said. "Not just the quarterbacks, but it makes it tough to evaluate all the positions. But it's really true with the quarterbacks."

This kind of complaining sounded awfully familiar to me. It took a couple days of ruminating on it, but then it finally came back to me:

Shortly after Tyler Wilson arrived at Arkansas, coach Bobby Petrino asked him to line up in a pro-style formation, take a snap and drop back. He struggled to carry out those simple steps.

That's because Wilson had worked exclusively out of the shotgun since the eighth grade.

"At times, it's been frustrating to coach him because it's all brand new to him," Petrino said of his second-string quarterback. "It's not something he's done for five or six years. It takes him a little longer to get adjusted to it. ... But I wish [high school coaches] would make [their quarterbacks] take at least 40 percent of the snaps from underneath center."

Bobby Petrino complained on a number of occasions while in Fayetteville that it was getting harder to find good high school quarterbacks who took under center snaps and knew something other than spread offenses. He'd often use Wilson as an easy go-to example since he was a Razorback.

But you know what happened? Petrino trained Wilson to take under center snaps. He taught Wilson how to run his offense. Maybe Petrino had to do more of the basics than he'd like, but he did it. The best part: it worked! In Petrino's final year, Wilson quarterbacked the team to 11 wins. Despite the grousing, Petrino was able to teach the game well enough to Wilson to have tremendous success.

I don't buy the theory that says the NFL must inevitably embrace a future where teams have no choice but to run spread option-style offenses and simply keep several quarterbacks on hand to deal with all the inevitable injuries. That vision never has to come to fruition.

Instead, NFL coaching staffs can do what they feel like they shouldn't have to do and really teach basics of the game better. Petrino thought he shouldn't have to teach a quarterback how to take under center snaps, but even that legendary grump got over it and did it with success.

It's obvious that what qualifies as a quarterback the NFL is looking for has already changed a lot in recent years. Pete Prisco, who is notoriously dismissive of anything that isn't The Way the NFL Has Always Done It, cited Jared Goff of Cal and Cardale Jones of Ohio State as "pocket" (scare quotes his) passers that are suited to the NFL. Imagine telling someone even just five years ago in 2010 that two of the top guys in the NFL's preferred mold are a pure Air Raid guy and one of Urban Meyer's quarterbacks. We've already come a long way.

If these pro teams don't deign to better teach fundamentals to their quarterback prospects, then they have only two options. One is that future of rotating, almost disposable quarterbacks. The other, as the Senator has pointed out on multiple occasions, is to quit using college football as a developmental circuit and shell out the money to set up a proper minor league.

Let's see: teach better fundamentals, give up on traditional passers, or spend gobs of additional money. Man. Tough choice.