Stafford served well by pro-style offense

Tim Tebow is a better quarterback than Matthew Stafford.

 

That's the popular perspective of most who closely follow college football. It's hard to argue the assessment.

As Stafford struggled to make the leap from high school to college two years ago, Tebow helped Florida win a national championship. Last season, Tebow compiled offensive numbers Stafford could only dream of and became the first underclassman to win the Heisman Trophy.

There is, however, another prevailing opinion among the populace regarding which quarterback has a better chance to thrive in the professional ranks -- that Stafford is better equipped for the NFL than Tebow.

So, if Tebow is considered the top college quarterback in the country, shouldn't he stand the best chance to be the top quarterback picked when he enters the NFL Draft at the end of this season or 2009?

The answer? Because Tebow manages the full-blown spread offense, a system growing in popularity but if used exclusively would never work in the NFL's warp-speed playground.

Coaches who once swore against the spread, calling it gimmicky and a fad, have given in to its allure.

Even Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, who chastised Georgia coach Mark Richt for not running the ball enough in 2001, dumped his two-back attack late last season in favor of the spread.

"I think if you go back and look at it, it's hard to find a Matt Stafford at quarterback, a true drop back guy, because high schools are getting away from that," Tuberville said last week at SEC Media Days.

Most college teams, even some in the NFL, have offshoots of the spread. But of the 32 teams in the NFL, only the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints have a starter at quarterback who ran the spread offense exclusively in college.

There's no doubt that the spread offense works in college and high school. Until defenses catch up, it will continue to grow across the country.

But as Tuberville has pointed out, it's becoming more difficult finding the traditional, drop-back passer because of such growth, and that has the potential of leaving the NFL in a pinch in the next five to 10 years. It certainly could evolve into one of the dark ages of quarterback play. When guys like Brady, Roethlisberger and the Mannings are history, who will fill the voids?

Hard to say as long as high school and colleges keep producing more Tebows and less Staffords.

Reach John Kaltefleiter at john.kaltefleiter@morris.com.

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