Trent Edwards' relative inexperience, questions along the line and the need to generate scoring punch prompted the Buffalo Bills to implement a no-huddle offense this offseason. While they installed the scheme mainly to draw favorable matchups once defensive personnel packages are unveiled, the Bills also did it to make life a little easier for Edwards.
The Bills, like many teams, are tweaking schemes, play-calling and playbooks to maximize what their quarterbacks do well and minimize the Matrix-like complexities of playing the position in the NFL. The Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, all of whom have established all-stars under center, might not change much of what they have successfully done for years, but in this era of expanding offenses and perpetually changing head coaches, tailor-designing systems to the quarterback's skills, experience and talent is a must.
Rarely do coaches force quarterbacks into schemes for the scheme's sake anymore. The Denver Broncos are changing to a more short-to-intermediate-route passing game because of first-year coach Josh McDaniels' system but also to be more compatible with new quarterback Kyle Orton's good, but not great, arm strength. The Chicago Bears are incorporating a more vertical passing game to take advantage of Jay Cutler's bazooka of a right arm that he brought from Denver.
The New York Jets and Detroit Lions could limit their playbook as to not overwhelm rookies Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford. The Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens did it last year with then-rookies Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. The Jets even did it with future Hall of Famer Brett Favre, scaling their playbook way back, then expanding it some as the 2008 season evolved.
Now Favre is with the Minnesota Vikings, who might expand the playbook they had in place for Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. That's because Favre played in a similar scheme for years under current Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell when he was with the Green Bay Packers.
"It depends on what talent you have available," former NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde said. "The Miami Dolphins, a reason why they went to this Wildcat offense is because they lacked talent at certain positions, so they made up for it by doing something different, making teams prepare for one extra thing so they have a chance at being successful."
Coaches know their team stands little chance of winning if the quarterback doesn't play well. That's why they do what they can to give their signal-callers every opportunity to succeed.
The rebuilding Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to ease the burden not only on first-round draft pick Josh Freeman but all of their inconsistent quarterbacks. They're building a run-based system to take advantage of their strong offensive line and their running backs. They don't want their quarterbacks to do too much.
Panthers coach John Fox holds true and blue to a run-first philosophy and doesn't want to put too much on quarterback Jake Delhomme. The Falcons base things off their running game to make things as simple as possible for Ryan. This season, with Ryan being much more adept with the system and the addition of veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has re-drawn parts of Atlanta's playbook and installed some things that he kept shelved last season because of his quarterback's inexperience.
"It isn't just the quarterback position. It's the coordinators and how they handle those young men," former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said. "Joe Flacco going to Baltimore, great defense. Matt Ryan going to Atlanta, that situation turned out great because of the acquisition of a running back (Michael Turner). You can't just look at the individual, and I've always said this: I don't care whether you're a 15-year vet or a five-month vet. As a quarterback, it's going to depend on the people around you as to how successful you're going to be."
First-year St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer know their offense is a major work in progress, with holes on the line and at wide receiver. So to help injury-prone Mark Bulger, St. Louis is switching to a West Coast passing game that allows the quarterback to immediately get the ball out of his hands. In fact, most offenses now -- at least in the passing game -- are predicated on getting rid of the ball right away. Defenses have become overly aggressive and athletic, making quarterbacks more prone to a pounding -- something few teams can afford.
The tutoring that quarterbacks received in college and the schemes in which they played also have made NFL coaches reconsider how they design their offenses and acquire personnel. While Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman played in pro-style systems in college, more and more quarterbacks who are, and will be, coming to the NFL have been groomed in spread offenses. And while mobile passers were in vogue just a few years ago, players such as Miami's Pat White now are being cast in more Wildcat-style roles, where they play other positions besides quarterback.
Finding the right quarterback, helping him transition to the NFL or into a certain system, surrounding him with the right personnel and figuring out how to get the most out of him is complex. Yet if a team finds a quarterback with the tools to make the throws, the acumen to assess situations and the work ethic to always improve, they tend to be able to handle most anything.
"You always hope to find a guy that fits your system (but) sometimes, as a coach, you adjust," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Regardless of what you do, he has to have a quick release, the ability to quickly process information and deliver. When you set your plays and offensively game plan, you practice a handful of concepts. How do they fit your quarterback? Do they fit your quarterback?"
"Our guy here (Drew Brees) handles everything extremely well, mainly because he's intelligent, he works harder than just about anybody and he's very athletic. He's a guy who took just 13 sacks last season. The ball is going to come out of his hand, and it's going to come out in the right spot. That's the type of guy you want."