x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Switching quarterback the hardest call of all for NFL coaches

The bond between a head coach and his quarterback adds extra burden when a decision is made to drop the player.

Michael Vick is under pressure to hold onto his starting role with the Philadelphia Eagles after a poor start to the season. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP
Michael Vick is under pressure to hold onto his starting role with the Philadelphia Eagles after a poor start to the season. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP

Loyalty between a coach and his No 1 quarterback cuts both ways. It can imbue the player with confidence, easing pressure when unsatisfied fans clamour for the backup. It also can cause a coach to stick with his man too long.

In Philadelphia, Andy Reid maintains a special bond with Michael Vick. When the QB generated little interest around the league, on his release from prison, Reid was persuaded to give him a chance.

In New York, Rex Ryan has stayed with Mark Sanchez even as the sentiment to replace him with Tim Tebow is expressed by a dull roar.

No apparent personal attachment binds coach and QB, but Ryan has been in defensive mode regarding Sanchez almost entirely since the Jets reached too high to draft him, fifth, in 2009.

With their teams struggling, teams, Reid and Ryan must field questions daily about demotions.

Reid acknowledged the possibility before casting the only vote that matters for Vick, in part because of flimsy depth. The rookie Nick Foles has not taken a snap.

Tebow's log reads 54 plays, but only three passes. A remarkable stint with Denver renders him less risky than Foles, but Jets officials are loudly voicing their lack of trust in Tebow by restricting him largely to "wildcat" sets.

Of all the calls a coach makes, none is more agonising than whether to swap quarterbacks in a slump. In doing so, he must set aside loyalty, block out crowd noise and decide on the basis of what is best for the team.

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