Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reminded of the Zow-Watts Debate

Unless you don't know much about recent Crimson Tide football history, the title of this post might make you think I'm about to discuss politics.

I'm not. This post is about college football. 

Alabama starts the season in a neutral-site opener against West Virginia on the 30th, and Coach Saban has not settled on a starting quarterback. In fact, the team might not have a definitive starter for the first few games, possibly figuring out the starter by the Florida game in Tuscaloosa. 

The QB battle is between senior Blake Sims and recently-transferred-from-FSU Jacob Coker. 

When I was at school at the Capstone, a debate among fans raged about who the starting quarterback should be. The candidates were these two guys.

Andrew Zow

Tyler Watts

As you can see, one guy is African American, and the other guy is white. 

As you would imagine, in the Deep South, I'm sure there were Lazy-Boy pundits who opined about who should start, sometimes using strange reasoning for support. 

The darkly humorous part of the Zow-Watts debate was that their skill sets went against the racist racially normalized predispositions people have when they talk about QBs. Zow was the slower, pocket passer with a heck of an arm. In contrast, Watts didn't have as great of an arm and was more of dual-threat QB.  

As the seasons played out, Zow was a QB, who when he got hot, was phenomenal. When he wasn't on, he was incoherent. Very streaky. From what I recall, Watts was a steadier QB but rarely reached spectacular levels. Eventually Zow was relegated to the bench after Mike Dubose met his deserved demise and Watts took over to direct Franchione's gimmicky partial-option offense.  

Let's check out their stats though. Let's get data-driven. Watts did not play in 1998, and Zow didn't play in 2002. 

Zow 1998: 11 games, 143 completions, 256 attempts, 55.9 completion%, 1969 yards, 7.7 yards ave., 11 TDs, 7 Ints, 129.2 QB rating

Zow: 11 games, 148 completions, 264 attempts, 56.1 completion%, 1799 yards, 6.8 yards ave., 12 TDs, 9 Ints, 129.5 QB rating
Watts: 9 games, 47 completions, 83 attempts, 56.6 completion%, 498 yards, 6.0 yards ave., 2 TDs, 5 Ints, 102.9 QB rating

Zow: 10 games, 120 completions, 249 attempts, 48.2 completion%, 1561 yards, 6.3 yards ave., 6 TDs, 14 Ints, 97.6 QB rating
Watts: 6 games, 31 completions, 51 attempts, 55.4 completion%, 303 yards, 5.4 yards ave., 1 TD, 1 Int, 103.1 QB Rating

Zow: 6 games, 48 completions, 83 attempts, 57.8 completion%, 654 yards, 7.9 yards ave., 6 TDs, 2 Ints, 143.1 QB Rating
Watts: 9 games, 94 completions, 172 attempts, 54.7 completion%, 1325 yards, 7.7 yards ave., 10 TDs, 3 Ints, 135.1 QB Rating

Watts 2002: 11 games, 112 completions, 181 attempts, 61.9 completion%, 1414 yards, 7.8 yards ave., 7 TDs, 4 Ints, 135.8 QB Rating

Because of the offense used during the Franchione regime, Watts had a ton of rushing yards gained: 564 yards in 2000 with 5 TDs and 356 yards in 2001 with 3 TDs.  

If you remember, 1999 was the year the Tide saved Dubose's job by winning an overtime thriller in "The Swamp" and then beat the Florida Gators again in the SEC Championship. 

2000 was easily one of the worst seasons of Alabama football history. If I remember right, the Tide won 3 games, and I have the privilege of seeing one of them when Alabama beat a mediocre South Carolina squad coached by blubbering Lou Holtz. 

Looking at all of this, both guys have pretty evenly matched careers with Watts possibly having a better career because the offense that was implemented in 2001 was more suited to his brand of athleticism. Yet when Zow did play, which might have been mop-up duty (I can't remember exactly), he did well, showing the highest QB rating of any of those years. 

Looking toward this season, we have another QB battle in Tuscaloosa. In contrast to the Zow-Watts (in)decision, we have these candidates.

Blake Sims

Jacob Coker

From the sound of it from fall camp so far, neither candidate has won the job. I expect Coach Saban to play both early on. 

Sims has turned himself into more of a passer by improving his throwing motion after working with a QB guru who has helped some players who are now in the NFL. Coker is prototypical pro-style quarterback with supposedly an NFL-quality arm. 

If I were a betting man, I don't know who I'd put my money on. But I'm pretty confident Saban will not rotate quarterbacks all season. Someone needs to lock down the job by the Florida game. 

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