Labeling a quarterback as “a game manager” is a lot like being asked about someone’s looks and replying that they have a great personality.
There’s nothing wrong with having a great personality. We could all use one. But it isn’t always enough to get the job done by itself.
Such is also the case for a game manager at quarterback.
Game managers have to rely on others to make plays while they distribute the football. They get the calls in, relay the necessary information to the rest of the offense, and then they try not to screw it up once the ball is snapped.
The ceiling for a team being led by a “game manager” is usually pretty limited, unless it is combined with a tremendous defense. But even in today’s college football, the best defenses are still going to give up points. Eventually, a game manager needs to become more.
That’s the exact situation staring Ohio State in the face right now with three quarterbacks who have never thrown a pass in a college game before. CJ Stroud, Jack Miller, and Kyle McCord got a crash course in Ryan Day’s passing game this spring, but things are still in their infancy. And before you can ask a quarterback to win games, you have to make sure they won’t lose ’em.
“I think that first off when you’re just starting and you’re learning to play the position, you can’t do anything out of the ordinary,” Day said this spring. “You can’t try to do things other than make the routine plays routinely. Why? Because you have a really good offensive line, really good tight end, you have really good receivers, you have solid backs. So in that moment, you don’t need to do anything more than just make the routine plays routinely.”
Having the basic decision making down is a requirement for any quarterback. At Ohio State, and now especially under Day, the expectations are much higher than just a quarterback who can manage the basics. Yes, Day is working with inexperienced quarterbacks right now, but eventually the game managing will need to give way to play making.
“It’s our job as coaches to put them in a situation to be successful and to show the best version of them. But somewhere along the line, when the game’s coming down to the fourth quarter, we are going to have to make plays,” Day said. “It comes down to not just managing the game, that’s a big part of it, but if you want to go win the tough games and the tight games in the fourth quarter, you’re gonna have to make plays in a two-minute drill, throw really well in the red zone, and you’ve got to convert on third down.”
There will be growing pains for Stroud, Miller, and McCord, but fortunately for them they will be permitted to grow while distributing the football to what is arguably the greatest collection of skill talent in Ohio State history.
The Buckeyes will trot out a pair of first-round wide receivers in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson this season as they lead a receiver room that is at least seven deep. That’s not even to mention tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who has as much promise as any OSU tight end in school history. Then there’s a running back room that goes six deep. And it all starts up front with an offensive line that is expected to once again be one of the best in the nation.
And even despite all of that, whoever ends up earning the starting quarterback job at Ohio State is eventually going to have to win some games for the Buckeyes — and it will take more than just a nice personality.
“We’re hoping early on that with the talent that’s around the quarterback that if he can just kind of keep the offense moving and get the ball to the right skill players’ hands and keep the chains moving, that that’s a great start,” Day said. “But eventually, somewhere along the line, they’re gonna have to step up and win games for us. But that’s all part of the process.”