SAN DIEGO -- With the proliferation of the spread offense, few college quarterbacks enter the NFL draft with a ton of experience operating under center.
That makes the evaluation of those quarterbacks’ skills -- and the transition from college to the NFL -- a tough one to predict. However, the San Diego Chargers appear to have an advantage in that area because they run so many of their plays from the shotgun formation.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers ran a league-low 27 pass attempts from under center in 2014. Quarterback Philip Rivers prefers to operate from the shotgun formation -- particularly when San Diego is running no-huddle -- because it gives him more time to read the defense and make changes during his pre-snap routine.
So it’s no wonder that as the Chargers search for a possible future replacement for Rivers, the franchise is focusing on quarterbacks with experience operating from the shotgun formation. Rivers is entering the final year of his contract, and he has indicated a willingness to play out the deal, with the potential to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Even if the sides get together and work out a contract extension, Rivers is 33. He might have a handful of good years left, but the Chargers have to develop a succession plan.
"It’s every position, not just the quarterback position," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said when asked about finding a replacement for Rivers. "You look at building depth on your entire roster, regardless of the position. It’s not just the quarterback.
"Obviously the quarterback is a very important part of what you do. But 365 days a year Tom [general manager Tom Telesco] and I and the rest of the staff are trying to improve the team. So whatever your role is, you’re always looking at those things."
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is reportedly scheduled for a pre-draft visit with the Chargers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Petty threw just five times from under center last season for the Bears.
Like Rivers, Petty also has pretty good deep-ball accuracy.
Petty led the Football Bowl Subdivision last season with 20 touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer, per ESPN Stats & Information. Of those, 13 were for 30 yards or longer. Only four other FBS quarterbacks even completed more than 13 such throws all season.
On April 15, the Chargers will work out another college quarterback known for operating from the shotgun -- Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Like Petty, Mariota ran Oregon’s spread-option attack predominantly from the shotgun.
In fact, Mariota never took a snap from under center while at Oregon. However, he has shown he can make plays from within the pocket, is coachable and could make the transition to a pro-style offense if given time to learn a new system. Mariota finished with an FBS-leading 90.9 total QBR in 2014, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Want further evidence San Diego can get production from a spread quarterback in the NFL? McCoy had success while serving as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos with another spread quarterback -- Tim Tebow.
The Broncos made the switch to Tebow as the starter during the 2011 season. McCoy adapted his offense to fit Tebow’s strengths as a runner, and the Broncos finished 7-4 in the final 11 games, earning a postseason bid and defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.
So the Chargers are doing their homework and thoroughly evaluating the quarterback position, with the possibility of selecting one in this year’s draft.