Name Game

Don't call Colt Brennan a `system quarterback'

Dec. 14, 2007

By Adam Caparell



Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
E-mail here!

Colt Brennan's got a chip on his shoulder bigger than Diamond Head because the record-breaking Hawai'i signal caller is sick and tired of being labeled a system quarterback. And he'd like to set the record straight, once and for all.


"It gets under your skin to a certain point. You've got to turn the film on," Brennan said. "These college analysts, isn't it their job to know the difference between a system quarterback and a great quarterback? They keep comparing me to guys who aren't even close. It's frustrating."


The knock on Brennan is that June Jones' run and shoot offense, the highest scoring offense in the nation, is the only reason Brennan has put up the kind of numbers he has over his three years with the Warriors.




This year alone, Brennan threw for 4,174 yards and 38 touchdowns and has one more game left to add to the 124 Hawai'i, WAC and NCAA records he already owns. But those numbers aren't just simply a product of the run and shoot, the NFL-style offense that has seen Brennan throw 50 or more passes in a game four times this season.


No, the real reason Brennan puts up the numbers he puts up is that he's a pretty good quarterback, with a good arm, mobility, plenty of opportunities to throw the ball and a cast of teammates who make him look good.


"It's not just me. It's my O-line, my receivers, what we've accomplished as an offense overall," Brennan said. "There's no system about it. You can see that when plays break down. You can see that in the kind of success we've had. It's a one-of-a-kind thing that no one's ever done before. We should be given credit for what we've done, not be cut down."


But plenty are skeptical. After all, this is Hawai'i we're talking about here, home of Timmy Chang, the Warriors quarterback under Jones from 2000-04 when he broke NCAA records for career completions, attempts and yards passing. Then came along Brennan in 2005 and he quickly began assaulting defenses with his arm. The gaudy stats soon followed.


Chang can be found playing in the CFL these days, a far cry from the NFL, much less the beaches of Honolulu. And it's the stigma of Chang not playing professionally in the States that undoubtedly, for some, casts a shadow on Hawai'i and Brennan.


But Brennan's going to find himself playing on Sundays at some point in the next few years. More than four and a half months removed from the NFL Draft, he's already projected to go anywhere from the late first round to the second round.


And in part because of his pro prospects, the success he's enjoyed with him at quarterback and plenty of bias, Jones felt the need to stick up for Brennan once the regular season came to a close.


Jones took heat a week before the Heisman Trophy presentation when he called Florida's Tim Tebow a "system quarterback" while at the same time defending Brennan as much more than a "system quarterback."


Running Urban Meyer's spread offense, Tebow became the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in a single season, and subsequently became the first sophomore to win the Heisman. Tebow, just like Brennan -- who came in third in the Heisman voting -- isn't a system quarterback.


"I've got an opinion when you talk about the spread and I've heard the word system, I've heard it all," Meyer said. "I've got news. That's got nothing to do with Heisman Trophies and great offenses. Personnel is all that matters."


And in the college game, they don't come more versatile than Tebow. With Tebow's rifle arm, big, bulking body and ability to run the ball, or pound it away, Meyer has tailored his offense to suit his quarterback's abilities. Coupled with the fact that Florida struggled all season to find any semblance of a running game from someone not named Tebow, it's pretty easy to see why he put up the numbers he did.


"What other offense can Tim Tebow throw for 20 and run for 20? I don't know," Brennan said.


There isn't any. And just like Arkansas wants Darren McFadden to touch the ball as much as possible, why wouldn't Meyer want Tebow to throw it or run it as often has he can? Why wouldn't Jones want Brennan to throw it 50 times a game when he completed 71 percent of his passes and could very well have the most underrated receiving corps in the country? Smart coaches put the ball in the hands of their best players every chance they get.


"It's frustrating. It feels like people don't sit down and watch college football sometimes," Brennan said. "It feels like they just look at a stat sheet and judge you."


And those are precisely the people calling Brennan a system quarterback. He, on the other hand, has a title he'd rather see used.


"I'm a football player is what I am," Brennan said. "Last year I didn't have one run play called for me and I had 400 yards on the ground [actually 366] and this year on a bum ankle I had eight rushing touchdowns. Those weren't called for me. There was no play calling. That's just ad-lib, have fun, go out there and do it. And that's exactly what we've done this year."


So don't call him a system quarterback, call him a football player. And there aren't very many who played the game better this year than Brennan. He's got a boatload of records, the only undefeated team in the nation and a BCS game coming up in a few short weeks. System quarterbacks don't do that.