Petras or Padilla? It’s Not That Simple

The backup quarterback is often more attractive than the starter.  You are familiar with the starter…all of their plusses, but also all of their warts.  More humans than not are risk takers.

There was an old game show in the 1960’s and 1970’s called Let’s Make a Deal.  Audience members would have a chance to win prizes…they would be given a prize with a known value (bird in hand), and then they would have the opportunity to exchange that known quantity for what was behind unknown, mystery doors (bird in bush).

More often than not, contestants would choose to swap what they knew for what they didn’t.  (I am not talking about the Monty Hall Mathematical Problem here or the last game of the show..I am talking about early on in the show).

There is also the Gambler’s Folly…where if a coin is flipped 99 times and lands on heads 99 times in a row, what are the odds that it will come up heads again on the 100th flip?

I think about these things relative to the current discussion being waged amongst Iowa Hawkeyes fans…Petras or Padilla?

I think we have some known quantities here, first and foremost, that Iowa’s offensive line is challenged this year.  It is very inexperienced and while they will have their day, this season might not be it.  Here are the OL on the Iowa football roster, with those being freshman, RS freshmen or sophomores highlighted in yellow.

So whether it’s Alex Padilla or Spencer Petras, Iowa’s starting quarterback is going to be playing behind the same offensive line that has been inconsistent at best.   However, many will point out that given the previous condition as being a constant, does it perhaps make more sense to play Padilla, who is definitely more fleet of foot than Petras and seemingly throws better on the run than Petras, to maximize the opportunity for this season?  After all, Iowa can still finish the regular season 10-2 and in fact will likely be the betting favorite to do so?

I understand the assumptions here…but I am going to offer up some opinions that may underscore why this is not some no brainer decision.

First, even if I grant you that Padilla is more mobile and more mobility would likely be a benefit given the current challenges faced by the offensive line, can we be reasonably positive that all other things between Padilla and Petras will be equal?  Arm strength?  Leadership? Ball protection? Grasp of the offense?

We, as fans and pundits, do not have enough input data to draw an accurate conclusion.  Hence, we would be blindly choosing what is behind door #2 in lieu of the bird in hand…blindly choosing Alex Padilla over Spencer Petras, because Padilla has better mobility.  But there is more to it than just being mobile.

Second, IF the Iowa coaching staff does not make this move, and I don’t think that is the plan (barring injury) based off of Kirk Ferentz’s comments from his Tuesday press conference, do you think that provides some validation that all other things between Petras and Padilla are, in fact, not equal?

Because if all other things are anywhere near equal, then Ferentz should likely insert Padilla over Petras.  In not doing so, we are left with two logical conclusions:

  1. All other things are nowhere near equal
  2. Ferentz is choosing to play the quarterback that he believes gives him the best chance of winning.

There is one other thing to consider relative to option #1…in my opinion, Alex Padilla and Spencer Petras would need to be VERY, VERY close to one another in the minds of the coaches to make the move.  Why?  Because if Kirk makes the move to Padilla, and Petras is not hurt, that would very likely (in my opinion), lead to Petras’ eventual transfer from the program.

I strongly suspect that one of Petras, Padilla or Deuce Hogan will not be on Iowa’s opening day roster in 2022.  I have been saying that for months, but that doesn’t make me a soothsayer, it’s just the nature of the position and a more friendly transfer environment.

If the staff is convinced that the gap between Petras and Padilla is not significant, then it brings the calculated move to Padilla into play.  If the staff does not make this move, in my opinion, it tells me that the gap between Petras and Padilla is considerable…considerable enough to not risk losing Petras as next year’s de facto starter.  Yes, it could also add more chips to the bet that sees Padilla leaving the program, but if the gap is considerable, these are the types of things that the coaches are also weighing and balancing.

I don’t want to see anyone lead the program, but this is just the way that it is.  There is a lot that goes into the decision of who is going to start at quarterback (duh Jon) but it also involves a lot of factors and potential transfers go into the equation.  How can I say that with confidence?  Iowa went through this at the end of the 2014 with Jake Rudock and CJ Beathard.  At that time, the talent upside of Beathard was impossible for the coaching staff to let walk away, so they made the decision to punt on Rudock and install Beathard as the starter following the conclusion of the 2014 season, which included the first January two-deep release of the Ferentz era.

Could that happen again?  Sure.  But I’d like to believe that Kirk has learned from that…because I don’t think Beathard magically closed all of the gap between he and Rudock over the last month or two of the season…

If the gap between Petras and Padilla is not wide right now, then by all means, play the guy whose legs can cover a multitude (or even a few) of offensive line woes.   But given that this is not Kirk’s first rodeo with a situation like this, if #7 is Iowa’s starting quarterback the rest of the way, I fully believe that the gap between Petras and Padilla is wider than those calling for Padilla’s insertion into the starting lineup want to believe.

By the way, relative to the Gambler’s Folly example above, the answer is it’s the same 50/50 likelihood of coming up heads on flip #100 as it was on flips 1 through 99.

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