Recently we have seen teams around the NFL implement gadget quarterbacks into their offensive scheme. This is how the New Orleans Saints have used Taysom Hill for years, and recently the Carolina Panthers implemented Tommy Stevens in a Hill-type role into their game plan in their Week 17 matchup against the Saints. Despite the seemingly counterintuitive action to take a star quarterback out of the game to plug in someone else, this newfound offensive idea has profoundly helped New Orleans in their offensive efficiency the last three years.
If the Minnesota Vikings used this style of quarterback, it could upgrade an otherwise vanilla offense.
Sure, the Vikings tried something like this with former quarterback Joe Webb years ago, but they were never able to successfully capitalize on Webb’s ability because they couldn’t find a role for him. Eventually they moved him to wideout and used him as a special teams player — a fraction of what he could have been.
Although Hill’s play was criticized last year because he was forced to be a full-time quarterback when Drew Brees was injured, his presence made a meaningful impact on the Saints offense. When Hill is taking snaps at quarterback, the Saints average 0.2 more rushing yards per attempt. This would take the Vikings’ average (4.9 YPA) to over 5.1 YPA. Minnesota was second in the league in yards per pass attempt (7.8), and fourth in total yards per play last year. Add an average of over five yards per rushing attempt, and that’s an elite-level offense.
Furthermore, Hill’s biggest addition to the offense was probably his touchdown efficiency. The Saints scored on 69% of their drives when he took at least one snap, which was 20% higher than when he did not take a single snap. At a minimum, Hill’s presence in the Saints’ offense made a substantial impact. When he is in the game, even if he’s not at the quarterback position, he demands attention and takes pressure off those around him. It would take pressure off Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen if the Vikings were to use one of these gadget players in their offense.
The gadget player also allows for creative play-calling, and Minnesota’s offense last year was too predictable. Adding an extra layer on the play and giving a different look with a new quarterback can confuse opposing defenses and break them down before the ball is snapped.
They could also add in the quarterback option. The Vikings already have a premier running back in Dalvin Cook, who commands attention on every snap. If they were to add a mobile quarterback into the mix they could freeze some defenders with an option play, forcing them to guess who has the ball.
If Minnesota could run the option effectively, the offense could open up. Think back to the playoff game two seasons ago in New Orleans when the Vikings’ secondary froze on play-action to Alvin Kamara, allowing Deonte Harris to sneak behind Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith to catch a 50-yard pass to set up a score. With all the attention focused on the front end with Cook and the quarterback, Jefferson or Thielen could get out deep to make explosive plays.
Despite this offensive philosophy’s heavy criticism, adding a gadget quarterback has been proven to be effective and taken otherwise standard offenses to the next level. If the Vikings were to find a player who could fill this role, they could have one of the most electric offenses in the league next season.