Texas Tech Spring Football: Webb or Mahomes?

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Everyone loves a quarterback controversy, and though the quarterback situation at Texas Tech is not necessarily controversial, there will be a tough competition for the starting job between Davis Webb and Pat Mahomes. So for whom should Red Raider fans be pulling? Both.

Most Texas Tech fans are enamored with Pat Mahomes because of his heroics against Baylor. He is an exciting player who makes the impossible happen in the pocket. Plus, his youthful exuberance and ability to make electric plays, won over the majority of the Tech fan base last season.

Meanwhile, Davis Webb has assumed the role of the “villain” in the minds of many. After an offseason of hype, expectations for Webb were too high, as several members of the media had him as a possible surprise Heisman finalist, and Webb did not live up to the billing. Not all of that should be blamed on Webb, but he did seem to believe the hype and try to do too much rather than taking what the defense gave him.

His interceptions were daggers to the heart of Red Raider fans, and many grew tired of seeing him turn the ball over, thus the grumblings for Mahomes began.

To compare the two quarterbacks, let us examine their stats from their first three starts, as Mahomes only started in — and finished — the final three games of last season.

This is a tiny sample size, but it is the only information we have to go on as of now. It is interesting to note that both Webb and Mahomes took over for an injured starter in games versus TCU. In 2013, Webb led two scoring drives late in the game to help Tech upset the Frogs. And in 2014, Webb was injured late in an ugly blowout giving Mahomes the go-ahead to come in for mop-up duty.

Oct 4, 2014; Manhattan, KS, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb (7) makes a pass during a 45-13 loss to the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Webb’s first start came at home against Iowa State. Webb threw for 415-yards, three scores and one interception. Webb was 35 of 56 passing, for a 62.5 completion percentage. In his next start, Webb played one of his best games of his young career, and on the road in Morgantown, West Virginia, Webb threw for 462-yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Webb was 36 of 50 passing for an impressive 72 percent completion rate as Tech won in one of the most difficult road environments in the Big 12.

Webb’s third start came in what is unquestionably the toughest place to win in the conference, Norman, Ok. In an eight-point loss, Webb was 33 of 53 for 385-yards, with two touchdowns, and two interceptions for a completion percentage of 62 percent. In Webb’s first three games, he passed for 1,262-yards, a completion percentage of 65.5, with six touchdowns, and three picks.

Mahomes’ first start came against Texas, but he didn’t finish that game. The first complete game he played was at home against Oklahoma.

Against OU, Mahomes was 27 of 50 passing for a completion percentage of 54 percent, throwing for 393-yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The next week at Iowa State, Mahomes went 22 of 35 (63 percent completion rating) for 328-yards, tossing four touchdowns, and one interception. Finally, in his most recent start against Baylor, Mahomes had a game for the ages where he finished the day 30 of 56 (53 percent completion rating), passing for 598-yards, with six touchdowns and one interception.

In his first three games, Mahomes passed for 1,319-yards and a completion percentage of 56.6 percent. Where Mahomes stands out against Webb is in the touchdown to interception category. Mahomes threw twelve touchdown passes and only two interceptions.

Nov 29, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) passes against the Baylor Bears during the second half at AT&T Stadium. The Bears defeated the Red Raiders 48-46. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One can interpret the numbers to show what one wants to believe, and if you’re a Webb supporter, you will point to the higher completion percentage. Those in the Mahomes camp will crow about the 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio, versus Webb’s 2:1 ratio. It is also clear that Mahomes made bigger plays downfield, and these plays were often a result of his ability to scramble and improvise under pressure. However, an unbiased look at the first three starts of each player’s career suggests that the performances were very similar with the exception of the interceptions thrown by Webb, which is not an issue to be taken lightly.

Only two teams in the conference (TCU and Kansas State) had the same quarterback start every game, but Tech fans must realize that the Red Raiders will need both quarterbacks next season. In 2009, Tech needed Potts, Sheffield and Doege. In 2013 Tech also started two different quarterbacks, Webb and Mayfield. It is likely that at some point, whoever does not win the starting job will be called upon either in relief or to start. That is the nature of the sport, and a great example of the importance of having depth at the quarterback position would be none other than the 2014 National Champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes. They started three different quarterbacks due to injury, and each one played up to the level of his predecessor.

It is natural to have a favorite in any race or competition. The quarterback is the most important and scrutinized position in sports, therefore, the intrigue and passion surrounding the Webb vs. Mahomes competition this spring will elicit strong emotions from most Red Raider fans.

But we must keep in mind that both players are critically important to the 2015 team, and Tech fans must support whomever Kingsbury picks. If your guy is not taking the first snaps on September 5th, don’t fret. In all likelihood, your guy will be called upon during important moments of the season, and no matter who the starter is, or who the backup is, Tech fans should hope that both quarterbacks have a tremendous spring, stay healthy, and make Kingsbury’s choice difficult.