Taysom or Tanner? Seems like every armchair quarterback is offering an opinion on who should be playing. Not only on who should be playing quarterback but if the offense is even capable of scoring enough points to win games.

As a former BYU quarterback who spent time as a starter and a backup, my name was involved in these quarterback debates during my career. I am asked every day who should be playing and who gives the team the best chance to win.

First, I am not around the program and do not see all the details that happen in practice and games. I do personally know and have the utmost confidence in the current coaching staff. I believe they are determined to have the 11 best players on the field. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the situation from an outside perspective and remove all emotion from the decision.

BYU’s two losses are by a combined four points to the currently ranked 24th and 27th best teams in the country. For the season, BYU has 61 first downs to its opponents' 55. BYU has 379 yards rushing to its opponents' 334. BYU has 637 yards passing to its opponents' 714. Average time of possession is 30:50 for BYU and 29:10 for its opponents. Would anyone believe that BYU actually has 19 points off turnovers compared to its opponents' 10 points?

No one loves the season record, but these comparative stats are very similar and verify how little difference there is between a top 25 team and BYU. But … this is big-time college football, and success is measured by wins. Coaches make a lot of money to make tough decisions, and a 1-2 record has everyone very frustrated.

Could BYU be 3-0 if Tanner was playing? The reality is BYU is 1-2 after three games, and some believe Taysom is responsible for the two losses. The backup quarterback is always the answer for many football fans. I remember my popularity when I was the backup quarterback and everyone was calling for me to play.

The backup always seems to be the answer for fans but isn’t always the best choice to make. In this case, it’s a very tough decision when Tanner has proven his ability to play.

Taysom is doing some good things, and in other areas there needs to be improvement. He's ranked 112 out of 122 qualified quarterbacks in his season overall quarterback rating. He is seventh in the country for sacks, tied for third in interceptions and 213th for all quarterbacks in yards per pass attempt. These statistics are what have all the chatter erupting for Tanner to play. Loss yardage, turnovers and too many completed short passes while missing long throws. Would Tanner improve the yards per attempt, sacks and interceptions? I do think Tanner is a more pure passer, but remember it was Taysom’s legs that scored two touchdowns against Utah to put the team in a position to win.

My best answer to the Taysom or Tanner question is this: An offense has 11 players, and right now there is more to improve than just the quarterback efficiency. The offensive line needs to improve dramatically in run blocking, and receivers need to catch the ball when thrown their way.

It would be nice to have a “softer” team to play right now to see if BYU was a decent offense or if the defenses faced already were legitimate. Unfortunately this year’s schedule doesn’t allow room for many errors. West Virginia, Toledo, Michigan State, Mississippi State and Boise State all loom on the horizon.

Would I start Taysom against West Virginia? Absolutely.

Would I consider Tanner at halftime if the offense is struggling again? Absolutely.

Ultimately this game is about playing time for those who can give you the best chance to win. It’s unfortunate, but with Tanner being a sophomore and if all things are equal … you go with the younger player. Personally, I hope Taysom and the offense have a great first half against West Virginia and win the game. If not, let the Mangum Magic enter the game, and a natural spark could happen. Whether it continues throughout the season will be up to all 11 offensive players and not just the quarterback. Go Cougs!

Paul Shoemaker played quarterback for BYU from 1995-97.