Looking back to this off-season, after the Stallions made the move to sign former third-round pick Matt Corral, the overwhelming belief was that he would immediately be the starting quarterback for the Stallions. While this did prove to be true at first, what almost no one discussed was the possibility of a two-quarterback system due to the 4.5-speed Adrian Martinez possesses. 

Please excuse me while I pull a muscle patting myself on my back for seeing that two-quarterback system coming. On multiple occasions, I made two points;

First, I wouldn’t count out J’Mar Smith as the QB1, which turned out to be the furthest thing from accurate.

Second, Adrian Martinez was simply too gifted athletically and the Stallions should create packages to get him involved. With Corral in place, I didn’t expect this to be a realistic possibility. I should have known this is the Birmingham Stallions where their motto may as well be “performance over pedigree” as this will be the second time a former NFL UDFA takes over for a former NFL Draft pick as the starting Quarterback for the Stallions in just three seasons. 

Are Two Quarterbacks Better than One? 

In 2022, the New Jersey Generals set a precedent when they were able to find success running a two-quarterback system with Luis Perez and DeAndre Johnson. Both passers ended the season with over 70% completion rate, while the team ended in the top of the league offensively. 

Part of the success that this scheme and the players within the scheme found in 2022, was the polar opposite style of play that these players possessed. Luis Perez is known more for his accuracy, and football IQ than he is known for his arm strength or mobility, two things that DeAndre Johnson brought to the table. Together these two players made the ideal single quarterback. Their styles were so different that a defense had to drastically change how they approached each player, which is what made them so successful in this manner. 

We then watched them display the exact opposite of the success they found in 2022. In 2023 the Generals opted to try and play two quarterbacks, known for their mobility, and not accuracy. This was of course Dakota Prukop and DeAndre Johnson. We also saw a bit of Kyle Lauleta. It took all three players to toss 10 touchdowns, to 6 interceptions. Putting up just 1,683 passing yards in the process. These players were too similar and it didn’t force the defense to adjust enough to create issues. An opposing team could essentially run a base defense all game long and make minor adjustments along the way. 

The Stallions missed that fact heading into 2024, as they chose to split reps with Corral and Martinez. Corral isn’t the athlete that Martinez is, but he can run when the situation calls for it and has done it well enough that defenses think about and account for that when facing him. This is at least part of why the Stallions haven’t found success with this system. I believe going into it the thought was they wanted Martinez to work on his inconsistencies while Corral did the same and the more polished player would eventually start and play full-time. 

After two weeks the two-quarterback system looked like a mistake and the Stallions looked at the stat line and agreed. 

Week 1:

Corral 12-21 201 yds 1 td, 1 int, 4 carries 13 yds

Martinez 2 of 6 26 yards, 1 int, 3 carries 52 yards 

Week 2:

Corral 5 of 12 53 yds 1 int, 4 carries 28 yds 

Martinez 8 of 15 88 yds 8 carries 65 yds

In week two it appeared as if Martinez had made strides with his accuracy and managed a much more efficient game while again doing irreplaceable damage with his feet as he topped the 110 rushing yard mark on the season. In week three the Stallions decided to pull the plug on the two-quarterback experiment and roll with Martinez for the entire game. Martinez did not disappoint. 

Martinez Seizes Starting Job in Week 3

Adrian Martinez just showed the world what he can do when he and his offense are firing on all cylinders, and it was beautiful. 

He would drop back 31 times, being sacked three times. Attempting 28 passes he completed 18 for 334 yards or an impressive 11.9 yards per attempt. He also added 3 total touchdowns and 44 more rushing yards. 

As it stands Martinez has already accounted for 448 passing yards, 161 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns to 3 turnovers on the year. If he can continue to limit turnovers and take over games on the ground the Stallions will be tough to beat the rest of the way in 2024. We may have stumbled on the face of the UFL once more casual fans get to see the way he plays. 

I am not one for NFL Comparisons typically but in this scenario, there is only one comparison that makes sense; Mike Vick. Vick was the man who made running quarterbacks trendy, and now Martinez could be already altering the way some UFL teams look at quarterbacks. 

Heading into week four Martinez gets to again play in front of the home crowd, not a bad way to begin your run as the starter. Martinez not getting the start in weeks one and two means that assuming he retains starting duties all year he will play all 5 home games but only 3 away games. His first two starts as a professional quarterback come at home, something tells me that was at least somewhat intentional by this coaching staff. 

Adrian Martinez Background 

Adrian Martinez may not be the household name that Matt Corral is but he is not without NFL experience. He was in the NFL as recently as this past season with the Detroit Lions. Signed about a month after the draft he stuck with Detroit until final cuts, in part due to a camp injury to 2023 Lions third-round draft pick Hendon Hooker. 

Competing with veteran Nate Sudfeld for the third quarterback spot behind Jared Goff, and Teddy Bridgewater was no small task. Ultimately in this battle, the Lions opted to go with Sudfeld. Martinez was let go but saw interest from multiple NFL teams, some of which are likely keeping a close eye on his UFL games in 2024. 

Seeing at least some interest from the Colts, Giants, and Texans along the way Martinez never signed another NFL contract. In December he decided to take a contract with the Stallions. This came only after the USFL/XFL merger was announced. Part of that was the fact that previously his rights had been selected by the New Jersey Generals. 

He was one of several players former Generals OC Steve Smith brought with him during the draft process when he briefly served as the Stallions OL Coach before being offered a college offensive coordinator position that reunited him with Cris Dishman and Zerrick Rollins. While Smith left, his impact remained. 

College Career

Before entering the professional ranks Martinez began his college career at Nebraska, where he stuck until 2022. After the 2021 season, he chose to transfer to Kansas State University for his final year of school. 

Playing under Nebraska alum Scott Frost got his entire stint as Head Coach at his alma mater. During this stretch with Nebraska, Martinez became the first true freshman to start at QB for Nebraska. He went on to play under multiple offensive coordinators including Troy Walters, and Matt Lubick. Walters is currently the Bengals WR coach, and Lubick moved on to Kansas. He was also coached by longtime QB Coach Mario Verduzco. 

After compiling a 14-24 record over four seasons the University sent the entire staff packing. Adrian Martinez was one of many players who opted to move on to control what he could in his final season of college rather than wait and see who would replace Frost. This came after he compiled big numbers for Nebraska:

670 of 1,055, 63.5% for 8,491 yards, 45 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. 

508 carries for 2,301 yards and 35 touchdowns 34 fumbles 7 100 rushing games

The one knock on his game was his penchant for turning it over as he produced 30 interceptions and fumbled 34 times. This made his last season of college crucial to his NFL Stock. 

Kansas State University

At KSU “A-Mart” would work with head coach Chris Klieman, and OC/QB Coach Collin Klein a former KSU quarterback himself. Klein was a dual-threat player himself, but a guy who showed an ability to limit turnovers and he set about helping Martinez do just that. Martinez would split snaps with Will Howard. 

This two-quarterback system would leave the KSU Wildcats, all the way to a tenant to record and a Big 12 championship win. Before ever arriving in Birmingham Martinez was versed in what it took to be successful in a two quarterbacks system even though he still wanted to be THE guy. While with KSU he played in ten games completing over 64% of his passes, he managed career lows with 1 interception, and 1 lost fumble while he accounted for 1,887 yards and 16 total touchdowns.

Martinez has struggled with turnovers since entering college, if he can reduce the number of interceptions, and lost fumbles, he could be one of the top UFL quarterbacks in 2024 and beyond. Although I expect the NFL to come calling if he can prove himself in 2024. For what it’s worth Martinez is aware of his issues and working to correct them. I wonder if he will seek out a quarterback coach this offseason. 

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Sam Just

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