"A football team that has two (starting) quarterbacks has no (starting) quarterback” means that only one player can fill the starting quarterback position—a leadership position on a football team. It’s better for a team to have one good quarterback than to have two average quarterbacks.
“Using two quarterbacks is like having no quarterback at all” has been cited in print to at least 1970 and the saying became an “old axiom” by at least 1988. The origin of the saying is unknown.
Variations of the football saying can exist in other sports (such as having two goalies in hockey, for example) and in business (such as having two managers).
6 October 1970, New York (NY) Times, “Army, Slowed by Injuries Finds Long-Range Booking Backfires” by Gordon S. White Jr., pg. 66:
Some coaches have said, “Using two quarterbacks is like having no quarterback at all.”
29 April 1971, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “It Can’t Be Won,” pt. III, pg. E!:
Whenever a team tells you it has “two quarterbacks,” you can bet me it doesn’t have any.
Google News Archive
29 October 1980, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, “is Pitt Quarterback Controversy A Passing ancy?” by Bob Smizik, pg. B10, col. 3:
“Some people,” notes English, “say when you have two quarterbacks you have no quarterback. That simply isn’t so in our case. We have two oustanding quarterbacks.”
15 August 1985, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, “Bob Tennant’s Sporting Times,” pg. D2, col. 1 photo caption:
A very wise football writer and Penn State alumnus once told us that a team that has two quarterbacks doesn’t have one quarterback.
Google News Archive
13 September 1988, Palm Beach (FL) Post, ‘Early in NFL season, there are 40 reasons to forgo forty winks” by Dan Moffett, pg. 1C, col. 1:
The disproving of the old axiom that having two quarterbacks is really having no quarterback; the Minnesota Vikings (Wade Wilson and Tommy Kramer) and San Francisco 49ers (Joe Montana and Steve Young) seem dangerous despite their duality. For now, anyway.
Orange and Brown Report
Posted: 3/25/2009 4:34 PM
Re: Mangy throws Quinn mommies in a tither.,she’ll have to
A team that has two quarterbacks has no quarterback.
Best Backfields In the NFL
May 28, 2009
Questionable: A team that has two starting quarterbacks has none. What if it thinks it has three?
NC State finally two-deep at quarterback
June, 4, 2009 6/04/0911:09AM ET
By Heather Dinich
There’s an old saying that when a team has two quarterbacks, it doesn’t have one, and usually, it holds true.
March 31, 2010
Closer? We don’t need no stinkin’ closer… or do we?
Written by Jim Crikket
In football, when a coach says he has two quarterbacks, what he’s really saying is that he doesn’t have one. I think Ron Gardenhire is saying the same thing when he says he’ll open the season with “Closer by Committee”.