Wednesday, November 2, 2011

COUNTERPOINT: What Controversy?

The first question that seemed to be in vogue late Saturday afternoon was who should start at quarterback for the Oregon Ducks. And, you know what, I am not even sure who the first person to ask the question was, but it was not the best question in the world. Within minutes of a home victory, reporters started peppering Darron Thomas with the question.

It made no sense. When healthy, Darron Thomas is better than Bryan Bennett. I understand that there is a faction of fans that believe Bennett is better. Their assumptions, though, are based on a little bit of smoke and mirrors. Bryan Bennett has come on and played very well; especially given that he is a red-shirt freshman and the games were his first real action in a college football setting. Nonetheless, he does not yet have the tools to be successful against good teams in a hostile environment.

We tend, in our society, to expect too much of people too quickly. The 90's alternative pop band Dishwalla sang a song titled Pretty Babies that asked the question "why the need to eroticize our children?" This is just another example. We see someone seemingly mature beyond his years and then heap over-zealous expectations upon him. Bryan Bennett has thrown just 45 passes in his career and completed just 53.3% of those passes. When he drops back to pass, he still have "tunnel vision" and locks on to the #1 receiver on a particular play. Against a good team, that might cost him dearly.

One of the oldest cliches in sports is that a fans favorite player is always the back-up quarterback, and that seems to be happening in Eugene.

I get the appeal. Bryan Bennett comes in, runs around, gets lots of yards, makes people excited.

Oregon fans were misled by the success of 2009. We were led to believe that this was an offense that needed a QB to bust out 100 yard games and bulldoze safeties. That was Jermiah Masoli, not the offense. The Ducks turned to that because there were no other options. Chip Kelly has always maintained he wants a quarterback that can run and not a guy that can run who has to be taught to be a quarterback. Bryan Bennett is a very talented player; he will get his time to shine. When that time comes, let us all enjoy what he brings to the table. Until then, however, see him for what he is, a talented freshman who can be trusted if called upon, but one who is not fully developed yet as a quarterback.

Those 45 career passes? Darron Thomas exceeded that in the 2010 National Championship Game. Darron Thomas has been very good in his decision making during his whole career. Saturday, coming off of an injury related absence, Thomas was a little rusty and had some footwork problems. Those are things that are easily fixed. Many had speculated that Thomas should have sat out the Cougar game as well; after all, he would not have been needed to beat the Cougs. And that may be true.

But ask yourself a question, do you really want a rhythm quarterback, in a rhythm offense to make his return from injury on the road against an improved rival? I would think that the answer to this question is almost assuredly "no."

Anyone who did not expect a little bit of rust given that the starting running back had missed two games due to injury himself is just a little deluded. Rust happens when players miss practice time and games.

Controversy? Not really. Just people stirring a pot for no real reason.
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