Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The curious case of Syracuse's QB "controversy"

You're the head coach of a Division-I BCS football program.  You're 2-4 at midseason.  Your bowl chances are going down faster than Kanye West's career.

You've got a senior QB, on his way out at the end of the season.  He's been struggling with turnovers and a lack of production in your last two losses, both in conference play.  He's your leader and has been the face of the team since season's beginning.

You've also got a redshirt fresman.  A newcomer.  He's played well in spot duty all year and threw two touchdowns in last week's game in the second half of a blowout.  He's the next face of the team.

What do you do?

Well, anyone in their right mind would choose the second option, wouldn't they? That's where it gets complicated for Doug Marrone and the rest of the Syracuse football coaching staff.

Not only is the QB a senior and the face of your team, he's Greg Paulus.  Yes, that's right.  The Greg Paulus.  You know, that guy from Duke.  A national story in and of himself.  An All-American boy both in personality and basketball prowess.

Paulus has provided so much to the Orange in terms of promotions, ticket sales, marketing, advertising and recruiting, there is no way Marrone can bench him, right?  Attendance is at a high not seen since the turn of the century and fan excitement is up at similar levels.  Sure, some of it is due to an exciting new head coach and the return of a national star in receiver Mike Williams, but Paulus sure has a lot to do with it as well.

And it's not even as if Paulus' season has been that bad. He is 108-169 for 1187 yards, eight touchdowns and ten interceptions in 2009.

The problem lies in the fact that Paulus' case is so different, so exceptional, so riddled with questions that no one at Syracuse or sitting in the Carrier Dome stands on Saturdays knows the correct strategy to play here.  He's a freshman in playing time, experience and football IQ, but he's a senior in leadership, moxie, and maturity. It's a one-of-a-kind situation, and not necessarily in a good way.

Ryan Nassib, on the other hand, is a redshirt freshman who was tagged the starter before Paulus' name ever came up in Central New York.  Nassib is 11-21 for 150 yards and two scores on the season, while not turning the ball over at all.  Nassib is clearly penciled in as the starter for the foreseeable future, but when does that future start?

Marrone has stated publicly that there is no controversy, no decision to make, no considerations to take in.  Paulus is the starter.  Case closed.

I'd have to agree with Marrone for now.  Riding out the Paulus train until the end of the season is the right move, even with a few five-interception games here or a 5-9, 30 yard, one-interception half there.  Paulus has brought an identity and a national focus to an Orange team that had lacked any semblance of talent for nearly ten years.  He deserves the opportunity to play out his career and do what he came to Syracuse to do.

If it miraculously ends in a bowl game, fantastic. But it's not a necessity to deem the experiment a success.

Paulus has put Williams on the NFL map by feeding him footballs constantly.  He has single-handedly drawn visits from NFL scouts and media figures alike, all wanting to see a piece of this otherworldly exhibit.

Ryan Nassib will have to wait his turn, for now.

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