I want to remove any chance for misinterpretation in this post, so I'm going to tell you exactly what my point is up front.
The notion that Adam Weber is terrible or unwatchable or that another QB on the roster gives us a better chance to win is 100% wrong. Adam Weber has been guilty of being horribly inconsistent, but the accusations and charges that he is unwatchable or has no business in a Gopher uniform are unfair and misguided.
I also want to be clear the Adam Weber is not infallible and at times he has earned himself a spot on the bench. This is not going to be a defense that Adam Weber has been perfect and that all of the problems we have seen with the Gopher offense are the fault of someone else. He absolutely needs to shoulder much of the blame for what has ailed the Gopher offense. But as is very often the case in a Madden Football, win-now-or-else and an "I live vicariously through my teams" sporting world; quarterbacks receive too much glory when things go well and take far too much blame when they don't.
Here are the facts (as I see them)...
Fact #1 - Weber has played very well (AT TIMES) this year. He played very well more often last year. For everyone who feels the need to rant and rave about how putrid he was in the first 30 min of the Illinois game, needs to rewatch the second half of that same game and commend him for getting us back into the game (same can be said of Syracuse game). After a horrendous start to the game by much of the overall roster, Adam Weber played very well and is the primary reason we got ourselves back to within 3 points with just under 10 min left to play. Here are some of the key plays made late in the 1st half and into the 2nd half, followed by his stats by quarter on Saturday.
- Q2 - 3rd and 19 - completed 20 yard pass to Tow-Arnett. 2 plays later the Gophers scored their first TD of the game.
Q3 - 3rd and 9 - completed 13 yard pass to Da'Jon McKnight, drive continues below.
Q4 - 3rd and 24 - completed 25 yard pass to Tow-Arnett, next play Gophers scored second TD of the game.
- Q4 - the third TD drive - Weber goes 4/4, 55 yards including the 2-pnt coversion to McKnight.
Stats by Quarter
Slow start, terrible 1st quarter and a glaring pick-6. But clearly got better as the game went on and that is a very solid second half, especially when you factor in that he was sacked 7 times. The point of this is not that Weber is incredible or perfect. But I believe if you want to have an honest and intelligent conversation about the QB situation for the Gophers you have to acknowledge that he has played well at times (Syracuse 2nd half, Mich St, Cal Q2 and Q3, Northwestern). Consistency is the issue here, not lack of any ability.
Secondly, there are others to share much of the blame of the offense this year. Brewster following Saturday's loss to Illinois...
"The other 10 guys on offense do their job and we do a good job protecting Adam and our receivers do a good job running routes, Adam's a good football player. When they don't it's hard for him to be as effective as he'd like to be. When you look at the quarterback's play, obviously the support of the other 10 guys is goes a long way to determine what type of game he's going to have. He did a lot of good things today and there were some plays there that were not so good."
The entire offense was bad in the Ohio State game and Weber was probably at his worst in the second half of that game. But the fact is he played well in the first half. There were at least 4 well thrown balls that were just plain dropped in that first half, three of them which would have resulted in first downs. No doubt that gaining three more first downs and keeping drives alive would have made the first half of that game very different. Weber took the brunt of the blame for this one and it was undeserved. In the second half he completely derailed and should have been benched (inconsistency). But before that point he got no help from his teammates.
Looking more broadly than the OSU game, Weber has been hampered by the things I've been complaining about all season. Very questionable play calling that is predictable at times and bizarre at others, an OL that cannot open running lanes and has allowed the most sacks in the conference, and undisciplined play leading to far too many penalties. The entire offense, especially Weber, has been slowed by the changing of offensive systems for the second time in three years. I believe that changing and offense takes a full year before players are comfortable and able to make plays rather than think about what they are supposed to be doing. Add to that a rookie OC who is learning how to teach an entire system and how to call a game. This was a recipe for a sluggish offense, many saw it coming and others (like myself) thought that with some experience on the offense we'd be more equipped to make the transition smoothly. That was not the case.
Fact #3, this isn't a video game. I love the nit-picking and piling on when things are not going well. Case in point is the 47 pass play to Decker in the Purdue game. As you may recall Decker had his man beat by 3-5 yards, Weber throws the deep ball but Decker has to slow down to catch it and is tackled on the 1 instead of walking into the end zone. Of course the nit-pickers were ticked that it was so severely underthrown and that was exhibit A as to why Weber has no business playing quarterback in the Big Ten. But this isn't like pushing a button and the ball is automatically going to be in the receivers hands while in stride. Just because you can do it in Madden doesn't mean it is a simple pitch and catch in real life.
I encourage you to critically watch other games and you will see that throwing a deep ball in stride is very difficult to do and QBs miss/underthrow/overthrow receivers on a regular basis. The day after the Purdue game I'm watching the Patriots play whoever they were playing. Randy Moss runs a deep flag pattern (about 30 yards) and has his man beat easily by 10 yards. Tom Brady is not rushed, sees Moss and overthrows him for an uncatchable ball. Even one of the most accurate QBs in the League misses receivers. Especially in light of the Weber critics this year I have paid close attention to other games at the D1 and NFL level, QB's miss receivers (especially downfield) all the time. Hitting a receiver in stride on a 30+ yard pass play is clearly an exception rather than the rule.
Finally, and this is the most important thing to grasp, Adam Weber is just plain not going to get benched and it doesn't matter who the coach is, he just wouldn't. Regardless of what the most knowledgeable fan in Gopher Nation believes or wants to believe he will start the two or three remaining games. And brace yourself for this...barring injury, he'll likely start every game next year. I know that many of you are going to throw your arms up and declare that if Brewster even thinks about starting Weber over Gray next year he should be fired before the 1st quarter is over. But it just won't happen.
First and foremost, coaches will go with what they know and who they trust. I coached basketball at the college level for several years and while I completely understand that it is a different sport and a VERY different level of talent, I learned several things that are true at any level. One is that coaches will go with who they trust. Adam Weber has a three year resume under his belt and Brewster, after watching him in 38 games and hundreds of practices knows exactly what he is and is not capable of. The casual or even passionate fan who is so livid after the first two quarters of the Illini game that they saw nothing positive in the second half; are not nearly well enough informed to make this decision.
Brewster is going to play the QB that best gives him a chance to win. He sees what goes on each and every day at practice. And as much as I hate the "trust the coaches at all cost" mentality, there is some truth to it. Either Gray has not proven that he should be the starter or Brewster wants the Gophers to lose, which seems more likely. And based on the fact that Weber has a proven track-record, Gray has to actually out-play Weber to oust him. Statistically over nearly three years of starting Weber is the most prolific quarterback to wear a Gopher uniform. Say what you want about being a product of a system but Brewster isn't going to ignore this.
Ultimately, I'm not blind, ignorant nor do I think I'm unintelligent. I can see that Weber has struggled this year and he is an obvious part of the offensive struggles. But I get irritated that people are not seeing or recognizing that he isn't the ONLY problem and when he does well or when he is the catalyst for the offense turning things around he gets very little credit. The fact is Weber has been inconsistent this year. That is his #1 problem.
Many view this as a lost season. Since we aren't going to the Rose Bowl, why not play all of the kids, right? Well, once again this isn't a video game and there isn't a coach in the country who would throw a way a bowl opportunity as it means money for the school, practice time for the kids, boosts his resume and is something he wouldn't choose to deny to his seniors. The kids who give you the best chance to win will play. Maybe if you are 3-7 you'd start building for the future, but when you are in the bowl picture and fighting for that better bowl no coach is going to start thinking about 2011.
I should also be clear that I am in no way anti MarQueis Gray. The kid has a ton of talent and I really am looking forward to him leading the team. But I just don't think he is capable of out-performing Weber at this stage. If Weber were truly terrible for games, then yes. If he were clearly outplaying Weber when he got his small chances, then yes. But that isn't the case and like it or not, Weber is your Golden Gopher QB.