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T.O.B. Makes The Right Decision For 2011 And 2012

May 2, 2011

Well, the Tom O'Brien/Russell Wilson s***storm you hoped would just sort of fizzle itself out is starting to gain strength, and fast.

Today, @Andy_Staples, @schadjoe (Joe Schad) and @slmandel (Stewart Mandel) ran with speculation that, as Joe Schad tweeted, "Russell Wilson is '95 percent' certain to play college football next season according to person close to Wilson."

As much as I hoped it would remain a non-starter, it looks like this story is going to take off. It has potential for plenty of fingerpointing and Nelson-esque laughing aimed O'Brien/State's way, especially if Wilson goes on to star at another BCS team.

On the surface, it sure seems like a stupid move on O'Brien's part, forcing the hand of a proven winner to either stick with baseball or take his football talents elsewhere. It's certainly caused quite a split among members of the State fanbase and local media. But examining the potential negative impacts Russell returning could've had, I think it was the right move to make for the long-term future of the program.

For one, if Russell returned in the fall, where would that leave O'Brien and Mike Glennon? O'Brien made it very clear almost as soon as last season ended that Glennon is his man moving forward. That kind of public assertion ensures Glennon two full years operating the offense as a starter. Privately, it ensures Glennon doesn't entertain any ideas of transferring. Further, if Russell were to return in the fall as the backup, just how much leash do you think hyper-critical State fans would've given a struggling Glennon before calling for Wilson to reassume the starting job? Probably next to none. If you think telling Russell "thanks, but now you're the backup" was a tough call, how about the decision to continue to relegate your star to the bench in favor of sticking with Glennon as he goes through his growing pains?

Two, and perhaps the more overlooked aspect of this situation, is if Russell were to return and Glennon were to transfer (assuming he wouldn't be ok sitting four years to play one), your quarterback options for a potentially locked-and-loaded 2012 roster are Tyler Brosius and … well, not much else. Brosius may very well be the next coming of Philip Rivers, and if he is, fan-freaking-tastic.

But the 2012 roster stands to be extremely stacked and needs a seasoned quarterback to lead it. The vast bulk of the talented youngsters we saw take the field last year–Mustafa Greene, Terrell Manning, Earl Wolff, Rob Crisp, etc.–will all be seniors or juniors during the 2012 season. All told, there are 37 scholarship players spread among the 2012 and 2013 classes that will make up the vast majority of the men slated to see action two years from now.

If injury numbers stay low, or at least manageable, it stands that the team could have tremendous potential during Glennon's second season at quarterback.

If Russell were to return, the 2012 roster would be led by a first-year quarterback no matter what, whether Glennon stays or goes. Asking any first-year quarterback to produce in just one season of work is a tall order, even for someone of Glennon's physical gifts. He, or any other quarterback, needs game reps to achieve full potential, something he wouldn't receive until 2012 if he signed up for yet another year of clipboard jockeying.

That's not to say that 2011 with Wilson at quarterback couldn't potentially be a great season. The schedule is nice and soft up front and if the team gets rolling, who knows? Those same two classes would still be at the disposal of Wilson, just a year younger. 

But O'Brien's goal is building the program over the long term, and that's why he can't sacrifice 2012 and beyond just to wait around and see if Wilson will decide to suit 'em up one more time.

Two years with Glennon—the second spent helming perhaps the most experienced and talented team O'Brien may ever have at State—makes more sense for the long-term health of the program. If Wilson captains 2011 to another bowl bid but 2012 is squandered breaking in a new quarterback, was it worth bringing Wilson back for one more year, potentially losing Glennon to transfer in the process?

I don't think it is, and I think O'Brien made the best decision for the program down the road. Sacrificing long-term stability for short-term gains is a sure fire way to land your program in a perpetual cycle of starting from scratch and to possibly find yourself out of a job sooner than you're ready.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob Everett permalink
    May 3, 2011 6:50 pm

    Great read. I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. TOB had a tough call. I think he made the right decision. I will always wish the best for Russell.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      May 4, 2011 1:25 pm

      Thanks Bob for reading! I, too, wish nothing but the best for State athletes who move on…Russell, Harrow, etc. These *kids* have an EXTREMELY limited window with which to “make hay” with their athletic abilities and should be allowed to make the decisions that best suit them, up to the point where it might negatively impact State (hence the reasoning behind not allowing Russell or Harrow to transfer to another ACC school).

  2. Anonymous permalink
    May 4, 2011 12:17 am

    Great article – thanks for pointing out that TOB makes sensible decisions to the part of out fanbase who need to be reminded of that.

    Two addition points:
    – RW didn’t seem as good last season as the season before – he definitely threw many more interceptions. My guess is that it was because of missing spring practice, so I don’t think that he would necessarily be as good or better next year as he was this year
    – TOB is showing his commitment to his players – esp. to those who wait their turn (while hopefully improving)

    • Anonymous permalink*
      May 4, 2011 1:40 pm

      Thanks for reading, as always!

      Regarding your two points:
      – It’s a tough sell to me to say missing spring practice led to many more interceptions. I think it would be nearly impossible for ANY quarterback to do what he did in ’09. He had some lucky breaks where opposing players dropped sure interceptions, so there was a fair amount of luck involved in “The Streak.” Now, I *was* surprised at just HOW MANY more interceptions he threw–I figured he’d toss 4 or 5, mostly in end-of-half/end-of-game scenarios. The troubling aspect of last season’s performance was how many came while in the red zone. But I still don’t think you can pin that on missing spring practice…those weren’t timing errors–they were simply bad decisions.
      – I agree with this premise, but I think this is a case-by-case deal, not an overall altruistic philosophy on TOB’s part. This whole Russell drama unfolds COMPLETELY differently IF Glennon is one year younger. In fact, I think it would unfold EXACTLY like it did last year, when Glennon was a rising Sophomore and still had two more years to play.

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