Our sports society values statistics over anything else. It may not always be right, but we place a high emphasis on the numbers. In reality, only two numbers matter – wins and losses – but good numbers in other areas get you more of the former and less of the latter. You want a great quarterback because you likelihood of victory may be higher than if you had an average one. One player does not make a team, but one player can certainly help.
At this point in the season you probably have one of three possible feelings about your team’s quarterback: “he’s great,” “he’s…well…he’s there,” or “good lord save us!” You don’t have a choice. This isn’t a video game. You can’t have the QB pulled for someone else because frankly the head coach doesn’t give a damn what you think. But you can imagine what it might be like with a different player taking snaps. Even if it is really just an exercise in fun.
So which quarterback would you take?
Quarterback A: 20-for-33, 60.6%, 322 yards, 9.8 yards per attempt, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception, 186.51 rating, 33 carries, 241 yards, 7.3 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns, 2-0 record, 14.5 margin of victory, 1 conference road win
Quarterback B: 35-for-56, 62.5%, 285 yards, 5.1 yards per attempt, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 128.82 rating, 5 carries, -25 yards, -5.0 yards per carry, 2-0 record, 23.0 margin of victory
Based on the above numbers, you would take Quarterback A. You would. There aren’t many reasons why you would pick Quarterback B. Sure B hasn’t thrown an interception yet, but it isn’t as if A is constantly connecting with the other team. He has a single pick. B does have a higher completion percentage, but the difference is minimal. And finally, the margin of victory is greater for B – even more so if you consider that both of B’s wins were by over 20 points. QB A had one big win and one three-point victory, but A’s conference road win may actually make him more desirable. The only thing you know about who these two and their wins is that A has that conference win in a hostile environment.
Looking at the positives for A over B, he has more passing yards in 23 less attempts. The attempts are key. Quarterback A has a yards per attempt average nearly double that of Quarterback B. His rating is substantially higher and he is a threat on the ground while B doesn’t appear to do anything with his feet. So your choice is Quarterback A.
By now, you know who these quarterbacks are. They were part of the same recruiting class in 2007. They were two of the better prospects in the nation that year – ranked #28 and #47 overall by Rivals.com. They both ended up signing with the same school and, at the time, the school and its fans were ecstatic to have them. They both spent time learning the college game under the same superstar quarterback. They both are now starters for SEC teams. And they both wear orange and blue.
They are, of course, Cameron Newton (Quarterback A) and John Brantley (Quarterback B).
If you’re a Florida fan, knowing what you know, you are scoffing at the idea that anyone would want Newton over Brantley. Especially the Gators. The circumstances surrounding Newton leaving the program soured him in your mind and it doesn’t hurt that Brantley is a legacy and has been the consummate professional waiting in line for his turn. Florida fans love Brantley and probably want him to excel more than any other player. But that doesn’t change the numbers.
When Newton left the Gators you were probably angry and disappointed. Angry because of the situation. Disappointed because you knew how good he could be. Brantley softened the blow. There were many in Brantley’s corner from the beginning, but it’s hard to know if he would really be the starter today if Newton was still around. If Newton was still with the program, would Brantley be the one starting at a different school? Would Florida employ a two-headed monster at quarterback destroying all defenses in its way? What would have happened?
We’ll never know obviously, but we do know there’s a quarterback at Auburn that looks good. Very good. They’ve both had their awe-inspiring moments: Newton has outstanding speed for someone his size and Brantley is a gun-slinger. And they’ve both had their growing pains: Newton struggled at times in his second start while Brantley has yet to have a breakout game through the air.
Gator fans are spoiled because they hoped for numbers similar to this after two games:
31-for-42, 73.8%, 536 yards, 12.8 yards per attempt, 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 228.2 rating, 25 carries, 131 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns, 2-0 record, 37.0 margin of victory
You would take that quarterback over both Newton and Brantley. In the next week, that QB would pass for two more scores and rush for another two in a 39-point victory over a conference rival. He would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and then follow up that campaign with back-to-back 13-1 seasons. Oh yeah, it’s Tim Tebow. The guy Newton and Brantley backed up.
Tebow is gone though and Brantley is the starter. You shouldn’t wish for Newton to still be a Gator. He’s not and you love Brantley. It’s a learning process and Brantley will get better. So will Newton. He was hardly washed up when he left Florida and definitely isn’t now that he’s at Auburn. Brantley will improve as the season continues and with every game will gain more confidence in his abilities. But you better believe Gator fans will be keeping an eye on the Tigers’ QB.