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Defending the General

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A lot of people are surprised at Patton Robinette getting the start at QB. Here's why it makes sense.

It sure seems like there's a lot of shock at Patton Robinette landing the role of starting QB against Temple.  Given that we've spent the better part of a year assuming that it was Johnny McCrary's job to lose, that's understandable.  After about 24 hours, here's why I think it could make sense.

First caveat: all we have to go on is a Vandy team that was rife with injury last year (remember, there were two occasions where there was no QB at all behind Patton.  ACS and Joshua Grady were both injured, and the staff went so far as to dress ACS on the sideline at Florida knowing full well he wasn't physically able to play, just to prevent the Gators from knowing that #4 was the only quarterback who could take a snap for the Dores).  If memory serves, he started at A&M, at Florida and in the bowl game, so he's never started a game at home; all his other throwing was done in mop-up duty.  So looking at the actual tangibles from those starts:

AT TEXAS A&M: 15/28, 216 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

AT FLORIDA: 6/12, 57 yards

VS HOUSTON: 6/19, 154 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

And from his other games combined, in relief/mop-up:

VS AUSTIN PEAY: 4/5, 41 yards

VS UAB: (no passes thrown)

VS GEORGIA: 9/15, 107 yards, 1 INT

VS KENTUCKY: 1/1, 13 yds, 1 TD (which was only to set up:)

AT TENNESSEE: 3/4, 14 yds, plus one fake jump pass for the play of the year

VS WAKE FOREST: 2/4, 40 yds

So in aggregate: 46/88, 642 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INT.  BUT...hear me out...throw out the bowl game, and I'll tell you for why:

1) At this point, everyone knew ACS would not play and Robinette would be the only QB, which meant Houston had three weeks knowing he was the only one to prepare for.

2) At this point, Franklin knew he was headed out the door.  I don't think we necessarily got the A game plan.

3) Bowl games are always weird, because of the holidays in between and the strange circumstances of where and who you play, and I would argue represent a different environment than the week-in-and-week-out grind of the regular season.

So throwing out Birmingham, and god knows I'd like to have thrown out some of those Fireball shots at Dave's about 1 AM the night before:

REGULAR SEASON: 40/69, 488 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT.

In other words, an 81.6% completion percentage and a whopping 9.96 yards per attempt.

That ain't hay, folks.  On average, yes, that's a 6% rate of picks, but it's essentially a first down every time you touch the ball (barring Penn Wagers).

EDIT: Okay, I didn't handle the pen well. It's not 68, it's 88 attempts.  So that's 40/69 passing or 58%, and 7 yards per attempt.  Which may be a concern, but compare:

All of VU passers:

2013: 64.6%, 7.9 YPA

2012: 59.1%, 7.9 YPA

2011: 51%, 6.6 YPA

2010: 47%, 5.3 YPA

2009: 48.3%, 5.0 YPA

2008: 49.2%, 5.0 YPA

Now yes, it's a small-n problem.  As one immortal statistician observed, "Statistics is like a bikini: what is reveals is interesting but what it conceals is vital."  And what those stats conceal is that they were accumulated in an offense that was ranked near the bottom of the SEC in most categories not involving Jordan Matthews and record-breaking.  We ranked 10th in the conference in total offense last year, dead last in rushing offense, and 9th in passing offense. So remember: throwing the ball was the bright spot last year.  And if you want a really small-n problem, consider that Rivers has a career passing record of 0/2 and that McCrary's passes have all been in high school, practice and spring games.

The point has been made that McCrary can make the deep throws and Robinette can't.  I will concede the point that if Robinette doesn't have the arm strength to throw the deep ball, he is unlikely to have developed it in a year.  But I don't think that's what the coaches are relying on.  CDM says that Robinette made "great strides" in spring and summer.  My understanding of the West Coast Offense has always been that it's predicated on short timing routes rather than bombs-away deep balls.  It strikes me that accuracy and precision in short drop passing is the kind of thing that could improve quickly with the right coaching, like adjusting a hitter's swing or a pitcher's mechanics. (True story: when major league scouts first encountered Hank Aaron, he was swinging the bat with the wrong hand on top of the grip.)

But the go-home point is this: I can't remember when we last had the same QB start every game.  Probably not since Hollywood Jay Cutler.  Mason argues that the difference between the three is only a percentage point or two, and things being how they are, I'm sure we're going to get to see them in action.  The classic argument is that if you have two quarterbacks, that means you have no quarterback.  I'm going to disagree and say that we have three, and before the season's out we'll be glad we do. Making Patton the guy doesn't result in a trap door opening and dropping the other two into a wood chipper, and don't forget, we're going to be having this argument again next year with Wade and Stank.

Meanwhile, it's number 4.  Patton Robinette. The General. Spartacus. Well...take us there, Skitch.