The last time I wrote anything for GBH about football was immediately after the LSU game. Those last few months of the season kicked my ass—with Max Johnson hitting that game-winning throw and then all the nonsensical debate about the bowl being canceled.
But here we are at the tail end of spring ball and we’ve got a legit QB battle on our hands, and I thought I’d opine a little bit about where I see this going and the likely parameters for the decision-making process. Keep in mind that I know quite literally nothing about football as a sport and am still healing from the 2021 season.
FIRST AND FOREMOST
It’s a dadgum spring game. No one cares about it nor do the performances really matter. The spring game is for the fans and for the croots. And the croots are too busy being wooed on the sideline to care about the game. So don't make too much of it.
JAMESBO AND HIS QBS
We’ve all seen Jimbo give his QBs tough love on the sideline after a play. We also heard reporters ask Jimbo to critique his QB’s decision making to which he typically replies “I’ll have to go back and watch the film to see whether it was the right decision”.
Ultimately this decision comes down to who Jimbo trusts the most. And it’s not just trust to make the throws, it’s the trust to make the right decisions. It’s the trust to make the right pre-snap reads, to know what the WRs are going to be doing on each given play, and to know where to go with the ball. Who knows the offense best and who can perform best with the post-play grilling Jimbo gives them on the sideline. The offense works with Jimbo and the QB are on the same page and are seeing the same things.
All of this becomes vitally important on third down. And as a caveat, I know that there was a significant difference in the quality of OL between 2020 and 2021...but in 2020 we were 3rd in the country in 3rd down conversions. In 2021 we were 82nd. Not all of that is OL-related—a significant component of that is the QB getting us into the right play pre-snap and then making the right decision on where to go with the ball.
Please don't take this as a case for Haynes King over the other two...but Haynes rightfully got some flack for his first start against Kent State with a couple of INTs. But what jumped out to me in that game was how well the offense, as a whole, performed with basically a 300/300 game against a bad defense.
But let’s compare that to another performance against another bad defense. Against New Mexico we were 430 yards total (275 passing/175) on the ground.
What’s the difference between the two? In my view, it’s the QBs ability to get us in and out of the right plays at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of what he sees from the defense.
That is going to be the difference-maker in this decision-making process. Haynes knows the offense pretty dang well having been on the bench for two years and having demonstrated his knowledge well enough in year 1 to unseat Calzada as the backup.
Everything I’ve just written feels totally obvious and rudimentary and I’m sure it is because I don't know much about football. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it is going to take a lot for either Max Johnson or Conner Weigman to dethrone Haynes King from the starting gig, and the “taking a lot” isn't going to happen in some glorified touch football game at Kyle. It’s gonna take place in the film room and on the practice field.
The key question is whether Max or Connor has it in them to demonstrate the knowledge necessary for Jimbo to trust them more than he does Haynes. We’ll find that out over the next 5 months until the emotional battering ram of the season begins.