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