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Monday Morning QB - 10/12/09

"Greg Paulus is on pace for 6 yards passing." Tweet by me at 1:06PM on Saturday.
Editor’s Note: The following article is a weekly feature from Orange::44 correspondent John Brennan (twitter @jbren) that runs every Monday morning called Monday Morning Quarterback, assessing the quarterback situation of Syracuse football.

Welcome to the seventh edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44.

If “Ernie Davis Legends Field” is meant to honor mostly Ernie Davis, but also all Syracuse football legends, surely Greg Paulus was not playing his way onto that list. The kid just seemed like he had zero confidence in this game, and the play calling from the sideline seemed to reflect the same nonconfidence. I may have just made that word up, but my wordsmithing is still more effort than we saw from Greg this week.

Paulus finished five of nine for 30 yards and an interception before being pulled from the game during halftime. Clearly the worst game of his short career. For a kid who either didn’t have the confidence going into the game, or who lost it all by throwing a stupid interception on Syracuse’s first drive, the stars were just not aligned for Paulus. Or, they were, but in a bad way. At any rate, this first drive of Syracuse was actually the most productive of the game for Paulus, who had brought the team down the field 34 yards before tossing it up. So maybe he did have some confidence going in; but it was surely lost with the INT. Paulus’ remaining drives in the half were 3 plays for 6 yards, 3 plays for 6 yards, 3 plays for -7 yards, 4 plays for 17 yards, and 3 plays for 3 yards. For those counting at home, that’s four 3-and-out’s.

As I alluded to earlier, I think that the play calling significantly changed as well. It seemed like Syracuse was a run-first team. Now granted, DC3 et al are good backs; I agree we should be a run-first team. Those “legends” we honored with big block letters at mid-field are mostly running backs, let’s be honest. But let’s also be honest about the ineffectiveness of the offensive line. They’re too inexperienced (and, frankly, to sucky) to allow Syracuse to be a run-first team. And with the relative success Greg Paulus has had up until Saturday’s game, clearly I think Syracuse had established itself as a pass-first team. But that playbook went out the window.

Doug Marrone, being the realist he is, knew he had to make some halftime adjustments. Of course, I would hope anyone would see that when you go into the half down 27-0. Thus, Ryan Nassib got the call up to start the second half at quarterback, and the job for the rest of the game was his to lose. Nassib put up decent numbers: 7 of 16 for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, including an awesome 50-yard TD pass to Mike Williams on what I believe was a play fake. I dunno, I was only half paying attention to the second half, because I had gotten it in my head that it was all junk time. Plus I really wanted a nap. More on that later. What I did pay attention to, however, was one thing I liked about Nassib and one thing I hate about the receivers. Strong throws, and dropsies, respectively. If we can get the O-line to hold strong, the receivers to run their routes and not slather up with butter, and Nassib to continue to fire those balls across the field, then I see bright things for the future. But that’s a lot of ifs.

So, bottom line is that Syracuse lost 34-13. However, Syracuse won the 2nd half, so that was nice. Too bad that counts for Jack. But, does Nassib’s insertion into the game for the entire second half create that dreaded 11-letter c-word? With quarterback in front of it? If you said concussion, you’re wrong. That’s 10 letters. If you said constipation, maybe you’re right but I have no way of confirming that (plus it’s 12 letters). I’m talking about a quarterback controversy.

I guess when I first started the MMQB, I did so with the assumption that Greg Paulus would not be the hands-down unanimous pick for QB for the entire season. Even if his performance level remained high, you knew at some point Ryan Nassib (or someone else for that matter) would work their way into the conversation, even if only for the simple reason that next year, there is no Greg Paulus. Next year is Ryan Nassib or Charley Loeb or whomever else may come along. Hell, we could get another point guard, right? The fact of the matter is that if I’m Doug Marrone, I’ve got to get somebody else some meaningful game experience under center.

And now might be the best time to do it. All joking aside, the calendar for this Saturday says “Bye,” and we all know this isn’t a real team, so we get the week off. Syracuse then returns to action on October 24 against Akron in the Dome @ Ernie Davis Legends Field (now required nomenclature when mentioning football at the Dome). In theory Akron should be a winnable game. Doug Marrone has already announced that Greg Paulus will start that game. Fine. So be it. But you’ve got to think that he’s on a very short leash. Because quite frankly, I think we should spook the Cincinnati Bearcats on Halloween by starting Ryan Nassib. Honestly, Cincy’s playing fantastic football right now, and not even the brightest Syracuse optimist should think there’s a realistic shot at an Orange victory on October 31. So why not let Nassib start that game? It gives him the confidence of starting, the experience of playing in a big game against a big name opponent, and the determination to go out there and just play because, hey, you’ve got nothing to lose.

And that’s not to take anything away from Greg Paulus. I would want Greg to get a lot of snaps in that game. He shouldn’t be thrown to the sidelines and forgotten, just because we want to start planning for next year. Oh jeez, there I go. “Next year” is rearing its ugly head. Come on, John, we’re halfway through the season! And we don’t have a head coach who thinks about next year; he thinks about what it will take to win this week. Or next week if we have a bye. But who’s to say that Ryan Nassib isn’t the right choice to lead Syracuse to victory against the Bearcats?

Or maybe I’m still just getting ahead of myself. The next game, after the bye week, is the Akron Zips. Greg Paulus will start that game. This much has been confirmed. But know this: Ryan Nassib will play in that game. A lot, probably. And I’ll be OK with that. I’ll be great with a Syracuse win, no matter who starts or who gets more snaps or who plays the entire second half.

The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the Byeweek Bungalows, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 0%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%

Obviously all zeroes with no game to start. Check back next week for a look ahead to the game against the Akron Zips.

As a side note to all this quarterback controversy, did anyone catch Cam Dantley and Andrew Robinson on Syracuse Sidelines this past week? They were putting on the happy faces about their new lives not being the starting quarterback this season, but you could tell, they wanted to be out there in Greg’s shoes. But good job of foreshadowing, Time Warner Cable Sports!

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