Like every other true blue BYU fan, I have been debating who should start at quarterback for the Cougars (for both this week’s game and going forward). I venture to say, I may have even spent more time contemplating the Cougars’ starting QB than anyone short of Bronco or Brandon. I have crunched stats, reviewed games, polled fellow fans, and even considered visiting a gypsy fortune teller. But I still cannot come to a clear conclusion.
I would prefer to not waste any more time on the subject, as all the research is starting to make my brain hurt (does anyone else smell burning hair?). So to settle this question once and for all (or at least the next time our starting QB falters), it is time to bring in more qualified sport commentators. Please welcome BYU’s greatest drop back quarterback, Jim McMahon. And joining Jim, we have BYU’s greatest mobile quarterback, Steve Young.
Me: How’s it going, fellas?
Steve: Great. It’s an honor to be here.
Jim: Let’s do this, I don’t’ want to miss happy hour. Riley is the man. Done. Can I go now?
Steve: No…Jake is the best option going forward.
Me: Am I to understand BYU’s greatest drop back passer is in favor of the more mobile QB and BYU’s greatest mobile quarterback wants to give the job to the more traditional pocket passer?
Jim and Steve: (Nodding)
Me: Well, that surprises me. I guess we ought to jump right into the debate then. All right gentleman, let’s start with this topic: arm strength.
Jim: Ladies first, Steve.
Steve: Thanks, Jim. Hey, wait a minute!!
Me: Gentleman, let’s save it for the debate.
Jim: Jake has the better arm….
Steve: Well, that was very noble of you to admit Jake is the better passer, Jim. I agree with Jim, Jake has the better arm. Next topic?
Jim: Hold your horses, little fella. You didn’t let me finish. Jake has the better arm, but only slightly. Riley’s arm is more than adequate to get the ball downfield.
Steve: I knew I couldn’t trust you to play fair, Jim. It’s plain to everyone: Jake can make all the throws. Have you ever seen Riley make the throw on an out pattern to the flat? It’s a pick-6 waiting to happen. Woefully inadequate.
Jim: First of all, that’s just one pattern. And that’s a bad play call, how about a little blame for the coaches? A coach has to know what his QB’s strengths are and adjust the game plan accordingly.
Steve: Just like the Punky QB to blame his authority figures. Shameful.
Jim: Wanna see why they called me the Punky QB?
Me: Gentleman! It’s way too early in this debate to devolve into petty name calling and threatening each other with physical violence. Please compose yourself, we have many children readers.
Jim: I’m sure you meant to say “childish” readers. (Snickering)
Me: It’s hard to score that portion. So we’ll call it a draw. Next topic: throwing accuracy.
Steve: Well, as a Hall of Fame QB, I can tell you that accuracy is paramount to a quarterback’s success. I made my career on being accurate. That’s why Jake is the obvious choice to start at QB.
Jim: That gold Hall of Fame jacket must have a lead paint lining, because Steve couldn’t be more wrong. Riley has been labeled the less accurate of the two QBs, but my eyes tell me different. Jake can’t hit an elephant in the fanny with a bag of rice.
Steve: I’m not entirely sure what point Jim just tried to make, but I can assure after attending many spring and fall practices, Jake is deadly accurate. His receivers are letting him down with some drops at crucial times.
Jim: Too bad for your boy Jake that practice doesn’t matter. Game time performance is the only true measurement for a QB. If there was a Practice Hall of Fame, Jake would be a first ballot inductee. Sure he’s suffered from a few drops, but unless the receivers have some hands surgically grafted to their feet, Jake’s completion percentage isn’t going to get any better.
Me: Points well made on both sides. Let’s call it a draw.
Jim and Steve: (Groaning).
Me: Next topic: locker room leadership.
Jim: A real leader not only inspires his teammates off the field with his words, but more importantly he inspires on the field with his play. Everyone puts their hand in the pile, looks their leader in the eye and draws their courage from him.
Steve: So the answer is Jake. A true field general. Next topic.
Jim: If you really think that, then I feel the need to make a large donation to post-concussion syndrome research. Riley is the real leader. His teammates saw him volunteer for punt coverage in fall practice. They see Riley take on linebackers. Jake is scared of tripping over a blade of grass. Jake curls up at the sight of a blitzer like my toy poodle during a thunderstorm.
Steve: Agree to disagree then.
Me: Alright then, it seems to me that the QB picture is becoming clearer.
Me: So let’s make the last topic quarterback intangibles.
Steve: Like I’ve been saying all along, Riley is just a winner. He wins games. He has a decent arm, can throw on the run, makes the offense more dynamic, and might finish the year as the Cougar’s leading rusher and passer. To make my point more succinctly, Riley makes the Cougars a better football team. If Bronco had more players as tenacious, confident, and physically gifted as Riley then the Cougars would be meanest bunch of hombres LaVell Edwards Stadium has ever seen. And the Cougars just might have a shot at delivering on that national championship talk Riley hinted at in the offseason.
Jim: You are still a little confused, since it was the Cougar’s current second string QB who made those promises. But who cares about the small details when you’re seeing the bigger picture that much clearer. You know what, Steve? I think you and me are gonna be great friends. Let’s hit the bar and share old war stories. First round is on you!
Well, there you have it. Two of BYU’s greatest quarterbacks have spoken. Despite Jake’s slight advantage in numerous measurable skills, it is Riley’s huge advantage in the immeasurable skills that makes him the better choice at quarterback.
It is too bad all these scouting services have no way to account for grit. There are not a lot of stats out there that track how much guts a football player has. The sort of irrational overconfidence that makes Riley a little bit quicker and a little bit tougher than his opponents; especially when the game is on the line. And those immeasurable qualities make Riley the clear choice to lead the Cougars at quarterback.