One thing that we have learned in my few years of writing this blog is that most of our readers have other sports affiliations besides just Virginia. I know, it’s not that much of a stretch, but we all watch NFL on Sundays, MLB on weeknights, and NHL whenever they want to play again. Yours truly is a Chicago Bears fan, and that allegiance is a tale for another time. As I was watching the game last night, I watch a veteran defense tear apart Tony Romo, picking him off 5 times and 2 of those were for touchdowns. At the end of the game, I saw him benched for Kyle Orton, who lead the Cowboys down the field 89 yards for a touchdown in what was a decided game. Sound familiar? Why aren’t the Cowboys screaming for Orton to start over Romo? And the $64,000 question: Why are we making a change from Rocco to Sims this week? There a slew of answers to these questions, so let’s address this situation one step at a time.
Here are two season stat lines from two quarterbacks. Could you name the QBs these belong to:
QB1 101/151, 1,148 yards, 66.9% completion, 7.6 average, 5 TD, 8 INT.
QB2 88/146, 1,116 yards, 60.3% completion, 7.6 average, 6 TD, 8 INT.
The die hard fans will be able to spot the difference. QB1 is Tony Romo of the 2-2 Dallas Cowboys. QB2 is Michael Rocco of the 2-3 Virginia Cavaliers. There are a few differences between the two players, outside of the level of competition. Rocco has never had a 5 interception game, yet alone a 4 interception game. Romo has had 2 of those games. Rocco has had two 3 INT games, last year’s Southern Miss game, and last week’s La Tech game. Conversely, Rocco is on a 3 game multiple INT streak. Romo has never gone 3 weeks throwing multiple picks each week. So why does Tony get to face Baltimore in 2 weeks and Rocco will backup Sims this week against Duke?
The obvious answer is (1) personnel and (2) money. NFL teams don’t carry two 1st string quarterbacks. Franchises like Seattle and Arizona have a couple of near #1s and hope that one will work out. Even though Kyle Orton was 21-12 with the Bears, pulling Romo in favor of some else, and paying him that much, would cause major discourse with the fanbase, notwithstanding the heartburn for Jerry Jones. Virginia is another matter. You could have multiple quarterbacks capable of running a team. Remember this spring before Sims got here, fans were impressed at the traveling camps with Lambert’s arm and poise in the pocket. The talk was that he would challenge Rocco for the starting job. Well that all went away with the Alabama transfer. In addition to that, in college you have a limited time with personnel, where as you can build around QBs like in Carolina and Washington and take some lumps while they develop.
So now the big question. Since it has been made known that Sims will start in favor of Rocco on Saturday, is he starting because Phillip is ready to lead the team, or is it because Rocco is not ready to start? Those are two COMPLETELY different scenarios. Three things are clear. First, Rocco has had 3 games in a row where he just has not been able to figure out the opposing defenses, 2 of which (Georgia Tech and La Tech) that are nowhere close to the top of the NCAA in defensive statistics. Second, we (and by we, I mean media and fans) are basing our opinion of Sims on the past 3 games, where he lead touchdown drives when the games were pretty much over, with the only caveat being the La Tech game where it even though he made it close, he did not have the opportunity to pull off a long shot of a 3rd straight TD drive. Lastly, and we have said it many, many, many times, whoever was going to start through this first 5 game stretch was going to have a tough time holding on to there job coming out of the last game. I know Duke is 4-1, Maryland gave WVU a run for their money, and Wake already has a win over UNC, but they are all winnable games whoever the quarterback is. More on that in a second.
So it all comes down to Mike London & Company. If they truly believe that Sims is looking better than Rocco in practice and knows the system well enough, I am all behind them, because there will be repercussions. You just can’t throw Sims in for a little while or a game and then go back to Michael and say, “Sorry, our bad” and have him start again. This needs to be a season long change, good or bad. If you believe that Rocco is playing bad now getting first team reps in practice, he will fall farther behind in this move, making a re-accent to the starting job that much more difficult. On the other side of it, if Sims is starting because Rocco is not cutting it and he is just the “other option” then we should not expect things to get better, regardless of the competition.
We have other problems outside of quarterback. Right of the top, start with penalties and the lack of the running game. Ding the defense for an inability to force turnovers and getting to the quarterback. Look again at the, ugh, special teams play from punt and kickoff coverage to Jarrett’s missed FG that would have made it a 3 point game down the stretch after Sims touchdowns. There are a lot more issues out there than just the quarterback slot.
Bottom line: it comes down to game changer vs. game manager. Rocco was always a game manager, allowing the running game to set up his intermediate passing game. Lacking a running game, he has to pass more and, thus, he needs to make more reads than he did last year. Sims needs to be a game changer, one that relies on his arm to move the ball down the field, that hopefully will set up the running game. If Sims is becomes a game manager like Rocco, it will not work out for us this season. Not saying it won’t work out in subsequent years, but with the make up of our team now, we are no better with Sims than Rocco.
Smile! We got Duke next week.