Poseur is Back From Vacation and Comes Out Swinging

Hi, everyone.  I'm back from Vancouver and slowly recovering from moving into our new home.  I'd just like to say, for the record, that Vancouver and Whistler are stunningly beautiful and have lots of delicious beers with a high alcohol content.  To throw some free advertising to two places if you ever make the trip:  you absolutely need to go on a zip-lining EcoTour with the good folks at Ziptrek and then see the Orca whales on one of the zodiac vessels run by Vancouver Whale Watch.  Both were highlights of the trip.

Enough of that... back to being ornery.

All right, I'm officially sick of this crap.  I expect the guys at RCR to rank Jefferson as the worst QB in the SEC West because, well, the day they say something nice about LSU is the day the universe folds in on itself and kills all life as we know it.  And we don't want that.  They are simply preserving the natural order of things.

But Tony Barnhart?  He ranked Jefferson the worst QB in the SEC West and then said this about our QB's:

I had a chance to meet Jefferson during SEC Media Days and was impressed by his poise. There is a lot of pressure on this kid to play well in 2010. If not, the heat could get turned up on a lot of people in Baton Rouge. We forget that Jefferson was just a sophomore in 2009 and, at 19 years, 12 days, was the second youngest quarterback to ever start a season opener at LSU (Y.A. Tittle was 25 days short of his 19th birthday when he started for LSU in 1944). Jefferson's numbers really weren't that bad. He completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,166 yards and had 17 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. But LSU simply had no running game to take the pressure off Jefferson. Lee will always be remembered for a brutal 2008 season when he threw 16 interceptions including six that were returned for touchdowns. I just get the feeling that Lee is not done playing yet. At some point this season he is going to get another chance.


I want to get into pretty much that entire quote, since it is a really nimble bit of verbal jujitsu - it is so slippery that I don't think it says even what Tony Barnhart thinks it says.  But before we get into that, I would like to post Jordan Jefferson's stat line next to Greg McElroy's, who has rightfully had lots of praise heaped on him:

JEFFERSON 182-296, 2166 yds, 17/7 TD/INT, 137.2 Rating, 61.5%, 7.32 yd/att

McELROY 198-325, 2508 yds, 17/4 TD/INT, 140.5 Rating, 60.9%, 7.72 yd/att

Those stat lines are about as close to identical as you're going to see, especially once you consider McElroy played two extra games, evening out his total yardage advantage.   In fact, Jefferson throws for more yards per game (barely).


Look at the small gaps between their numbers: the same number of TD's, 3.3 points is all that separates them on the QB Ratings scale, a completion percentage off by 0.6%, and an average yard/pass difference of just 0.4 yards.  The biggest difference is three picks, which isn't a huge gap.  And remember, McElroy had the benefit of a competent running game.  As bad as LSU's running game was last season, that's how awesome Alabama's running game was. 

The big difference between the two QB's is that "McElroy is a winner."  And there is some truth to that.  You go 14-0, you certainly get the advantage when the numbers are even.  But let's list all of the quarterbacks in the SEC last season who guided their teams to a winning record in conference play:

Tebow
McElroy
Jefferson

End of list.  While McElroy certainly deserves all of the praise he's gotten for being a game manager who knows how to win, doesn't Jefferson get some credit for winning?  He didn't win as much as McElroy, but he also was handed the ball off to his fourth string running back by season's end and not a Heisman Trophy winner who may not even be the best running back on the team.  McElroy also had the benefit of playing behind a competent offensive line. 

This isn't to say that Jefferson should be ranked ahead of McElroy right now.  He shouldn't.  However, his numbers are very close and Jefferson has shown himself to have the same "winner" intangibles if you believe in that stuff, if to a lesser degree (or simply having a lesser team).  The point is that Jefferson is certainly in the same ballpark as McElroy.

Now, let's get back to Barnhart's quote.

I had a chance to meet Jefferson during SEC Media Days and was impressed by his poise. There is a lot of pressure on this kid to play well in 2010. If not, the heat could get turned up on a lot of people in Baton Rouge.

 

So, Jefferson has a lot poise which is good because there is a lot of pressure in Baton Rouge.  Barnhart talks up Jefferson's intangibles. 

We forget that Jefferson was just a sophomore in 2009 and, at 19 years, 12 days, was the second youngest quarterback to ever start a season opener at LSU (Y.A. Tittle was 25 days short of his 19th birthday when he started for LSU in 1944).

 

Barnhart points out Jefferson was really, REALLY young last season.  Left unspoken is that young players have a great potential for improvement. 

Jefferson's numbers really weren't that bad. He completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,166 yards and had 17 touchdown passes against seven interceptions.

We've covered this.  His numbers were roughly equal to McElroy's.  So, to review so far: according to Barnhart, Jefferson has good intangibles, is likely to improve due to his age, and put up pretty good numbers last season.  Here comes the BUT...

But LSU simply had no running game to take the pressure off Jefferson.

Yes, Jefferson is no good because our running game sucked last season.  Barnhart said nothing but good things about Jefferson, then rightfully pointed out that our running game was lousy last season (which makes Jefferson's numbers even more impressive, really), and then proceeds to rank Jefferson the worst QB in the SEC West.  I mean, at least give a reason why you're down on Jefferson.

Lee will always be remembered for a brutal 2008 season when he threw 16 interceptions including six that were returned for touchdowns. I just get the feeling that Lee is not done playing yet. At some point this season he is going to get another chance.

Oh, and for some reason, Jefferson is going to lose his job. 

For people who say that the fanbase's relentless negativity has had no effect on the program, this is the counterpoint.  The blogs and the national media are picking up on our own myopia and now parading it as fact.  I'm not arguing that Jefferson is the greatest quarterback in the SEC, but he's certainly not the worst.  Most players who are entering into their junior year after starting their entire sophomore season while putting up solid numbers get heaped with praise, not scorn. 

Only three teams in the SEC posted a winning record in conference play last season: LSU was one of them.  We're clearly behind Florida and Bama in the pecking order right now, but this team is being treated like it was in free fall last season, despite, you know, improving from the disaster of 2008.  This is LSU team is being sorely underrated, and no player better symbolizes this than Jordan Jefferson.     

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