Why You Can't Blame Mettenberger

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

But you're going to blame him anyway.

LSU finally lost a regular season game, so of course, it is the quarterback's fault and our coaching staff sucks. Now, if you think Les Miles is a moron, there's really not a whole lot I can do to convince you otherwise, as you are obviously immune to empirical evidence. He's still the most successful coach in LSU history, and he's coming off a pretty impressive regular season win streak. He's been wildly successful, and he doesn't need some silly blogger to defend his record.

The Mettensavior, on the other hand, probably needs an assist. As soon as things go south, it is clearly the quarterback's fault. If you were expecting him to arrive and contend for the Heisman, you are clearly disappointed right now, but that has more to do with your unreasonable expectations than his play. And there's, once again, not much I can do to convince you that you had wildly unreasonable expectations. However, if your expectations were "better than the Two Headed Dumpster Fire", then Mettenberger has cleared that admittedly low bar.

He ranks 23rd in the nation in yards/attempt and 49th in passer rating.* Those are solid numbers, and the kind of performance that you can build on. You won't win if that's your best player, but LSU wasn't counting on Mettenberger to be their best player, just a guy who could competently run the offense. Things haven't quite worked out, as the offense has bogged down, but in the spirit of those old ESPN programs, here's the 5 reasons you can't blame Mettenberger (but will anyway):

*Ed Note: We have not computed every ATVSQBPI for every QB in the nation, so I have no idea where he ranks.

#5 THE OFFENSIVE LINE

Everything in football begins on the lines. If you cannot block, you cannot win. And, er, LSU's line can't block right now. Without any sort of timing, the offense can't count on anything, which just causes everything on offense to break down. You can read the message boards complaining about play calling, but it really doesn't matter what play you call if the opposing defensive end can set up shop in your backfield. The play is pretty much doomed.

LSU's line has just been decimated by injuries. Losing Chris Faulk is obviously the big loss, but Lonergan and Williford can't stay healthy and keep shuttling on and out of the lineup. This leads to two problems: inferior players seeing more reps on the field and more importantly, no consistency on the line. The staff has been forced to shuffle the players on the line all over, usually from game to game. The biggest problem has not been guys getting physically beat, but simply missing assignments. The reason they are missing assignments is because nobody knows what position they are going to be playing next week, as we're just trying to plug the holes. Mettnberger is getting hit by guys who are completely unblocked due to a breakdown in simply figuring out who is picking up whom.

Though he's not helping himself by holding on to the ball too long. But there's no consistency in the line. If a play takes, say, two seconds to develop by design, Mett can't count on having those two seconds. There's just no telling what's going to happen to the pocket. And as he's gotten hit more, he's gotten more skittish, which can't be good.

#4 FIELD POSITION

LSU started three drives in the first half inside their own 10 against Florida. That, by necessity, has limited the playbook and prevented LSU from running its normal offense. In fact, LSU has consistently put itself in poor field position due to some ill advised decisions by the punt return team. Not to single out any one player.

Field position dictates play calling. You simply can't run the same plays in the shadow of your own goalposts that you can run between the twenties. The restricted playbook also means the defense knows what's coming, and it's put the LSU offense behind the sticks on down and distance. Which just makes the play calling even more difficult. Mettenberger simply isn't being put in a position to succeed. LSU needs more 3rd and shorts because it is hard to come up with successful plays on 3rd and 10.

#3 NO RUNNING GAME

The biggest shock for this team is how poor the running game has been since Alfred Blue went down with an injury. Once again, partly this is on the line's lack of consistency, but the running game is simply not helping out the passing game. LSU could get into those more manageable downs with a wide open playbook if the running game could consistently pick up 3 or 4 yards per carry.

LSU gained 1.7 yards per carry against Florida's defense, which was thought to be vulnerable to the run. That's just not going to get it done. Mettneberger's job was supposed to throw to keep defenses honest for our running game, but suddenly, there is no running game either. We need him to produce big passing numbers to open up the running game, which is not something we thought we'd need to do. Instead of running to set up the pass, we must now pass to set up the run. It's completely flipped the script, and I'm not sure our staff, or our players, would ready for this massive readjustment.

#2 IT'S THE RECEIVERS, STUPID

I hate to throw people under the bus, as negativity is like a virus. It just breeds more negativity and rarely brings about positive change. Knowing that I hate singling players out, we will dive right in to the heart of the matter. Our receiving corps has sucked out loud.

The offensive line has the injury excuse, as well as players constantly being shifted around. The running backs also have the injury excuse, as well as a sudden shift in the needs of the offense. No one player is to blame for that, and the players and staff are obviously working as hard as they can to rectify the problems. But what the hell is wrong with the receivers? They have no such excuse. They've just been terrible.

There just isn't a single reliable receiver on the roster right now. When Mettenberger is in trouble and just needs to unload the ball, he has no single guy he can trust. Odell Beckham is the closest thing we have to a go-to receiver, and he's been plagued by lapses in concentration. He's dropped big passes and turned the ball over as well. And he's far and away our best receiver. The passing game can't get any rhythm if the receivers drop every other ball thrown their way.

#1 HE HASN'T PLAYED POORLY

All that said, look at Mett's numbers again. 23rd in the nation in yards/attempt and 49th in passer rating. The passing offense isn't great, but we never thought LSU was suddenly going to become the Fun ‘n Gun. But the passing offense is gaining nearly 200 yards/game, which should be enough. If I told you before the season that LSU would pass for 200 yards/game, complete over 60 percent of their passes, and average 8 yards per attempt; you would have likely taken that. That's the level of success we were expecting and what we wanted.

It just hasn't been enough because everything else has started to fall apart. The running game has suddenly stopped working, we're not getting huge plays on defense (though the defense has been great), and our special teams advantage has evaporated. In fact, if there's one unit to blame, it is the special teams. LSU has dominated special teams for years, and now we're fighting to a draw at best. LSU is now losing the field position battle, and that is what is costing the team points and wins.

But at the end of the day, no one cares. You are what you're record says you are, and Mettenberger was brought in to win games. Against top tier competition, he is 0-1. He gets a chance to improve on that this weekend. Really, it's not on him if LSU wins or loses, as we win or lose as a team. But that's the job of the quarterback. When you win, the QB gets too much of the credit and when you lose... well, let's not think too much about that.

The only way Mettenberger improves is if this whole team improves.

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