If you can read Ross Dellenger's interview with Anthony Jennings, and not be rooting for the kid to succeed, then I just don't want to know you.
Jennings is everything you want in player from a personality standpoint. He is ambitious, eager to improve, but also willing to shoulder the blame for wins and losses. He said that he felt this LSU team could have gone undefeated and this team would have won better had he played better. This is a leader, and a kid who is absolutely not ducking responsibility.
He even took his benching in stride, and looked at it as a learning experience to get better. It's no wonder he is a team leader and he keeps the starting job despite some pretty dismal statistics. He's an easy kid to root for and I really do want him to turn into a great quarterback.
That's why it hurts so much for me to say that I think he needs to be benched.
It's easy to be overly critical and negative, and one of the things I'm most proud of about this little corner of the internet is that we tried to be positive. Delusional Optimism doesn't mean the absence of criticism, we demand wins, but it does mean trying to be part of the solution. We can say Miles made a bad call without calling for his job. We can criticize here without wildly overreacting to every misstep, as every team has them. It's easier to just curse the darkness than trying to turn on the lights.
So I'm saying I want Jennings to succeed. I'm rooting for him, and if he's starting this weekend, I won't curse my television and root for him to fail. I'm saying that I just don't think it's likely he will. It's time to start the Brandon Harris Experiment.
I would like first to introduce a helpful rule of thumb for talent evaluation I would like to call the Shaq Rule. It is simply that you can tell how good a player is by what the major criticism of his game is. When you bring up Shaq, someone will inevitably bring up free throws. And yeah, he sucked at them. But here's the thing, if the major criticism is free throws, that's pretty much conceding that Shaq is pretty damn awesome. Oh, he's so good that a defensive team will willingly give up, on average, one point every possession? He must be amazing.
The inverse of this is that you can tell a player doesn't have it when he gets praised for something rather ordinary. I realized this when it became popular after the Bama game to point out that Jennings had a pretty good second half. Not counting overtime, Jennings went 6 of 12 for 45 yards in the second half. If we include OT, he went 6 of 16 after the half. That's less than 3 yards per attempt. That's terrible... and worse yet, that was significant improvement. Going 2 of 10 for 31 yards (and a pick and a TD) in the first half was even worse.
Right now, Jennings has a completion percentage of 47.1% and an ATVSQBPI of 5.83. I know Billy gets upset when we compare Jennings to Jordan Jefferson, but he was also a primary starter at LSU as a sophomore, and he posted a 61.5% and 6.10 rating. To be fair, as Jennings is ahead of what our 2010 QB's posted as juniors, as Jefferson has a 5.42 and Lee and 5.55.
It gets worse when you dig into the how that number is derived. Jennings' relatively decent ATVSQBPI is being driven by a huge 15.8 yards/completion, but those big completions have dried up. If we only look at SEC play, Jennings completion percentage drops to 45.1% and his ATVSQBPI is a lousy 4.79. As a sophomore, Jefferson's SEC rates were 62.1% and 5.26.
Even worse for Jennings is that our Two Headed Dumpster Fire was significantly better in 2010 SEC play. The two quarterbacks combined for a 59.7% completion rate and an ATVSQBPI of 6.10. Both Lee (6.09) and Jefferson (6.12) had better ATVSQBPI ratings than Jennings. That's right, Jennings has been worse than either member of the Two Headed Dumpster Fire. And it's not particularly close.
Now, I know JaMarcus Russell had a completion rate of 50.7% as a freshman and turned it around as a sophomore. But Russell also had an ATVSQBPI of 6.42 as a freshman, and again, he was a freshman. Also, this is just the raw stats, Russell looked like a guy who was slowly getting better. Jennings still looks lost out there and he's now making procedure errors that he didn't seem to make in the first weeks of the season. The chances that Jennings is going to suddenly blossom into JaMarcus Russell is remote.
Over the past 10 years, nine other SEC players were their team's primary starter at quarterback as a sophomore and posted an ATSQBPI below 6.5. Less than half managed to keep their starting gigs through the rest of their next season: Andre Woodson, John Parker Wilson, Blake Mitchell, and Brandon Allen. When John Parker Wilson is among the Best Case Scenarios, it's time to re-think the plan.
The quarterbacks posted this line as a sophomore compared to the junior year:
149.7/261.3 for 1799.3 yards, 12.0 TD, 8.1 INT, 57.3%, 5.84 ATVSQBPI
133.2/230.0 for 1584.9 yards, 11.3 TD, 7.0 INT, 57.9%, 6.008 ATVSQBPI
The idea that massive improvement is waiting a sophomore quarterback with starting experience the next season is based on a fantasy. The future is not a plan, it is an inevitability. You do have the occasional Andre Woodson, whose numbers radically improved mainly because he stopped throwing so many picks, but it's just as likely you are Omarr Conner, and you just continue to stink.
We don't know if Brandon Harris is the answer. He played a terrible game against Auburn in his first start that got him sent right back to the bench. However, I'm virtually certain that Anthony Jennings is not the answer. Jennings does not have some artificial factor, like a bunch of picks, driving down his rating. If anything, he's not as good as his numbers, as he still has those long completions against Wisconsin driving his numbers up.
Given the option between the wrong answer and an unknown, I choose the unknown. I really want Anthony Jennings to succeed. Unfortunately, I don't think he will. I don't like to add to the negativity of the internet, so it is my fervent hope that this article finds its way into his hands, and Jennings uses this as motivation to shove these stupid numbers in my stupid face. He's the kind of person you want to root for. I want desperately want him to prove me wrong.
But I don't think he will.