Assessing the Texas Tech Quarterback Controversy and Adjusting Expectations

USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech, may, or may not, be in the middle of a quarterback controversy. Should the fans consider whether or not they need to adjust expectations based upon whether or not a true freshman leads this team or a veteran quarterback?

Whatever this will end up being, I don't want it to be a tear-down of any player. More than anything else, I'm trying to be realistic and pay attention to history.

The biggest "story" coming out of the fall practices is that there is a quarterback controversy brewing between Michael Brewer and Davis Webb. No one really knows if this is a controversy other than the fact that head coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn't ever talked bad about his quarterbacks, naturally. The interesting thing is that we, as fans, maybe take what Kingsbury says about a quarterback and takes that as affirmation that he's putting one above another and I don't think that's happened.

A Quarterback Controversy?

What I do think that Kingsbury is becoming some incredibly deft at as we move forward is that he gives quotes and says things, but hasn't really ever tipped his hand about much of anything.

As an example, this was written in a recent RRS article about Webb:

Neither separated themselves during spring, so Brewer and Webb headed into the summer in a virtual dead heat.

"It's close, it's close," Kingsbury said in April, referring to the quarterback competition. "They've both come in and competed really well. I'm impressed with how quickly each has picked up the system."

I haven't seen really anyone really break down how Brewer and Webb didn't separate themselves other than at VTM, where we did break down the three open scrimmages. Obviously, I didn't get a chance to see every scrimmage or every practice, but rather than rely on what Kingsbury said, which is that he said it's close, the numbers indicate a different story.

For the three spring practices, Brewer completed 60% of his passes, threw for 7.2 yards per attempt, 1 interception and 9 touchdowns. Webb completed 52% of his passes, threw for 5.5 yards per attempt, 2 interceptions and 5 touchdowns. So the question you have to ask yourself is if these numbers show sufficient separation. I think they do, but maybe I'm in the minority.

But back to what Kingsbury said, he said it's "close" that they have both "competed" and he's "impressed" how each quarterback has competed. Has he really endorsed either? No, not really at all.

The same RRS article paints quite a picture, stating that, "Brewer has been sidelined with a back injury." That sentence is followed with the thought that the prognosis is unknown, but I don't think that sentence isn't true. I don't think that Brewer has been sidelined, and I tend to think that this means that a player is literally on the sideline and hasn't played really at all.

From the Big 12 Media Days, Kingsbury again doesn't endorse either quarterback:

"We were really pleased with Michael Brewer's and Davis Webb's progress in the spring. Those guys kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack. We'll get them to fall camp and probably go about two weeks, it varies, before we name a starter and try to get the scrimmage in. We did that last year at Texas A&M and it worked out a little bit for us. Hopefully, we have that same success."

If anything here, Kingsbury has endorsed both as being the leaders in the clubhouse, but as mentioned above, Kingsbury said the competition was close, when the numbers tell a different story, so take that for what it's worth.

Then, a week or so ago, Kingsbury had this to say about the timeline to make a decision:

"I don’t. I don’t," he said, "but I’ve been really pleased with the progress. Guys are leading the offense and both moving the ball, taking care of the ball. So it’s been promising. We’ll let it keep going and find one to start."

An endorsement? Nope. In that same morning link, Brewer made the only comment that I've seen about the actual competition and I thought it was telling, but for whatever reason, remained a bit under the radar and not really discussed here at all (emphasis mine):

"I don’t know how much of it is manufactured or if he is actually pushing," Brewer said. I’m not in the coaching staff. I’m not in their meetings. But he is a good player. I did the same thing he did early. I know what it’s like and it’s tough. I think he’s handled it well and shown he is a capable quarterback through the spring. I just feel like I need to use the experience that I have and the confidence I have to push through it."

Maybe this is just Brewer being too honest or too biased in this circumstance, but Brewer's not backing down and uses the word "capable" to describe Webb. I don't think that's a slight against Webb, but if you look at the numbers, it's true. A 50% completion rate and a 5.5 YPA is capable. Brewer emphasizes that he's already done what Webb has done, two years ago. And this was just a week ago today, when there was no alleged back issue or Brewer being "sidelined".

If Webb is the guy, I'm fine with that. I really am. My preference is to go with the more veteran quarterback because I think history, experience and talent is on Brewer's side, but if Brewer truly is injured and Webb starts, then yes, we should think about adjusting our expectations. We'll get to that below.

Your Opinion Is Invalid

I've always disliked the argument that goes like this, "Well, Kingsbury knows a heck of a lot more about football than you do, so your opinion doesn't count." If that's the case then we really should shut this down now. If we as fans continue to utilize this thought, then really none of us are really qualified to have an opinion about any football because most of us haven't played beyond high school. It would also mean that someone could say that Tuberville has won more college football games than any of us (it would just need to be one to beat most of us) and I don't like that thought either.

The idea behind a blog is that we as fans want to voice our opinion about how our coaches and players are doing. We all fancy ourselves to be coaches in some respect and there's nothing really wrong, at least for me, about questioning a coaching decision. It's going to happen for Kingsbury at some point and I'm okay with that. As long as the criticism remains constructive, which I've tried to emphasize here even with Tuberville at the helm, then I think we're okay.

And this isn't about trusting or not trusting Kingsbury. I think it's a given that we all think that Kingsbury has Texas Tech's best interests at heart.

But we as fans can be constructively critical of decisions of this team and coach that we love. That's always going to be okay here.

Adjusting Expectations

With that being said, if Kingsbury chooses Webb for whatever reason, I do think that we as fans might need to adjust expectations. I've been pointing to MGoBlog's Mathlete post for a while about the performance of true freshmen quarterbacks since the 2003 season and I think it is eye-opening. The idea is that the only quarterback to have a "Points Above Normal, Opponent Adjusted" (which is a way to say better than average) in a somewhat recent time period is Matt Barkley, who also happened to have possibly the greatest collection of recruits to play along with him in recent history. Over the course of 11 season, only 8 true freshman quarterbacks have played above average:

With only eight players passing the average mark, that leaves the rest to fall below. The average season for all other true freshmen quarterbacks was nearly –3. The worst was Jimmy Clausen’s 2007 season at –8. The average performance is on par with Zach Mettenberger’s performance at LSU and if you watched a good LSU team at all last year, you knew none of their success was due to him. Clausen’s awful 2007 would have barely edged out Sean Schroeder of Hawaii to escape being the worst quarterback performance of the season.

As the article notes, these figures aren't indicative of what Webb could eventually become, but it's the expectations for the season right before our eyes. These figures aren't indicative of anything in terms of future success.

And so you say, well what does all of this mean? Well it means that Webb would essentially perform below what an average quarterback would perform. Essentially, Webb, most likely, would be worst than average. In order to buck this trend, Webb would have to be one of only 9 players to exceed expectations over an 11 year period. It's not impossible, but you get where I'm going here.

Mathlete at MGoBlog posted about team performance later after that initial post and the numbers seem to indicate that a team with a true freshman quarterback will perform at about 4 points less than an average team:

As noted in the prior article, starting true freshmen quarterbacks is not a formula for winning games. Teams with them at the helm operated 3.9 point per game below an average team. For reference, last year’s Michigan State offense was about 5 points below average.

With even one year of seasoning on the bench, that number moves even higher. The NCAA didn’t start publishing official starters by game until 2009 that I can find so this data only represents the last two seasons. There are some small sample sizes in play here but at the same time, the trends are logical and pass a smell test.

It's hard to predict what that will mean over the course of a season for this Texas Tech team. I really don't know. Again, this isn't me just spit-balling about what I think might happen, but using history as a possible indicator of performance. That's logical to me, the idea that the offense won't be as good with a freshman quarterback and this team may not win as many games with a freshman quarterback. That's sounds incredibly logical to me.

Heck, even if you look at what Kingsbury did as a he progressed as a collegiate player, his touchdown to interception ratio was almost 1:1 (it was actually 21:17) his sophomore year, but by the time he's a senior, it was over 3:1. Most of the time, players get better with time. That's not some sort of new revolutionary concept, that's just sorta the facts of life.

Kingsbury may completely dispel any and all logic and create a situation where Webb will out-perform any and all past history. It is certainly a possibility. I'd just be real hesitant to bet the house on that.

Predicting the 2013 Season

So why is this so important that I've written way too many words about this? Well, it's because I don't know if Texas Tech can really afford to have an off-year. As teams like Texas, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma St. are all looking to surge this year, I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn't worried about that at all. I do think that this is a concern, which is why I was so incredibly happy to have things happen like they did (i.e. Tuberville to sail off to Cincinnati, Texas Tech to hire Kingsbury, etc.). Long-term, I think Texas Tech is in the best spot that they have been in for quite some time, but with those long-term ideals in mind, an unsuccessful season can push a program back two steps after what I have felt like is a really big step forward and I really don't want that to happen.

I think that there's quite a bit that hinges on this season. The 2013 season. I think there is no question that Texas Tech is the team that really no one is talking about. There is plenty written on said about Kingsbury, but there aren't a lot of people talking about this team. That's an important distinction to me.

And this also isn't about upside. For 2013, I really don't care about upside for Webb. He may be the guy that gets an NFL look over Brewer, but right now, this is irrelevant to me. I want this team to win now.

Ultimately, if it is Webb, I'll rally behind him and this team. Hell, I rallied behind this team for almost the entirety of the past three years and I don't regret a second of it. I'll cheer for this team pretty much no matter who is leading it and it's because I love Texas Tech.

I still get way too excited about Texas Tech football, but after writing for so many years, I have learned to try to temper expectations or at the very least try to be realistic. If Webb is the guy, internally, I'll temper my expectations because that's what would be fair to Webb, and also fair to this team. I think I'd adjust my over/under win total to 5.5 and bet the over at 6 wins. Again, not an slight against Webb, but an indication of history. I'd be tickled if he were to overcome that and so happy to be so wrong.

I'll root for Webb and this team like I've never rooted for a team before, but rooting for a team and being able to realistically internalize expectations are two completely different conversations. I really want Brewer to be the starter because I think that history says that Texas Tech will have a better chance to win games right now. Selfishly, I don't want to be patient.

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