Zak: Starting QB choice not worth fretting over

first_imgGary Andersen said it, and I swear we were all listening; it just didn’t sink in right away. The words came during last Monday’s press conference, five days before Wisconsin’s first game of the season against Massachusetts. He was asked about nominating a starting quarterback, which, at that point, had yet to be done and, according to him, was never a significant announcement.“I just really don’t believe the quarterback position needs to be treated any different,” head coach Andersen said, noting the team doesn’t make a momentous announcement for other positions like left guard, cornerback or free safety – other positions of concern and competition during camp.In those words,14 of them during the middle of his press conference, Andersen told us the absolute truth about this Wisconsin team: Choosing a quarterback isn’t that big of a deal.Wisconsin football may be in a transitional phase between head coaches, but as Andersen has said time and again, Wisconsin football will largely remain Wisconsin football. The expression implies game control, running the football, not being penalized and putting it all together for a victory.It’s interesting how the quarterback fits into that mold. They may touch the ball on every play, but more times than not, they’re handing it off to a Wisconsin running back. Also more times than not, that running back is the best running back on the field, and one of the best on any given field on any given Saturday.When they have to throw, it usually isn’t beyond 20 yards, threading the defense because they have to. No, it’s typically closer to 10 yards, finding a tight end or a slashing senior wide receiver like Jared Abbrederis.The form by which Wisconsin handles its quarterbacks – outside of abnormally fantastic seasons and human beings like 2011 and former quarterback Russell Wilson – is the exact reason why sixth-year senior quarterback Curt Phillips was able to keep the Badgers within knockout distance of Stanford in last season’s Rose Bowl.The Cardinal were one of the best teams in the nation, boasting a defense worth trembling over. But Phillips – more heralded for his senior leadership than his throwing ability – did exactly what he had to do to sustain Wisconsin’s fighting chance against one of the best teams in the country.He threw 16 passes, completing 10 of them for just 83 yards. I’ll repeat — 83 yards. He led an offense to convert seven of 15 third downs and threw for a touchdown. Only one pass was completed for more than 20 yards and he handed the ball off to a running back 39 times. Phillips played Wisconsin football and that’s what the 2013 starting quarterback will have to do.It’s rarely sexy, but ask Ohio State if they are jealous of Wisconsin’s three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances (regardless of how those trips out West manifested.) It was good enough to get Bret Bielema his soon woeful shot in the SEC.It’s the way Wisconsin works and it’s how they’ve worked their way to the top of the Big Ten. It’s how the 2012 team, largely forgotten about at 8-5, was a few plays away from beating an 11-2 team in Pasadena. Even though a coaching change ensued, the Wisconsin way is far from fading.So fretting about who will be taking snaps and handing the ball off and making short throws and skillfully leading the offense shouldn’t be fussed about any more than who is blocking for those hand offs or trying to catch those passes. When choosing a quarterback becomes a big deal, skepticism and speculation run like a spring river.Choosing “the right” quarterback is only a big deal if fans and the media decide to hound Andersen, the quarterback, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, etc. after his first overthrown pass or his first interception or his first boneheaded sack. These things are going to happen. Choosing “the right” quarterback is only a big deal if we didn’t have a clue of their capabilities. We know about redshirt sophomore Joel Stave. We know about Phillips. Both are great fits in the Wisconsin system.In selecting one over the other, the program isn’t settling. Many teams across the country would trade in last year’s victories to have Stave or Phillips starting for them in 2013.Choosing “the right” quarterback is only a big deal if he has a slightly rough half and an underperforming offensive line has magnified his errors leading to his being pulled against a better-than-most Utah State team. Andersen knows a thing or two about that game. Maybe that’s why he didn’t want the quarterback announcement to be an ordeal.Nonetheless, it would be unfair to say that it doesn’t matter who runs onto the field for Wisconsin each game, because it definitely does matter. However, regardless of whether it’s Stave or Phillips that ends up being “the right” quarterback for UW, there will still be a Wisconsin quarterback, and we can’t forget what that actually means. Sean is a senior majoring in journalism and communication arts. Think the Wisconsin quarterback battle is an important decision for the team’s success this fall? Let him know at [email protected]last_img read more