OK so for all of you beaver fans that, like me, needed an honorary helmet Saturday night to protect your head from the pain as you beat it against the wall in frustration, this one’s for you.
Now, I never want to take anything away from the effort that the team and the coaching staff put in day after day throughout the course of the season, and I recognize that it has to be hard to have a job where you are in the spotlight week after week with a bunch of amateur “experts” like me critiquing your every move, but let me just pause for a moment for a word from our sponsors to say that after watching the beavers play the huskies last Saturday night, I was utterly confused–and no, the confusion was not caused as a result of head trauma from hitting it against the wall too many times.
I was left completely baffled and perplexed as to why, when up against an opponent with the best pass defense in the conference and conversely the worst rush defense, we would stick to our normal pass-dominate game plan, particularly when we all saw how well that worked for Stanford, the last team in the top 10 to go up to Seattle, get spanked, and come home. Adding to my confusion is that we also kept what appeared to be our normal game plan in light of U of W currently having on their defensive coaching staff one of our former assistant coaches and players who undoubtedly knows our play book quite well. Throw in there that there had also been a lot of talk about wanting to balance out the beaver offense and increase the number of rushing yards/game going into this game, combined with the fact that our starting quarterback was having a really off night and would eventually throw four interceptions (after coming off three interceptions the game prior to this), the last one leading to a quick seven points by the opposing team, and I am just all the more confused.
I am also just as confused as to why, when you are number 7 in the country and are 6-0 and have so much on the line as a team, you would leave that starting quarterback in for nearly the entire game when he is obviously having a very bad night, and then put your back-up quarterback in hoping for a miracle when his back is now against the wall and there is too much ground to make up and no time left to do it in.
We are all human and we all have bad days. Obviously Sean Mannion was having one of those days (or nights, rather) on Saturday. He’s human, he’s allowed, and it’s OK, because when we have as good a back-up quarterback as Cody Vaz, that shouldn’t be a problem. You do what’s best for the team as a whole, pull Sean out and let him take a rest, and put Cody in. It’s healthy competition, it’s normal, it’s expected, and it happens all the time. It’s putting what’s best for the team above any individual on that team and sacrificing the individual for what’s best for the whole. In football it might not be as obvious that championship teams do this because there are more players on the field at one time, but you see this happen with basketball teams that win championships all the time. Champions know that often you have to put aside individual egos because you have a greater team goal that you are striving for. Heck, in music players have competitions for “starting” positions all the time, in high school band we had challenges for lead positions every quarter and it was normal and healthy and expected, and even though we were “sensitive artists” we didn’t get our feathers ruffled (no pun intended for any of you duck fans that might be reading this) or feelings hurt by a little healthy competition. We knew it made us better as individuals as it challenged us to rise to the level of competition, and it certainly made us better and excel more as a group. If this kind of competition is OK in fine arts, it most certainly is OK on the football field. Competition should not be shyed away from, especially not on the football field. It’s good for players to constantly challenge themselves and one another to be better and to not get complacent or begin to take their positions for granted. Human nature naturally values what it has worked the hardest for.
Both these quarterbacks have worked hard, but as Riley said in the press conference today, Cody Vaz is the better, (and more mature I might add) quarterback for right now. It is a strength to admit that you’re human and that you had a bad day or that you made some mistakes. People respect you for just owning up and taking responsibility, hopefully learning from it, and moving on. The team and Beaver Nation as a whole is counting on both of these guys to show maturity and leadership and to sacrifice themselves as individuals for the greater good of the team–and to realize that sometimes that means stepping up, and sometimes that means stepping down.