Nobody is safe in our nihilistic sporting culture. Every athlete is subject to disapproval, doubting and inevitable deconstruction, the “yeah, but” crowd always lurking with a takedown whenever imperfection arises. When praise flows, backlash awaits its turn to launch a counterattack.
And in these treacherous times, no position is fraught with more peril than quarterback.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was dogged by criticism of his stressed-out performances against Georgia and Clemson — proof to some haters that his gaudy season numbers were only the product of a weak schedule.’ data-reactid=”19″>Pity, then, the college QBs who are routinely built up and torn down. Even while authoring the most efficient season in FBS history in 2018, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was dogged by criticism of his stressed-out performances against Georgia and Clemson — proof to some haters that his gaudy season numbers were only the product of a weak schedule.
(I asked Pro Football Focus’ Cam Mellor to explain what constitutes a “Big Time Throw” and a “Turnover Worthy Play.” His response: “Big-Time Throw – PFF’s highest-graded pass attempts based upon ball location, accuracy, velocity, distance downfield and other factors. … Turnover-Worthy Throw – PFF’s lowest-graded pass attempts are throws that should be intercepted or should be turnovers but for whatever reason, dropped INT, pass interference, etc. are not.”)
Clemson went 15-0, won the national title and bludgeoned a pair of undefeated opponents in the College Football Playoff. Lawrence started the final 11 games, and after being injured early in his first start, against Syracuse, the Tigers’ average margin of victory in the next 10 games was 36.1 points. They destroyed everyone.’ data-reactid=”46″>In terms of more traditional statistics, start with the most important one: His team did not lose. Clemson went 15-0, won the national title and bludgeoned a pair of undefeated opponents in the College Football Playoff. Lawrence started the final 11 games, and after being injured early in his first start, against Syracuse, the Tigers’ average margin of victory in the next 10 games was 36.1 points. They destroyed everyone.
Along the way, Lawrence’s personal performance kept improving. After being intercepted on his final throw against Boston College on Nov. 10, Lawrence has since compiled a 171-pass streak without being picked off. His season efficiency rating was 157.56, 12th in the nation, but in the two playoff games it rose to 173.83 — and that was against a pair of top-25 pass defenses.
Yes, his absurdly gifted wide receivers often made him look good with acrobatic catches — something Lawrence volunteered after walloping both Notre Dame and Alabama. But Lawrence also showcased both spectacular velocity and impressive accuracy all season, able to make every kind of throw in the quarterback repertoire. Throw in the ability to read defenses and think on his feet, and there is nothing he wasn’t able to do right away as a college quarterback.
Lawrence basically detonated the expected learning curve at the position. The standard setters for college QB precocity earlier this decade were Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, each of whom won the Heisman Trophy as redshirt freshmen and one of whom (Winston) led his team to the national title. But the key word in the above sentence was “redshirt,” something Lawrence did not do.
He did go through spring practice at Clemson before his freshman season, which gave him a chance to be ready for the fall. But there is a big difference between a redshirt year and three weeks of spring ball.
And then there was former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who in September 2017 laid the hype on thick after watching and coaching Lawrence in the Elite 11 Camp. Dilfer said the then-17-year-old was “better than 15 guys in the NFL right now from a talent standpoint. Maybe more.”
Lawrence himself isn’t doing much to fan the flames of his own hype. He’s kept a low media profile this summer, skipping the interview session at the Manning Passing Academy in June and not being one of the players Clemson took to Atlantic Coast Conference media days. (It was a lamentable decision by the Tigers.) A quest to find — and interview — whoever cuts his famous hair went nowhere as well.
Unlike Manziel and Winston, Lawrence has done precious little to stir up drama away from the field. That’s another hurdle for Nihilism Nation to confront should it ever get around to trying to take down Trevor Lawrence.
Perhaps the kid will provide a few incompletions — maybe even an interception — to overreact to next Thursday night when the Tigers open their title defense against Georgia Tech. But it’s difficult to project a Clemson loss anytime before Christmas, and even more difficult to project a Clemson loss that is attributable to poor quarterback play.
For now, the haters have nothing on Trevor Lawrence. Which, in and of itself, they must hate.
Source : Yahoo Sports Link