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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

P.S.R. Op-Ed

Deserved, But Still Unfortunate

After two years on the bench, Jarrett Lee might be L.S.U.'s new starter.

You can look at it in one of two ways. One, Jordan Jefferson’s continued ineffectiveness finally led Les Miles to pull the plug on his junior quarterback. I have no problem with this train of logic: Jefferson has not cracked the 100-yard mark in each of L.S.U.’s last three games, throwing for three interceptions without a single touchdown over this span. On the other hand — and bear with me here — you can view his late-game benching as the ultimate scapegoating — the picture of a quarterback taking the blame for the nation’s least impressive offensive coordinator, whose fingerprints are all over the program’s multiple-year incompetence on the offensive side of the ball.

The pair must share the blame — I’m baffled as to how anyone could solely rest L.S.U.’s struggles at Jefferson’s doorstep. Jefferson was given the keys to the offense; the offense turned out to be a lemon, unfortunately, and it’s hard to picture any of L.S.U.’s options under center faring significantly better.

Jarrett Lee’s time might be next, though Les Miles has yet to formally announce a change at quarterback. What other options does he have? Lee has seemingly learned from his freshman mistakes, though we haven’t yet had the opportunity to see his improved game management skills in action.

Then there’s Russell Shepard, the high school quarterback turned all-purpose offensive skill player. Shepard never truly earned the chance to make noise at quarterback; perhaps Miles and Crowton saw in Shepard what they seem to see in Jefferson — a great athlete in need of more fine-tuning than this program can afford.

So here we are, four weeks into the season, and it has come to this: instead of identifying the true culprit, the blame falls upon L.S.U.’s quarterback play. This is wrong. Jefferson isn’t perfect; he’s far from perfect, in fact, and might end a once-promising college career as a second-teamer. On the other hand, the coach pulling the strings, Crowton, is again one step removed from culpability.

He’s bought himself some time with L.S.U.’s potential quarterback change. Miles’s decision to remove Jefferson from last night’s game, even if not permanent, makes a clear statement: it’s not coaching, but the player. It’s almost aggravating, if it wasn’t so typical.

The ship isn’t quite sinking — not just yet — but L.S.U. is taking on water. The defense and special teams have bailed out the offense through four games, but how much longer can that continue? Perhaps there’s a sliver lining to a quarterback change: should the offense continue to falter under Lee’s direction, Miles will finally come to the realization that it’s not the players, but the coordinator leading this offense into a ditch.

Perhaps that’s the silver lining. For now, I don’t question whether Jefferson’s benching was deserved: his play over the last three weeks warranted a wake-up call for the junior. I only question the sanity behind blaming a talented roster when Gary Crowton — somehow made of Teflon, it seems — is the sole constant behind the program’s precipitous offensive slide.

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  1. Matt says:

    People around Oregon were concerned when Crowton left, but it was actually the move that put the Ducks over the top. Made room for Chip, who installed an offense that’s consistently effective almost regardless of the QB play.

  2. Gotham Gator says:

    When’s the last time LSU had a great quarterback? I know that the last time they had a serviceable quarterback (Mauck), they won the national championship.

    The quarterbacking disaster is well into its third year in Baton Rouge, with no sign that things will change any time soon. It’s gotten predictably comical in the Red Stick. Every year you look at the depth chart at quarterback, and the names you read aren’t that much different than Larry, Moe, and Curly. The situation in 2008 was absurd, with basically nobody around who even looked like they deserved the job – hence a Harvard transfer was the choice to begin the season.

    LSU’s problems at this position underscore how important it is to over recruit the quarterback position. That’s hard to do, as kids want to know they are the likely starter before signing on, but teams can’t afford to get stuck with basically nobody to play the position if the expected starter flunks out, gets hurt, doesn’t pan out, etc. etc.

    And I say all this knowing that Crowton is a big part of the problem.

  3. I happened across an ESPN radio interview of Miles yesterday morning in which he observed the following about the West Virginia game:

    “Certainly, we were penalties, and we stopped ourselves.”

    From listening to him, my sense is that Miles believes that if he just hangs in there long enough with Crowton, eventually the offense will click.

    I think he will be waiting a long time.

  4. TCL says:

    Almost no one in BR solely blames Jefferson. A significant majority place blame primarily on Crowton’s play-calling and secondarily on Jefferson. Many also put a fair share of blame on Miles for failing to realize that Crowton’s offense is terrible and failing to step in, despite Miles supposedly being an offensive-minded coach. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but no solution in sight; a move to Jarrett Lee to run the same blindered game plan isn’t it.

  5. Linus says:

    I think if some enterprising young lad were to follow Mr. Crowton’s career, they’d find a persistent theme of under- or mis- utilizing talent. And shoot me for saying it, but how much of the Hat’s time management troubles should actually be laid at Gary’s feet?

    I will admit, I am not a fair judge–I’m a BYU grad and an LSU fan (not a common combination I know), so I feel like I cannot get away from the guy.

  6. [...] not the kind of offense that PAC-10 fans expect, but it’s still better than what Gary Crowton’s throwing together week-in and week-out. Since it’s Neuheisel Week, I’m going to admit [...]

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