LSU football and the situation at quarterback
By MARTY MULÉ
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
Maybe it’s the time of year - a couple weeks removed from LSU’s spring game and in the immediate aftermath of the NFL draft - but the season has brought a nagging question: how did Tiger football ever fall into this quarterback quandary?
Not only is LSU said to be in the superpower category of college football, and therefore should be a magnet for the crème de la crème of high school field generals, but secondly, LSU is in Louisiana, where QBs have excelled almost since trapping muskrats along its waterways was the state’s main sport.
We all know how the Tigers have struggled in that area the last few years after their last superior talent under center - Ryan Perrilloux - finally wrangled his way out of the good graces of the very forgiving Les Miles, who had neglected to recruit anyone else of abilities even somewhat approaching that of the former Bengal bad boy.
So this is what LSU was left with: a starter last year who went 32 quarters without throwing a touchdown pass, who was college football’s 92nd most efficient quarterback, and at the helm of the nation’s 107th passing offense.
That, of course, is not news. But in the spring game, while LSU’s troika of quarterbacks were generally okay, (Jordan Jefferson, 4-of-14 for 102 yards; Jarrett Lee, 9-of-14, 63 yards; Zach Mettenberger, 5 of 8 for 86 yards) was anybody really knocked out?
All of this quarterback angst in the state that takes a backseat to no other in producing signal-callers.
Here’s a thought worth pondering: In the first 45 years of the game, seven different Louisiana athletes have quarterbacked 10 teams into Super Bowl berths (and an astounding five times that quarterback was the game’s MVP, Terry Bradshaw receiving the honor twice in the four times he quarterbacked a winning team in the game).
Only California, with a population of almost 37 million, and Pennsylvania, with a population of 12.6 million, have produced more Super Bowl quarterbacks than the Pelican State, with a pool of just 4.5 million people. California had nine and Pennsylvania eight. A comparison with other much more populous states shows Texas with one and Florida with none.
Clearly, Louisiana has a punch far more powerful than its weight class would indicate.
Must be something in the water.
Archie Manning, the former New Orleans Saints hero who runs an annual passing academy for players from across the country and who is the father of two super-winning MVPs, said it’s an unanswerable question. “Louisiana has always produced good quarterbacks,” Manning said. “A lot of very good quarterbacks have come from here who never even got to the Super Bowl. Whatever the reason Louisiana has been a good place for growing quarterbacks.”
An intriguing part of the equation is that each one of the seven Louisiana QBs attended different schools. Bradshaw was a product of Louisiana Tech, David Woodley (LSU), Stan Humphries (Northeast Louisiana), Doug Williams (Grambling), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Eli Manning (Ole Miss), and Jake Delhomme (Southwestern Louisiana).
They had already an imprint on their respective college programs. Bradshaw was the central figure in Tech’s 1968 small college national championship, and Williams was part of three black national championship teams at Grambling. Woodley at the helm of Coach Charlie McClendon’s last LSU teams, being named MVP of the Tangerine Bowl in Mac’s final game. Humphries quarterbacked Northeast La. (nee’ Louisiana-Monroe) to the 1987 division II national title. Peyton Manning steered the Tennessee Vols to the 1997 SEC championship, and his brother Eli made Ole Miss an extremely dangerous opponent in the early years of the 21st Century. Delhomme left USL (now Louisiana-Lafayette) as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes.
Obviously, as a collective group in the NFL title game they also left deep impressions:
- In Super Bowls XIII and XIV, Bradshaw became the first player to be voted MVP in back-to-back title games since Bart Starr in the first two.
- In 1982, when Woodley was at the helm of the Miami Dolphins in a 27-17 losing effort against the Washington Redskins, he was, at age 24, the youngest quarterback ever to start a Super Bowl.
- Williams, of course, was the first African-American to start at quarterback when he was the MVP in the Redskins’ 42-10 beat-down of the Denver Broncos.
- Humphries guided the San Diego Chargers to their only title game in Super Bowl XXIX, despite losing 49-26.
- Despite throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions (achieving a QB rating of 113.6), Delhomme, an undrafted free agent and former New Orleans Saint, and his Carolina Panthers were beaten 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII by the New England Patriots.
- Perhaps the Super Bowl record destined to last the longest is the one where two brothers win back-to-back games - and MVP trophies. The sons of Archie, Peyton fired the Indianapolis Colts to a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the 2007 game, and little brother Eli did the same a year later when his New York Giants edged the New England Patriots 17-14. It’ll be a long time before that feat is duplicated.
So, after digesting all that, anyone would have to wonder, why should this be an on-going problem at LSU?
Marty Mule’ can reached at MJM981two@charter.net.