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Marrone passionately defends Paulus

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

It's safe to say it wasn't a typical Monday news conference in Syracuse today.

Before he disclosed the stunning news that receiver Mike Williams had quit the team, Orange coach Doug Marrone launched into a passionate defense of quarterback Greg Paulus, who drew some boos at home in Saturday's loss to Cincinnati.

According to Donnie Webb's account in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Marrone had tears in his eyes as he read from notes while talking about the former Duke basketball player. Here's some of what he said:

"I have never seen an athlete, at any level, including the NFL, work as hard, mentally and physically, as Greg has worked since he's joined us here at Syracuse. Really, what he's accomplished is extraordinary. Maybe it can't be fully appreciated because most don't know just how difficult it is to play quarterback at a Division I program.

"In the era of video games, virtual reality, it's easy to believe that throwing a pass, reading a defense, avoiding a sack is as easy as the push of a button, that any of us can do. The problem, it's not that easy. We can't do that.

"Despite the turnover and mistake that Greg made, as any quarterback makes, he's exceeded expectations at every level. I think Greg is a victim of his own success. We've seen him make great plays and great decisions and we've come to expect that from him every time. But football is a team game. People don't know when an offensive linemen misses a block or a receiver runs a wrong route. They only see the decisions that Greg makes.

" Greg is one of us. He grew up here. He came back to do something that's never been done before and he's poured every ounce of his body and soul in that task."

Paulus threw an interception in the end zone late in the first half against Cincinnati that could have tied the score. He has had problems with turnovers in Big East play, especially against South Florida. For the year, he has 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

I wonder if the people booing Paulus remember how bad the quarterback play generally was during the Greg Robinson era. Marrone's decision to hand the reins over to Paulus after he had never played college football or even taken a snap in the sport in nearly five years was a bold one, and you had to figure there were going to be some rough patches. Marrone said Paulus is a victim of his early success; at the same time, he's also a victim of the hype surrounding his arrival at Syracuse.

And don't forget that Paulus just lost his best playmaker and top target in Williams. Things won't be any easier going forward. Perhaps it would be a good idea to give freshman Ryan Nassib some more snaps late in the year to get ready for next year.

But Marrone thinks Paulus gives Syracuse the best chance to win, and the Orange are still mathematically alive for a bowl bid. Booing from the home crowd certainly isn't going to help anybody's cause.