Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
To the questions!
Scott from Tacoma writes: The hype around [UCLA QB] Josh Rosen is fine, but why does it come at the expense of [Washington QB] Jake Browning? Browning was as good, if not better, than Rosen over the second half of the season. Rosen might be a "specimen" but Browning is going to be leading the better offense and better team at the end of the season. Mark it down!
Ted Miller: Rosen and Browning both played well as true freshman starters last year. Both are a big reason their teams should start the 2016 season ranked.
And you are correct: Rosen being a "specimen" is significant part of why the hype -- with me and just about everyone else -- is so extreme. He's got prototypical size at a legit 6-foot-4 with above-average athleticism and, as they say, he can make all the throws. In fact, he's got a better arm that a lot of guys starting in the NFL right now. Moreover, he's extremely bright and seems to have matured out of the cocky ways that rubbed some folks the wrong way in recruiting.
Let's put it this way: If you were to ask me who is the surest thing in college football to become an NFL starter, I'd go with Rosen, though I might have to qualify that with my admiration for Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who seems like a dual-threat potentially on par with Cam Newton.
Browning reminds me of Kellen Moore, the Boise State QB who made beautiful music with Washington coach Chris Petersen, only Browning has more physical upside. Browning is a high-IQ player with notable passing accuracy. Both are pretty important for becoming an elite QB.
As for last season, well, Rosen had better numbers. He had a better QBR than Browning and a higher efficiency rating, most notably in Pac-12 games. In conference games, Rosen had 15 TD passes and five interceptions. In conference games, Browning had 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Did Rosen have more talent around him? Yes, though you could argue the Huskies' offensive line was playing better than the Bruins' injury-ravaged unit much of the season. Both had their ups and downs, as freshmen starting in the Pac-12 are certain to have.
As for their prospects this year, I expect both to be in the All-Pac-12 conversation. As they don't face each other next season, perhaps they will square off in the Pac-12 championship game. That's, by the way, perfectly plausible.
A Miserable Trojan writes: To what do you owe Stanford's recent success in football in terms of on-field results, recruiting strength and national respect and recognition (except from the state of Iowa)? I'm a Trojans fan who is tired of the maulings we have experienced at the hands of The Nerds. Should we (the rest of the Pac-12) start a Go Fund Me campaign to raise enough money to bribe [coach David Shaw] to go away? (I'm sure the much-tortured Cal fans would contribute plenty. Lol.). Please Ted, help the Pac-12 kick Stanford football back to their old, wonderful mediocre existence!
Ted Miller: In 1999, when Rick Neuheisel was a first-year coach at Washington, a reporter made a mocking remark about Stanford, and Neuheisel countered with an "au contraire." Neuheisel made the point that the right coach could win consistently at Stanford because "we are the best academic institution playing major college football" was a powerful selling point.
(I will now pause for the California fans to vent. OK, now, breathe... better?)
In 2007, Stanford made a good -- some might say lucky -- hire with Jim Harbaugh, who transformed the team culture just as the school was starting to make a bigger investment in the football program with stadium and facilities upgrades. Next, then-athletic director Bob Bowlsby made the inspired decision to hand the job to offensive coordinator David Shaw when Harbaugh left. At the time, some wondered if Shaw's more polished, less breaking-bricks-with-your-forehead ways might not sustain the Cardinal's transformation.
Some were wrong.
What's clear now is that Stanford has become a solid brand in recruiting. For one, it's a badge of honor among recruits who care about academics -- a much larger number than some might think -- to be offered admission with a football scholarship. Stanford should remain a Pac-12 and national power as long as Shaw remains the head coach.
The big, looming question will be what happens if -- when? -- Shaw leaves. My strong impression is Shaw, a former Stanford receiver, loves coaching his alma mater and isn't infected with a climber's, grass-is-always-greener mentality. That said, he's also extremely competitive, so one day he might want to make a run at the NFL.
Then the question would be simple: Will Stanford make another inspired hire?
All this said, it's no coincidence that Stanford and Oregon rose during USC's downturn after NCAA sanctions. If USC hires the right coach -- and perhaps Clay Helton is that guy -- it will quickly challenge to return to its accustomed perch atop the conference.
Lloyd from Seattle writes: I've been reading your web page for quite a while now. Did you go to the UW? It seems like your staff, or especially you, can't go more than 2-3 days without writing a large positive article about the UW Huskies no matter how bad they are. You've been raving about coach Petersen ever since he arrived at UW, how he is the best coach in the country. Maybe you haven't noticed but the last two years he has finished under .500 in the Pac-12 conference at 4 and 5. You continue to wave your pom poms and your typical response at the end of the season is "wait until next year." You've been saying this for the last 10 years. Do you ever get tired of being wrong? Eventually if you say that long enough, maybe you'll be right. Looking forward to your snide response.
Ted Miller: No, I didn't go to Washington. I went to the University of Richmond. But, really, same thing...
Do I ever get tired of being wrong? Yes.
By any chance are you related to Jill from Spokane (see mailbag's bottom note)? And if not, I'm guessing you two would be quite the pair.