No, Stanford head coach David Shaw is not going to replace quarterback Josh Nunes this week. No, I don’t think he should. So stop jerking your knee before you tear an ACL.
Nunes had a bad game Thursday night against the Washington Huskies. He made some bad decisions. He made more than a few bad throws. Call me crazy, but Nunes almost looked like -- oh, I don’t know -- like a first-year starter making his first career road start in an NFL stadium well known for its levels of tympanic torture. No, we shouldn’t take any of that into account. That would make far too much sense. Please, resume your knee jerking.
Asked immediately after the game if he was going to make a quarterback change, Shaw looked perturbed that the issue was even raised and responded in the negative without hesitation. By Friday afternoon he had digested a rather indigestible performance by the offense and offered this:
“The bottom line is that Josh is four games into his career,” Shaw said. “Every week he does a little bit better, culminating with the USC win where he played outstanding in the second half … You can’t put Josh in the Hall of Fame after the USC game. And you can’t beat him up too much after the Washington game.”
It’s ironic in a twisted and masochistic sort of way. Many of the Stanford fans who are so eagerly calling for Brett Nottingham are falling prey to the same mistakes that a lot of Heisman voters made last year when they dismissed the exploits of Andrew Luck as commonplace. One of the biggest knocks on Luck last year was that he didn’t have many “Heisman moments.” But as I noted in a column in December, Luck had about 10 Heisman moments a game -- they just didn’t fit the traditional definition.
Luck was so gifted and special that after three years of watching him carve with a surgeon’s precision, a mathematician’s calculation and an impressionist’s beauty, Stanford fans have become desensitized to some very important facts; being a quarterback is hard; reading defenses is hard; converting third downs is hard.
And when your offensive line misses assignments, as they did Thursday, and when your receivers drop catchable balls, as they did Thursday, the difficulty level of the position gets raised exponentially.
Remember, Nunes beat out Nottingham for a reason. And it wasn't a snap decision, either. Nottingham had months to win the gig. But he didn't. Nunes did -- and he's 3-1 as a starter against a 4-1 San Jose State team, a 4-1 Duke team, a 3-1 USC team and a 3-1 Washington team.
This in no way justifies Nunes' performance. But nor should the mistakes of others be counted as checks against him.
"Some of them were tough catches, but that’s what we have to do," Shaw said. "We have to make tough catches. That’s part of the game. To sit around and ask the quarterback to be perfect is wrong. Yes, some of them were on Josh. Some of them were on the guys supposed to be catching the ball. But at the same time, as an offense, we didn’t get into an offensive rhythm that we normally get into. Give them some credit because they played extremely well."
Good point. Let's not forget to compliment Washington and the game plan it put on the field. It was a good one. The Huskies took Stepfan Taylor out of the game and pressured Nunes into some quick throws and two sacks. He didn't just have a bad game. Washington made him have a bad game. A well-deserved tip of the cap to the Washington defense.
But I can also think of about seven balls, approximately 150 yards and a possible touchdown that was left on the field from drops or mistakes that shouldn't be attributed to Nunes.
And did anyone else notice Nunes on the sideline after Washington went ahead on the Kasen Williams touchdown? The way he was going up and down the sideline smacking guys on the helmet and trying to fire them up. Looked an awful lot like another Stanford quarterback following a pick-six at USC last year. There wasn't any pouting, sunken shoulders or beleaguered body language. Nunes believed Stanford could win the game and he believed he could drive them. It doesn't count on the scoreboard -- but it should count for something.
If the Cardinal drop their next two games (home to Arizona, at Notre Dame) and look as offensively flaccid as they did last Thursday, then it might be time to open up the discussion. But for now, Nunes is the starter, regardless of whether you are on board.