BYU Football Fortunes Rest on the Arms of its QBs

Two thousand and one was not a fluke. Quarterback play is critical to Coach <b>Gary Crowton's</b> success and BYU's main offensive problems are only a good quarterback away from being fixed. All the top recruits in the world this offseason will not fix our sputtering engine without solid play from the quarterbacks.

Most solutions are not that simple, but this one really is.

Is BYU close to being a good team, as Crowton has maintained numerous times, or is he making lame excuses? What would our record have been with an average BYU quarterback? How many great years has BYU had without a solid quarterback? How many great years has BYU had with returned missionary freshman or sophomore QBs? When Crowton had a solid quarterback, how has his system performed? How often do really young quarterbacks find success in a dynamic offense like ours?

Certainly a lot of questions, to be sure, but the answers are revealing.

Things will be dramatically different if we have an above average quarterback running the show next year. Sure, skill players surrounding him will be great, but will not turn things around. Crowton knows this. The excuses this year of youth and inexperience were dead on whether you were willing to hear the excuse or not. Crowton has been classy in protecting his young quarterbacks and shouldered most of the blame – as he should.

Gary and the rest of us were waiting for the quarterbacks to just get a little bit more consistent and stop making costly mistakes. We could have handled regular and small mistakes, just not the killer turnovers. They never seemed to stop and the Cougars never turned the corner. We'll never know how it would have played out if Matt Berry or John Beck were not injured, but it would have been different.

I believe we would have won a minimum of nine games this year and the MWC with a above-average quarterback and with all other things being equal. My game-by-game evaluation would shows wins against USC, Stanford, Air Force, Wyoming, Notre Dame and Utah if the Cougars had an above-average and consistent quarterback at the helm.

All we needed was somebody that did not turn the ball over so much; someone that hit the long ball occasionally; and someone who kept the defense a little more honest in coverage.

Of course, Crowton's job would not be on the line with a 9-3 record, a MWC title and a bowl berth. Certainly, there were other offensive problems, but the quarterback issue proved insurmountable. Berry and Beck were thrown to the proverbial wolves before they were ready, but Crowton had no alternative. Youth, inexperience and injuries have hampered quarterback play for two years and that is the bottom line. It's that simple.

It is always easy to armchair quarterback a game and point out the glaring mistakes or the sins of commission. The bigger mistakes or sins of omission killed us. Beck and Berry are excellent athletes, but they lacked great decision-making skills in the heat of battle. You saw the anguish on Crowton's face many times; missed opportunity after missed opportunity. A misread at the line or imperfect execution are the hallmarks of young quarterbacks and made all the difference in not sustaining drives that would have led to touchdowns.

Many argue a good coach can easily fix these problems. I agree. With Robbie Bosco's decision to transfer to BYU sports fundraising arm, Crowton has an excellent opportunity to bring in a dynamic quarterback coach.

The Cougars defense kept us in most games except Colorado State and Boise State, but the offense repeatedly turned the ball over or punted all game long.

It is notable that BYU has never been successful with a young returned mission quarterback – ever. Crowton's system and program requires a solid quarterback running the show. The cupboard was bare after 2001.

Was 2001 a fluke? I don't believe so. Lavell Edwards had nearly the same team in 2000 and did not come up with anywhere near the same results. The difference was a more seasoned and experienced Brandon Doman as a senior quarterback. Offensely, the 2001 Cougars mixed things up so well offensively that defenses found it impossible to prepare. Crowton and his staff masterminded the offense.

I believe the problems on this team are fixable with an above-average quarterback in 2004. Hope springs eternal. Either Berry, Beck, Jackson Brown or JC transfer Jason Beck will have to step up and carry this team with a display or leadership and gamesmanship absent these last two years from a BYU quarterback.

Regardless, this offseason had better be a workout fest. Doman made an incredible commitment in his final offseason and it showed. If this team rededicates and refocuses for next year, we will be fine. If the Cougars offensive woes continue, we will likely lose a great coach at the end of next season.

Outside of the quarterback position, I believe BYU will field a better team where it counts most next year, provided we land some of the better receivers and defensive backs we are pursuing.

Finally, I believe this team will turn the corner next season, but it all rests squarely on the shoulders of BYU quarterbacks who will either lead the team to renewed glory or continued mediocrity.

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