Just when everybody thought they knew the question (when?), Coach David Shaw changed the answers: "Right Now" and "Ryan Burns." This morning Coach Shaw informed both Redshirt Junior Ryan Burns and Redshirt Sophomore Keller Chryst that Burns would be Stanford's starting quarterback but added that Chryst would see time against Kansas State with some packages that the Cardinal tailor specifically to his strengths.
The advantage of course is that now Burns will have had a full week and a half of reps as the first teamer to prepare for his first collegiate start and his first start anywhere in four calendar years. And, Chryst will not just be rusting away idly during games, so if the need arises for him to take over, Stanford will have a backup with game experience. And that brings us to some of the risks in making this choice now.
First of all, choosing your starter with no significant game data to inform the choice would signal strongly that Burns had clearly established himself as the no-brainer choice. After all, Andrew Luck didn't have any meaningful game experience when Jim Harbaugh named him the starting quarterback. However, Coach Shaw has reiterated all offseason that the gap between these two wasn't that significant, begging the question, what changed his mind? Shaw was non-specific when mentioning how Burns won the job, citing the "totality" of the evidence without naming any specific attributes. By making the announcement now, after emphasizing in the spring, at Pac-12 Media Day, and as recently as this week that he could see the competition spilling into the USC game, Coach Shaw has opened himself up to a hornet's nest of criticism should Burns not prove out on game days.
I am certain that is the least of David Shaw's concerns at this point. He stated plainly and before Tom FitzGerald could even finish the question that the respective ages of the two played no role in this choice. Burns, should he prove successful, would have two years as the starter. Chryst would have three. Ultimately, Coach Shaw and the coaches are the only ones dealing with all the information. Despite the struggles with the last quarterback competition, there's no reason not to trust the rationale behind this decision, since there was no reason he had to make this decision today. Burns is the guy. Bring on the Wildcats.
In reality, I suspect that on a very real level, all that's happened is that Burns has secured the pole position, and that now we have moved into another phase of the process. It's his job to lose, but if he struggles against Kansas State or USC and Chryst performs well, does anybody doubt Stanford will have a new starting quarterback? This schedule and this roster demand the best possible choice, even if the best choice turns out not to be the first choice. That's all speculation at this point. For now, Stanford has a starting quarterback for the first time since January 1, and that quarterback fronts as talented a team as Stanford has had in many years. Shaw-Vita-Gren have made their first big call of 2016, which is to say we now know who will be under center when the make the first big on-field call of 2016.
9 days, 40 minutes, People.