It comes with the turf: When you put together a four-game stretch like that which Colt McCoy just completed, the high praise starts cascading down from every which way. Some of it might surprise you... It certainly did me.
Rareified Air, Part the First: "BetterThan Vince Young." Writing for Sunday's Austin American-Statesman, Kirk Bohls couldn't resist writing a Colt For Heisman column, arguing, "Colt McCoy belongs in the conversation. Belongs? He may be the first name uttered. He's been that good." Nothing egregious in that claim, but later in the piece Bohls takes the hype up to a whole new level when he writes:
Make no mistake about it: McCoy may not be the next Vince Young, but he's so much better a complete quarterback it's not funny. He just might not be as magical.
I had to read that three times just to make sure I wasn't misreading: "so much better a complete quarterback it's not funny."
Now, Colt McCoy is off to an insanely great start in his redshirt junior season. And I get that hating on VY is everyone's favorite leisure activity of the month, but... wow. Did Bohls really mean what he wrote?
Before we can answer that, I suppose we better try to figure out what it is Bohls actually meant in the first place. We're not given any clues as to what quarterback completeness precisely entails, but given the topic of the column, the only reasonable reading of Bohls' commentary is that he's extrapolating from the first four games of Colt McCoy's 2008 season a "completeness" that leaves in the dust... Vince Young's 2005 season?
Really? Really? No matter how one tweaks the judging criteria, it's difficult to imagine how Vince Young's redshirt junior season wouldn't have exemplified any and every reasonable definition of "completeness." Because he did it all: 1,050 rushing yards at 6.8 yards per pop (including 12 touchdowns), to go along with 230+ yards of passing per game at 9.3 yards per attempt, with 26 touchdowns against 10 interceptions--good for a QB Rating of 163.9, one of the all-time best passing seasons in school history and the third-best rating in the country in 2005. Add in a perfect regular season, a Big XII championship, and the greatest individual performance in college bowl history to deliver Texas a national freaking title and we're talking about a bar set so high that, even if someone were to put together a season that was arguably more complete than Vince's in 2005, there isn't room enough above the bar he set to say it's been cleared to such a degree that "it's not even funny."
Bohls' comment makes so little sense that I'm equal parts angry and confused--angry because it's unfair both to McCoy and Young, confused because it's so astonishingly dumb an argument to make under the circumstances. The best I can do at this point is throw Bohls a life preserver by pointing out the argument that he could have made instead of the B.S. he threw together in his rush to crown Colt and brush off Young:
"Colt McCoy just put together as complete a four-game stretch as any quarterback at Texas ever has--as good or better, even, than the best four-game stretch from Vince Young, to date the most complete quarterback ever to don the burnt orange and white."
See that? Plenty of praise heaped on McCoy without cheapening the entire conversation with utterly stupid hyperbole. Is that so hard to do? No. And hell, though I laid it out as simply as I could, the same could be done in the course of a colorfully written column. Which is precisely what Scipio Tex did over at Barking Carnival in the course of his Arkansas post-mortem:
He’s completing 80% of his passes on the year. Those are numbers Master P wouldn’t negotiate into a contract. Haven’t seen a four game stretch like this from a Longhorn QB since VY, competition be damned.
Snappy, Colt-praising, and... in step with reality. It can be done without much difficulty. Austinites aren't jerks: Kirk Bohls really just is a lousy columnist.
Rareified Air, Part the Second: "Colt's the best QB in the country." Back to Barking Carnival we go, this time to author EyesOfTX, who writes in his post-Arkansas wrap:
Colt McCoy is the best QB in college football. Say what you want about Tebow, Sanchez and Daniel, Colt is a more complete package than any of them. Lord, let him stay healthy.
Just by virtue of not sneering that the argument is so closed for discussion that "it's not even funny," EOT is already ahead of Bohls, but beyond that, he's also introducing an argument that doesn't stick out as idiotic on its face.
With that said, though EOT may well be proven right, it feels similarly (though not offensively) overzealous. Though McCoy has in fact been the most complete quarterback in 2008 of those EOT lists, I'm not comfortable crowning McCoy as a more complete package than Tebow based on four games against crappy competition--not when over over his full sophomore season Tebow passed for 3,286 yards on a nation-best 9.4 yards per attempt, found the end zone 32 times, only threw 6 interceptions, and finished with a QB Rating of 172.5, second-highest in the country. On top of the passing Tebow bulldozed on the ground for 895 yards and another 23 touchdowns, tied for third-most nationally.
And what about McCoy? Though I don't at all disagree that he's looked like the best quarterback in the country through the first four games of 2008, as recently as this summer Texas fans were worried sick about his up-and-down sophomore campaign. More than a few fans wondered if John Chiles should start. And everyone agreed that if McCoy performed at the level he did last year again in 2008, Texas would be in danger of losing 4-5 games.
Does it really make sense, then, to crown McCoy college football's new king for his performance over the first four games of 2008?
Rarefied Air, Part the Last: Why I'm Bothering to Bring this Up. Though I did intend to shame Bohls for his sloppiness, I didn't bring up EOT's post to do the same, as it seemed to me a pretty innocent "my scouting opinion" claim about how good McCoy has been and might be going forward. But the two do fit together as clear illustrations of just how much hype Colt McCoy is receiving right now, to which I have two responses:
- Tap the brakes.
- It's neither helpful nor fair to McCoy to overdo the praise at this point in the season.
On the first point, we're talking about McCoy's performance in (A) a small sample size, that is (B) against bad competition, and (C) an extreme outlier to previous data. And though I would be the happiest fan on Earth if McCoy were to prove himself the best quarterback in the country by season's end--even to the degree that we had to sit down and ask whether his performance was superior to VY's most complete effort as a Longhorn--the current hysteria very clearly seems a case of putting the cart before the horse, no different than the blitz to put Southern Cal in the national title game after their trouncing of Ohio State.
And that leads to the second, related, point: This is neither helpful nor fair to McCoy. To his credit, he handled Bohls' idiocy like the focused, humble kid that he is: "No [I'm not better than Vince Young], VY's number is retired in the stadium. That's a goal, too. Vince is Vince. I just want to be the best I can be." For all the awe-inspiring on-field work he's done over the past five weeks, maybe the best thing about Colt McCoy is that even if things don't go as well as we or he would hope for the rest of the season, he's a kid for whom you absolutely love to root--a humble, hard working, determined, competitive football player who will give everything he's got fighting for that yard, that score, that win.
It's for those reasons that he has our respect, whether or not he winds up having a junior season for the ages. In all likelihood, the road ahead will provide more than a few rocky moments for McCoy and the team as a whole. So let's all do what our fearless leader would do: button our chin straps and dig in for the long haul, while taking things one play and one game at a time.
A long, empty offseason awaits in which we'll have all the time in the world to rate McCoy's 2008 season and compare it to other quarterbacks past and present.