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Garrett Gilbert: A Case of Revisionist History

As more and more Longhorns give up on incumbent starter Garrett Gilbert and pine for Case McCoy or the talented David Ash, it seems the narrative about his career is also changing.  Last year, the majority of Longhorn fans seemed more inclined to feel sorry for Gilbert for not only being thrown into the fire in the national championship game almost completely unprepared but also being thrown into an offense in which it was almost impossible for him to succeed. 

Now?  It seems that people are calling him a "miss" in the recruiting process, a guy that the staff did not evaluate well and who didn't have a hope in leading the Longhorns as a quarterback.  He's just a bad quarterback who doesn't have "it" and was the beneficiary of looking good against bad high school players.

Revisionist history isn't always a bad thing; after all, sometimes new information and more careful analysis can further clear up evaluations of the past.  Still, especiallly in the realm of sports, revisionist history is often the product of people lashing out with emotion or trying to save face, either in trying to gloss over past misstatements or claim, "I always knew (insert content here)." 

A great example of this is many Tennessee Titans fans who now try to discredit Vince Young's W-L record, a record they once adamantly defended, by pointing out that it gets demonstrably worse against +.500 teams.  Uh, no kidding; that happens to virtually every QB, and Vince's W-L record against +.500 teams is still pretty good compared to other quarterbacks'.  It is, frankly, an incredibly stupid argument, but fans enjoy finding scapegoats for their ills.

The criticism of Garrett Gilbert has not yet approached that level of irrationality, but I am puzzled now by the rhetoric that Gilbert holds primary responsibility for our offensive ineptitude last season and that he was just completely overrated coming out of high school.  To test this claim, I went back and tried to review last season.  Since I have no desire to watch all those games again, for pretty obvious reasons (and they wouldn't be easy to find anyway), I had to rely on my memory banks as well as written reviews and statistics.  I don't claim to have photographic memory, but there are a lot of things, unfortunately, burned into my brain last season, so I think my memory of the previous year is decent.

I'll just briefly go through every game last season and write a few things on Gilbert's performance:

Rice:  Unremarkable but wasn't allowed to do much.  Had a few nice throws, especially one to John Chiles.  The offense as a whole was uninspiring, despite the easy win.

Wyoming:  Also unremarkable but noticeably got better as the game went on.  Had a nice bomb dropped by Goodwin and a TD to White that was discounted but probably should have counted.  Made nice plays with his legs, but again, the offense as a whole came out pretty dull.

Texas Tech:  Actually played well, I thought.  He started the game strong, and I would not blame him for his three interceptions (tipped passes because Britt Mitchel was apparently not taught to cut blockers on screens, volleyball from Malcolm Williams to Tech defender).  The offense was complete trash this game, but that wasn't because of GG.  With better support, Gilbert may have finished with a three-touchdown, no-interception game in a hostile environment.

UCLA:  Pretty ugly, but he was not alone.  The whole offense was just terrible and special teams didn't help at all.

OU:  Gilbert didn't play great but there were players who played far worse than he did.  Actually made a handful of plays and was decent, considering the circumstances.

NU:  Ironically, thought to be his best game although his passer rating is by far the worst in this one.  Missed some throws but was also the victim of some drops, but showed shiftiness with his feet and managed the game okay.

ISU:  Really bad.  But who WASN'T bad this game?

Baylor:  Was actually one of the few bright spots this game ("bright" being a very relative term).  Once again the victim of bad drops, made some plays with this feet, and played tough.  Can't blame this game on him.

KSU:  Ohhhh boy.  I'll let Scipio Tex summarize this one

Gilbert was game throughout the year, but he was essentially broken as a QB when we threw him 59 times against KSU and 15 of those passes hit off of Wildcat protective equipment in addition to the 5 they caught. Before that, the offense was broken. After that, Garrett Gilbert and the offense were broken.

Mack could be accused of murder for keeping the guy in that game.

OSU:  We got thrashed this game, as expected, but I had a hard time blaming GG for a lot of it.  His stat line of course looks like nothing, but there wasn't much he could do.

FAU:  Killed them and Gilbert went 15-21 for three touchdowns.  Progress!  Not really, since FAU was terrible.

A&M:  Had a handful of good plays but the turnovers were just killer.


Was Garrett Gilbert bad?  Well, duh.  But as I look back at the progression of the season, I don't see a guy who just never had the ability to play quarterback.  I see a guy who had promise who was just hung out to dry in that wreckage of an offense.  He was set up to fail, and he did just that.  I think if we replaced him with a sophomore Colt McCoy, we win a couple of more games because Colt is just a lot better at creating things out of nothing, but that's about it.  I refuse to crap on a QB with the criticism, "Isn't elite at creating offense when there is no offense."  What kind of offense requires that to even work?

I am not saying that Garrett Gilbert has to keep starting.  I'm merely pointing out that it's silly to go back and label him as an overrated prospect.  Everyone had him rated highly out of high school, not just Texas, and while there are some that wanted Gilbert AND Russell Shepard, few would have chosen Shepard over Gilbert if given the choice.  The guy is legitimately talented.  He may now be legitimately broken, but being broken is not the same as never having the ability.  This is one recruiting move that I have trouble criticizing the previous staff for.  I will criticize how they handled him after he was recruited, though.

If David Ash or Case McCoy give us the better chance to win, then I'm all for them playing.  But Gilbert had game coming out of high school, and if he indeed can't be salvaged, it's because he's damaged goods, not because he never had the potential to be good.