Happy Thursday, folks. Fall’s a few terrestrial rotations away, the Cavs aren’t far behind, the Browns are either just as bad as last season or have incrementally improved by the smallest of increments, and the Indians continue to astound in the most invigorating way. MLB playoffs are soon — but While We’re Waiting…
As an Ohio State football fan, I’m through with J.T. Barrett. It’s the type of untenable disposition fit only for spoiled college football fans and uncompromising toddlers — a tantrum against the injustice of not getting what we want all the time. But in light of the second half of last season and the team’s loss to Oklahoma, I can’t help it.
Any fanbase should be so unlucky as to be saddled with J.T. Barrett, a four-year starter who will likely break every conceivable passing and touchdown record in Ohio State football history and several in Big Ten history. Barrett is 27-4 as a starting quarterback, and is one of the most decorated athletes in Ohio State history. People I trust and admire and almost always agree with have argued Barrett’s merits as a worthy quarterback.
On the other hand: I’ve just seen too much of Barrett and his limitations to want to keep watching him. His stats — and I believe his abilities as a passer — have somehow regressed since 2014, when he first assumed the starting quarterback job. Barrett is unable to develop a consistent intermediate passing game, is wildly inaccurate on deep balls, misses open receivers, is late throwing through windows, and even struggles on short timing routes past the line of scrimmage. Barrett and the offense use his running as a substitute for a good offense with sound principles and a recognizable identity. While there is plenty of blame to go around to the coaches, the game plans, the receivers, and the offensive line for Ohio State’s inconsistent offense, I feel I’ve seen and know Barrett’s limitations — and they’re significant. And I think good teams know they can drop eight guys into zone coverage and dare Barrett to make a challenging throw.
But it’s more than the analytical — it’s the emotional and pseudo-spiritual. I’ll illustrate with contrasting in-person experiences. In January 2015, I attended the National Championship game between Ohio State and Oregon. Ohio State was down 7-0 in the first quarter, and should have been down by more. After a decent Oregon drive that ended with a dropped pass, Ohio State had the ball on their own 3-yard-line. But Cardale Jones — starting for an injured Barrett — was unflappable. He seemed to take all the anxiety of all the Ohio State fans in the building, throw it over his shoulder like a hobo bindle and say, “Chill out. I got this.” Jones proceeded to throw a 25-yard missile on a long-developing route that curled to the sideline on 3rd-and-8. The next play, he completed a beautiful back-shoulder throw in man coverage to Jalin Marshall for another near-30-yard gain. Ohio State scored a touchdown soon after, and proceeded to win 42-20.
On the other hand, I attended last season’s Ohio State games against Michigan and Clemson. Although Ohio State did beat Michigan 30-27 in double overtime (which included a great fourth-quarter drive led by J.T. Barrett), they lost 31-0 against Clemson in one of the worst defeats in school history. In neither game did I or the Ohio State fans in my immediate vicinity have faith that Barrett could complete a meaningful third-and-long pass. In both games were in-stadium viewers able to see open receivers dotted around the field and a complete unwillingness bordering on timidity to threaten the defense vertically despite having a cadre of receivers with track speed. In the National Championship Game: power running with bold and devastating play-action passes. Versus Michigan and Clemson: predictable quarterback runs and an impotent mid-to-long range passing game.
My point is that with quarterbacks, like with romantic relationships, it’s less analytical than it is emotional. Once it’s over — it’s over. You weren’t my first quarterback, J.T. This also happened to Todd Boeckman,1 Derek Anderson, and Brian Hoyer. The relationship between a baseball fan base and a closer is the only one that compares to the intimacy between a quarterback and the team’s fans.2 But once that trust is gone — it’s gone. And like real relationships, once I’ve moved on from a quarterback I’ve never looked back with regret. The realization that it’s over can come at the strangest and most fleeting of moments — in the middle of breakfast or the middle of the second quarter against Michigan.
Again, it’s not you, J.T. It’s me. It’s not your fault. I just want you to be happy. But it’s over, and no weekend at a Cabo resort or thrashing over a service academy can change that. I just want more — points against Penn State, that is. It wasn’t always bad, J.T. We’ll always have the memories, like 2014 against Michigan State or 2016 against Oklahoma. We may even have a great rest of the season together — but I’ll just be thinking about what it would be like to be with another recruit. I’m sorry, but sometimes you just need to move on … and find you a man with an intermediate passing game.
The Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. You know, “fire drill” really is a misnomer.
And now for the random 90s song of the day. For reasons unknown, this song became lodged in my cranium’s tape deck at some point between Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning. Well the reasons aren’t totally unknown — it’s because 90s pop songs only existed to reinforce bad clichés and create pleasantly melodious creases in your brain, embedding themselves only to resurface years later like locusts heeding the call of nature to make you sad and sing Jewel at inappropriate times.
As much as 90s pop music is largely indefensible and serves as an anthropological reminder of the time and place responsible for Fred Durst and the Tamagotchi, I will defend Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” as a good song. It’s a lovely maudlin breakup song that a talented karaoke singer can weaponize to bring an entire bar to tears. It also caused an entire generation of impressionable young men to romanticize the notion of a girl sitting on the floor in jeans and playing acoustic guitar. In the music video, Jewel fantasizes about her shattered relationship with a young man who looks like Bill Pullman if he had given up acting to live in a van and run a record store. There’s a random rowboat on the floor. [Warning: The video is … kind of NSFW?]
I got my eggs, I got my pancakes too
I got my maple syrup, everything but you…