I love Joshua Nesbitt, and thought he should have been a top-ten Heisman consideration last year after having a better regular season than Tim Tebow. He's a smart distributor and thunderous runner who once forced an endlessly reminisced fumble.
But he's always been a bad passer.
Can we admit that yet, Yellow Jacket fans? He's completing 28.6 percent of his passes after two games against physically outmatched opponents, and that's really not much below expectations. The rest of the country knows Nesbitt isn't a great passer. Are we ready to accept it too?
Too many Tech fans dogmatically object to criticisms of Nesbitt's throwing, preferring to blame receivers and suspend disbelief. They point to a dropped pass as evidence of his lack of support, ignoring the soaring lobs before and after. With the Demaryius Thomas safety net gone, the hardiest apologist may start to take notice. You'd think that would've happened a while ago, which proves you don't know a thing about Jacket stubbornness.
We disregard standard quarterback evaluators like completion percentage since the flexbone is exempt from regular stats. You apparently can't judge an option passer by such pedestrian metrics, yet we tout the yardage averages posted by our A-backs and primary receivers. Those football card stats are OK.
Navy's Ricky Dobbs plays in the same system. He completed 53.3 percent of his passes last year, playing Ohio State, Pitt, Notre Dame, Missouri, and so on -- and over 60 percent after two games this year, with less-gifted receivers and linemen and a less-experienced coach and against similar competition (an FCS school and a basketball school). That's better than Nesbitt's passing, isn't it? Can we admit that? That would be a start.
It's not all Tech fans who do this, of course. Here's a perfect tongue-in-cheek appreciation of his arm, which is so much better than doing the hipster you-just-don't-understand-option-quarterbacking thing.
"But Nesbitt has had three dropped passes," as if nobody has ever dropped a Dobbs pass. Every quarterback has dropped passes. Nesbitt's thrown 319 collegiate passes, completing 43.8 percent -- the sample size is indisputable. "But he goes downfield a lot." So does Case Keenum (70.3 percent). No, he doesn't need to be anywhere near as good as Keenum. It would just be nice to admit he's not. "But he lit up Mississippi State that one time." That was a pretty awesome game.
Again, the point isn't to slam Nesbitt. Nobody would pin yesterday's loss on him, despite a missed gimme touchdown to Embry Peeples and a wild knuckler that ended Tech's last scoring chance. He played fairly well overall, including two beautiful deep strikes. Tech's defense could probably use his assistance at stopping runs up the middle. He's a hard worker, good at what he's good at, and a devoted teammate.
My point is it's embarrassing for Tech fans to keep LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU'ing up excuses for his deficiency. Though I get it -- criticizing him is not fun. After the Reggie Ball years it's easy to feel protective of a quarterback who takes winning seriously. Even last week at Bobby Dodd Stadium I overheard two separate conversations about how he's so much better than Ball, which is true -- but not because of arm or accuracy. We also want to shoehorn Nesbitt into the Kim King/Shawn Jones/Joe Hamilton dual-threat lineage, but that's kind of another story.
He's only a very good option quarterback, and that's not even the role he came here to play. Give him credit for that -- he didn't sign up for this.
But what will happen once Paul Johnson brings in a guy who does? If Paul Johnson can recruit a player like Dobbs at Navy, why can't he do the same at Tech within the next few years? The Academy's recruiting disadvantages dwarf even the Institute's.
Thinking even bigger, what could Johnson do with a player like Denard Robinson? Hardly any player in any offensive system could match what Robinson's done so far against Connecticut and Notre Dame, but the flexbone isn't designed for its quarterback to have to carry as much of a load as Robinson does in Michigan or as Pat White did in the same offense.
I don't know if we'll have a better football player at the quarterback position during Johnson's time here. But I'm certain we'll have a better passer. And we can look forward to that while also appreciating everything that's great about Nesbitt.