On Matt McGloin, Moxie, and Emotion

Matt McGloin isn't just another guy. He's perhaps the best walk on tale in the storied history of Penn State football.

This post is built neither on facts and figures, nor statistics and spreadsheets.  It's not scientific or mathematical.  No, this post is built on pure, sweet emotion.

Basically, it's the quintessential post on Matt McGloin.

The days following the Alabama loss have provoked an exceptionally emotional response.  We've seen that here; in the past three days, we've seen threads of 600, 250, and 350 comments respectively.  A large percentage of these comments are centered on the quarterback battle between McGloin and true sophomore Rob Bolden.  More specifically, many comments have sounded a lot like this:

At one level, Bolden seems like the obvious answer, but his confidence is clearly shaken. McGloin is less flappable, but no one seems sure if he's got enough talent to be a consistent Division I quarterback. It's a mess now, fodder for all sorts of sound and fury; by the fourth quarter, the Penn State crowd was so perplexed that it didn't even know which quarterback it was supposed to be booing.

You can quibble with the language, but Weinreb's view is consensus - Bolden is imperfectly talented but probably the best option, McGloin has moxie, and Penn State is paralyzed by indecision and confusion.  A recipe for success.

It's difficult to argue with the view that Mike Pettigano articulated yesterday.  In fact, I won't.  Over the past two games, Rob Bolden has been a better quarterback than Matt McGloin and deserves to start and play a full game against Temple, Eastern Michigan, and the rest of this year's schedule.  He's tall, strong, and athletic with a pro-level arm and a presence in the pocket.  He's the future of Penn State football.

I've watched Bolden step up in the pocket and rifle a throw to a receiver while taking a vicious hit just after the ball has been released.  I've seen him risk his body for the team while running for a first down.  I've seen him effortlessly flick his wrist and throw the ball thirty plus yards down the field. I've seen all of this with my own eyes.  I've discussed this with people repeatedly.  Even still, I, just like Joe Paterno, continue to struggle with choosing one of the two permanently.

Admittedly, this is not a popular opinion.  In light of McGloin's 1 for 10, 0 yard performance on Saturday night, it's virtually unspeakable.[1]  Yet I continue to struggle because one very specific question lingers in my mind - have we been fair to Matt McGloin?

/ducks

Seriously.  The entire off-season was dedicated to kvetching about McGloin's Outback Interception Spectacular and the question of whether Joe Paterno would treat Rob Bolden fairly in the wake of the Transfer Ransom of 2011.  I agree that Bolden is a better prospect than McGloin; that his arm is stronger, his physical ability is greater, and his ceiling is higher.  But in our haste to be fair to Rob Bolden, I honestly believe it's necessary to ask myself whether we've been fair to Matt McGloin.

Both consciously and subconsciously, this fan base has always looked to give Rob Bolden the benefit of the doubt.

"He stands tall in the pocket and takes a hit."

"He's got great mechanics."

"He's got a great deep ball."

"If only the receivers hadn't dropped those passes."

"Just imagine what he'll look like with all of the first team reps."

Meanwhile, we conveniently ignore the lack of touch on his short passes and screens, his Mark Sanchez-like sliding, and his mediocre accuracy.  Rob Bolden has completed 17 passes out of 41 attempts for 181 yards and no touchdowns.  Even assuming that one of the two deep passes at Indiana State connects, that would still leave him with a completion rate under 50% and a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio.  In short, Rob Bolden hasn't been anywhere near good.  If anything, he's a shade below mediocre.  And he's standing next to Matt McGloin.

I won't argue that Bolden isn't the best man for the job, but I will argue that the difference between Bolden and McGloin isn't nearly as dramatic as the commentary would suggest.  But while we look for reasons to love Bolden, the talented sophomore with the rocket arm and enough potential to fill Beaver Stadium, we only see the negative in his rival.

It's true that Matt McGloin is inexorably flawed.  It's inarguable.  His arm is average, not elite.  He's mobile on the roll out but isn't athletic enough to run the read option.  He's built to be a successful game manager, but insists on gun slinging into multi-man coverage. 

Matt_mcgloin_under_center_2011_192x240_medium

Some of McGloin's positives have been discussed ad nauseum.

Bolden is clearly the better athlete, but McGloin is better in the role of quarterback. He runs a loose huddle. He makes off-color jokes. He's Brett Favre without the size or the arm strength.

Even if Rob Bolden was named starting quarterback tomorrow, I won't choose to think of Matt McGloin as merely the second place finisher in a quarterback derby.  And I never will, because honestly, Matt McGloin was never supposed to be here in the first place.

Matt McGloin isn't just another guy.  In reality, he rivals Deon Butler as the greatest walk-on tale in the storied history of Penn State football.  While some choose to harp on the Outback Bowl nightmare, Saturday's debacle, or the perception that McGloin is arrogant and entitled, I choose to see a quarterback who could have gone to Lehigh or Lafayette for free, but decided instead to walk on and pay his own way at Penn State.  I see a guy who was never expected to be anything more than Paul Cianciolo, Kevin Suhey, or Chris Ganter.  Instead, he was pressed into competition after an injury and managed to lead the Nittany Lions to multiple conference victories.  I see a guy who engineered an unbelievable comeback featuring five straight touchdown drives against Northwestern, guiding Joe Paterno to his 400th win in historic and unprecedented fashion. I see this pass - without hyperbole, the most beautiful pass I've ever seen (at 4:55).

(via xJoepa23x)

I see a kid who didn't threaten to transfer after his starting role was put up for grabs.   I see a kid who's loyal to Penn State, and who, by all appearances, has done everything right in the classroom and off the field.

A football team needs one man to lead.  We can't afford to waste another week (or two, or three, or four) splitting reps, dividing team loyalty, and throwing the offense consistently out of rhythm.  So yes, Rob Bolden has most likely won this quarterback derby, not because he is the overwhelmingly obvious choice, but because this team, this coach, and this school need to make a decision and move on.  But let's avoid piling on Matt McGloin, the walk-on star with a fantastic story that should not be obscured by our own biased judgments.



[1] For everyone except Joe Paterno, who thinks that both quarterbacks "played a pretty good game."  For the record, they were a combined 12-39 for 144 yards and 1 interception.

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