Gelb: Robinson should have taken out Robinson earlier
PITTSBURGH – I agree with Greg Robinson.
After his team’s 20-17 loss at Pittsburgh, the Syracuse head coach was surprisingly candid about the injury his starting quarterback, Andrew Robinson.
Maybe a little too candid.
‘As I look back now, I could tell,’ Greg Robinson said. ‘We were limited in what we were doing with (Andrew Robinson) because you could tell he didn’t have everything he has. As I look back at it, I would probably reverse the decision that we made with him.’
The coach is right. He should have taken Andrew Robinson out earlier than at halftime.
But he didn’t. And he admitted he was wrong afterward. That’s a perfect characterization of this three-year swoon.
How can that happen? Why did it take so long for Greg Robinson to make the decision to remove Andrew Robinson, who didn’t have enough to operate at 100 percent after injuring his back during the week, let alone say 70 percent?
He went even further Sunday at his weekly day-after press conference back in Syracuse.
‘If I were to do it again, I would put (Cameron Dantley) in there from the get-go,’ Robinson said Sunday.
Indeed, as Robinson said Sunday, hindsight is 20/20. But in this case, no hindsight is required. Regardless of how well the backup Dantley played, the first quarter should have been enough evidence for Robinson to remove Andrew Robinson – and give SU a better shot to win.
‘I couldn’t do the things I normally could do,’ Andrew Robinson said.
Sure, Andrew Robinson probably pleaded and begged his coach to let him go, to fight through the injury. Sure, there was probably a point in time during the week that Greg Robinson saw Andrew play proficiently and decided he would start.
‘Andrew’s a tough kid and you really don’t know what’s going to happen,’ Greg Robinson said. ‘That was really my logic. You never know because he’s that kind of competitor who might just rise up and pull it off.’
That can be Robinson’s logic for starting Andrew. But the quarterback certainly didn’t look as good as he could be in the first half, even though he’s had batches of poor play in just about every game this season. Still, it was not like those games before, when Greg Robinson had to look at the tape to analyze what went wrong.
Robinson and his staff were well aware of this injury. The way Andrew Robinson made it sound, there wasn’t a chance of it getting better as the game progressed.
‘(The injury) got progressive worse throughout Tuesday and Wednesday,’ he said. ‘We tried to do all kind of stuff treatment-wise. It calmed down a little bit, but whenever I started doing football activities, it flamed up. I tried to go today, but it wasn’t happening.’
Four out of the Orange’s six first-half drives (I won’t count the last one, a minus-3 yard run by Doug Hogue to run out the clock) were three-and-outs. Greg Robinson said a well-threaded eight-yard pass by Andrew Robinson to fullback Tony Fiammetta near the end of the first quarter made him think that Robinson could make it through the game.
‘I thought, ‘Hey, maybe,” Greg Robinson said. ‘But really I could tell from his body language, he was sore.’
Syracuse gained 22 yards of total offense in the second quarter and 60 for the entire half.
The fact that Robinson waited could be a sign that the coach was leery of putting his backup, Dantley, into a close game. Dantley, a former walk-on who has thrown four career passes (all this season in garbage time) was indisputably an unknown before Saturday. Independent of what Dantley did against Pittsburgh – extremely impressive on its own, nearly leading Syracuse back to defeat the Panthers – the head coach needed more faith in his personnel.
‘I always have confidence in myself, and I know everyone else on the team has confidence in me and all the other quarterbacks,’ Dantley said after the game.
Dantley noted that he prepared this past week as he would any other week, but did qualify it by saying he knew Andrew Robinson was hurt. And because Robinson hadn’t practiced since Tuesday, Dantley took snaps with the first-teamers almost all week.
Greg Robinson waited for the game to come to him. Who knows, maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if Dantley had come into the game earlier? But in a time when Robinson could very well be coaching for his life, it doesn’t make much sense to leave a hindered quarterback in the game for as long as he did.
It’s another strike against the coach, who has shown a constant inability to make sound, in-game adjustments.
Matt Gelb is the sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his columns appear occasionally. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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