Berman: Pivotal bye-week presents difficult decisions for Robinson
It’s a bye week, giving Syracuse two weeks to assess its current situation and make decisions about the rest of the season. The decisions could have a lingering effect – and perhaps even a defining effect – on head coach Greg Robinson’s career at SU.
After losing to Cincinnati 17-3 on Saturday, Syracuse enters the next two weeks at a delicate part of the program’s rebuilding. The Orange is 3-6. It has options.
It could keep the lineup as is and try to salvage a semblance of respectability.
Another option would be start looking ahead to next season – the third year, a critical year of a college football rebuilding process – by playing some of its younger players. This is particularly important at quarterback, where freshman Andrew Robinson will enter next season as the most experienced option, albeit with a limited number of snaps.
Greg Robinson can change that by playing Andrew Robinson, although such a move would indicate SU systematically giving up this season. Even more symbolic, it would be a slap in the face to senior Perry Patterson, who has earned much of the praise he’s receiving this season after deserving much of the criticism the previous two seasons.
‘I have not thought about that right now,’ Greg Robinson said after the game. ‘We have a bye week to assess things a little bit. If (Andrew Robinson) could play some, that would be nice, but at the same time, I want to do the right thing.’
Neither decision is wrong. But neither decision is right, either.
If Syracuse chooses to try to rebound what’s left of the season, it would be a clear message that Robinson believes what he’s pledged – he’s confident with this team and he will work with them until the end. It also has the potential of setting the Orange back next season, when it will need to replace its quarterback and much of its defense.
‘He’s going to have a situation with three quarterbacks who’ve never thrown a pass in college football,’ Patterson said. ‘So I can see why he’d have concerns with that.’
If Robinson instead inserts young players, he would have a foundation for next year, or at least an idea of who can contribute and who can’t. It’s certainly better to learn that at the back end of this season than the front end of next season. Doing this, though, will render the senior class irrelevant; a class that, if nothing else, played hard for Robinson for two seasons.
Naturally, there’s a medium. Robinson can continue to publicly support his upperclassmen and continue while creating packages within the game for Andrew Robinson at quarterback or infiltrating some of the freshmen offensive linemen on a line that’s proved to be patchwork anyway, considering SU continues to mix-and-match.
‘I can understand playing (Andrew Robinson) in a couple packages,’ Patterson admitted. ‘But I’m an established player. If that’s what (Coach Robinson) wants to do, I’ll take a step back. But I’m not looking forward to that.’
Using a two-quarterback system – especially with a senior and a freshman – isn’t entirely unorthodox. The most heralded quarterback in the Big East, Louisville’s Brian Brohm, was inserted in all but two games his rookie season despite the Cardinals featuring established senior Stefan LeFors at quarterback.
This season, Florida is receiving a lot of attention for spelling star senior quarterback Chris Leak with hyped freshman Tim Tebow. In both situations, the team is not sapping the confidence out of its senior but is also establishing a foundation with its freshman.
That is the most practical direction.
The problem with it, though, is SU might still lose out while not fully preparing for next season. In that case, it’s a lose-lose. But Robinson should take that risk. Patterson has at least earned the right to ride out the season, despite SU’s 3-6 record. Robinson has the right to tell his seniors they didn’t get the job done and he needs to start looking ahead.
‘Our backs are against the wall,’ Robinson said. ‘That’s the bottom line.’
What’s clear is the Orange needs some kind of change. Robinson has a tough decision to make. He shouldn’t turn his back on his senior class, but he shouldn’t forget any hopes for a bowl game are all but lost and if SU doesn’t climb into the territory of a winning record in his third year, other questions will be asked.
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