Don't get it twisted—there are many reasons that Boise State lost to Air Force on Saturday. Problems plagued every unit and were so intrusive to every facet of the game, I wondered out loud if Boise State's bus had possibly ran afoul of a voodoo priestess or possibly backed the bus over an indian burial site. It was just one of those cosmic, and slightly comically inept nights that happen from time to time...just not usually to our Broncos. Well, the Bryan Harsin era was sure to bring changes and this might have been one unfortunate one. Whether it was scheme, execution or recruiting is up for debate, but one thing certainly is not: Grant Hedrick played a terrible game and I doubt you'd even get much argument from him about that.
Again, you might find those that will rightly shift some of the blame to the offensive line or Ajayi's fumbling woes—all fair points that don't change at all that Grant Hedrick was rattled, ineffective and a detriment to the team up until he was pulled in the 4th quarter.
It was for this reason that Hedrick was pulled, and even those that don't generally adopt knee-jerk responses applauded the decision. Really the only controversy last Saturday night was if Hedrick was pulled soon enough. Finley provided an immediate spark for the offense that allowed the Broncos to at least attempt a miracle comeback. But should Hedrick now lose his job over the debacle? Here's where the real debate starts.
I can't say I was overly surprised on Monday when Bryan Harsin assured fans that Hedrick would remain the starter going in to the Nevada game...as Harsin said, "You don't just put people to the wayside if they have a bad performance". Agree on all counts, but also must note that Hedrick has had more than one bad performance this year. In fact, that was Hedrick's second 4 INT game of the season and he now possesses a 5-9 TD/INT ratio. That isn't a good stat line no matter how you slice it. In fact, it's well off the Bronco mark as Jay Tust explained:
Over 8 previous seasons, #BoiseState threw 65 INTs in 3,342 attempts, or 1 INT per 51.4 ATT. In '14 they've averaged 1 INT every 19.9 ATT.— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) September 30, 2014
This also brings about one of the more irrelevant stat lines of the year—Hedrick's 70% completion percentage, which is really quite phenomenal. However, I'm willing to contend that completion percentage is an overrated stat, if not entirely irrelevant. You could complete 4 of 10 passes (40%, math buffs) and all 4 completions could go for TDs and then the following week complete 7 of 10 (70%—I'm dumbing this down for myself, primarily) and all 3 incompletions could be INTs and to a man, you'd take the first stat line, am I right? Hedrick has not been terrible—he can be a major weapon for the Broncos when he's clicking—but he's been wildly inconsistent and the completion percentage, while hitting the mark, is not scoring points for the Broncos, and there's the crux of the problem.
Boise State's O-line has also been inconsistent, no doubt...and the coaching staff has yet to find a suitable change-of-pace back to spell Ajayi when he's been rendered ineffective by defenses stacking the box or him putting the ball on the ground. Hedrick, however...while he remains the starter, has to be held accountable for poor decision making just as a running back with ball security issues might be benched. The old coaching regime likely would have benched Ajayi after his second costly fumble of the night—so why the reluctance to shelf a QB that is well off his game? Finley may not be the answer, by the way, his relative success could have been the result of flipping the Falcon game plan on its ear—after all, the Broncos were down big and needed throw a balanced offensive attack out the window. However, Finley showed he is capable of leading the team in a pinch—just as Hedrick did last season when Joe Southwick went down.
So, I'm not calling for Hedrick to be benched...he has a broad enough portfolio at this point for the staff to have confidence in his ability to command the offense. He deserves our support—to borrow a Chris Petersen fave—"without question". The leash has to have shortened, however—Hedrick has struggled mightily in fully 40% of the Broncos games this season and if that doesn't at least factor into leash length, I suppose I don't know as much about football as I thought. It's a season of firsts for the Broncos any way you slice it— and now we're in uncharted territory in league play and fighting for our lives. Like it or not, controversy has indeed found the team—and the fact that there is no quarterback controversy might be the biggest controversy of all.
Is quarterback different than other skill positions? Should a QB lose his job if his play is detrimental to the success of the team? Can Hedrick rebound? If he struggles early against Nevada, do the coaches reel him in?