As someone who personally witnessed Greyson Lambert’s day for the record books, I’m not here to slobber all over The Mailman. But I must say I’m very much puzzled by the online sentiment I’ve seen from a chunk of the fan base that’s disappointed, not in Bennett’s performance (nobody’s that stubborn), but in Smart’s decision to let Bennett take the field in the first place.
That’s really weird, for several reasons. For one thing, let’s say for the sake of argument that Daniels convinced his coaches he was ready to play and turned in a dominant first half, only to turn the game over to Beck in the second half. Would the same folks be complaining that the staff knows what it has in Daniels and should have let Beck start? Don’t be absurd. (Now that I think about it, Logan Booker might. But I digress.) The fact is that Beck got substantial playing time Saturday and the coaches left the playbook open for him. And if South Carolina lives up to our expectations, that’s likely to be repeated, regardless of who Georgia’s starter is.
Aside from that, did we really know what Georgia had in Bennett, who turned in a flawless performance? Was it so unexpected that a year of Monken’s tutelage wouldn’t rub off to some extent? I saw two areas of clear improvement from Stetson. He consistently found the open receiver, which tells me he’s bought in to Monken’s play design and started to trust that there are open players on almost every play. Also, go back and check that long TD throw to Bowers — Bennett puts Daniels-esque air under that toss; it’s a pass he never would have made last season.
If you brush off Bennett’s performance by saying it was all about the opposition, fine. Just give me a list of every starting quarterback this season that’s turned in a performance garnering a passer rating north of 400. I’ll wait. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
The other thing in play here with regard to choosing a starter is that, unlike you or I, Smart and Monken have had the chance to watch Beck and Bennett all preseason. Kirby gave his reason for the decision as this:
The decision to go with Stetson…we are really young offensively, we have a lot of guys who are injured or out, whether it be Kearis (Jackson), George (Pickens), Darnell (Washington). We just have a lot of young players who are trying to grow up and we thought it would give a calming effect to have him in with his experience and his ability to play in games.
That doesn’t strike me as outlandish in the slightest. Georgia barely registered 250 yards of offense in the opener. An offensive clunker against a mid-major defense, even one as credible as UAB’s, might have had the team questioning itself and undoing some of the positivity flowing from the Clemson win. (And, I hate to say it, but it’s the times we live in, might have the media and the selection committee thinking the same thing.)
Look where Kirby sits this morning. He knows he’s got a solid backup in Bennett. He knows he got Beck some significant development time, with more to come, and gave the staff some clear indications where Beck needs more grooming and work. There is no quarterback controversy. Instead, there’s a reliable pecking order and a team that’s confident there’s a Plan B if Daniels has a minor physical setback.
Nobody’s insisting Stetson Bennett’s going to lead Georgia to a national championship. But nobody’s asking him to do that, either. Saturday, he did his job and he did it well. In fact, he did it better than we expected. That’s a good thing.