I wanted to share my thoughts on the Deshaun Watson/Cole Stoudt QB situation.
First off, I think the coaches have handled Stoudt and Watson beautifully so far. They have done right by Stoudt and rewarded him for his loyalty to the program. They have also given Watson a chance to prove his ability.
And wow, has he proven his ability.
The eye test says that Watson is better than Stoudt in almost all areas except experience. He's got the gun. He's got touch. He can read defenses. He has escapability. He makes it look easy.
Through two games, Cole Stoudt's passer rating is 127.94.
Tajh Boyd's passer rating last year was 168.68.
Jameis Winston's Heisman winning passer rating last year was 184.85.
DeShaun Watson's current passer rating is 316.09. Of the 110 QBs that have thrown for at least 200 yards this year, Watson's rating puts him at #1 in the nation by almost 100 points. That's insane.
Some may not like the college passer rating though. Ok, well, ESPN's comprehensive "Total QBR" is probably the best QB metric out there. The highest rating since they started keeping TQBR was 93.9 by Russell Wilson in 2004.
Jameis Winston's "Total QBR" last year was 89.4
DeShaun Watson's is currently 93.5.
This isn't just "playing well." This is domination. He brings a skill set to the offense that creates more difficulty to defend the entire offense. In short, he makes everybody around him better.
His first drive vs. Georgia, he came out and threw three on-the-money deep balls and moved us 65 yards in 4 plays for the TD. In his only other series in non-garbage time, we went conservative. I wondered if that 1st series was just a fluke. Could he really have that kind of grasp of the offense and be able to make those type of decisions with confidence? Then, against SC St., he showed it wasn't a fluke when he outplayed Stoudt again.
He may not be as good as his current passer rating, but he is definitely special. He may make some stupid mistakes but, as a freshman, he is performing as good as or better than Spiller and Watkins were. As far as raw talent goes, he is closer to RG III and Teddy Bridgewater than he is Tyler Bray and Tom Savage.
In a week and a half, we will define the outlook for the rest of our season by our performance against FSU. There are those that think we should "protect" Watson from the Doak Campbell atmosphere and protect him from the talent level of FSU's defense. Then again, there are those who think Watson is clearly better and should start.
Well, it's true, we don't know how Watson is going to react in the big moment on National TV against the #1 team in the nation in their house. And for that matter, we don't know how Stoudt's going to react to starting at FSU either. It's very similar to how everybody wondered if Jameis Winston could handle Death Valley last year. So, who should start?
Specifically, here's what I think should happen. I think Cole Stoudt should start and play the first two series. I think Watson should play the third and fourth. Stoudt should play the 5th. After those first 5 series, the best QB should play the majority of the series for the rest of the game. I'm not saying the loser of the competition should be benched for the rest of the game. I'm saying they should play less. The best player should play.
In the absolute worst case scenario, Watson buckles under the pressure like Tajh often did, we see him struggle to find his niche, and we learn that Stoudt is the safer option and he plays in the 2nd half. In the best case scenario, Watson shines, we win, and we become a playoff contender overnight.
This not about Stoudt playing bad. It's about Watson playing awesome. This is far from the "everybody loves the backup" situation that Dabo is spinning away with in the media.
This is a situation where both are playing in games and one has, not only severely outplayed the other, but displayed a level of efficiency unmatched by any QB in the nation so far this year.
There is the gamble in playing Watson more that you could "hurt Stoudt's morale and confidence" or "ruin Watson's confidence if he struggles." However, it's worth the gamble if you're going to be playing both of them already. That choice has technically already been made.
What's left to decide is how the reps will be divided during the ongoing competition. This competition certainly doesn't have to end before Tallahassee but, through two games, there is a leader and that leader has earned more playing time.