Some short-sighted, small-minded Cardinal fans have been bitching about Shawn Watson. Here's what he (and Tim Sullivan) has to say about that:
"I don’t really listen to it," Watson said Wednesday afternoon. "I don’t have time to listen to that kind of stuff because those are people who really don’t know what’s going on. No one (on the outside) really understands all that goes on in building a winning season ...
"It’s probably a handful of little tiny people who don’t matter."
When fans complain their team’s play-calling is "too conservative," and that’s been the most common criticism of Watson this season, the comment often betrays an inadequate grasp of the overall situation. An offensive unit does not operate in isolation, but in a reciprocal relationship with the defensive unit. One of the reasons Louisville ranks second nationally in total defense is that its offense ranks sixth in time of possession.
Run-oriented clock management may not be as thrilling as a high-octane spread offense, but it gets results. Of the Associated Press Top 25, only Notre Dame ran fewer running plays than did Louisville during the 2013 season. In terms of run/pass ratio, the five highest-ranked teams were all more "conservative" than U of L.
"The best team in college football over the last five years is Alabama," Watson said. "(Coach) Nick Saban’s not an idoiot. Nick Saban is a very smart, intelligent coach (and) he does not run a spread offense. Why?
"There’s a principle of football — you’ve got to play great defense. In order to play great defense, you’ve got to run the football."
The notion that Louisville’s lineup "should be averaging 50 points a game," as was asserted two weeks ago on a Cardinal Authority message board titled "All I want for Christmas (is a new offensive coordinator)," is based on the brilliance of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater but overlooks the limitations of his linemen.
It also overlooks the strategic imperative to manage the game with the final score uppermost in mind rather than the accumulation of style points. Putting up big passing numbers might placate those people who watch football for its entertainment value, but it is no guarantee of success.
That said, Louisville’s pass offense ranked 18th nationally in 2013 compared to 24th in 2012. Over the last two seasons, the Cardinals have averaged a relatively robust 31.7 points per game.
If they have not become the juggernaut some fans envisioned, this may be because the euphoria generated by the Sugar Bowl pounding of Florida masked some of the shortcomings that surfaced during the regular season.
Memories are short. Fans can be unrealistic. But it’s a sad commentary if an 11-1 team has need of a scapegoat.
"The best thing to do is let those idiots be idiots," Shawn Watson said. "Because you know what, it’s that way everywhere: No one’s ever satisfied. In our society today, nothing’s ever enough."