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On Froman. (updated to respond generally to comments)

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For the first time ever, the Open Thread yesterday devolved into ITV-style name-calling, personal attacks and general strife that drove most of us away from the 'premium message board site' in the first place.  Even in the worst of basketball times, the debate was about Pitino.  Sure, there was some specific player bashing against the two most controversial Cardinal basketball players of our generation, Samardo and Edgar, but at least everyone agreed that Swopshire, while he played hard, just wasn't strong enough to be a Big East power forward.  But the blame for that went on Pitino, not Swop. 

Personally, I've always tried to be as positive as possible about our players.  I try to keep the perspective that they are college kids who work their balls off to play a game for what probably works out to less than minimum wage (cost of tuition v. hours of time playing/working), while they earn millions for the most corrupt organization in the country, the NCAA.  Basketball and football are team games.  You hear it from the pros down to high school - one player or one play can always be singled out after the fact, but if the team had done better, it wouldn't be on that one guy.  And, if that one guy hadn't done X, Y, Z, they wouldn't have been in a position to win in the first place.  The perfect example: Sosa's shot against Texas A&M.  Ya he wasn't supposed to take it, ya T-Will had his man posted up wide open underneath. But without Sosa....and with better team defense.....and those GD see my point.

Two decades plus of that central tenant of Cardinal fandom came crashing down yesterday.  I have never as a fan been so angry at one player as I was at Adam Froman yesterday.  Here are some comments/tweets that, in retrospect, I should have probably taken a deep breath and took a quick walk instead of posting:

  • At some point....

    …Pitt should figure out Froman is not running the ball AND not throwing it farther than 6 yards down field.

  • Since Froman isn’t going to help us "win now" I don’t see why Brown doesn’t get a chance to do more than run the ball for 3-6 yards a couple times a game. Obviously I’ve never seen him throw the ball but Froman is so bad, I don’t see how he could really be worse. And if he’s not an accurate thrower, then stop putting him in at QB.
  • Froman is so bad

    Great check down.

  • I've never felt this way about a UofL player....

    ….like I feel about Adam Froman right now. Season’s worth of frustration. I’m going to take a quick break to try to calm down.

  • Froman really needs to be benched

    What the hell was that? Checking down to that QB run, the offensive line was not set or ready, they didn’t get anywhere near blocking right. After a time out and a thought out play, 5 wide with man coverage, and he does that? I’m beside myself right now.

  • Tweet: Love the check-down there Froman. Clearly the QB keeper and a confused offensive line was the best thing to do coming out of a time out.
  • Tweet: Seriously, Froman needs to be benched for that.
  • Tweet: I wish there were a way to "unfollow" people IRL. Because I would "unfollow" Adam Froman right about now.
  • Tweet: I am beside myself angry at Froman right now. I've never felt this way about a UofL player before, not even Joseph N'Sima.
  • Tweet: Irresponsible to have Froman in there still. Not going to help the kid's confidence any.

Yikes.  So what on earth was I thinking?  Well, in all of us lives a rational fan who thinks logically, and the irrational fan who thinks emotionally.  Both of those are clearly at play here.

For instance, the rational fan in me knows that the back-up quarterback is always the most popular guy on the team.  You aren't in practice, the coaches are, the rational fan says.  You, a random idiot on the internet, have no idea what you are talking about.

Correct, I am not in practice.  But, this is a different situation because Burke has taken significant snaps before my own eyes, as has Froman.  I can see with my own two eyes that Burke can throw the ball, could scramble when needed, and almost beat UK on the road last year.  This isn't the clearly erroneous Cantwell > Brohm debate.  There just isn't that much of a difference between Burke and Froman talent-wise except the latter is supposed to be more mobile, and the former has a better arm.  

And here's my biggest gripe: we aren't really running a mobile QB spread offense.  Froman never runs the ball, and the occasional scramble is not worth dozens of under thrown balls.  If the offense really was a true spread, Froman would run the ball more, but he doesn't and it's not, so I really don't see how Froman is that much of a better fit than Burke.

For those calling for Dominique Brown, obviously the coaches don't think he is ready to throw the ball since he hasn't done it once in a game, and early practice reports were that his accuracy was off and his arm strength wasn't that great anyway.  The future, people say, is DaMarcus Smith, so there's no reason to have Brown play lots of QB this year.  Plus, we are trying to win THIS YEAR, and we can win this year considering the Big East sucks so bad. 

But I think the choice is not between Froman and Brown, it's Froman and Burke.  I'd love to see Brown throw some out of the WildCard, but only because he's literally never done it.  And other than the trick play against Memphis, Powell never once handed off the ball.  So it's basically a direct snap to Brown or Powell when they are in, and since it gets called every time we are in the red zone and the other side knows it is coming, we have had a lot of field goals (or missed attempts, like in the Cinci game) instead of touchdowns. 

Which leads me to the irrational.  I think I have two emotional objections to Froman.  First, he was and always will be "Kragthorpe's guy."  Kragthorpe recruited him, Krag hyped him, Krag handed him the job (until he got hurt) and then replaced Burke with him after he got healthy.  Every time he throws the ball at the WR's feet, I can just picture Kragthorpe in practice last year telling him "It's okay Adam, just try your best" and it reminds me of how bad the last few years were.  We wouldn't have Froman as our best option if it wasn't for Kragthorpe ruining the program.

Second, I'm still not sold on Sanford, and I'm afraid that all of this may not be Froman's fault.  What happens next year when Smith, Brown and Stein are running this offense?  Or some other random JUCO QB we bring in?  Do we score a bunch more?  Or if we don't, does it get blamed on the inexperience? 

There's going to be a lot of talent at RB and WR next year, the defense is going to be better, and Strong will have had another year to re-build the program.  But what if Sanford doesn't know what he is doing?  With Froman this year and young QBs next year, how will we know the difference?  Hothot, either in an email or in a post somewhere before the season, either way I can't find it, said that UNLV fans thought of Sanford like we thought of Kragthorpe. That's terrifying. 

In college football these days, good offenses are either born (superior/superstar athletes) or made (Petrino).  When those rare combos come together (2004-06 UofL, Malzhan at Auburn now, RichRod with Slaton/White and Robinson now, Chip Kelly this season) offenses make it look easy to score TD after TD. As good as Tebow was and as great as Meyer/Mullen were at running Florida's offense, it sure looked a whole lot better when they had Percy Harvin and they really struggled without him.  

I just don't get the sense Sanford is a brilliant strategist or play-caller.  Maybe he doesn't have the weapons and he is limited by his talent (again Kragthorpe's fault) but how are we going to know next year?

So anyway, maybe the overreaction to the continued playing time of Adam Froman is because I'm terrified that, along with the completely unimaginative use of Dom Brown, the unsuccessful redzone play calling, the weird strategy yesterday of throwing 7 WR screens on the first drive then throwing 1 the rest of the game, the lack of screens, wasting that trick play against Memphis, etc, are all signs that the offensive leadership is not where it needs to be.

Froman only has a few games left in his career, and the Big East championship was a real long shot, no matter how possible it seemed on Friday night.  He's not as bad of a QB as he looked on Saturday, and replacing him with Burke or Brown isn't going to get us to the Orange Bowl. 

So I apologize for the anti-Froman stuff yesterday.  It's uncalled for to attack players personally or try to pin losses on them. 

Especially when the real target of the anger is a coach who is no longer here, and the anger is really just fear that we aren't going to know if the current offensive coordinator is the right guy for the job until it may be too late.  


Thanks for the comments everyone.  I think I need to clarify a few things.  First, this was not a post bashing Froman or saying he needs to be benched or complaining about UofL football.  This season has been awesome, and because it seemed like we actually might be good was another reason that loss sucked yesterday.  Pre-season if you said we'd lose 20-3 at Pitt, I wouldn't be surprised or upset. 

Second, I don't think it's just "one bad game" from Froman.  He's played well at times this season, but the glaring weaknesses (his arm) has been there all year.  And Saturday was not just a "bad game", it was horrific.  But I'm not calling for him to be benched, I'm only trying to sort out why my reaction to him was so negative on Saturday.

Third, the point of the post was that the fear of Sanford not being good was irrational.  It's only been 8 games, he has improved our offense a ton over last season, and he's stuck with the hand he's been dealt.  The thing we need now is consistency, we don' t need another OC or DC or any new coaches.  Let's keep the staff together and have them keep building. 

Again, the point of the post was that the extreme reaction (for me) to Froman's clunker on Saturday was based on an irrational long-term fear that Kragthorpe has screwed us so much at the most important position on the field that it might take more than a couple years to turn things around, no matter how awesome Charlie Strong is.