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It’s Time to Start Putting Some Respect on Malik Cunningham’s Name

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The Cardinal QB deserves better press than he’s been receiving.

Louisville v Boston College Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It’s that time of year, fellow Cards fans. We see watch lists come out or we see preseason All-Conference teams released. It’s all good and fun to talk about and sparks some debate. Does it really mean anything? Not really. The games still have to be played. The more important lists to be on are at the end of the season. But since we are not there yet, this is what we will talk about. Indulge me, if you will.

I write this knowing that I may be in the minority here, and that is fine. I just feel like whether it’s from the media or from our own fans, Louisville QB Malik Cunningham is underappreciated, and I am not totally sure why. I will dive into things from both sides, the media and the fan standpoint.

Malik has not been completely shut out of these preseason lists, so I won’t act like that has happened. He is on the watch list for two national awards. The first is the Davey O’Brien, which is presented annually to the nation’s best quarterback. And then he is on the Maxwell Award watch list, which is presented annually to the most outstanding player in college football. Just being recognized to be on those lists is nice. Now let’s look at some pre-season All-ACC selections…

The All-ACC team, as voted on by the media, was announced on Tuesday. There is only one team, meaning only one quarterback, and that was UNC’s Sam Howell. That’s fine. He is a heck of a player. So, no Malik there.

Athlon Sports released their ACC All-Conference selections, which was actually four teams of players. The QBs? Sam Howell, D.J. Uiagalelei (Clemson), D’Eriq King (Miami), and Phil Jurkovec (BC).

College Football News: D.J. Uiagalelei

Pro Football News: Howell and Kenny Pickett (Pitt). Honorable mention: Jurkovec

You get the point. Malik is basically off the radar when it comes to these lists for the conference. I know, I understand. He had 12 interceptions last year and some lost fumbles at critical times. I can’t excuse that and I won’t try to. If that keeps him off of lists comprised by people that really don’t watch much Louisville football, so be it. Pre-season media lists are not that important to me (then why did you just write so much about them, idiot?).

Moving on to how he is perceived by Louisville fans…

Really small sample size, but I put the question in a group text with friends and it was pretty split on if Malik is underappreciated or not. I think that may be an accurate representation of the larger scale of the fan base. Some think we do not praise him enough while others will think we shouldn’t because the turnovers are fresh on their minds. That’s fair. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I realize that twitter does not represent how the entire fan base feels, but it’s the main thing to go off of while watching games or during the season in general. I usually regret scrolling on there during games but I can’t quit it. You would think that being in the stands at Cardinal Stadium would eliminate that since you can’t really check anything anyway. Nope. I always seem to be in a section surrounded by people shouting out things that sound exactly how it would be to be at home and scrolling on the ol’ Twitter.

I say all of that to say that it just seems like he gets much more hate than he does love from people on the interwebs. Again, going back to the very beginning, I may be in the minority of thinking this way. Any small mistakes seem to be magnified. If he briefly exits the game and Evan Conley comes in and completes a few passes, people lose their minds and think they are watching Brian Brohm leading the offense and that “THIS IS OUR GUY!” We are quick to tear down but not as quick to praise. But I guess that can be said about a lot of things and situations, not just Louisville football (let’s do better with that). The most popular guy on the team is always the backup quarterback. That guy used to be Malik…

Think back to 2018. Go ahead and hate me for bringing up that miserable season. The opening home game against Indiana State in the monsoon. Jawon Pass was not getting it done. Malik comes in and runs all over the field and leads the Cards to victory. The instant reaction was about his running ability because it had to creep in everyone’s minds…is he the next Lamar??? Unrealistic expectations from the start. When people realize he is NOT Lamar, they get upset at the mistakes even more. “Well, Lamar would have done this…” Ok, great analysis, Jimmy in section 212. You should be calling plays.

Let me try to bring this back to the topic at hand and not stray too far. Sorry, it happens. I am of the belief that we as fans do not appreciate Malik Cunningham the way we should. I was not a believer at first, but he has shown great improvement since he arrived on campus. Was last year a step back? Of course it was from a statistical standpoint. Hell, 2020 was a step back for EVERYTHING, wasn’t it? The turnovers were bad. Some of them may have also been because he felt he had to do too much because his running back opted out or he was missing Dez and Tutu in certain games. I am not making excuses, just saying that playmakers sometimes try to do a little too much and I think that was the case with Malik last season. He absolutely has to fix that for any of this to be relevant.

Scott Satterfield had this to say about Malik at ACC Media Day: “Yeah, well, Malik over the past two years has been a very productive quarterback. 55 touchdowns responsible for in two seasons. Two years ago was one of the highest QBRs in Louisville history. He’s an extremely accurate passer. When he gets a clean pocket, he’s hard to beat.

The thing that he’s got to get better at obviously is taking care of the football. Not all the turnovers were his fault last year. There were some other circumstances with that. But the thing that he’s been able to do this past off-season, get in the film room, study the film a lot more, understand where his strengths are, how to expand on that, take those negatives that he had and try to get rid of those things.”

Where does Malik rank for you among Louisville quarterbacks in history? Is he near the top when you think of that list? Probably not. Should he be? Up for debate. But here is where he ranks in some categories heading into the 2021 season.

-Set the school record for passing efficiency in 2019 with 194.45.

-2nd all-time in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 18. Lamar had 50. Second place is fine.

-7th with 43 career passing touchdowns. If he throws 27 this season, he will pass Lamar Jackson and be 5th in school history. Jay Gruden is 6th with 44, so at worst Malik will be in 6th.

-6th with 61 touchdowns responsible for.

-Leading rusher in 2018 for the entire team despite only playing in 10 games and starting just three.

-10th in career passing yards with 5,153. He needs just 701 passing yards to pass up all three of Jeff Brohm, Ed Rubbert, and Stefon LeFors and he will be 7th all-time. Jay Gruden is 6th with 7,024 so that is also within reach. If he gets to 6th, he would be behind these names for career passing yards: Chris Redman, Brian Brohm, Teddy Bridgewater, Lamar Jackson, and Dave Ragone. Not too bad.

“But he turns the ball over too much!”

I know, I know. I also know that when you look at the record books after the 2021 season, you won’t be able to ignore seeing Malik Cunningham’s name amongst the best quarterbacks that have ever played here. And that is something we need to respect and appreciate. I was late to the party, but I am here now. Join me whenever you are ready.

Go Cards…Go Krogering!