So Lane Kiffin has chosen Jonathan Crompton to be the Vols' starter at QB this year. What do Vol fans do now?
Fans can be generally divided into two camps on this issue: (1) those of us that want Crompton to succeed so that he can erase his identity as 2008's scapegoat and instead become the poster boy for 2009's turnaround, and (2) those of us that are so convinced of his incompetence that giving him any practice or game time to prove it is the height of stupidity.
Regardless of what camp you're in, note that you're still one of "us," Vol fans who desperately want their team to succeed. But the question remains, what do we do now that Kiffin's made his choice?
Hope he succeeds
We in the first camp already want this, and if Crompton does succeed, they'll be ecstatic, both because their team is doing well and because they're doing it with Crompton. On the other hand, if Crompton fails, these folks will be extremely disappointed, both that their team is doing poorly and that Crompton was unable to redeem himself. They won't have "wasted any games," though, because it wasn't their decision to start Crompton. They merely decided to cheer on the starter and were disappointed with the result.
We in the second camp are pulling our nose hairs out, terrified that the Kiffin Era will begin much like 2008, an unwise on-field experiment that at best wastes time and potential wins and at worst goes a long way toward paying another coaching staff to leave.
But even if we are in this camp, we still have to choose whether we'll support Crompton. If we do not, we'll likely spend the first several games terrified of the epic FAIL we're so convinced will happen. The most we have to gain is the impotent satisfaction of having been right when Crompton is finally replaced. But we risk much more: if we're wrong and Crompton does succeed, we waste much of the potential enjoyment of the season just waiting for the front to fall off on the next play.
If instead, we choose to support Crompton despite a nagging feeling that he can't succeed, we can at least enjoy any successes he might have and delay the disappointment for actual failures rather than anticipated ones.
Jonathan Crompton will probably throw at least eight interceptions this season, and he will throw many incompletions. Vol fans should prepare for this, and when it happens we should characterize it appropriately.
Last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, went 328-423 (67.9%) with eight interceptions (1.7%). In 2007, Tim Tebow won the Stiff Arm going 234-350 (66.9%) with six interceptions (1.7%). In other words, the best quarterbacks in the nation over the past two years had 95 and 116 mini-failures and eight and six major failures respectively.
The failure rates of other successful teams' QBs are, of course, much worse. Alabama's John Parker Wilson led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated regular season, but went 235-383 (57.89%) with eight interceptions (2.48%). Georgia's Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the draft last year, had 187-323 (61.36%) and ten interceptions (2.61%). These guys had 136 and 148 mini-failures and eight and ten major failures respectively last seson. Georgia went 10-3 last year with the No. 1 pick in the draft and got obliterated by Alabama with an inferior QB.
So . . . even the best QBs aren't perfect. Some of the best teams don't have the best QBs. A guy can have a high rate of interceptions, guide his team to a three-loss season, and still get drafted first in the NFL.
It's inevitable. Every time Crompton throws an incompletion or an interception, Vol fans, both those who hope he succeeds and those who just hope he fails fast, will experience painful flashbacks of the horrific 2008 season. But fans should keep it all in perspective. Crompton will not be perfect, but he doesn't need to be. He can even be in the bottom half of the nation's QBs, like John Parker Wilson was last year, and still guide the team to a great season.
Again, how we Vol fans react to Crompton's failures along the way is our choice. We can waste our time expecting him to devolve from acceptable failure to utter ineptitude, or we can postpone disappointment for a performance that is actually worthy of it.
It may never come.