South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier substituted quarterback Connor Shaw for Stephen Garcia late in the fourth quarter against Auburn on Saturday. This move came while South Carolina was down eight points and Stephen Garcia had fumbled on each of the last two possessions. Despite Connor Shaw’s throwing an interception on his first drive, Coach Spurrier sent him back out there for the final drive. Some South Carolina fans and observers have said this has created a quarterback controversy. There is not and should be any controversy: Stephen Garcia is clearly the better quarterback at this stage.
Quarterback controversies are nothing new to Steve Spurrier, or to Stephen Garcia for that matter. It wasn’t too long ago that Garcia was mired in a controversy with Chris Smelley. Coach Spurrier has rotated quarterbacks before and benched Heisman trophy winners. If Coach Spurrier continues to insist on playing Connor Shaw in more than back-up duty then he may create the latest in a long string of quarterback controversies, but as of yet, we don’t have a true quarterback controversy.
A quarterback controversy, in its simplest form, occurs when there are two quarterbacks whose perceived abilities are so close that the fan base is divided about which one should play. The key to having such a controversy is to have quarterbacks of equal ability or who perform equally well. Again, we don’t have this problem because Stephen Garcia is out performing Connor Shaw.
Let me be clear; I’m not saying Connor Shaw isn’t doing well. I’m a Connor Shaw fan. He has played well for a freshman, but he has still played like a freshman at times. His first interception against Auburn when he didn’t see the linebacker in the hook zone is the kind of mistake freshmen make. It’s the kind off mistake Stephen Garcia made two years ago, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s true that Shaw showed poise coming into a hostile environment, but results are what matter, and he wasn’t able to deliver them.
On the other hand there is Stephen Garcia. All season many vocal fans have asked when he is going to come around or suggested that when he comes around, then, we’ll really be good. I think he has been undervalued and underappreciated. But for the two fumbles against Auburn, he has played excellently. Look at his stats this year:
Those are pretty good numbers. So good, in fact, that it puts him in the top 20 nationally in several categories. His rating is 18th, his completion percentage is 11th and his yards per attempt is 15th.
And here are Conor Shaw’s stats:
Garcia is doing even better than what was a pretty successful year last year. Look at last year’s statistics compared to projections of this year’s.
By any objective measure, Stephen Garcia is out performing Connor Shaw. Sure, he fumbled twice against Auburn at crucial times, but that is no reason to bench him for the season or to demand someone else play, even if that someone else is coming along well for a freshman. Until Stephen Garcia regresses or Connor Shaw begins to play at a level beyond his years, there shouldn’t be any controversy at quarterback.