Editor’s note: Neil Patrick Healy, the sports editor for the Nevada Sagebrush, writes this column every week to speak his mind. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
The 21st century can be summed up in one phrase: instant gratification. With advancements in the internet, cellphones, computers and social media, the average consumer wants their problem fixed promptly. Your package will take two weeks to be shipped to your house? Pay a little extra and get Amazon’s same-day shipping. Don’t want to wait until the 11 o’clock news? Head to Twitter for news coverage on any issue all over the world. Whatever it is, we want it and we want it now. It’s no different in sports.
When the season isn’t going as planned, people want rapid change, and Nevada football is experiencing relentless waves of criticism lapping upon its shores. With the Wolf Pack sitting at 3-3 and the team not showing signs of improvement from a season ago, the first knee-jerk reaction is to fire the head coach. The next step down from firing the coach is replacing the quarterback.
Other than “fire Brian Polian,” the most common criticism surrounding Nevada right now is the perceived lack of production from senior quarterback Tyler Stewart. Many fans are clambering for a change under center with the false hope that someone like Ty Gangi will erase the offensive woes that have plagued Nevada through six weeks, but that’s simply ridiculous.
After a 38-17 dismantling at the hands of Hawaii two weeks ago, Polian was asked by Reno Gazette-Journal reporter Chris Murray if he would evaluate the quarterback position, and Polian went on a tirade as he voiced his frustration.
“Why would you go after the quarterback?” Polian said. “Do you think he played poorly? I get this question after every game. ‘Are you going to evaluate the quarterback?’ He was running for his life. The quarterback played fine. He didn’t turn the ball over. He played fine. The quarterback didn’t give up 8.6 yards per carry or whatever ungodly number we gave up. I’m tired of people asking about the quarterback. The quarterback played fine.
“We’ve got to block people for him,” Polian continued. “He competed his tail off. We’ve got to stop the run. That’s what we’ve got to do. The quarterback is fine. The question is getting monotonous, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask it.”
Polian is showing the signs of a coach under fire, but he also makes some good points. Of all of Nevada’s issues, Stewart is pretty far down the list. Still, the outcry rages on. There are three problems in wishing for a quarterback change:
STEWART ISN’T THAT BAD
His stats don’t jump out at you, but they also show improvement from a season ago. At the halfway mark of last season, Stewart completed 58 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,041 yards and eight touchdowns while adding three more scores on the ground. Through six games this year, Stewart is around the same in the touchdowns (eight passing and two running) while increasing his completion percentage (65 percent) and lowing his turnover rate (only one interception and zero fumbles).
Based on how the coaching staff has used him thus far, Stewart is doing everything asked of a classic game manager. He is completing his passes, he makes the right audible at the line of scrimmage and he doesn’t turn the ball over. He doesn’t force the ball down field and cost the offense drives, and the coaches haven’t asked him to.
The reason some Nevada fans are begging for a quarterback change is because they are afflicted with a combination of instant gratification syndrome and remembering the last decade of quarterback play for the Wolf Pack. The memories of Jeff Rowe, Colin Kaepernick and Cody Fajardo still hover over the program, and fans just subconsciously think the quarterback has to be an NFL-caliber guy when that stretch from 2005-2014 was arguably the best era in program history.
OPTIONS BEHIND STEWART AREN’T BETTER
Can we all agree that Ty Gangi isn’t anything more than a gimmick? Gangi has been plugged into the offense from time to time throughout the season to add the mobility aspect that Stewart is lacking, but thinking he can fix the offensive problems is wishful thinking.
HIS TEAM LET HIM DOWN
Nevada’s poor start rests at the feet of many people, but Stewart isn’t one of them. In two of Nevada’s worst losses of the season, the offensive line gave up a combined nine sacks and 510 yards rushing. The starting offensive line is anchored by two former walk-ons and is once again lacking sufficient depth to withstand injuries.
Is Stewart going to be Kap or Fajardo? No, and he isn’t ever going to be, but he gives the Wolf Pack the best chance to win. Is that a reflection on him or on those around him?
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NP_Healy.