Sept 15, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Munchie Legaux (4) carries the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Delaware State Hornets at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE
In quarterbacking, as in economics, there are systemic problems, and then there are situational problems. One often looks like the other, and it is only in the final judgement that situational factors can be discerned from systemic problems.
In the aftermath of Saturday nights iffy performance against a Delaware State team that should have been blown off the field in, two quarters or less, a lot of blame has been placed on the dreadlocked shoulders of Munchie Legaux. There is nothing wrong with that. He is, after all the quarterback and thus on the hook for a disproportionate amount of blame, but the tenor of the arguments has been all wrong.
The essence of the anti-Munchie arguments is that UC will not be able to win because there is something systemically wrong about Munchie Legaux. He can't throw the ball well, he looks weird throwing it, he doesn't read defenses well and so on and so forth. There is a ring of truth to those arguments. But not because they are, in a vacuum, true. But because of the context of those who came before Munchie Legaux
As Cincinnati Bearcats fans we have been spoiled, tremendously, with good quarterback play in basically an unbroken line. Ben Mauk, Tony Pike, Zach Collaros. Each sprang from the earth as, effectively, fully formed paragons of quarterbacking virtue. Yes, Pike and Collaros did have experience before starting for any length of time.* All three men, effectively, sprang to life as fully formed quarterbacks the moment they had their first starts. And all three did so in the warm embrace of Brian Kelly's incredibly simple, yet incredibly destructive offense. This is a long way to make a simple point. Cincinnati has not had a work in progress at the quarterback position in six years. The last was Dustin Grutza during 2006. In the intervening years the quarterback position at UC soared to new, unprecedented heights.
* Collaros had the Akron game in 2008, Pike had seen action off and on in his career before being thrust into the lineup, permanently, against Oklahoma
Now, six years on from the last work in progress we have a new one who is 6'5", wears dreadlocks like a boss and defies convention in nearly every way imaginable. The departure from the Mauk/Pike/Collaros era could not be starker. If the only context you have for what a successful quarterback looks like, and does is Mauk, Pike and Collaros; Munchie Legaux would be anathema to your vision of a quarterback
Because of that we, as Bearcats fans, need to remember what comes with having a new quarterback. Nothing will be the same from game to game (hey 50 percent completion percentage against Pitt, Whats up 74 per cent completion percentage against Delaware State). The decision making will vary wildly, (0 turnovers against Pitt, 4 against DSU). He will make phenomenal throws, (the deep ball to Kenbrell Thompkins against Pitt, the skinny post to Travis Kelce from the endzone, also against Pitt; his deep strike to Damon Julian dropped perfectly between two defenders on Saturday; a deep dig from KT that was thrown perfectly between three defenders). Said phenomenal throws will be followed by less phenomenal throws, like this one. None of which means there is anything systemically wrong with Munchie Legaux as a quarterback. Its simply a young QB, being a young QB
It can't be overlooked that Mike Bajakian is still struggling to grasp the implications of Munchie. Never before in his coaching career has Coach Jake had an athlete this spectacular playing quarterback for him. Dan LeFevour was a good quarterback and a force of nature as a runner, but he couldn't explode for 77 yards like Munchie can. Munchie has a skill set unlike anyone else Bajakian has coached, and he is clearly working through the process. Trying to figure out what works best for Munchie, and what needs to be put on the shelf for the next guy.
None of this means that Munchie is flawless as a quarterback, he isn't. For the year he has a quarterback rating of 89.5 on throws longer than 10 yards, his footwork comes and goes far too frequently, and he has bouts of hubris that almost always end in turnovers or massive negative plays.
Still, there is nothing that I have seen in five games of Munchie Legaux that precludes me from thinking that he can lead the Bearcats to a Big East championship. Because there isn't a factor of the game listed above that can't be improved with time and repetition. Just look at the over striding problem in the Pitt game. That issue resulted in a ton of balls in the dirt, and a 50 percent completion percentage, on a day where he made one bad decision about where to throw the Football**. It basically disappeared against Delaware State. He looked much better throwing the Football against the Hornets; much more comfortable, more natural.
** He forced a ball on a dig that should have been pick sixed by Shane Gordon, instead it was dropped. Thanks Shane
Munchie is clearly a work in progress; but the ceiling of what this offense can be if Munchie reaches his potential, even just slightly, simply dwarfs the potential ceiling of this offense with anyone else at the helm. Which is why I don't understand those who go out of their way make declarative statements about him as a quarterback. It is still too soon for that, there just isn't enough to go on. The Bearcats can win, and win big, with Munchie Legaux as their quarterback.