Devin Gardner or Shane Morris? That is the question Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is facing this week. He has continued the mind games, as he’s stated he will not reveal the starting quarterback until game day. This quarterback question hasn’t just come up suddenly. It has actually been in question since early last year. Who is the better option at quarterback? There are many who have defended fifth-year senior Gardner. They say he has the experience and the athleticism. He’s been there and knows what to do better than Morris would. The few times we’ve seen Shane, he’s been a turnover machine and looked awful. That’s what Gardner defenders say, but is it true? Absolutely not.
First of all, if Gardner was playing at least mediocre football, there wouldn’t be calls to pull him. But he’s been awful so far. He has six interceptions through three games. Secondly, Gardner isn’t some freshman or sophomore; he’s a fifth year senior on this team. A quarterback is supposed to lead the team. You don’t see that with Gardner. He’s certainly not the Tom Brady or Phillip Rivers who will call players out when he needs to. A quarterback is supposed to make plays regardless of the offensive line, Gardner doesn’t do that anymore. He did last season, but this season nothing of the sort has happened. Now, he just looks absolutely broken mentally and mechanically.
He dances in the pocket too often and under-throws or overthrows receivers like it’s normal. Gardner also doesn’t make the smart plays. He doesn’t throw it out of bounds when he’s pressured, but instead takes the sack, or worse, throws it to a defender. Gardner showed some flashes of greatness last year, but this year he is a shell of himself. It’s not going to help Gardner to keep him under center and under fire when he’s playing his worst ball. With his demons coming back even under a new system and new offensive coordinator, maybe it’s time to admit that Gardner isn’t a quarterback.
This season Gardner has six interceptions and has been sacked nine times. He has an adjusted quarterback rating of 54.8. His career interception total is 23 thus far. That will get worse if he stays in. If Hoke really wants to salvage his job and the Big Ten season, he needs to pull the trigger against Minnesota. Is Shane Morris going to be the next Chad Henne? No, probably not. The few times that Morris has played, he hasn’t looked great. But to be fair he hasn’t had the snaps Gardner has had. He hasn’t had the conditions that Gardner has had.
Morris has had to play down and in bad weather against Utah. He had to play as a true freshman in his first bowl game last year. Does he throw interceptions like Gardner? Yes, but at the same time at least he goes through his progressions instead of locking in on Devin Funchess. He also knows how to throw. You can tell when you see the ball come out of his hands.
The bottom line: Mentally, Morris will be ready to play, while no matter how much you prepare him, Gardner won’t be. Morris is better mechanically and has proven he has some mobility too. Michigan has nothing to lose at this point. The ship is sinking quickly. The move has to be made and they have to stick with him. Don’t just put him in and pull the hook quickly. They haven’t done that with Gardner up until now. Look at how switching quarterback has worked for rival Michigan State. If Hoke wants to show that he cares about these losses, he will make the switch and do it for the Minnesota game and keep him for the rest of the season. More reps will only help Morris. It’s an unfortunate move, but one that has to be done if Michigan has any hopes to compete in the Big Ten.
Fatima Harajli is a contributor to TheBigHouseReport.com. Follow her on Twitter here.