To really understand what’s going through someone’s mind can be really tough. But if you’re trying to understand what’s been going through Michigan States Quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s mind through the first four games of the season, well then I have two words for you; Good luck!
But then I read upon a famous quote that dealt with the understanding of a human brain by Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung which read, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Being a former quarterback in high school myself, that’s when it occurred to me that whatever is going through Maxwell’s mind might be the same things that went through my mind when I was a first year starter.
I had my moments where I threw bullet passes to my running back who was only two yards away. I had my moments where I would lock down on one receiver the whole game, and it took the opposing defense two plays to figure that out. I also had my moments where people criticized my coach for having someone who didn’t feel comfortable with what they were doing under center.
Now I know the skill set, the intensity, and the speed of a high school game doesn’t come close to matching up to a game at the collegiate level, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been through most of the situations Maxwell has. Which is why I will try my best to help you irritated Michigan State fans understand the thought process which goes through the mind of our starting quarterback.
I’ve broken down my ideas into three topics: Being Comfortable, Having Trust, and Having Patience.
- 1. Being Comfortable
I cannot stress enough how important it is for a quarterback to be comfortable in the offense that he is running. In my first three years of high school we ran the same kind of pro-style offense that the Spartans run. I was named the starter of my varsity squad my sophomore year. In the span of 18 games, as a team we only attempted 40 passes altogether. Our team went 0-18, and I felt like I was being underused.
Senior year came around and we had a whole new coaching staff inserted to our team, which meant a whole new offense. Our new head coach ran the spread offense, which is a scheme that I fell in love with. This was not because I had the greatest arm, but because I was smart enough to read the defenses and find mismatches before the ball was even snapped. After the first four games of the season our team had a 3-1 record and averaged over 40 points a game. In the span of those four games, I had over 1200 yards passing and double digit touchdowns, passing the ball over 40-50 times a game.
But that’s enough with the reminiscing on my glory days because there is actually a point to this all. In my first couple years as a starter I didn’t look or feel comfortable in the offense which was being ran, which looks like the same goes for Maxwell. It seemed like our offense had no identity. But there is actually a cure for that, and it all begins with the play calls the Spartans make. Now I’m not saying offensive coordinator Dan Roushar needs to change MSU’s pro-style scheme into a spread offense, because that would be absurd. Maxwell was recruited as a pro-style quarterback, and MSU has a stud in the backfield that goes by the name of Le’Veon Bell who’s hungry for the pigskin.
But a running back shouldn’t manage the tempo of the game, that’s what you have a quarterback for. I don’t mind running the ball on first down, heck even on second down. But MSU needs to get their offense in those 3rd and 2’s or 2nd and 5’s situations where Maxwell will feel comfortable dumping the ball off to his elite tight end Dion Sims for the first down. As a former quarterback I can’t tell you how much of a difference it is when you have to face a 3rd and 10 rather than facing a 3rd and 3. I can only imagine how difficult it is to make the play calls in those situations. So save everybody the stress coach Roushar and help your quarterback manage the game by giving him plays he will be comfortable in running.
- 2. Having Trust
Talk about something that’s easier said than done. Trust is not only the biggest key in any relationship or between married couples, but it is also vital when it comes to a team playing football. The only reason my high school football team switched to a spread offense was because my head football coach trusted that I would be smart enough to make the right decisions in a game.
But that trust didn’t just come easy. Which seems like is the same problem going on between Maxwell and his receivers. Spartan fans wonder why their team doesn’t have any plays where the ball is thrown down field. Or why hasn’t there been a completed pass of over 20 yards to a wide receiver? Well the answer is pretty simple; TRUST.
In quarterback terms, a dropped touchdown pass from a wide receiver is like missing an open lay up in a basketball game or missing an open net goal in a soccer or hockey game. As a collegiate athlete you’re expected to make certain plays, like for instance catching a ball that hits your hands.
There have been way too many instances where MSU’s wide receivers have missed catches, even touchdown passes, which could’ve changed the outcome of the game. To see your teammates not making plays that they’re suppose to make can hurt the chemistry between you and your quarterback, especially for a first year starter in Maxwell. Now, before every passing play, Maxwell has to debate if he should throw to this player because a few plays ago he dropped an open pass that could of put points on the board. Trust me; I thought the same way when I played quarterback. But I think it’s important for Maxwell and coach Roushar to not go away from a receiver who dropped a pass, and ironically enough go to him as soon as the next play even to regain the trust between the two. Trust brings chemistry, and chemistry wins championships. Amnesia is an important concept in football. Everyone needs to forget about the missed opportunity that just happened and worry about the next play, which is the most important play in football.
- 3. Having Patience
Probably the toughest concept to overcome, I believe patience makes a hypocrite of us all. You cannot just say you have patience; it’s something that comes and goes with every situation a person face, it’s a virtue.
With Maxwell being a first year starting quarterback for a school that has expectations of a Big Ten Title and a trip to the Rose Bowl, patience has to be implemented in his mind the moment he gets on the practice field to the moment he goes to sleep at night. Patience with his coaches who make play calls that make him seem like an infant playing a man’s game; patience with his offensive lineman who were nowhere to be found in the Notre Dame game; patience with his receivers who are having trouble catching an open pass; but most importantly having patience with himself.
I would also like to ask the Spartan faithful to have patience. I understand MSU looked sloppy as a team as of late, but remember we are still 3-1 and a top 20 team. MSU’s only loss came to a non-conference team, which means their expectations can still be met. The only reason I am ranting about Maxwell is actually because I like the guy and believe in him and his capability to make plays and manage the game. MSU has to take each game one at a time and it all begins this Saturday against the Ohio State Buckeyes.