Not surprisingly, the Greg Paulus Experiment has failed to go according to plan. Paulus was serenaded by a chorus of boos last week as Syracuse lost 28-7 to Cincinnati in a game that was somehow more boring than the final score would indicate. The impetus behind the booing was largely that the offense was anemic last week; Syracuse didn’t take many shots downfield, and the underneath throws they did attempt were largely bottled up by the stingy Bearcat defense.
The DAILY ORANGE, Syracuse’s campus newspaper, noticed the lack of offensive aggression and wondered why the team wouldn’t at least try to go deep to their stud wideout Mike Williams (game stats: 4 catches, 34 yards, 0 TD), since that’s his specialty and all. Williams, it would seem, wondered that too; he just approached first-year head coach Doug Marrone and, in Marrone’s words, “removed himself from the team.” Hoooo boy.
First, from the SYRACUSE POST-STANDARD:
Williams, who was the team’s leading receiver and a semifinalist for the award given to the nation’s top receiver, went into Marrone’s office and said he was leaving the team immediately. Marrone said Williams “approached me” and had not been summoned for discussion.
Marrone said he had not spoken to members of the football team about Williams’ decision, though he believes they already know.
Asked why Williams quit the team, Marrone said, “you’d have to ask him. I have no idea.
“I’m not going to discuss the conversation from my end. Obviously, I told you that he came up to me and voluntarily took himself off the team. That’s it.”
Clearly, something’s up here. We don’t think Marrone’s misrepresenting the situation any, but somebody who’s just four games away from finishing the season and declaring for the draft wouldn’t just up and leave now unless he had a good reason, right? This can’t be only about his role on the team, right?
After all, Williams has one more month of this failtastic season to stomach, and if he thinks a crappy quarterback is going to hurt his stock in the draft, he has no idea what going Full Palin on his teammates will do to his draftability. He can run all the routes he wants in the combine to assuage scouts’ fears. But there isn’t a damn thing he can do about a “quitter” reputation.
Oh, and as for Paulus, he’s not going anywhere. Even as the Syracuse fans yelled awful things about the Duke transplant and cheered Ryan Nassib’s entrance into the game, a teary-eyed Marrone defended Paulus to the press. Seriously:
“I have never seen an athlete, at any level including the NFL, work as hard, mentally and physically, as Greg has worked since he’s joined us here at Syracuse. Really, what he’s accomplished is extraordinary. Maybe it can’t be fully appreciated because most don’t know just how difficult it is to play quarterback at a Division I program.
“In the era of video games, virtual reality, it’s easy to believe that throwing a pass, reading a defense, avoiding a sack is as easy as the push of a button, that any of us can do. The problem, it’s not that easy. We can’t do that.
“Despite the turnover and mistake that Greg made, as any quarterback makes, he’s exceeded expectations at every level. I think Greg is a victim of his own success. We’ve seen him make great plays and great decisions and we’ve come to expect that from him every time. But football is a team game. People don’t know when an offensive linemen misses a block or a receiver runs a wrong route. They only see the decisions that Greg makes.
“Calling for a backup quarterback and backup pitcher, backup point guard, I understand that’s just a part of sports. But Greg is one of us. He grew up here. He came back to do something that’s never been done before and he’s poured every ounce of his body and soul in that task.
For as much as this full-throated endorsement of Paulus will sit well with the team - assuming the Orange believe in Paulus as well - it’s only going to strain relations between the coach and the negative fanbase on campus. If there’s one thing a fanbase despises, it’s a losing head coach telling them how to react to the game. Doesn’t matter if the coach is right - he usually is, in fact - a fanbase given to booing isn’t going to listen to calls to reason. Just doesn’t happen.
In other words, the next few years at Syracuse are going to be a horror show unless and until Marrone gets to eight wins. Anything less, and the venom still flows unabated. Watching the star player quit the team’s only going to encourage the vitriol even further.