Indecision about quarterback about to wreck UVA football season?

mike londonThere’s an old saying about teams with quarterback controversies. If your coach says he’s having a hard time deciding between two quarterbacks, it really means he doesn’t have one.

“We’ll make the decision on Saturday as to who will be the starter, but both of them are going to play,” said UVA football coach Mike London, waffling publicly on who will get the ball to start Saturday’s game with Richmond between Matt Johns and Greyson Lambert.

Lambert entered the 2014 season as the anointed starter, but was pulled from the season opener with seventh-ranked UCLA in the second quarter after throwing a second pick-six that gave the Bruins a 21-3 lead.

Johns, listed as the third-stringer on the depth chart last week, replaced Lambert, and led Virginia on a comeback that fell just short in what turned out to be a 28-20 loss.

Johns was head and shoulders the better of the two, throwing for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and leading three scoring drives in his seven drives at quarterback, while Lambert threw for 112 yards and two interceptions while leading Virginia to just one field goal in his seven drives at QB.

It wouldn’t take much for London to concede that Lambert looked wholly over his head against UCLA, and that Johns looked as comfortable as a three-year starter, but then it wouldn’t have taken much for him to have conceded that David Watford, the odd man out right now, also looked over his head even as he started all 12 games in 2013.

London could also fess up to having dropped the ball in 2012 with his moves relative to incumbent starter michael rocco and transfer Phillip Sims, with the shuttling back and forth between the two contributing to a regression from an eight-win season for Virginia in 2011 to a four-win campaign a year later.

Rocco started all 13 games in 2011, but even in getting all the starts had to look over his shoulder at Watford, who saw significant time in relief as London couldn’t make his mind up on playing time that year, either.

Unless there’s something physically wrong with Lambert, as has been speculated on the message boards, is it really protecting him to throw him back out there as the starter, which you have to presume will be the case against Richmond? On the one hand, you don’t want to ruin whatever level of self-confidence he has after Saturday’s miserable effort in a game that was obviously eminently winnable against a national-title contender if Lambert had just managed the game. On the other, what about Johns and his confidence in his head coach to give the right guy the ball, not to mention the rest of the roster and their confidence that their coach wants to put them in the best possible position to win games, which is supposedly the goal?

London has been talking a lot about accountability being the main focus for the 2014 season, which could very well be his last as the head coach at Virginia if things don’t turn around from the 2-10 debacle a year ago and the 18-31 record that his teams have posted since he took over in 2010. Accountability might not be that far down the road if London can’t get this one right, and history doesn’t suggest that he will, unfortunately.

– Column by Chris Graham

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