In 1991, Stanford had quarterback who had lead the nation in completion percentage the year before. That quarterback, Jason Palumbis, had led the team in a rousing come-from-behind near miracle win against Cal in the Big Game the prior season.
However, in 1991, perhaps because of a shoulder injury, Jason had a sub 60 percent completion average and had thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns. The season was young, and many fans like me thought that he would eventually snap out of it. However, then coach Dennis Green said that the team could not wait to begin winning. So, he started a redshirt freshman quarterback. The freshman quarterback had stepped in and completed eight of ten passes for 124 yards during the fourth quarter of a loss to Notre Dame. That quarterback, Steve Stenstrom, was then installed as the starter, and his name is still in the Stanford record books.
Not all quarterback changes work out for the best, but the move shows a decisiveness and a sense of urgency on the part of Coach Green. It was important that the team win, and it wasn’t going to do that without a strong and effective leader, even if that leader happened to be one of the youngest guys on the field.
Now, a receiver who was a true freshman on Stenstrom’s first team is at the helm of Stanford football. Once again, the team needs to begin winning and to assert itself on offense. It needs a winner. It needs a change.
Today’s coach, David Shaw, needs to find the decisiveness to make the change necessary to win. He may feel that it’s necessary to stick with the player he announced at the beginning of the season. However, Green’s successful early season change proves that that isn’t the case.
Palumbis was a decent quarterback who just wasn’t getting into the end zone. The same cannot be said about the current quarterback, Josh Nunes, who by all accounts is a nice guy, but just isn’t getting the job done. He’s currently rated as the 83rd best FBS quarterback out of 100 nationwide. He has a 52 percent completion rate, and has thrown six touchdowns and four interceptions — one in every game. He has a quarterback rating of 114. This is a quarterback who is far below average. At Stanford, we don’t do below average.
Before the season, Nunes and Brett Nottingham were engaged in a fierce quarterback competition. Most observers who had seen the spring game and a few open practices said they believed that Nottingham was the better quarterback. In fact, we’d seen brief glimpses of brilliance in the few times he had been in last season. Nevertheless, because we had not seen many open practices, most of us were willing to give the coaches the benefit of the doubt when Nunes was selected. Perhaps, they had seen something that we hadn’t in our limited views.
Now, it seems evident that our eyes did not deceive us, or at least, if Nottingham is not the worse of the two, he certainly couldn’t do much worse.
It’s time for Shaw to put in the best players who give Stanford the best opportunity to win games. If he’s not willing to make position shifts, then ultimately the position that is shifted may be his own.