As rumors swirl about the potential departure of now-backup quarterback Bryan Bennett from the Oregon Ducks football program, the green and yellow faithful are up in arms.
But should they be?
On one side of the argument are the folks who swear up and down that a guy like Bennett owes it to the university and his teammates to stick it out as the backup in hopes that either Mariota gets injured or falters as the starter.
On the flip side, however, are the Bennett supporters who say that he deserves a chance to be a starter somewhere and that he should chase his dream of being an NFL quarterback as best he can. Unfortunately for the folks in Eugene, that probably means elsewhere.
Before we dive into that, though, let's examine how exactly we got here.
In October of 2009, Bennett pledged his commitment to the University of Oregon as a senior in high school. At the time, Bennett was looking at an Oregon roster that would feature Jeremiah Masoli (the starter), Nate Costa (the veteran backup) and Darron Thomas (the up-and-coming challenger).
For Bennett, the best case scenario appeared to be a track that would make him Thomas' backup until 2013, when he would be a redshirt junior.
Then, things went haywire.
Masoli was removed from the program, Thomas beat out Costa and Bennett was suddenly the second in command just two years later as a redshirt freshman. Even crazier, Thomas left a year early making Bennett the "veteran" likely to take the job.
Until Marcus Mariota happened.
Mariota, a 3-star recruit from Hawaii, was a relative unknown to Duck fans other than the constant scout-team rumblings you hear about throughout the season. In reality, there were probably few who thought that he had a chance to beat out Bennett, who had been impressive in limited action.
And then, the spring game happened.
With an 82-yard touchdown scamper in a game of two-hand touch during the spring contest, Mariota had officially locked in his place in the two-man competition.
Finally, just last weekend, head coach Chip Kelly announced that the redshirt freshman had in fact beaten out Bennett for the starting job.
So there Bennett is, with three years of eligibility left and the backup job on the No. 5 team in the nation staring him in the face. What would you do?
If he chose to stay with the Ducks, as I mentioned above, his reasoning would likely be to capitalize on any playing time he could get during mop-up duty or in the case of an injury to Mariota. Should Mariota remain healthy all season, however, (which hasn't happened since Kelly arrived) then Bennett would have wasted a precious year of eligibility.
Some will argue that plenty of backup quarterbacks make it to the league and that if he's good enough, the NFL will be an option down the road anyway. The problem with that logic, however, is that it's just not very true.
Sure, exceptions like Matt Cassel, Tom Brady and A.J. Feely are out there, but we're talking about three guys in the last 10 years. Could Bennett follow in their footsteps if he stayed at Oregon? Maybe. Is it likely, though? No.
The second problem is that even if Bennett were to eventually get a shot at the NFL after staying at Oregon, his draft stock and rookie contract would both suffer behind guys who got a chance to start for a few years.
The other option for Bennett would be to explore his options elsewhere—presumably at the Division I level somewhere.
If he were to do so, Bennett would sacrifice this season, but would retain two years of eligibility wherever he ends up.
In my mind, from Bennett's perspective, this might make the most sense.
With Bennett's performance as a starter at Oregon and the raw tools and athleticism that he possesses, there are sure to be some large schools that would come calling.
Once there, Bennett's future would no long ride on the chances of injury to Mariota, but on his own performance and ability to capitalize on his new chance. As a competitor, that has to sound pretty good.
Regardless of what Bennett decides after his meeting with Chip Kelly, both options offer compelling arguments and can't be discounted by fans on either side of the debate.
As a duck fan, I'd love Bennett to stick around, but do I want him to stick around at the potential expense of his future? Now that's a tough call.