One could say that Danny O'Brien is a victim of bad timing as his time with Wisconsin officially comes to an end.
After leaving Maryland in 2012 to transfer to Madison, the former signal-caller is leaving the Dairy State in the rear view mirror for an unknown destination. Most casual fans of the program will simply point to his name buried on the depth chart and blame a poor individual performance as the catalyst for the move.Yes, fumbles never help, but a closer inspection of his career reveals how O'Brien's struggles may have been unfairly amplified by two programs undergoing massive changes.
O'Brien was a rookie star at Maryland before backsliding big time his sophomore season. His stat line sank like a rock, going from throwing 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 2010 to throwing 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2011. A few things can be attributed to such a drop in production, and plenty of that responsibility lands on the shoulders of O'Brien himself. But some of his issues went far beyond the huddle.
New Maryland coach Randy Edsall may have been one of them. His scheme drifted away from the pro, stand-and-deliver style O'Brien used to rain down more than 2,438 yards of offense the year before.
A deeper sense of discord was clearly at play in Maryland, though. After Edsall took over in January 2011, more than 25 players left the team by March of the next year, just about the size of an average recruiting class. It's hard for any kind of athlete to survive in that atmosphere, and those troubles showed themselves in a horrific 2-10 record in 2011. The team went 4-8 without O'Brien the next season.
Unfortunately, a similar pattern would follow him to Wisconsin.
A very thin quarterback corps may have offered less parity than there really was at the position. The relatively experienced O'Brien sailed through summer practices in 2012 like an old pro. It was said he only threw one turnover throughout all of those practices, and that lone interception came on the last day of camp. Wisconsin was preparing itself for the second coming of Russell Wilson.
They would be left bracing for nothing but a ghost of the former superstar.
On game day, it was clear this Wisconsin team was not in sync. The normally stalwart offensive line looked confused and out of rhythm. A very uncharacteristic early-season firing rocked the Badgers when the O-line coach, Mike Markuson, was let go. The offense continued to sputter compared to the record-setting previous years. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada would later remark on the internal battle to find an identity on his side of the ball.
No one will argue Russell Wilson is the superior athlete, but he enjoyed stability, as well as some receiving targets. Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis, along with a cadre of tight ends, spread the field. O'Brien had only Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen to rely on consistently. Throw in a very un-Montee Ball-like start to the season, and O'Brien was doomed to fail.
Finally, for the third time in three years, a new coach would enter into the mix. When head coach Gary Andersen signed transfer Tanner McEvoy, and Curt Phillips snagged a sixth year of eligibility, the writing was on the wall. Apparently, that writing told O'Brien to try his luck somewhere else.
O'Brien, by all accounts, has the IQ and attitude to be a quarterback on any college level. He needs harmony between opportunity, scheme and stability. He could not find that at Wisconsin, and now the clock is starting to tick a little faster. Hopefully, timing will be on his side this time.