By now any Orange fan not living under a rock has felt the buzz that currently surrounds the Syracuse University football program.
The primary cause of this stir of interest is the news that broke last week that the man directing the Syracuse offense when they take the field on September 5th will be former Duke University point guard, Greg Paulus.
As evidenced by the national media’s sudden interest in Syracuse football (a topic they haven’t spent much time on in recent years), this story has captured the attention of football fans everywhere. It’s one that is sure to keep plenty of spotlight on the Orange, and will even help to put butts in the Carrier Dome bleachers.
From a publicity standpoint, this is a dream scenario for Syracuse.
However, while media attention is a great thing, nothing will cure the ills of the Syracuse program better than winning. This of course begs the question; does Greg Paulus really give his team the best chance to win football games?
If you were to ask head coach Doug Marrone, then the answer would be an emphatic yes. Marrone has already made it abundantly clear that he has a high level of respect for Paulus and his abilities.
"In my personal opinion, and in all the information I've gathered, I don't know if there's anything he can't do,” the Syracuse head coach, and former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator explained. “Nor do I think there's anything Drew Brees can't do. If somebody said the New York Mets would take Drew Brees and he was going to play baseball for them, I'd say I think he has a chance. He's just a competitor and an athlete and there's nothing he can't do. I feel the same way with Greg."
Everyone knows the story by now. Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior after a high school career in which he went 42-3, threw for 152 touchdowns, and 11,763 passing yards for Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse. He then dismisses offers to play college football for the likes of Notre Dame and Miami to play point guard for Coach K. at Duke.
Looking at his high school accomplishments, the talent is obviously there. The only question is whether he can shake off the cobwebs and regain his high school form in time to help Syracuse win games. Coach Marrone doesn’t seem too concerned about that though.
"Everyone always says that (four-year layoff), you know, well then maybe he's unbelievable then. How about that, you know," Marrone said. "I don't understand that, yes, he hasn't played the sport of football, but he's thrown a football. He's been out playing. He's been training his eyes. He's been training as an athlete. The kid's an athlete. So he's gone out there and done it. He's done a good job."
If Paulus can really pick up where he left off in high school, he certainly brings more potential upside to the table than any of the other quarterbacks on the roster.
In his high school days, it was his touch and accuracy that helped him have such an outstanding career. If he is to do well at Syracuse, he will once again have to thrive in the short and medium ranged passing game.
Greg Paulus will also bring to the field intelligence, leadership and potentially more mobility than any other quarterback on the roster. With Syracuse’s struggles with their offensive line in recent years, he’ll have to be able to move in order to elude swarms of would-be tacklers.
The other thing to consider with Paulus is that in terms of learning Doug Marrone’s system, he’s not far behind the rest of the team. While other quarterbacks have been with the program longer, they all started at square one within Marrone’s new offensive system this year.
Also working in Paulus’ favor, the last time he played football it was in a spread system at CBA similar to what Marrone may employ at Syracuse this year.
At this point, we can only speculate as to whether Paulus is the right man for the job. However, the only man that really knows whether or not he is truly capable of winning big time college football games is Doug Marrone, and he knows what the consequences of losing are.
“I understand what my job is,” Marrone said after the announcement that Paulus was his quarterback. “My job is to win football games. Just because I went to school here, just because people may think I have a better relationship than maybe some of the past coaches, I don't think that's going to get me any more time. I don't think that's going to do anything for me. My job is to win games. I think if I win games, I'm going to be in good shape. If I don't win games, my butt's going to be out of here.”
More than any other position, the quarterback is the player most responsible for his team’s successes and failures. Doug Marrone, knowing that he must win in order to keep the job he’s coveted since he got started in coaching, decided that Greg Paulus is the quarterback most capable of helping him win this year.
With the kind of faith that Marrone is demonstrating he has in Paulus, it should be easy for Orange fans to believe in him too.
There should be no doubt. Greg Paulus is the best man for the job.