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Football Joblessness: How to Handle Injuries

The Maryland-North Carolina game is more than two weeks away, and by that point, the quarterbacks who started the season for both teams -- the Terps' Jordan Steffy and the Tar Heels' T.J. Yates. -- likely will be healthy enough to play. But neither likely will.

As anyone who has spent any time on this blog knows, the decision to start Steffy over Chris Turner was highly controversial in College Park to begin with; many observers felt that Steffy's injury gave Coach Ralph Friedgen a convenient excuse to do what he should have done all along.

Yates was a much less controversial choice in Chapel Hill, and when he broke an ankle against Virginia Tech in September, many thought North Carolina's promising season would be detoured. Instead, Cameron Sexton has won four of five starts -- the loss in overtime at Virginia -- and completed nearly 60 percent of his passes.

This brings into question the football adage "you can't lose your job to injury," which is especially applied to quarterbacks, either because they're more vulnerable to injury or because rarely do players split time at the position. And who wants to say, particularly of a college student who is in physical pain and mental anguish, "Well, we'll see what happens. If we're better off without him, that's how it goes." Even myopic football coaches wouldn't do that.

Regardless, while I think the statement is uttered just as often as ever, I think that it's adhered to less often. Chemistry is as elusive as it is valuable, and if a football team finds something that works, by design or by accident, it doesn't make sense to change it out of loyalty to one player. Tom Brady might have waited years to start had Drew Bledoe stayed healthy.

What factors do you think should go into the personnel decisions that arise when an injured starter returns to health? Should the player get his job back automatically?

By Matthew Rennie  |  October 29, 2008; 8:43 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Maryland fans old enough will remember in 1994 when Brian Cummings led the Terps to a 4-0 record only to be replaced by Scott Milanovich when he returned from his gambling suspension. We ended up 6-5 so it was a mistake.

Unless the injured starter is clearly more skilled or the team is struggling in his absence, he should not automatically get his job back. IMO...

Posted by: sigman1 | October 29, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

At this point in the season, with the ACC title still within reach, it would be a mistake to change the chemistry of the team now. I agree with the many fans who said that Chris Turner should have been the starter from the very beginning. I dunno... maybe Fridge saw something in Turner that he didn't like at the beginning of the season.
But all of that is a moot point. Turner is on fire as a starter now, and to remove him at this juncture would be disastrous to the team. No offense to Steffy, but he was not producing the same kind of results when he was under center. Turner is better passer and decision-maker out there than Steffy is.
I understand that dealing with the delicate psyche of a college kid takes understanding and skill, but ultimately even he knows that you have to do what's best for the team in the long run.

Posted by: ecglotfelty | October 29, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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