The Washington Huskies have had a glaring problem for a while and on Saturday, head coach Chris Petersen had to do something about it. Record setting QB Jake Browning has many of the Husky records for passing and touchdowns; however after a stellar 2016 campaign where he led the nation in touchdown passes, there have been diminishing returns since then.
An uneven performance in 2017 saw his touchdowns drop from 43 to 19, has been followed by another regression here in 2018. Browning performed poorly in the season opening Auburn game when he completed just 56 % and looked average in a loss to a strong defense.
Over the course of the next 2 games, Browning would have a TD to INT ratio of 1:1. With 4 TDs and 4 interceptions, the natives begun to get restless. As the next 6 games progressed, Browning slightly upped that ratio to a 3:2 rate that has produced 12 TDs and 8 interceptions. At this rate, Jake may not eclipse the 100 TD mark. As well, he would have his numbers reminiscent of his freshman season where he had 16 TDs and 10 interceptions.
The question everyone is asking, is “should we replace Browning with sophomore Jake Haener?” The answer is simply…”You cannot.”
The season is not over for the Washington Huskies. Miraculously, both Stanford and Oregon fell apart and the Huskies are the masters of their own fortune. There is time to still win this Pac-12 North and earn a New Year’s bowl bid. The road will not be easy as Stanford has quality talent and WSU is riding an (in recent yards) unprecedented high. Additionally, the heart and soul of the offense, Myles Gaskin may not be available to Browning.
The crux of the matter is that Browning has nearly a thousand pass attempts at this level. No one on the bench has distinguished themselves capable of replacing him this year–keep in mind Haener threw the game losing pick-6. With 90 touchdown passes, it behooves Husky coaches to stick with the senior for 4 more games this year. This is not blind loyalty, this is brought about from having seen this story play out before. This happened before with a senior by the name of Keith Price.
Keith Price was the Husky QB from 2010-2014 and he was berated similarly to Browning after a parallel path saw an outstanding sophomore season derailed by a poor junior year. In 2011 Prices threw 33 TDs to 11 INTs and took them to a trip to a thrilling Alamo Bowl that saw the Huskies just barely lose to Baylor 67-56. Similar to Jake Browning, a finicky public got annoyed at Price’s 2012 year that saw his TDs drop to 19. Never mind that the Huskies faced #3 LSU, #8 Stanford, #2 Oregon, #11 USC, and #7 Oregon State that year. Price had a brutal gauntlet of unwinnable games and found a way to beat Stanford and OSU that year.
Revisionist history is strong because as we go far back to the legends of the Purple and Gold, we need to question the likes of Brock Huard. People forget that after a stellar 1997 season, he was a part of a 6-6 team that got coach Jim Lambright fired.
Long time Husky fans also forget that Cody Pickett had a miserable senior year that only saw him throw 15 TDs. That was a 6-6 season that saw Pickett unable to defeat a host of winnable games. Luckily, Keith Gilbertson kept Pickett in that season and the Dawgs were able to beat #8 WSU in the Apple cup and salvage some self-respect.
The same should probably be considered about Browning. In 2017, Jake’s team lost to a strong Stanford squad and Penn State. While a silly loss to Arizona State did occur, even good teams drop a game here and there.
What we need to realize about Browning and accept is that he is not the savior of this program, rather that he is a good QB who needs pieces around him to win. Jumping off the bandwagon at this stage results in exactly what we saw last Saturday, a loss to a lesser team. Had the Huskies kept Browning in the game, he would not have thrown the game-losing INT. The grass is not always greener Husky fans. Whether or not you like it, 2018 is inextricably connected to Jake Browning and he is the best chance for winning.