Over the course of this past college football season, we saw a multitude of elite quarterbacks launch their teams into positions of success. If you look around the country at the highest ranked teams, they typically hold one thing in common: they have an elite quarterback - something that has eluded Michigan since Denard Robinson’s 2011 season.
Having an elite quarterback has and always will be one of the biggest factors in being able to compete for a championship. A quarterback serves as a leader on your team that can go out and make big plays with the game on the line regardless of pressure or difficulty. These players, like Heisman award winner Joe Burrow, are what make teams truly great. Burrow just won LSU a national championship while shattering NCAA records in the process.
Burrow threw for 60 touchdowns this year. For reference, the single season touchdown record at Michigan is 25. Ouch.
You can argue that Burrow is just that exceptional of a player - which he is - but it makes a majority of Michigan fans say, “Why can’t that be us?” Top teams all over the country are finding success in quarterbacks: Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, Justin Fields at Ohio State, Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, Jake Fromm at Georgia and Trevor Lawrence at Clemson - only to name a few. And Michigan fans are stuck with the four year span of Wilton Speight, John O’Korn and Shea Patterson.
Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan has been frustrating for most fans. Getting beaten by Ohio State every year and losing the last four bowl games have fans feeling like they’re beating their heads against the wall looking for answers.
There are many holes that need patched on this football team but having an elite quarterback can address many of them. If the defense gets scored on, at least you can have confidence that when you get the ball back you’re going to score too. That confidence was nowhere to be seen in this year’s stagnant offense. Shea Patterson was highly inconsistent and his 2019 completion percentage of 56.2 looks better on paper than it actually did on the field. I’m not bailing the defense out - they get utterly burned anytime they play a semi-competent offense.
It isn’t all bad though. Looking ahead to next season, Michigan fans can look forward to starting fresh with a new quarterback - likely Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton. Mccaffrey has shown he can play in his back-up role to Patterson, doing a fine job whenever he had to come into the game. Joe Milton also showed he has promise, standing at 6’5 and wielding a glorified cannon for an arm. Milton threw for 59 yards and a touchdown in Michigan’s 2019 bout with Rutgers, which made a lot of fans start to wonder if he could be the guy we’ve been wanting since Denard Robinson left.
I personally think Milton can be that guy. Milton is tall, strong and athletic and can play outside of the pocket. He’ll have versatile, talented and fast receivers like Nico Collins, Giles Jackson and Mike Sainristil. The fast part is important because strong arm quarterbacks like Milton can fire 40 or 50 yard passes to guys that need to be in running in stride when the ball gets to them.
Of course, it’s only February. The confetti from LSU’s national championship win has likely not even been cleaned up yet. With spring training just around the corner in a few months, it’ll be interesting to see who will be the frontrunner for quarterback at Michigan next season.
Buy stock in Joe Milton. He could be the quarterback to take Michigan to the next level.