Kelly Bryant’s decision this week to transfer from Clemson to another University seemed to send shock waves throughout college football. There was so much outrage from a great many football analysts that you would have thought that Bryant did something to offend them personally!!
“How could he let his team down and leave now?” said one prominent analyst. “He’s quitting on his team,” another blurted on national television. Another college football analyst – a former QB – seemed indigent that Bryant would consider such a transfer. This analyst told the nation that he stayed when he was in college even as his coach yanked him back and forth out of the lineup many times but it worked out okay because he became a mid-round draft pick!
So, let’s take a quick look at some the issues here:
- Kelly Bryant was demoted to 2nd team QB. After doing everything asked of him for four years – including waiting patiently for two years behind Deshaun Watson – and then being 16-2 as a starter, Coach Dabo Swinney decided he needed to go with the freshman QB to give Clemson a better chance at winning the national championship. That clearly is a Coach’s decision. No problem with that. But unless you have played QB and have been benched, you really don’t understand. I think Phil Simms, the former All-Pro QB turned announcer, probably had the most refreshing analysis of this when he would talk about the back-up QB being the most popular player in the stadium! QB is like no other position in football, you are the leader, and when you get benched it is a whole lot different than any other position changes in football.
- Kelly Bryant has to think about his future. This was a professional decision by Bryant. Under the new NCAA rules he can transfer immediately and play one final year at another program. So, if this were your son and he was benched with the probability that he wouldn’t play much for the rest of the year and as a result exhaust his eligibility but this new rule allows him to play another year if he leaves now, wouldn’t you encourage him to transfer? I would have!!
- Kelly Bryant Has Game. I think the most ridiculous dissent come from another television analyst – newspaper writer turned television commentator and “now football expert” – saying that Bryant won’t be recruited by any major programs. Are you kidding me? Bryant will have offers from 25+ major college programs. The kid can play. He’s played in the national championship semi-finals. He’s thrown for 3,333 yards and 16 TD’s and rushed for another 665 yards and 11 TD’s.
- Transferring Has Worked for Other QB’s. Kelly Bryant is not the first QB to transfer. No, there have been pretty good one’s over the years who started at a program and left for a myriad of reasons – primarily getting playing time – for another college. Here are a few and let me know if you think they are any good – Cam Newton, Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco, Nick Foles to name just a few currently playing in the NFL.
- The Old Double Standard. When a player leaves a program, he is a quitter. But when a coach leaves, it’s a great move. Remember when Jimbo Fisher announced this past December that he was leaving for Texas A&M and a $75M contract even though FSU still had one regular season game left plus the possibility of a bowl game. I didn’t hear these analysts going bonkers like they did when Kelly Bryant made his decision.
And what about a coach who leaves after say just two years at a program. Did you hear any football analysts call Scott Frost a quitter when he bolted UCF for Nebraska after only two years at UCF! Two years!!! Coach Frost was recruiting players to join the “football family” at UCF, telling prospects parents that he will take care of their son for the four years there, preaching commitment, sacrifice and never quitting and yet he was gone after two years! He made a career move and he it was applauded as the most significant hire in college football. Did I say he also left for a much bigger paycheck?
Did these same analysts criticize Urban Meyer for leaving Bowling Green after coaching there only two years to jump ship to Utah? And then what seemed like a blink of an eye – two quick years in fact – Meyer jumped again to the Florida job. The analysts raved about what a great football coach he was. And I certainly understand these coaching moves as a logical career move. People don’t stay in jobs as long as they had in the past. But there was not one hint of criticism for to Urban Meyer for being a job hopper and leaving all these student-athletes behind! In essence, Meyer transferred twice in four years and did not have to sit out one year!
So, let’s give Kelly Bryant a break and wish him the best of luck. He’s seems to be an outstanding young man who was a great representative of Clemson University. He’ll be a great addition as a student-athlete to a very welcoming university this coming season! He wasn’t selfish, he was doing what he believes was in the best interest of a possible professional career.