It’s hard to put things more succinctly than Oregon Ducks starting quarterback Anthony Brown did on Saturday night when assessing his play.
“Excuse my language, but I played like s**t.”
Can’t argue with. Brown finished the day throwing 14-for-26 for 186 yards with one interception and 0 touchdowns. He added 35 yards on the ground with two scores, but ultimately the most important stat to measure his performance by is a loss.
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For the first time as a starter, Brown couldn’t lead the Ducks to a victory, watching them fall instead to the Stanford Cardinal in overtime, 31-24.
There are a lot of things that you could blame this loss on. The officiating down the stretch certainly got a lot of attention, but Oregon has to shoulder a ton of blame as well. The offense was absent in the first half, and the defense struggled before the break. Time management and playcalling were suspect in the 4th quarter, and injuries also played a part.
Despite the litany of reasons, though, one sticks out. Anthony Brown wasn’t good enough. And to be completely honest, we’re getting to the point in the season where it might be clear that he isn’t going to be good enough going forward.
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As a 6th year senior, this is who Brown is. He is a career 55% completion-rate passer who can get you some yards on the ground and avoid mistakes for the most part. He’s not going to wow you with many throws, but he should deliver when asked to do so. However, that has been a big problem so far in Oregon, with a number of passes to receivers often way off target, hampering the passing game with a stable of receivers that are among the most talented in program history. Looking at his performance through 5 weeks of the season and hoping that he is going to have something click and show improvement all of a sudden is a bit far-fetched.
With that being said, it may be time for Mario Cristobal and the Ducks coaching staff to finally have that tough conversation about Brown, and whether or not he truly is the right quarterback to lead this team.
The Ducks’ season is not over with the loss to Stanford, but it definitely got harder. Without a clear path to the CFP, on top of the litany of injuries that continue to pile up, there seems to be a better chance that Oregon ends up settling for a Rose Bowl now rather than a trip to the playoff. But if you had to ask yourself which QB would be better suited to lead the Ducks to one of those two destinations, picking between Brown and true freshman Ty Thompson, who would you choose?
Don’t have an answer? Isn’t that kind of an answer right there?
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The fact that we aren’t convinced that Brown can be better than Thompson at this point is alarming, but something that we may need to start accepting. Oregon’s offense is obviously hampered in the passing game with Brown on the field, and though the running game is rolling, a change in scheme may need to come soon with the likely lengthy absence for CJ Verdell. If Thompson was brought in to play ahead of Brown, would it open up the passing game?
Isn’t it worth it to give it a shot?
We bring this up now because it is a perfect time for the Ducks to make the switch, should they decide to. You’ve seen enough from Brown, and now, heading into a BYE week after a loss, it gives you enough time to prepare the true freshman to take over the reins and get ready to start. With the Cal Golden Bears as an opponent, Thompson would then have a relatively easy first opponent to face as well, before traveling down to UCLA to face the Bruins.
There is no saying whether or not the Ducks will actually make the switch from Brown to Thompson. They’ve been pretty loyal to AB thus far, and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see him remain the starter going forward.
All we’re asking, though, is that they have the conversation. It’s a tough one to bring up, but could be better for the team as a whole both in the short term, and long term if handled correctly.