Critical eyes on Stocco once again after credit-less season

first_imgAh, the life of a quarterback. For some reason, in a game featuring 22 players taking the field at any particular time, so much focus is directed on the one guy under center.In fact, quarterback may be the only position in sports where a player can lead his team to victory and still draw criticism from the public eye. Sure, a pitcher in baseball can get knocked around a bit, somehow still get the win and take a little heat. Ditto for a goaltender in hockey. But that hardly compares to the weekly microscope the field general on a football team battles throughout the season.Now, any quarterback this side of Tim Couch knows that simply shrugging off the scorn, regardless of how hard that may be, is far easier than getting into a heated war of words with the general public. Just ask Wisconsin signal-caller John Stocco.“Well, I think that just kind of comes with the territory of playing quarterback,” Stocco said. “You’ve got the ball in your hands every play. You’re going to get the credit when you win and the blame when you lose. That’s just the way it goes. You can’t really do anything about it.”But does that old adage of quarterback public-relations speak really hold true in Stocco’s case?Let’s see … once upon a time, the Badgers began the 2004 season 9-0. Remember? Now, according to the classic theory, John Stocco must have gotten a regular old ticker-tape parade thrown for him. Call me crazy, but I don’t recall the festivities.Yes, the UW defense gave Stocco and the offense a seeming cakewalk to victory in some contests. But what about Wisconsin’s victory at Ohio State? Stocco tossed two touchdown passes and rallied UW from an early 10-0 deficit to knock off the Buckeyes in the Horse Shoe.And what about the Badgers’ upending of the then-No. 5-ranked Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette? Everyone will always remember cornerback Scott Starks’ 40-yard scamper to give the cardinal and white the victory. But it was Stocco who led Wisconsin on a touchdown drive immediately following a Purdue score that put the Boilermakers up 17-7. Without Stocco’s clutch play, Starks’ late heroics would have gone for naught.But Wisconsin’s 0-3 swoon to close out the year, in which it dropped from a national-title contender to an Outback Bowl loser? Stocco sure took plenty of blame for that debacle. Never mind the defensive meltdown at Michigan State or the complete and utter lack of a running game at Iowa. And forget that David Pollack had a permanent home in the Wisconsin backfield in Georgia’s New Year’s Day win.Granted, Stocco endured his fair of struggles. No one mistook him for Drew Brees. Hell, no one mistook him for Bobby Hoying. It may not have been pretty, but Stocco directed Wisconsin to nine wins. The point is simply that Stocco deserved some of the credit for the positives in UW’s season rather than absorbing most of the blame for the negatives.Even so, the starting job was not completely his until the spring season revealed the deficiencies of challengers Tyler Donovan and Bryan Savage further outnumbered Stocco’s. And the calls for Donovan will begin this season as soon as Stocco tosses his first interception or first misses an open receiver in the end zone. Brooks Bollinger, the school’s all-time winningest quarterback, endured similar criticisms. Now, Stocco’s credentials thus far don’t hold a candle to Bollinger’s. And Wisconsin will depend on Stocco to have improved his form from last season with the loss of running back Anthony Davis and a young revamped defense.But maybe, just maybe, the junior signal caller deserves the same open-minded chance that a hotshot recruit would get under center. Or maybe he deserves the same chance that any normal returning starter coming off a nine-win season would get.last_img

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