The Mercedes Benz Superdome erupted into a thunderous roar, while yellow and purple confetti rained down from the rafters above. The home team had won the National Championship game, leaving no doubt in the minds of football fans, who the best college team in the country actually was. There was no doubt that the better team, and the better quarterback had won the game. The biggest doubt in New Orleans on January 13, 2020 was hovering like a thick black cloud inside the Clemson locker room. The Mercedes Benz Superdome erupted into a thunderous roar, while yellow and purple confetti rained down from the rafters above. The home team had won the National Championship game, leaving no doubt in the minds of football fans, who the best college team in the country actually was. There was no doubt that the better team, and the better quarterback had won the game. The biggest doubt in New Orleans on January 13, 2020 was hovering like a thick black cloud inside the Clemson locker room.
A question was lingering on the minds of fans, scouts, coaches, and writers alike. One that would have seemed unfathomable just 12 short months earlier. Was Trevor Lawrence as good as we thought?
A great story, and in particular a great sports story comes out of the most unlikeliest of places, like a river, raging suddenly through the driest hour of the Sahara. People in and around sports have a thirst so unquenchable for these stories, they allow themselves to be swept up by the tide, and ride the rapids as long as the hot desert air allows the water to flow. This river began to rage in January of 2019. In the same game, but with different confetti, and a different fan base cheering, our hero ended the announcement of his arrival with a bold exclamation mark.
Trevor Lawrence finished the game with nearly 350 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. No interceptions to marr a nearly perfect performance against an SEC defense that would see no fewer than 10 players taken in future NFL Drafts. The messiah had arrived. The chosen one. Keeping the river roaring were columnists, bloggers, and analysts speculating if he would go #1 in the 2021 draft, or 2022. What teams would tank to get the #1 pick?
After all, this was a QB so special, he made scouts forget how good quarterbacks of the past were, and comparisons to Manning and Luck were heard every half hour on whatever radio station you chose to listen to that day. But like all stories built on a foundation of dreams and desires, it would crumble under the weight of reality.
Going into the 2019 college football season, Lawrence was tabbed as the Heisman frontrunner, and over/under lines in Vegas projected his year end numbers at heights never seen before. The season opened against Georgia Tech, by no means a powerhouse, and Lawrence to be frank, produced a dud of a performance. 12 of 23 passing for 168 yards. 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Clemson would win the game and preserve their hopes of a championship repeat, but no thanks to their signal caller.
2 weeks later against Syracuse, the golden boy did throw for nearly 400 yards, but had 2 interceptions to 3 touchdowns. Neither of the teams causing these mistakes were nationally ranked. In fact, all season long, Clemson faced only 1 ranked opponent, and that was Texas A&M on September 7. Though they would win that game 24-10, Lawrence performed to the tune of 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. His early season performances led one NFL talent evaluator to say, “There were concerns last year, and his defense bailed him out. Y’all got over him WAY too fast.”
Lawrence would dazzle and sparkle like a top NFL Draft pick against inferior competition the second half of his sophomore year, doing his best to extinguish the flames of what could no longer be hidden. But gas would be tossed back onto that fire as the college football playoff arrived. You see, top defenses in college football have not resided in the ACC in so many years, that players of Lawrence’s age have never even seen them on TV.
The Big 10 and the SEC are homes to the schools with the best defenses now, and against Ohio State, Lawrence showed just what you can expect from him when time in the pocket is short, and throwing windows are only open a crack. He finished the game 18 of 33, barely over 50% completion (against the minor league college teams he faced all season, that number was 65%). He followed that performance up against LSU going 18 of 37 with no touchdowns. “It just wasn’t my day.” he told reporters.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Trevor Lawrence is a bad quarterback. After all, he was a 5 star recruit coming out of high school,and the #2 player in the country. He can throw the ball a country mile, and he looks like the dreamy older brother from Hanson, getting ready to sing MMMBop for the 1,000th time. He seems very likeable, and has all the talent in the world. But is he the chosen one? That’s up to NFL coaches and scouts, but he wouldn't be my choice.
As a college quarterback, a fair comp may actually be Tim Tebow. But at least Tebow won a Heisman, as the best player in college, which Lawrence has not been. Whether his NFL career surpasses Tebow will remain to be seen, but going into the 2020 season, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that how good he really is, may be a little bit overhyped.
Wayne Gregoire, Infinity Sports