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December 17, 2012

Lacking a go-to guy is the worst

I'll admit, comparing the NFL to college football can be tricky at times, if not at all times.

But something during Sunday night's San Francisco/New England game made me think of the Virginia Cavaliers and their 2012 season.

It was late in the fourth quarter and the Patriots needed a first down and didn't get it. So with 2:24 left on the clock and facing a 4th and 1 from his own 12-yard line, head coach Bill Belichick decided to put the team's fate in the hands of his (and perhaps the league's) best player.

At the moment, the Pats were down a touchdown. Punt, as most everyone would do in that situation, and with the NFL's two-minute warning and his own timeouts left, he could've gotten the ball back with plenty of time to put together a drive, provided his defense forced a punt. Yes, that would've required several things to happen in order. Also, his team was 5-for-5 on 4th down to that point.

So Belichick went with his best player, Tom Brady. He decided that of the things that needed to play out so NE got the ball back and could score to tie it up, he'd rather have Brady go for it right then and there.

Now, what made me think of UVa was that in all of the decisions that Mike London made during the 2012 season, from quarterback management to players like Clifton Richardson seeing very limited action, to late-game timeouts and strategy, did any of them center on him going with someone he thought was his best player?

Heck, who was Virginia's best player this season?

If UNC is in that spot? Gio Bernard. If it's Virginia Tech? Logan Thomas. Even Maryland had Stephon Diggs. But when it's UVa, who was the best player?

In Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims, London and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor had at-times-good, at-times-bad signal callers. While I'm not saying either one should be or could be Tom Brady, the simple fact is that when you don't clearly have a go-to guy, your team will struggle more often than not.

The old adage about how having two quarterbacks meaning you have no quarterbacks may well be true but lacking a go-to guy and how that almost certainly leads to mediocrity is even more automatic.

This idea definitely crosses over into the other major-revenue sport, as UVa's Tony Bennett will put the rock in the hands of Joe Harris more often than not the this year the same way last season it would have gone to Mike Scott.

For London and Lazor, when the team needed a yard or two this season, the Cavaliers went collective. Instead of trusting one player, they trusted one play. They put their faith in one idea: We can run for that one yard. And too often, that running play didn't get the job done. The fact that they rarely played off that inclination (and the defense's certainty that it was coming) to instead put the ball in Rocco's or Sims' hands says a lot about a great many things.

Virginia has a number of concerns this offseason, from filling coaching vacancies, to recruiting, to preparing for life after Rocco and after Steve Greer and La'Roy Reynolds at linebacker.

In 2013, be it Sims, Kevin Parks, Jake McGee, or Tim Smith, whomever, Wahoo fans should hope that when UVa needs a play it will be clear who should be called on to make that play.

Hopefully not from the 12-yard line, though. That's just nuts.


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