A Very Longshore Engagement

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, December 29th, 2008

Nate Longshore

It’s weird to think three of my formative Cal football years have been spent agonizing over the play of Nate Longshore. And the agony was perpetual; he never seemed bad enough to be benched, but never good enough to be lauded. He was the perfect polarizer, someone who eternally frustrated you, yet never seemed entirely deserving of blame when we came up short. It’s like the cousin who always gets Cs; you just shrug and keep on trudging until he gets a job.

In the early Tedford years, Cal ran their offense through dynamic quarterback play. Aaron Rodgers was rightly regarded as Cal’s greatest modern quarterback; he could throw the deep spiral, check down his routes, go through his progressions, turn secondaries into his personal arcade. It was almost too easy for him. And we never wanted it to end.

Now it’s shifted the other way. We have been blessed with such a plethora of talent over the past several seasons that you wonder if the dynamic has turned; we’ve become stagnant in our quarterback development whereas every other facet of our game has grown. We’re sending running backs, wide receivers, o-linemen, defenders, special teams players to the NFL on a yearly basis, and there’s no denying that this trend won’t continue in future seasons. But for once, Tedford, the QB guru, is not going to be seeing a successful amateur turn pro.

Sometimes even the fanbase can lose perspective; we saw a season of effortless quarterback play that isn’t likely to be replicated anytime soon, yet we keep on thinking our quarterbacks should replicate that play. And so far the replacements haven’t been up to the task or even close to the task. It’s something we’re going to have to wrestle with.

It’s been disheartening watching Nate grasp with his role this season. He hasn’t looked himself at all; it’s as if he took all the criticism from last season to the vest. He slimmed down, but to the detriment of his arm strength. He’s rolling out to showcase his mobility, displaying the art of the throw-away. But the entire mechanics of his game were totally in funk. By the end in the last drives of the Emerald Bowl, it just looked awkward whenever he stepped back to pass and you were just hoping it would be a completion, 1 yard or 3 yards. His attempts at long throws beyond 15 yards were woefully short.

It was awful to watch. The quarterback we had been following and rooting for the past three seasons was totally unraveling. We had to compliment the guy whenever he threw a 5 yard pass. That’s a far cry from the deep spirals he was uncorking to Robert Jordan, DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins the past two years.

It’s strange to see a quarterback integrate himself into Tedford’s system so well, show flashes of brilliance, and then clamp up as time fell apart. Several times in situations where the team still held some aspirations for the BCS, he clamped up and could not deliver. Just when it looks like he’s about to get over the top he falls right back to square two. And now he’s barely holding onto square one. It’s a bizarre fall from grace that none of us could have anticipated.

He internalizes his struggles rather than taking them out, which brings up the question of the mechanical way in which he approaches the game. Does he try to absorb too much and it holds him back as the game wears on? Does he overthink what he should do in a situation and make an ill-advised decision because he can’t handle all the Does he not know how to improvise beyond the system he has been taught? Can he not react to the adjustments the defense makes and put the ball where his receiver is going instead of where his receiver was designed to be going?

I’m starting to wonder if Nate is like one of those theoretical physicists of football. He’s someone who doesn’t have an identity he can force onto the field but instead needs to mesh his knowledge onto others who can become practitioners of the game. arts but an intellectual, someone who would be able to impart all he has learned to those who have less experience with running the playbook and the offense. His greatest weakness is also his greatest strength: His vast understanding of the offense makes him more intelligent than many college quarterbacks, yet at the same time it cripples him cognitively and he overthinks it.

Oh, that ankle didn’t help either.

In that sense, I can appreciate Nate Longshore as the Cal athlete-intellectual; someone who understands the game, yet cannot fully apply it to real-time situations. It’s like how people appreciate Homer for writing the Iliad; you can tell how much work he put in. Ditto for Longshore. Even if the reps didn’t translate to success, it’s better to be out there on the field than to be on the sidelines crowing. I wish him all the best, in whatever field he chooses to pursue.

Go Longshore, go Bears.

Describe your feelings for Nate Longshore. Keep it civil.

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