Bryan Bennett’s recent confirmation that he will be staying on board with the Ducks’ football program has many sighing in relief.
For some, the loss of Bennett stood to make or break the Ducks, but a closer look at the program shows there was little reason to fret. Yes, we’re all glad Bennett is staying and he’s certainly the caliber of quarterback the team would be lucky to have taking snaps for them. But Chip Kelly has proven time and time again that his rosters go deep and his philosophy is always team before individual.
Bennett’s frustrations with not being named the initial starter are understandable. He came to the program ranked as a four-star quarterback and spent the last year successfully subbing behind Thomas. And yet to put it plain and simple, he was outplayed by Marcus Mariota. I don’t doubt Kelly’s decision for he’s always stood firm by the principle that the best player will get the spot and that every practice is another day to get better.
At the spring game, it appeared Mariota was the man on top. Sure, Oregon fans didn’t get to see the other scrimmages taking place, but if the game was any insight into how the two quarterbacks handled themselves through training camp, Mariota was the man with the edge. Surely Bennett’s struggle in front of an audience and his loss of composure factored into Kelly’s decision. In fact, this same lack of poise makes Bennett’s near departure unsurprising.
The loss of Bennett would have only proved his failure to comply with Kelly’s philosophy. If Bennett is worthy of the starting job for the Ducks, he will have his time and plenty of opportunity to prove himself. Being the backup at UO is nothing to be ashamed of. History of the program has shown time and time again that second string often gets its chances in the pocket; especially for a team that runs the spread offense so aggressively.
The Bennett situation has stirred up reminders of other Duck second stringers who stood firm in their place. Former quarterback Nate Costa was particularly known for his loyal stand with the team, maintaining the Duck uniform despite being passed up as a starter for two years. Costa was in fact a projected starter before a series of knee injuries and losing out to younger talent. And still, Costa’s impact was instrumental on and off the field as an inspiration to his teammates and a player who understood the value of selfless sportsmanship.
Of course, if Costa isn’t the right comparison in the Bennett situation, perhaps a larger household name would be more adequate. After all, with Costa’s knees, he would’ve had troubles finding opportunity elsewhere (unlike Bennett) and one could assume the quarterback’s aspirations are in line with a shot at the NFL. In this case, Tom Brady – yes, the Tom Brady – would be another example of a successful quarterback forced to ride the bench. Brady also considered transferring to another school while falling seventh on the University of Michigan depth chart. And after earning two years of starting time for the Wolverines, he was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft. It’s difficult to dispute Brady’s found success – even after failing to secure a starting spot as a college sophomore.
Bennett’s road won’t be easy. Aside from Mariota, he’ll have other youngsters breathing down his neck with Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie. Players that will push Mariota in the same way that Mariota challenged Bennett. It’s what makes Oregon such a strong program and why Bennett’s decision to stay will in the long run benefit him more than it will Kelly and the Ducks.
I’m glad Bennett chose to stay in Eugene. It’s not just beneficial to the team if Mariota goes down but a chance for the quarterback to prove his worth and build his character in a position few high caliber athletes – but ironically many of the best – must learn to cope with. I firmly believe in the end staying will make Bennett a stronger player in all aspects of his game and help maintain the sense of competition and camaraderie that has continued to push Oregon to a level of national greatness.