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September 26, 2011
Column: Paterno must make tough decision
* This column appears in the latest issue of Blue White Illustrated, mailed to our print subscribers and on newsstands now.
By Nate Bauer
Joe Paterno is tired of talking about quarterbacks. Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin are not at the root of the Nittany Lions' early-season struggles, they've both performed equally well in practices and games, and the result is a "seat-of-the-pants kind of situation," he says.
Whether one of the two quarterbacks ever emerges to take the majority of snaps under center remains to be seen, but for the time being, Paterno is sticking with the two-quarterback, play-it-by-ear system.
At last week's Tuesday afternoon news conference, Paterno offered slightly more insight into his nondecision-making process than he had provided in previous answers about the already-exhausted subject.
"I don't know what I'm waiting for," he said. "I think both those kids are so close and both those kids deserve to play. One of these days, I would like to be able to say, 'Hey, we are going to play one quarterback.' But I want to be fair. I want to be fair to them. I want to be fair to the team. If I felt that the team was much more comfortable with one than the other, then that obviously would be a factor, but that's not the way it is. Half the time, I don't think [teammates] even know who is at quarterback.
"Because I've talked to the kids. I talk to them all the time. I'll say, 'How are we doing? How is Mack doing?' or, 'How is the other kid doing?' and I don't get any negative feedback about either one of those kids."
Forget for a moment Paterno's abandonment of his 46-year history of forceful leadership concerning his quarterbacks, including frequent tough decisions about seemingly equally qualified candidates. He says he watches them compete at practice, hustling and doing all the right things, so the differences have been minuscule.
"They do everything you ask them to do," he said. "And it's very difficult for me to tell you so-and-so is better than the other one."
Fine. Fair enough.
An issue, of course, comes with Paterno's suggestion that somehow input from teammates could help clarify the decision. His statements infer that short of a direct endorsement for either Bolden or McGloin, he can't make a qualified decision.
At best, that seems unfair.
And, according to one receiver, even if the question had been posed, he wouldn't feel comfortable weighing in on the matter in such a direct fashion.
"He didn't say anything to me," senior wideout Derek Moye said. "But, if he did, I'd say, 'You're the coach. I'm not gonna step on your toes.'"
Understandably, Paterno has taken into account all of the factors that extend beyond the football field. He always has and always will take those factors into account. His interest in players' overall well-being is one of the reasons he's become a beloved coaching figure through the years. In the high-stakes world of major college football, overpaid coaches routinely sell out for wins. Paterno often stands alone in his refusal to do the same.
"You guys are dealing with one end of this game, one part of this game," he said, chiding reporters for continuing to question the details of the ongoing quarterback saga. "I've got to deal with a lot of things. I'm dealing with people's lives and people who have put their trust in this program. When we talk to them when we recruit themï¿½ we talk about [how] we're going to help you with your education, we're going to do this, you're going to have to do that. It's a two-way street.
"We have an obligation. I have an obligation, because we make a commitment to them."
Still, that obligation extends beyond the two individuals involved in the competition.
Directly or indirectly, Paterno's refusal to make the tough decision has impacted the entire program. Victories are at stake, certainly, but so are opportunities for success for personnel across the offensive unit. And, because of the offense's struggles this season, the defense has been forced to shoulder the biggest burden when trying to direct the team to wins.
"Maybe I'm making a mistake in not deciding," Paterno said. "I'm not real comfortable having two quarterbacks. I'm not comfortable with it. But I also wouldn't be comfortable if I did something that I felt ended up being unfair to one. "So I have a dilemma."
Until Paterno finds the strong leadership that has defined his success as Penn State's head coach throughout his career, the entire program could continue to share in that dilemma.
The latest issue of Blue White Illustrated has mailed and is on newsstands now!
Print subscribers can check it out at BlueWhiteOnline.com now!
Check out what's included in the latest issue, right here:
Blue White Illustrated publisher Phil Grosz explains that better execution is only part of Penn State's offensive woes to start the 2011 season.
Blue White Illustrated recruiting analyst Ryan Snyder checks in on the top remaining recruits for Penn State's class of 2012
Eastern Michigan game coverage
The Nittany Lions eased by Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. Blue White Illustrated breaks down the game with our judgment calls, grades, an examination of the continuing quarterback conundrum and more.
BWI contributor Eric Thomas details this weekend's matchup against Indiana. Take a look at our fearless forecast, key matchups, rosters, depth charts and more.
Dressed to kill
While other schools have taken to a plethora of different uniform combinations, Blue White Illustrated editor Matt Herb finds out how the Nittany Lions feel about their tried and true uniform.
... Plus, Varsity Views, the always-popular, 'Tail End' column, and more!
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