TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State football coach Todd Graham has a message for those who believe he should bench quarterback Mike Bercovici and play one of his young QBs over the final four games of the season.
“We don’t select the quarterback by popular vote,” Graham said.
As the Sun Devils’ season spirals into what some fans and some media consider irrelevance, there is a growing chorus of voices in both camps that believe Graham should give redshirt freshman quarterback Manny Wilkins or freshman Brady White some valuable playing experience over the final four games so they won’t be green next season when one of them has to take over the offense.
The idea is both simple and simplistic: This season is lost. Why not plan for next season?
Here’s why that will not and should not happen. Graham’s job is to win football games.
“We put the best people on the field and there is no question that Mike is the best person on this field to help this team win,” Graham said. “He’s the best guy for the job and he’s the leader of our team.”
Graham’s responsibility to win isn’t just about job security. He has a responsibility to the players on this team; this year.
“What kind of a leader would I be just to give up on these seniors and start planning for next year?” he asked rhetorically. “That would be contrary to everything that I’ve taught them.”
Graham preaches character, loyalty and worth ethic. Bercovici embodies all of those qualities. He stayed in the program longer than anyone thought he should have, languishing as Taylor Kelly’s backup instead of transferring to another school, so that he could have this one shot in his senior season.
Now some believe Graham should turn his back on the kind of player the coach wants to define his program.
“It’s about this football team — right here, right now,” Graham said. “That’s all we’re concerned with.”
There may be situations over the final four weeks of the season where Wilkins or one the other QBs get a chance. Maybe one will be afforded mop-up duty in a win, or gain some experience in a loss that has already been decided.
There’s no denying the value of game experience over practice reps, but the reps these young QBs will get in spring ball and training camp and in 15 additional bowl practices (if the Sun Devils earn a bowl berth) will have to suffice. A 9-4 record may not be fans’ goal, and it wasn’t the Sun Devils’ goal at the start of the season, but it is now.
“Mike’s the guy,” Graham said. “There’s not even a question.”
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