The Greg Paulus Experiment: Success Or Failure?

Say this of Bud Poliquin...from day one he championed the idea of Syracuse bringing back golden son Greg Paulus to quarterback the football team in 2009.  When Paulus was contacted by Michigan about his services, Bud wondered aloud what was keeping SU from extending the same courtesy?

The only question is fairly obvious: How is it that Michigan beat SU to the punch here? Lord knows, the Orange not only needs a quarterback, but a reason for fans to purchase tickets. And in Paulus, one of our town's all-time signature athletes, it would have gotten both -- player and attraction. Still could, I suppose.

Like many SU fans, my response to the matter was abrupt and full of disgust.

Bud likens it to a carnival attraction of sorts and that's exactly what it would be.  Not to mention it would be at the expense of Ryan Nassib's on-the-job training.  Thanks but no thanks, we'll stick with the guys who wanted to come play at Syracuse University.  I'm sure he's a wonderful, well-mannered guy but we're in no position to take a chance on a guy who hasn't touched a football in four years.

Yeah!  Tell'm Steve-Dave!

Well, take a chance we did.  Greg Paulus returned to Syracuse with the intention of helping put the Orange back on the path to success.

"Each place was unique, but in my heart, I just felt that Syracuse was the place for me," Paulus told FOXSports.com. "It's a chance to go home and make a difference."

"I'm excited about trying to re-energize the Syracuse program," he added. "It's a pretty neat thing."

Neat-o!  For Syracuse fans, Paulus represented a chance for the Orange to take not just a step but a giant leap in the right direction.  National championships, Big East titles and probably even bowl games would remain out of reach but the expectation levels had been raised to the point where everyone expected Syracuse to be relevant on the football field again.

So...did The Greg Paulus Experiment succeed?  Bud Poliquin certainly thinks so, but then again you already knew that. Kudos to the Three Idiots for boiling down Bud's column to its basic form...a Wordle Cloud.  Let's look at it from a few different angles.

1. Did Greg Paulus perform at the position of quarterback.

The biggest question heading into the season as far as Paulus was concerned...can he still play?  Furthermore, can he re-learn on the job while college football defenses are swarming all around him.  From a statistical standpoint, Paulus acquitted himself very well.  Here's his season stats, and as a frame of reference, the stats for his predecessors:

Paulus - 193-of-285, 2,025 yards, 67.7% completion pct, 13 TDs, 14 INTs, 132.62 QB Rating.

Cam Dantley (2008) - 121-of-251, 1,298 yards, 48.2% completion pct, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, 102.12 QB Rating.

Andrew Robinson (2007) - 154-of-292, 2,192 yards, 52.7% completion pct, 13 TDs, 7 INTs, 125.70 QB Rating.

The negative that stands out the most is obviously interceptions.  Paulus had some crucial, back-breaking ones over the course of the season.  But if you take into account he's a guy who hasn't played football in four years, that's to be expected.  That said, it's surprising to note that he actually matched Andrew Robinson's TD total and almost matched his yardage from two years ago.  And he did it while splitting time with Ryan Nassib who threw for 422 yards and 3 TDs himself.

Of course the real difference is evident in the completions (most ever), completion percentage, the highest ever in a Syracuse single-season, and the QB rating.  At the end of the day, Paulus was an extremely efficient quarterback.  And if you take into account that he was basically a freshman, that's impressive.  He wasn't the guy to put up huge numbers consistently.  He wasn't the guy to take SU 99 yards in two minutes to win the game. He wasn't even the guy to put the team on his back and will them to victory.  But he was the guy that could manage the offense, and considering that's all we asked of him, he seemed to have succeeded.

Now, it's a bit of revisionist history not to mention that there was a stretch during the middle of the season that most SU fans wanted Paulus' tushy planted on the bench.  Whatever patience we swore we would keep up during the season had evaporated.  Maybe it was that feeling that SU was on the cusp of bowl eligibility and we needed to strike now.  In retrospect, it was a little silly to ask so much of these guys, especially Paulus.  And was Ryan Nassib the answer that would have pushed us over the edge?  Doesn't look like it.

You could argue fairly that Paulus' play prevented the Orange from a couple wins.  But you'd be hard pressed to convince me that Ryan Nassib would have done that much better.  Based on what was available, Paulus handled himself as best he could and proved he still could play.

2. Did Greg Paulus become the experienced leader that we were told he would be?

I think you have to say yes.  What I appreciated about Paulus now but never really noticed before is his humility.  I mean, I know that people said he was humble and didn't make it about himself but, seriously, can you remember one moment all season when Greg Paulus did something in an interview or off-the-field that you questioned?  Dude was a boy scout.  Not to say that's what you need to be as a quarterback, but in this situation where SU had enough distractions to last ten seasons, Paulus never added to them despite being the biggest potential distraction of all.

Dude did his work.  He never pouted when things went wrong.  He owned up to his mistakes.  He promised improvement.  He showered teammates with respect and adulation.  He weathered the many storms that rolled in.  He was a classy guy. 

Not to say Ryan Nassib isn't but the kind of experience and life lessons that Paulus brought with him obviously influenced the way he lead this team.  Like Coach K said, Greg left his DNA on this program.  He left it all over the program.  He dropped a load of DNA on us.  So much so you had to wipe it away from your face just to see straight. (Okay, I'm done).

Point is, I think Ryan Nassib and Charley Loeb will be better QBs for having played with Greg Paulus for a season.  Ultimately, that's a benefit SU can hold onto.

3. Did Greg Paulus return Syracuse to the spotlight?

Absolutely.  Remember when Paulus first committed?  It was a national spotlight the likes of which SU hasn't seen in years. Not even from The Express.  At first, at least, Paulus' every throw and every decision were scrutinized ad nauseum.  That dissipated as folks realized Paulus could at least hold his own and eventually folks got back to dismissing SU until they won.  Greg couldn't work miracles and turn SU into a nightly discussion topic, but he did help put SU back in the arena.

Conclusion:

Yes, you have to deem The Greg Paulus Experiment a success.  Not the kind of success you can look at on paper and realize.  But the kind you'll really notice two years from now when the Orange are challenging for bowl games and playing at a respectable level week in and week out.  We don't owe it all to Paulus, but I think he will be remembered for being the leader on a team that set the tone for years to come. 

Of course, Greg isn't done dropping his DNA on SU just yet.  He's going to help out the basketball team in some kind of grad assistant capacity.  If he puts the same amount of effort into that gig that he did into being the quarterback, he should be able to make an even bigger lasting impression on Syracuse. 

Thanks Greg, we'll take it from here.  But we appreciate it.

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