The Ashton Broyld narrative will be told a thousand different ways from now until his time at Syracuse is over. As Dan mentioned in his previous post, Syracuse is not in the position to let the most athletic quarterback since Donovan McNabb sit and wait on the bench. But let me counter with another story about a player dubbed "Slash" with the team that I had religiously followed: the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a young Steelers fan, I learned the game by watching Jerome Bettis, Jason Gildon and Bill Cowher lead the black and gold to many a winning season. But one player that never settled in with any fan was Kordell Stewart.
Coming out of Colorado, Stewart was an athletic gift: strong arm and legs with quick reflexes and speed. In his first few years with the team, he would commonly line up as a running back or wide out while Neil O’Donnell held down the quarterback spot. "Slash" as dubbed by the media and Cowher soon became the starting quarterback and the face of the team after O’Donnell was done.
Stewart’s play never sat well with anyone as he would win some games and lose many others thanks to his inconsistent play and decision-making (like a Scoop Jardine), which led to many a quarterback shuffling by Cowher. Stewart would eventually lose his starting role in 2002 to Tommy Maddox after a horrendous showing in the 01 AFC Championship Game best known for the emergence of Tom Brady. Up until recently, everyone figured that Kordell was just like most players in the NFL: good but lacking that ingredient to be great.
Jerome Bettis challenged that perspective in his biography, claiming that the reason Stewart never succeeded was because of bad coaching. Bettis alleges that Cowher never wanted Stewart as a quarterback and never gave him a fair shot at the position. Bettis, a close friend of Stewart while on the Steelers, also said that Stewart was never shown early on how to play quarterback at the NFL level and this resulted in his poor development once handed the position.
Now how does all of this relate back to our young star Ashton Broyld?
For starters, Marrone and Cowher have/had very similar coaching philosophies: clock possession, pounding running game, strong defense, Cowher was even the Steelers’ special teams guy for a bit. This makes the story of Stewart all the more viable as what could happen to Broyld if not handled correctly.
Dan is right when he says Broyld cannot be wasted, but Marrone also has to have a big picture outlook for Broyld. If Broyld really is the next Donovan McNabb for Syracuse, Marrone needs him to start taking snaps with Ryan Nassib while he’s around to learn how the system works. Broyld is a young player now and this is the time you teach him the quarterback position, especially if the media is going to be kept away.
This means that while Broyld can be on the field in special packages to catch or run the ball, he has to be looked at primarily as a freshman quarterback, aka no kick or punt returns.
However, if Marrone is still truly unsure of what to do with Broyld or wants to use him elsewhere while he is at Cuse, reverse the above situation. Have him learn route running and field vision from Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon while in practice. However, this also means not expecting to be the quarterback of the future for the Orange or risk the Kordell effect only condensed into 2-3 years.
Moral of the story: Broyld is a true talent that would be buried on a depth chart in very few places. He has the skills to be an elite anything. But that doesn’t come by throwing him into the fire or asking him to learn every position on the fly. It comes from having a vision and being willing to ignore the media criticism that may come from having Broyld hold the clipboard or handing Charlie Loeb the ball.
No one will be happy if Broyld fails. Everyone from the coaches and fans just wants to see him succeed. The key is finding the best way to do so.