I recognize right off the bat that this will almost assuredly never happen, short of Dungey getting hurt once again. While we’ve made strides as a society in terms of the realities of concussions and injuries and what’s important, football is still football and it’s played by football people and run by football people. You don’t preemptively sit a guy because that simply doesn’t compute. It’s an assumption based on something that you can’t control...so why bother? Football is not about assumptions. It’s about grit and toughness and lunchpail attitudes and hay never being in barns. Eric Dungey would never ask to sit. Coach Shafer would almost certainly never sit him for preventative measures. The school would not actively force Dungey to be sat. It would be the "wussification of America" personified (according to people who unironically say things like "the wussification of America").
College football is not baseball. We’re talking about entirely different sports played by athletes with entirely different agendas and entirely different career timeframes. Baseball eases it’s athletes into the professional ranks. Football forces them to play for their careers pretty much from the get-go and never let up.
A star pitcher can afford to work within the parameters of pitch-count limits and inning limits when he’s young because pitchers have the luxury of thinking longterm. Whether they win or lose a particular game is of little consequence. Whether or not they can maintain a high level of play for 8+ years is more important than winning today.
That’s not how we think about quarterbacks. Yes, we want a good quarterback to play at a high level for a long time but because of the way football is, we are much more mindful of what the quarterback does game-by-game. A quarterback goes from Great to Goat in a matter of two weekends. Can’t win right now? We don’t have time to wait for you to develop over the next couple years. There’s four guys waiting in the wings who might be able to win right now instead.
The idea of shutting down a 22-year-old pitcher in the middle of a lost season in order to prolong his career makes sense to us.
The idea of shutting down a freshman quarterback in the middle of a lost season in order to prolong his career does not.
AJ Long was medically-disqaulified from playing football at Syracuse University a few weeks back. Long came to Syracuse having already suffered one concussion. He suffered two more while a member of the team and that was that. While a disappointment for him and fans, it was probably the right call for his overall health and SU should be commended for having such high standards when it comes to player safety.
Long’s second concussion actually had nothing to do with football. He fell out of his bed one night and hit his head on a nearby table. A freak accident. Just like that, he was playing with two strikes. The third one happened in practice. None of Long’s concussions happened during an actual Syracuse Football game. They were just events that happened while he was a quarterback living his life.
Eric Dungey has one
concussion Upper Body Injury in the books. That’s what we know, officially. Unofficially, we have no idea. Just like we had no idea Long came to Syracuse with a concussion already, we have no idea if Dungey did as well. Assuming he was throwing his body around then like he does now it’s hard not to imagine that he took some brutal shots to the head before he ever put on an Orange uniform.
SU keeps a tight lid on most things when it comes to football. Say what you will about Jim Boeheim but his program is like an open book by comparison. So while we can say that we know Dungey has one concussion, he may already have had two. That’s not even to mention all of the times he may have suffered a concussion and wasn’t diagnosed. A guy like him, with his competitive fire, it’s not unthinkable that he just popped up and got back to work. Just like he did in the Pitt game, trying to shake off a helmet-rattling hit to the head that left him immobile on the ground for more than a few seconds.
He’s a quarterback and a young one at that. He hasn’t really learned how to deal with play breakdowns yet. He tries to make things happen on his own. He runs a lot. He goes headfirst. He fights for first downs. He leaps over defenders and leaves himself defenseless. He’s playing behind a shoddy offensive line. He values toughness and risk over smarts and safety. And it is engrained in him to sacrifice his body for the sake of the team.
If there is such a thing as a football player who is considered the highest risk to suffer concussions, it is him.
Eric Dungey is the best freshman quarterback at Syracuse University since Donovan McNabb.
Maybe that doesn’t sound so impressive to college football fanbases elsewhere but to Syracuse fans, that is monumental. SU has been in Quarterback Diaspora for almost the entire 21st century. Troy Nunes. R.J. Anderson. Perry Patterson. Andrew Robinson. Cameron Dantley. Greg Paulus. Ryan Nassib. Drew Allen. Terrel Hunt. AJ Long. Austin Wilson. Mitch Kimble. Aside from Nassib, that is a long list of potential saviors who did not save us.
SU is not known for it’s quarterbacks. Yes, we had a run in the 80’s and 90’s thanks to Don McPherson, Marvin Graves and Donovan McNabb, but other than that, the all-time SU quarterback record books are a who’s who of…"who?" "Wait, Todd Philcox ranks HOW HIGH on the all-time yardage list?" We’ve had a good run on running backs and a nice list of linebackers and defensive linemen. But quarterbacks? We’ve dreamed of a good quarterback so long we’ve forgotten what it feels like to have one.
Until now. Dungey is doing things that very few SU signal-callers, let alone young ones, do. Just think about how lost Long & Wilson looked last year. Remember how Nassib did his sophomore season. Think of all the quarterback hopefuls who have come and gone. Maybe they did well for a season but that was that.
Dungey has the potential to change all of that. Seven games into his SU career he is currently on a path to obliterate the history books. If he keeps growing and getting better and plays for Syracuse for another two or three seasons, he’ll leave as one of the most decorated passers in school history. If not THE most decorated. He could be that good.
But then again, if he keeps up this pace of taking brutal hits to the head, he might not even make it out of sophomore year.
Dungey is all potential right now and he’s worth investing in long-term. While we can assume that he will mature as a quarterback and football player, we also have to assume that there is a part of him and his style that will never go away. Guys who are competitors like that don’t change completely. It took McNabb a long time to make that transition to pocket passer and he was well into his pro career by then.
So on his current pace, it’s not unreasonable to think that he will be medically-disqualified from playing football at Syracuse University by the time he’s a junior. He takes at least one terrible-looking hit every game as it is and that probably won’t change as we gear up to play better defenses. Opposing defenses know he’s a quarterback who puts himself out there and leaves himself open to get hit. Do you think they care if he leaves the game? Of course not. They’ll be waiting for the chance.
I know that all of this is conjecture. For all we know Eric Dungey will never get another concussion while at Syracuse. It’s been a fluke series of incidents and everything will settle down now and fade back into the average. And like I said at the top, football is not a game in which anyone thinks longterm. Coaches know how quickly they can fired. Players know how important every snap is to their pro prospects. Everyone involved knows that nothing is a given and everything can change in one play.
So I’m 100% positive that, if he needs a first down this weekend against Florida State, Eric Dungey isn’t going to think about protecting himself. He won't even be thinking about himself. Or SU Football fans. Or for what-could-be.
So if he’s not going to protect himself, maybe he someone to protect him.