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Did The Greg Paulus Experiment 'Backfire?' Depends On Your Context

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The Syracuse football team went 4-8 in 2009 with Greg Paulus at the helm. How you remember the outcome of that season is probably based on context and how big picture you want to get.

Chris Gardner/Getty Images

I don't know about you but I'm enjoying this series the Daily Orange is doing about The Dark Days of Syracuse Football. I mean, I'm not enjoying reading about the terrible times of the Greg Robinson Era and everything that came before Doug Marrone, but, it's an interesting look back at recent history through some fresh eyes.

Wednesday they dug into The 2009 Syracuse Orange Football Season, a.k.a The Greg Paulus Experiment. In speaking with former players like Delone Carter, Rob Long and Derrell Smith, the consensus feeling is that Paulus was only there as a publicly stunt and that Ryan Nassib was clearly better. Had Nassib started, the team would have done well, but Doug Marrone, I guess, submarined the team on purpose?

If I'm honest, I'm still gonna call bullshit.

I'm not saying Nassib wasn't doing great in practice. Clearly he was doing well enough to be named the starter during spring ball before Paulus arrived. But the thing to remember is, it's not like Greg Paulus usurped Senior Ryan Nassib. He usurped Redshirt Freshman Ryan Nassib. And if I remember correctly, I don't remember thinking Redshirt Freshman Ryan Nassib was the key to a National Title.

Syracuse went 4-8 that season with Greg Paulus at quarterback. My honest guess is that we would have gone 4-8 with Ryan Nassib at quarterback that season as well.

The season would have been a disappointment regardless of who was at the helm. It was still a team made up mostly of Greg Robinson guys with a head coach in his first season ever being in charge of a program. The ceiling on that football team was always with a losing record. Maybe, just maybe if a couple things broke right, they could have gone 6-6. But they didn't. And I don't think whoever was playing quarterback would have made a difference.

Personally, I like to think that it helped Nassib not be thrown to the wolves, Eric Dungey-style, in his first season of eligibility. In some way, getting a chance to learn on the job that year helped him evolve quicker and better in the years to come.

Of course the bigger discussion about 2009 is whether or not the Greg Paulus Experiment is an indictment of Doug Marrone. It was Marrone who brought the Duke basketball player in. It was Marrone who cried just talking about how much passion Paulus brought to the table. It was Marrone who decided to bench Nassib after awarding him the starting role before handing it back to him the following season.

The Doug Marrone Era was brief but I think it will be a flashpoint of conversation for decades to come, especially when times are tough like they are now. Frankly, I think history will come to see Doug Marrone extremely favorable, especially in terms of what he did at Syracuse. The Greg Paulus Experiment didn't pay big dividends in 2009. But maybe you can't have everything that came after it without it.