Following Syracuse football’s 2-10 season, the trolls emerge from their dark caves, carrying a bag full of hot takes with them. Filled with anger, sadness and despair, these infuriated ones gather on social media to unleash their rage.
Twitter, Facebook and the NunesMagician comments section quickly turns into a battleground for disgruntled Syracuse fans. Shouts of “FIRE BABERS!,” “BENCH DUNGEY!” and “I STAND WITH SHAFER!” rain down onto the Orange community.
Alas, regardless of Syracuse’s poor record, they fail to see the bigger picture...
We’ve all heard the mantra, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” While that’s a nice cliché, it’s not the truth – in fact, it’s far from it. Winning is nice. Winning makes people happy. Winning saves jobs (just ask recently-fired LSU coach Les Miles). But winning isn’t the only factor when evaluating success.
When Syracuse coach Dino Babers first stepped foot onto campus, he pleaded with fans to have faith in his plan and remain patient during what, he said, would be a transition phase. Babers insisted fans would need to have “belief without evidence.”
It’s time we start listening to him.
Syracuse football is currently 2-3, with one win against an FCS team (Colgate) and the other against a team ranked No. 90 in ESPN’s FPI index (UConn). Syracuse’s running game has largely been nonexistent, its special teams unit has struggled, its secondary has been abused, and injuries have decimated the Orange across the depth chart.
Despite some early preseason hype of potentially finishing 6-6 and receiving a bowl game invite, Syracuse is now projected as an underdog in every remaining game (yes, even against Boston College) with a 13 percent chance of finishing the season 2-10, according to Bill Connelly’s projections.
Although some fans predicted a 7-5 – and even an 8-4 – season, there is now just a one percent chance of Syracuse reaching the seven-win threshold and a 94 percent chance the team finishes with a losing record.
However, even if that worst-case scenario does come to fruition, and Syracuse finishes the season 2-10, it isn’t the end of the world. A losing record doesn’t necessarily mean a losing season.
We all knew this year would be tough. Babers is attempting to implement a new offensive and defensive system with players who were recruited to play in an entirely different one under former Syracuse coach Scott Shafer. Babers, himself, admitted it is the “toughest transition” he has ever had to make.
And that’s what this season is, a transition.
Dino Babers at his presser (not on a cooking show) "You guys will like the cake we're baking. Now is not the time to eat the batter."— Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia) October 3, 2016
Some fans may have fooled themselves into thinking Syracuse would be able to compete and go bowling, but this season was never about competing. It was about transitioning.
Now isn’t the time to judge Syracuse based on their current record and level of play, because Syracuse’s final record at the end of the season should not be the primary factor in judging whether or not this season can be considered “a success.”
The primary goal this season was to develop and build for the future. This meant getting sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey more comfortable in Babers’ fast-paced, no-huddle offense, improving the defense’s grasp of Babers’ Tampa-2 scheme, and, arguably most importantly, show flashes of the potential Syracuse can reach under Babers in an effort to recruit more talented players than years past.
While Dungey hasn’t been perfect, he is still fifth in the country with 1,730 passing yards, has thrown 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions (and ran for five more scores), and is on pace to shatter multiple Syracuse passing records.
The offense as a whole has shown in brief spurts it has the ability to develop into one of the most dominating in the country, evident by their No. 21 ranking for first quarter play.
In terms of potential recruiting, Babers has already shown just how successful skill position players can be in his offense, with Maryland transfer Amba Etta-Tawo being the prime example. In addition to already breaking multiple Syracuse receiving records, Etta-Tawo currently leads the nation with 840 receiving yards, has hauled in six touchdowns and has eclipsed 100 yards receiving in every game this season.
Etta-Tawo, himself, recently admitted he didn’t even need a recruiting pitch when he decided to transfer to Syracuse to play for Babers. He said he witnessed firsthand the type of damage Babers’ offense could do when he was at Maryland and played against Bowling Green.
It wouldn’t be a reach to say many potential Syracuse recruits are now watching the Orange’s offense and thinking the same thing. Back in April, before the season even started, quarterback Tommy DeVito, a Class of 2017 recruit, said he was sold on Babers’ offense, so much so that he started to help Babers on the recruiting trail himself.
On a not-so-positve note, it is clear that defense continues to be Syracuse’s biggest concern this season – the Orange rank 112th in points-per-game, with 37.6, and 122nd in yards-per-game, with 505. However, some of the team’s defenisve problems can be attributed to a long list of injuries to key players and more time needed to get accustomed to Babers’ Tampa-2 scheme – luckily there are still seven remaining games for the latter to happen.
If Dungey continues to develop, the defense is able to turn the corner, and those brief flashes of offensive prowess become more common, then – regardless of Syracuse’s record – this season can be defined as a success.