Weiner: QB Rotation Not Working for USC; Play Dart

Posted on November 9, 2021

  By Matt Weiner, SportsPac12

Successful coaches are ones that spot something that worked in one scenario and make it fit their own formations and schemes.

This is the same reason why USC interim head coach Donte Williams did not find success in USC’s matchup against Arizona State on Saturday. His decision to try and platoon Dart and Slovis was not only egregious, but worthy of a relegation.

This is a copycat league. Coaches will steal any tactic or strategy that appears formidable. Two quarterback systems are used as often as third down punts because smart coaches haven’t witnessed them prosper.

When smart coaches go through a similar predicament to USC’s, they let practice decide who should start.

Monday through Friday is the time to make the call that Slovis or Dart should be behind center for the next four quarters. Once Saturday comes around the ink should be dried, with each guy knowing their exact role heading in.

Having a concrete game plan allows coaches to look back and see what went wrong so they could adjust it leading up to the next matchup.

But when you swap Slovis and Dart in and out one possession after another then it’s tough to put a finger on what the problem is. More importantly, it puts a cone of uncertainty around both players barring them from forming any sort of rhythm.

Kedon Slovis vs ASU | Darryl Webb / Associated Press

Slovis was brutal to start the game, throwing an interception on the seventh play of the first drive, and then punting on the second after gaining two first downs.

At this point it made sense to go to Jaxson Dart. It felt as if the expectations bestowed upon him would never be met and keeping him in would only hold USC back from progressing.

The fox that was scurrying around on the field was foreshadowing one chapter ending and another beginning. No amount of counseling could save the marriage, it was time to ring up lawyers and start planning out the divorce.

Dart started his first drive of the game by whipping a ball out to Tahj Washington in the flat for 14 yards, and two plays later, Ingram uncorked a game high 24 yard run.

While the drive ended in a field goal, there was the newfound joy that the Trojans could forget about Slovis rather quickly. How quickly you forget about your previous relationship is an indicator of how well your new one is going.

Signs that the change was a success became even more prominent when Sun Devils RB Deamonte Trayanum fumbled the ball on the first play of the ensuing possession. A separation between the past horrors and the future glory was formed.

A few plays later, when Dart was able to take a QB option read up the left side of the field for a 9 yard score, the hope from the play before wasn’t wishful thinking.

There was concrete evidence that the ongoing series of shame was brought to a halt. Soon enough, kids all over SoCal were going to be mimicking Dart and sport eyeblack over the right eye with hopes that they will become them.

And then we saw this:

Donte Williams won many hearts when he preached the importance of discipline and accountability. Two seminal parts of football that USC has been lacking and has led to countless losses. This, however, doesn’t fall under that umbrella.

Dart did nothing wrong in this scenario.

If USC was on either side of a blowout, or he went air Jordan in someone else’s face, then it would be a problem. Especially if he got hit with a penalty. But there was no flag thrown on the field and it was far from showboating.

Below is a clip of Bill Belichik explaining why celebrating is healthy for players and team morale. Take it from a guy who can’t fit all of his Super Bowl rings on his right hand.

I’m sure Michael Jordan was thrilled when Phil Jackson told him he couldn’t fist bump in mid air or shrug at his opponents after hitting game winners.

It’s one thing to quickly pull him aside or confront him behind closed doors, but doing it in front of the world is a great way to humiliate a player and shoot down his confidence.

Another great way to shoot down Dart’s confidence is to bench him and put in the player he was supposed to be replacing. Now all the momentum is hit with a freeze ray to no fault of his own.

From the Slovis perspective, how is that putting him in the best scenario to succeed? You just told him he’s not good enough to play, and now you’re saying he is? The point is to strike while the iron is hot—not frozen.

The iron remained frozen throughout the rest of the game. The two possessions Slovis came to relieve Dart for ended in a punt and missed field goal.

Two quarterback systems are awful ideas to begin with, and evolve into dumpster fire when a coach doesn’t realize how to swap the QB’s in and out.

Jaxson Dart vs ASU | Young Kwak / Associated Press

On the opening drive of the second half with USC down 17-10, Slovis was able to drive the offense down the field and kick a field goal.

To a logical person this means that you should keep Slovis. However, Williams treated and decided logic like a sworn enemy and decides to put Dart back in.

Dart was able to get a field goal on the first possession, since he got punished for scoring a touchdown, but on the next one he went three-and-out. Now Slovis was sent back in.

Instead of tracking the score, I became more fixated on Williams ping-ponging between Slovis and Dart. It was nauseating and required Dramamine.

In total, USC made five switches at QB. The number could have ended at one. Or zero.

Donte Williams vs Notre Dame | Young Kwak / Associated Press

Williams is put into a tough spot, and is a rock in hard lodged between logic and his own brain.

Fans will understand the decision to stick with Slovis despite his lackluster play. He was a First Team All-Pac-12 last year and was awarded the same honor in the preseason.

The play isn’t there, but he could be enough to squeak out wins against Cal, UCLA and BYU.

On the flip side, Dart also has a good reason to get reps for an entire game: He’s young, electric, and offers a new identity for a team trying so hard to find one.

Either way, Williams needs to douse this two-quarterback idea in gasoline and toss a match on it.

Choose one and stick with it.

—Recent Matt Weiner Stories—

Subscribe to our newsletter and keep up on the latest.