One theme that was played out in the press/media last season, when Jennings was having such an excellent 2016 overall, was the role of Lulay as his mentor. in 2016, there was article after article in the Provnce and Vancouver Sun about the positive mentorship of Lulay. At times, it could make one think that Jennings success was more attributable to Lulay's mentorship than to Jennings himself.
But, when Jennings did not have the isame season this year as in 2016, the discussion of Lulay's mentorship disappeared. Should Lulay be held partially responsible for Jennings poor season this year, as he was given so much credit for Jennings success last year. If not, the press and media could be accused of hypocrisy.
I believed that the whole Lulay 'mentorship' thing last season was overdone.
Do I believe that Lulay was helpful to Jennings? Yes I do. Do I believe he tried to be helpful to Jennings this season? Yes, I do, even though it did not appear that he was helpful to Jennings this year, based upon Jennings performance. I believe that Lulay is even more helpful to Khari Jones. Its Lulay on the sidelines pointing out on his tablet to Khari Jones what the opposing defense is doing.
I believe there is also a real difference to a B.C. Lions quarterback's when he is either 1) fresh or 2) playing starting quarterback, when moving into the role from a backup position. When you have been the starting quarterback for a long while in B.C. in the Buono era, you are not only playing with more pressure but you also have played a lot of games with poor pass protection and you will also likely be programmed to 'execute' the predictable spread offence from the pocket.
Lets look at some examples. Dave Dickenson had his best season as a Leo in 2003, Casey Printers had his best season in 2004, his first year as a starter and in 2009, his first season back with our B.C. Lions. Buck Pierce had his best full season as a starter in his first full season as a starter in 2008. Jarious Jackson played his best football in 2007, when he got his first starts as a Leo starting quarterback.
Travis Lulay won the MOP Award in 2011, in his first full season as a Leo starting quarterback. Jonathan Jennings had excellent success in his first full season as a starter in 2016. Travis Lulay played his best football in man years during his four game stretch as our starter this season. He was basically fresh and he stepped into the role as our backup quarterback.
This trend of a Leo quarterback playing his best football early in his career as a Leos quarterback, when he is either fresh or coming into the starting position from a role of backup quarterback is more than interesting.
Why the drop off in play after playing so well in their early times as our starting quarterback.? If looking closely, It seems that they do a number of things early in their days as our starting quarterback that they don't do as time goes on.
These are the things that I have observed.
1. They are more natural in their early times as our starting quarterback
Casey Printers, Buck Pierce, Jarious Jackson, and Travis Lulay all seemed to play the game more naturally in their first full seasons as our starter. They used their athletic ability more often, they improvised more often, scrambled more often, and played to their strengths. They were allowed to do so early, as Leo starting quarterbacks.
2. They played with more confidence in their first seasons as our starting quarterback
Early, in their careers as our starting quarterback in the Buono era, they seemed to play with more confidence. Even with less experience, they took more chances, seemed less hesitant, and looked more in control and had more poise.
3. As time went on they were less natural, less confident, and executed the offence more
As time went on, our starting quarterback stayed in the pocket more often and focused on executing our offence. There was less improvisation and they became much more mechanical.
4. They didn't see the field as well..
Even with more experience and more games played they seemed to stop seeing the field as well as they had before. I believe this was caused by the pass rush. Too often, porous protection meant that our quarterbacks became very conscious of the pass rush. If you watch the play of Dickenson to Printers to Pierce to Lulay to Jennings this season, they are not as poised as they were in their earliest days as starting quarterbacks.
Take Lulay and Jennings, our two most recent examples. Watch Lulay play in 2011 and then compare that to his last season as our starting quarterback in 2015. In 2011, Lulay is natural, poised, and sees the field very well. Have a look at him in 2015. He is hesistant, more easily sacked, he feels pressure more quickly, and he either stops looking downfield after his first read and holds the football or he bails too quickly.
Have a look at Jennings last season. He is so poised and cool in the pocket. He has a 'feel' when he is in the pocket, in terms of whether to stand in there and deliver or to escape and then pass/run. Look at him this season. Just like Lulay in 2015, he holds the football a split second too long after his first read, more hesitant to throw to his second/third reads and he is also looking at the pass rush.
Of course, poor pass protection, a predictable passing game, and a stationary pocket adds up over time, not only physically but also psychologically. A starting quarterback can only take so many pressures and hits as well as the mental pressure to execute our offensive scheme at a very high level and make plays (which are necessary to make it successful) before they begin to wear down mentally).
Travis Lulay enjoyed his best seasons in 2011 and 2012. In his first full season as our starter we won the Grey Cup and had the CFL's best record in his second season. We gave up the least number of sacks in the CFL -only 29 sacks in 2011 and 30 sacks in 2012.
In 2016 Jennings we gave up the third least sacks in the league and Jennings had an impressive inaugural season as a starter. In 2017, we gave up the most sacks in the CFL and like Lulay before him, his performance goes down as the sack numbers go up.
Are the sack totals a result of the quarterback holding the football too long and not delivering it quickly enough. Well, all of our quarterbacks have been accused of that from Dickenson to Printers to Pierce to Jackson to Lulay to Jennings over the years. Its may be that as time goes on when they are starting that they begin to do that.
But there is another theme at play here too. At first they play naturally, escape or run instinctively, and they are not worried about interceptions. But as they face relentless pressure and hits, which lead to interceptions, and they try to 'execute' the offence more and improvise and scramble less, their performance is reduced and they lose their confidence and instinctiveness. The relentless pass rush eventually changes the way they play.
Travis Lulay looked like the Travis Lulay of old this season. He was natural and instinctive and improvisational. If his first read was not open, hee didn't stay stationary in the pocket trying to execute the offence.
Jonathan Jennings did the same in his second last start of the season and played very well. But in his last game, he was stuck in the pocket again, trying to execute the offence.
No matter who is our starting quarterback of the future, I believe that they can only play a season or two at best in this offence before they need a break and someone else starts. The only other way to get around this is to get rid of Dorazio and finally implement a new offensive scheme. The one we are using is older than dust, not dirt.
"When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team". (George Raveling)