Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is certainly an interesting man. His recent announcement naming sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano the starter over LSU transfer Hayden Rettig was both surprising and bold. Flood’s announcement was filled with head-scratching quotes and questions still left unanswered, but was adamant that his decision is the best for the program moving forward; or at least into week 2’s game against a lowly Washington State.
What’s most intriguing about Flood’s decision of Laviano over Rettig is that he used the term “body of work” as one of the major deciding factors in the competition. What’s alarming about that is prior to last week’s game against Norfolk State, Laviano’s body of work consisted of all of 11 passes in his career. Laviano was 4-of-4 for 138 yards and three scores, compared to Rettig’s 9-of-11 for 110 yards and a touchdown against the Spartans, who play in FCS. Rettig, however, was without leading receiver Leonte Carroo, and didn’t have a 14-point cushion to start the game.
Rettig looked fairly impressive during the first half. All but one of his 11 throws were very accurate, almost sending a pass right into the chest of a Spartan defender. Rettig looked poised, composed and capable of leading a Rutgers team against top-level competition. Rettig has always been noted as a team-first player, a trait he boldly showed while making a touchdown-saving tackle on a fumble recovery by Norfolk State. Laviano on the other hand, had a favorable lead against a team that prior to kickoff had been outscored by Rutgers 139-0 in their three prior meetings.
Rettig, the former 4-star recruit, was neck-and-neck with Laviano throughout spring and summer camp. Flood seemingly made the competition closer than it actually was, but sources close to the program have said that it was somewhat “puzzling, but understandable” why Flood chose Laviano to start moving forward.
Laviano is Flood’s first quarterback recruit, and one that’s grown under his wing since his arrival on campus. Laviano’s first-half suspension for attempting to enter an establishment with a fake ID isn’t necessarily what you’d like to see out of the field general of your offense, but young kids will make mistakes, and Laviano is no different.
It took Laviano four passes to win the starting job over Rettig, who nearly everyone expected to come to Rutgers and take over for former four-year starter Gary Nova. It seems that right now Rettig is truly the better passer, but Flood knows more what he has in Laviano than what he could have in Rettig.
If nothing else, this is the safe move during a time where Flood’s job security has never been weaker, and the school is in the middle of an internal investigation involving a player that has since been dismissed along with four others for an alleged assault altercation.
Rutgers looked dominant in their week 1 victory over Norfolk State, and it wasn’t because of Laviano’s four passes, three of which were to Carroo. Rettig didn’t get a fair shot in week 1, and should be given more opportunity over the next three games before the Scarlet Knights host Michigan State at home for what’s expected to be a defining game for each program’s 2015 campaign.
Essentially the quarterback competition was simple. It was Laviano’s to lose, not to win. Laviano didn’t make enough mistakes to lose the job to Rettig, and that’s why he’s the named starter moving forward. Although many Rutgers players such as running back Paul James and the aforementioned Carroo have been much impressed by Rettig’s ability to learn the offense both quickly and efficiently, it just wasn’t enough for the junior to unseat the incumbent Laviano.
Flood has also said that he no longer plans to use both quarterbacks, a reversal of course from earlier this offseason when he said that both would get their opportunities on the field early in the season until one signal-caller stood out above the other. Clearly that decision has been made, and it’s Laviano’s team to lead. This could either be the flame the Scarlet Knights need to move past their turbulent offseason, or this could be the beginning of a very damning swan song for Flood as the head of Rutgers' football program.
— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.