I keep coming back to a thought I had after watching the postgame Anthony Richardson gave to the SEC Network last Saturday – in which he said, in essence, “I’m glad we won, but I have to be better.”
Man, AR sounds like a guy to me who is frustrated as hell but trying his best to be a leader and representative of the program.
Envy his talents, embrace his task – but I suspect I wouldn’t relish moments like these.
— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) September 18, 2022
Last fall, it often seemed like Anthony Richardson was living a dream. He was dazzling in human form on the court and exuberant off it, doing a standing backflip with a kid after Florida’s opener and rounding punches before games. He got injured, including a few times during games, but also during dancing. And he was more or less the living embodiment of the truism that the backup quarterback is always the most popular player on the roster, while Emory Jones largely took responsibility for Florida’s side season, at least. among the players.
If he was not having fun, it was not at all apparent. And if that joy wasn’t part of Florida’s triumphant season-opening victory over Utah, we were all fooled.
But to continue to paraphrase that amazing Jay-Z freestyle that I keep referring to: to be AR then, you have to be AR now.
Right now, he’s the starting quarterback, the one whose offseason included endless conversations about his maturity — the ones that, to be clear, come with the gig and were also exacerbated by both the type of ticket for speeding that lends itself perfectly to starting these conversations, the remarkable decision to drop a nickname that should have ended any bad faith suggestion that he is unwise beyond his years, and little of context in which Richardson is, in almost every way, a kind, hard-working and unusually self-aware individual who has assumed the privilege of being a quarterback for the Gainesville Gators – and whose season has included no touchdowns and what felt like dozens of spills.
A small subset of Florida fans, surely including some of those who adored him as a substitute last year and as a post-game starter this year, moved on to nostalgia for Richardson’s backups — currently two players who have a combined zero assists as college quarterbacks — and at least one prominent voice in Florida’s orbit has diagnosed his inaccuracy as an immutable fact.
Oh, and he’s hurt. How Richardson, his doctor, and maybe (or maybe not) Billy Napier to know and disclose, but the same person whose 2021 downfall included a pulled hamstring, concussion and lingering knee issues dating back to a high school injury — and possibly aggravated by that dance, too stupid as it sounds – showed apparent discomfort after defenders touched his lower legs, seemed to have things out of whack as a passer after those plays, and admitted he was holding back in remarks to members of the media on Monday.
As I’ve mentioned here and there for the past few years, I’ve had back pain that feels like sciatica and has often been debilitating pretty much since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Fortunately, this pain is mostly an afterthought. in my life right now, but I can still have days where I find myself in a position that turns out to be awkward or where something I do unintentionally triggers pain that I can’t banish without swallowing a handful of ibuprofen and get some sleep – and the latter literally happened on Saturday, because an hour-long round trip in a car made me uncomfortable for the second half of the ride, then a produced the kind of dull ache in my calf that had me stretching and moving around all day to no avail.
And I’m just a guy who writes about sports on the Internet. Anthony Richardson, who is probably more injured than me, is trying to play quarterback in major college football.
I think his job is more difficult than mine. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
But I think the real tragedy of Richardson’s situation is this: he’s Superman – and, no doubt rightly, he’s being asked to be Clark Kent.
Florida’s quarterback depth is dire. With ohio state transferring Jack Miller, who looked uncomfortable in Florida’s spring game, out with injury, it’s less about who’s behind Richardson and more about the quarterbacks behind Richardson sparking “WHO !?” Jalen Kitna, son of NFLer Jon, is a Kyle Trask-like long-term prospect brought in by Dan Mullen; Max Brown is a Trask style project brought to you by Napier.
And while Trask’s surprising ascendancy once finally elevated to the starting role ruined Florida’s quarterback curve forever — among Gator Nation, if not Gator coaches — it’s probably worth watching. mentioned. often that Trask, by the time he took over from an injured Feleipe Franks in 2019, had gone through three full years in a college program, including two under famed quarterback teacher Mullen, and had thrown passes on the field during games from time to time.
It’s not just more experience as a college quarterback than Kitna and Brown – it’s more than double what they combined.
Yeah there’s a chance that one or both of them will be sudden hits like Trask was, but there’s also a chance that Trask will be an outlier not only since he thrived as a starter after not to have started, but because he’s had as much time to develop as he has, a rarity in a job market that quarterbacks are increasingly metagamizing by throwing devils at the programs that recruited them in high school. (To be fair, though, Jones also sat and learned under Mullen for years – and his play was an important part of Mullen. and Herm Edwards receiving pink slips.)
It’s reasonable for Florida to want to avoid Kitna and Brown being thrown to the wolves in September of a season with 75% of its scheduled games remaining. It’s reasonable for Florida — and Richardson — to want Richardson to limit the collective impact on his body regardless of any consideration of Miller’s unavailability and Kitna and Brown being as green as grass in The Swamp. It’s even reasonable — maybe more reasonable — expect and demand less of Richardson that all his brilliance if and when injured.
But everyone – or everyone who isn’t acting in bad faith – knows that at his flying best, Anthony Richardson is a rising Superman.
All the accuracy concerns people have had haven’t stopped it from being a NFL Draft perspective even before starting in The Swamp. Anyone with working eyes who paid attention had them popping up in some of their pieces. It’s factual, indisputable, that he’s one of the most physically talented quarterbacks the University of Florida has seen in over a century of quarterbacks — and arguing that he’s not the more talented of those from a projected ability standpoint just means to suggest he might not be more talented than Cam Newton, who only has a Heisman Trophy, a national championship, an NFL MVP award, and a superbowl start with his name.
Richardson, when he is right, is him, to use popular parlance. And he did Superman stuff for years and years.
But right now and in recent matches, he’s not right. And everyone, Richardson apparently included, knows that he should probably refrain from heroism.
Richardson is not really Superman; no one is, outside of fiction. But being an amazing athlete doing amazing things in college football is about as close as a mortal can get in reality – and I can’t imagine what it’s like for that kind of guy to actually be or metaphorically stuck in a suit and tie.
Other, that is, false.