It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis made a splashy entrance as a recruiter when he successfully lured Notre Dame quarterback transfer Dayne Crist to Lawrence. Any sensical KU fan knew that 2012 would be a rebuilding year for the program, what with the Turner Gill debacle not that far in the rear view mirror, but the promised arrival of Crist was supposed to ease the pain. Even the most pessimistic of Jayhawk fans believed that the former five-star recruit would be a major upgrade over last year's QB, Jordan Webb, and that he may not have guys who could catch the ball but surely Crist would put his passes on the money.
We are now four games into the Weis-Crist era and fans are openly asking if they can get Webb back. I don't mean this to be harsh on Crist, as he by all appearances is a wonderful student-athlete and acknowledged leader, but his play on the field has been close to abysmal.
There are many reasons why Kansas lost to Rice but the most visible was the poor decision by Crist, late in the game, to throw the ball off his back foot into double coverage instead of either taking the sack or throwing the ball away. Either of the latter would have resulted in a Kansas punt, thus stretching the field for the Owls' comeback. Instead, Rice had the ball and good field position and we all know what happened next.
This past Saturday, Kansas again had a lead going into the late stages of the game, on the road, against Northern Illinois. All the KU offense needed was to hold the ball, make some first downs, and get close enough for a field goal to make the lead a touchdown possession game with limited time left. Instead, the offense sputtered and found itself in a fourth-and-17 situation--too far away to kick a field goal and too close to punt. Amazingly, Kansas receiver Kale Pick somehow got open long--and I don't mean just open, I mean open. The problem was that Crist missed the wide open receiver with a throw which, when last seen, was headed for Chicago.
Weis now faces the toughest decision of his young tenure at Kansas--does he bench the guy he brought in and publicly built up, or does he stick with Crist and continue to ride him? What makes the decision relatively easy is that the guy behind Crist, Michael Cummings, is a freshman who has yet to play a down of college football. The third-string QB, Turner Baty, at least has played beyond high school as he was recruited in from a California junior college. Neither, though, are likely to be reason enough for Weis to bench Crist.
How Weis handles Crist's confidence and damaged ego will be an interesting test for the coach who has more than his share of skeptics. And, Weis' handling of Crist impacts more than the QB--it impacts a team who'll be watching their head coach and his management of the highest profile player on the team. Weis has got to finesse this or he risks losing a team who may view their head coach as having blinders on when it comes to his favorites.