NOTE: My good friend and former lafootballguys.com co-conspirator Jordy Pujol wrote this piece about life as an LSU football fan during the Jordan Jefferson/Jarrett Lee error. The future, thanfully, looks brighter. You will enjoy this piece. I know I did.
The dust has settled.
A malevolent whirlwind of images and media spin and emotions has mercifully come to a stop. We, as battle-tested Tiger fans, survey the damage. Crimson confetti adorns the once hallowed ground of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Bama fans, in their callow, unsophisticated glory, taunt us with cries of “ROLL TIDE!!!,” but we hear and feel nothing. There is only sadness, only regret, only a modicum of pride still wheezing and panting and insecurely hissing, “congrats on the season split!”
We are a beaten people.
Our Glorious Leader, Les Miles, harbinger of chagrin, waxes philosophical from the mountaintop. Jarrett Lee could not sustain the pass rush, he says. We disagree and accuse him of high treachery, but in the end we forgive him like always. He is the innocent fool, blessed and cursed to win in unprecedented numbers while simultaneously being denounced by most of his followers.
His gameplans confuse and infuriate us, yet we accept them because of the legendary Luck of the Hatter. We remember Arizona State ’05, Notre Dame ’07, Florida ’07, Arkansas ’09, Tennessee ’10, Florida ’10, Alabama ’10, and Alabama ’11 (Part 1). This diminishes the sting of Georgia ’05, Kentucky ’07, Ole Miss ’09, and Alabama ’11 (Part 2).
With the images of the BCS National Championship burned into the backs of our eyelids in 1080p High Definition, we surprisingly breathe a collective sigh of relief. Bama fans won’t get it. Florida fans couldn’t understand it. Ole Miss fans wish they had a similar problem. We are relieved to be rid of a unique situation that has divided and conquered a fanbase.
Here’s where it gets weird.
A program and its fans have never been more excited to lose two senior quarterbacks. It’s not a question of which you’d prefer or which is the better player.
Individually, Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have drawn both praise and ire from even the most casual LSU fans. Tiger fans simply could not handle the dichotomy. When one was performing well, the other could be doing better. When one was bad, the other was our offense’s savior. There was no way to tell who would be better for the team, because both sides had such great arguments.
Here’s the kicker…….
The fans who backed Jefferson really didn’t care for Jefferson’s play all that much, and the same could be said for advocates of Lee. After all, the players were absolutely meaningless.
This wasn’t about Jefferson and Lee. This was about ‘run vs. pass’ and ‘ball control vs. gunslinging’. This was about ‘swag vs. patient humility’. And yes, this was definitely about ‘black vs. white’. This whole grand parody of a quarterback controversy was really a battle of philosophies. The idea of Jordan Jefferson vs. the idea of Jarrett Lee.
For the record, both sides lost.
With the fires out and the ‘For Sale’ signs removed from Miles’s yard, we can now look forward to next year. The good kind of quarterback controversy is brewing between heralded JuCo transfer Zach Mettenberger and incoming freshman phenom Gunner Kiel. They will battle in the offseason and the better player will win the starting job. The team will be unified and win a national championship. Life will be good.
Still, Jefferson and Lee will always hold a special spot in the hearts of Tiger fans.
Jefferson will be the bad guy to many, due to a preseason battery arrest that cost him the first four games of the 2011 season. He was granted forgiveness and an unearned starting spot, only for karma to gut-punch him in the national championship.
To other LSU fans, Jefferson will be remembered as the better option: the run-pass threat who kept defenses on their toes and the guy who came off the bench to save us in the first Bama game.
Lee, meanwhile, will be the quarterback who efficiently marched us to 8-0 before unfairly losing his job to Jefferson. He may also be remembered as the guy who threw two devastating picks in the first Bama game, only to cheer heartily from the bench while Jefferson led the come-from-behind victory. (Ed. Note: He will also be remembered for the seven pick-sixes he threw as a freshman. I am still trying to forget them.)
There was no “win” with these guys. There was no “better option.” They were two concepts that represented different things to different people. The symbolism was overwhelming while the on-field performance was not.
Next year, let’s hope that Mettenberger or Kiel wins the spot outright. That way, win or lose, we can all say, “This was our quarterback. This was our guy.”