Quarterback Controversy a Matter of Confidence vs. Arrogance

Story posted September 16, 2011 in CommRadio, Sports by Aaron Hefelfinger

I know you’re sick of hearing about Penn State’s quarterback position and who will start. Relax. It’ll all be over in a couple games.

Or maybe not. During the 1999 season, Penn State quarterbacks Kevin Thompson and Rashard Casey shared snaps well into November.

I’ll always remember the game where the quarterback controversy ended, too.

I was sitting in the north endzone with my grandparents watching the Minnesota game in the blistering cold. Penn State was undefeated and ranked first in the nation. The Penn State defense was one of the best I had ever seen up until that point in my life, and I arguably haven’t seen a better one since. Penn State legend LaVar Arrington was nearly unstoppable and the rest of the defense was just as fierce.

The Penn State offense, however, needed some help. They played QB musical chairs for the entire game, giving one the hook when the other slightly underperformed.

Sound familiar? Continuing on, Minnesota would end up driving down right towards the north endzone through that nasty defense, completing a long tipped pass and setting up for the game-winning field goal with about four seconds left.

The snap came back and Minnesota kicker Dan Nystrom booted through an easy field goal, giving Minnesota the upset and completing my first real disappointment as a Penn State fan.

The 2011 edition of Joe Paterno’s team is about as similar to the 1999 edition as any team in recent memory. The failure to pick a quarterback in 1999 arguably cost Paterno a National Championship. The Nittany Lions had a great defense and an offense that was talented but hurt by Joe’s indecision to pick a quarterback, something that could definitely be said about this year’s team as well.

But why is this choice such a struggle? Why is this choice more difficult than the quarterback competition between Devlin and Clark was a couple years ago, or any other year?

It could be argued that Joe’s entire tenure at Penn State has been one big struggle between the concept of confidence and arrogance. If you ask, many people will tell you that these two are one in the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. The odd thing about confidence and arrogance is that you know the difference between the two instantly when you see it with your own eyes.

Anthony Morelli? He was arrogant. Daryll Clark, Michael Robinson and Zack Mills? Confident.

For Penn State football in 2011, it’s not hard to see that all the quarterback competition has come down to is confidence versus arrogance.

I hate criticizing amateur athletes and I really hate criticizing classmates especially, but let’s face it: Matt McGloin is very arrogant, and it’s certainly a negative to have in a leader.

Arrogance in and of itself is not a terrible quality; undesirable, sure, but not terrible. The real issue is that arrogance is often a mask for insecurity.

Confidence is the opposite of insecurity. Joe Paterno teams, or at least the best ones, play with confidence. “You need to play with supreme confidence, or else you'll lose again, and then losing becomes a habit,” Joe is often quoted as saying.

On the first drive of the Alabama game, the offense was confident. The line was blowing open holes for Redd to run through and Bolden, despite missing a pass or two, was playing pretty well. Once they got a couple first downs, you could see it in their body language: they knew they could do it.

After Alabama converted the fake punt, everything changed.

There was no confidence, and no touchdowns trips for the majority of a four quarter game shows an incredible lack of it, especially considering the talent on the field involved.

“We're trying to talk to some of the kids to find out what we've got to do to play with a little bit more confidence and what have you,” Paterno said at his press conference Tuesday.

To be champions, this team cannot be insecure. They need a leader on offense who has confidence in what they can do, and this leader needs to be the quarterback.

McGloin is insecure, which is partially because he was a walk-on. He was immediately told that he wasn’t good enough unless he worked very hard; to his credit, he has. He absolutely deserves the position he is in right now. The real difficulty that the coaching staff is having, I believe, is that Matt McGloin has “Rocky” appeal. Everyone wants to believe he can do it because a part of them wants to believe that anyone can do it if they want it badly enough.
But wanting something and following through on it are two very different things. I saw zero fire from McGloin Saturday. The majority of the time he was out there, he looked confused and flustered; and it’s no wonder. We have to take into account that almost the entirety of the student section was holding up their pointer fingers high in support of number one, Robert Bolden. On top of that, McGloin was booed, something I can’t remember happening to a Penn State quarterback outside of Anthony Morelli.

Taking all of that into account, a lot of things have forced the coaching staff’s hand on the quarterback position. McGloin was only good when he was confident in himself to the point he was arrogant, and I don’t think he has that anymore. He got booed Saturday, and it clearly got to him. It’s no knock on his worth ethic or ability, but in order to play quarterback anywhere, you need to have thick skin. I just don’t think he has it.

What I did see Saturday, however, was someone who did have it.

During the first drive of the game, Bolden seemed confident and ready to lead the team to a victory. That disappeared for the majority of the game after the offense ran into some trouble. On the last drive of the game, however, it was clearly back. He started to just play; he went from being stiffer than Paterno’s statue outside the stadium to relaxing and playing pickup football.

When he saw an opening, he took it, even if it meant getting popped by a 300 lb. defensive lineman. He was willing to put himself on the line for the team, because in the end, he realized that they would do the same for him. That’s confidence.

Physically, Bolden is bigger and more capable. There’s no denying that. He has a better arm, he’s faster, and he’s stronger.

But in the end, none of those things matter if you aren’t confident in what you can do. A very confident Matt McGloin led Penn State out to a big lead on the road against Ohio State and a great come from behind win against Northwestern. I’m not sure McGloin can do that anymore.

As Penn Staters learned from the 1999 Minnesota game, picking a quarterback and sticking with him is paramount. Quarterback decisions separate the champions from the contenders, the winners from the losers.

But what it comes down to is confidence versus arrogance. There are small, but very important differences between the two. Arrogance is feeling superior to others and showing it, but confidence is a belief in yourself and your talents. Arrogance is blaming others for your faults, and confidence is admitting your own mistakes.

Which qualities are better suited for a leader and a quarterback? I think the answer is obvious. Hopefully, Joe realizes the same.

Aaron Hefelfinger is a senior majoring in Telecommunications. To contact him, email aaronhef@gmail.com