Is Maynard Money? The California QBs in 2011

TwistNHook: As we finish up our regular season and focus on a potential bowl game, I thought it would make sense to take a look at how the 2011 regular season went for each Cal unit. Today, we're talking about the QBs, which means essentially Zach Maynard.

I put Maynard's season in 3 different sections:

1. FSU-Colorado-Presbyterian-UW: During this period, he played pretty well. While the defense had problems in Colorado and UW, Maynard helped lead the offense to pretty good outputs. Cal ended up going 3-1 in this stretch. Maynard put up these numbers during that period: (click the chart to enlarge)


2. Oregon-USC-Utah-UCLA: Things got quite a bit rougher here. Although he had a decent game against Utah, in the other 3 games, he was not in control of himself. He made poor decisions, threw many interceptions, and generally had trouble executing. Sadly, because of his 7 interceptions between USC and UCLA, we lost 2 games that Cal could have potentially won (the UCLA game standing out as a sore thumb).

In the Utah game, he played well, but the coaching staff did not ask him to do a lot.

(click to enlarge)

3. WSU-OSU-Stanford-ASU: Things turned the corner here. Maynard was again playing within himself, making smart decisions and executing well. Against WSU and OSU, the coaching staff really simplified everything, asking him to throw less than 20 times each! But, he was effective and didn't kill the team.

Against Stanford, he actually outplayed All-Galaxy QB Andrew Luck! If we had won that game, he would have cemented his legend, even if only from one game. Oh well.

Then, in ASU, he flashed some great potential again. He made great throws, minimized mistakes, and led Cal to almost 50 points!

(click to enlarge)

It gives me hope for a bowl game and 2012. Maynard had some rocky games in there, no denying that. However, the sunshine pumper in me believes that he has learned from some of those errors and will be even better going forward.

But enough from me. What do all y'all think about Maynard???

Berkelium97: Maynard's development over the season has been impressive. He has shown flashes of brilliance all season, but he also had some head-scratching moments at times. While Tedford and Kiesau appear to be calling more plays that favor his skillset (designed rollouts, option plays, designed runs), Maynard himself has grown more comfortable with the offense as a whole. A few days after his excellent performance in the Big Game he said this:

"Trying to adjust to the playbook, trying to consume it all at one time, it's huge," Maynard said. "There are a lot of checks for one play. I'm finally getting it down. I feel a lot more comfortable than I did at first. The little things, it's all about details, really."

"I've learned a lot, just being more comfortable with the playbook and getting these plays down, that actually took halfway through the season," Maynard said. "It's very complex. Every play has a certain thing we have to do, and all the passing plays, you have to know where to go with the ball and what's out there, if you can run or check it down. It's a thing you have to progress to, something you have to get comfortable with. A lot of guys come in and they do well at first, because they have the same offense they ran in high school, or the previous school they were at, but with coach Tedford, everybody knows his offense is more complex than an NFL offense, so I'm glad I'm getting the gist of it now, and it's become more comfortable for me.

After reading this and seeing his performances over the past few weeks, I think we might actually have some evidence that the game is slowing down for Maynard. He looks much more comfortable out there. When his first read is not open, he no longer throws a prayer of a pass in Allen's general direction. Instead, he has shown more patience and willingness to allow the play to develop before trying to manufacture a play. Better yet, when he does make his passes, he has been much more accurate. A month ago, would any of us believe that Maynard would complete just under 70% of his passes over the final three games? I doubt it. He still has an overthrow or two once in a while, but he is getting better at delivering his passes to receivers. Best of all, he is not throwing nearly as many picks (or passes that are in clear danger of being picked).

He has also grown more comfortable passing out of the pocket. Early in the season he would bolt out of the pocket when the O-line started to succumb to pressure. At times, he'd leave the pocket too early even if the pocket was not in danger of collapsing on him. Now he is much more patient. This is also due to improvement in the O-line, but he is clearly much more comfortable running the offense than he was in September and October.

OhioBear: Jeff Tedford's reputation as a "QB guru" has taken a beating over the last few years with the inconsistent play of Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore (post injury) and the bad play of Brock Mansion, not to mention the little we saw from Beau Sweeney before he transferred to Cornell. I sensed from the masses that there were many who were ready to write off Zach Maynard as another QB "failure" after the Ucla game certainly, and perhaps even before that. (Heck, there were some readers who wrote him off after the season opener. And I certainly cannot say I was a staunch Maynard defender. I'll admit that I privately wondered whether it was time to see what Allen Bridgford could do after (and during) the Ucla game.

But ever since the Ucla debacle, we've seen an improved Maynard. There was incremental improvement -- he was a little better against Wazzu and then a little bit better against OSU, at least in terms of accuracy, not turning the ball over, and "managing the game" (to use that dreaded turn of phrase). But then the transformation of Maynard really showed in the Big Game. Not only was he an able game "manager," he was a reason we were in the game. And then in the ASU game, it was more of the same -- a 70% completion percentage and a very good field general for the offense.

You'd have to be blind (or just an unforgiving Maynard hater) not to see that Maynard has improved over the course of the season, especially during the last four games. Is he Aaron Rodgers? Hell no. Who is? But he is playing well enough to give us hope for the bowl game and for next season that we at least have a QB who can put us in a position to win games.

Kodiak: It's amazing how perceptions can change. Many fans were on the Maynard bandwagon before we even saw him take a snap because of what we had read or heard about his athletic ability. In the early games, we excused his inconsistent accuracy because he showed a "Honey Badger" gunslinger ability to convert on 3rd downs. It was easy to forget that almost all new starting quarterbacks in the Pac-12 go through their share of growing pains.

Then, he played against two of the tougher teams in the league and predictably struggled. When he turned in his worst performance of the year against a reeling Bruin team, it seemed like the wheels were coming off. "This is who he is." "He's always been inaccurate and turnover-prone." "You can't coach accuracy." "Why aren't we playing our best passing quarterback?"

I don't know that I would have had the confidence to stick with Maynard after the ucla game. I've heard that Tedford didn't want to throw him under the bus for a team-wide failure and I wondered if that was an admirable sentiment, but questionable decision. I don't think too many of us can beat our chests and crow that "we knew it all along," or "always knew he had it in him." Honestly, I sure as heck didn't.

Who knows if Maynard has really turned the corner and will continue to develop, or if he'll just tantalize us like so many Cal quarterbacks before him? It sure looks like he's getting good coaching and that our staff has adjusted to offense to put him in a position to succeed. It's not unreasonable to think that with another month of bowl prep plus an off-season to refine his footwork and mechanics that the future looks promising.

Avinash: Discussion question: Do you have a particular play that you'll remember the most about Zach Maynard from this season? Can be good, can be bad, can be whatever.

I'll remember the two plays against Furd and ASU when he rolled out, looked like he was scrambling to run, then flicked it over the incoming defenders to the targeted receiver for a touchdown. It's the sort of backyard football play that Maynard excelled at, along with the zone reads that he occasionally ran. A little of everything mixed in. Those are plays I doubt Maynard made a month ago, and showcase how he's developing a feel for the game.

I thought there'd be a serious QB competition this spring (definitely after the UCLA game), but I'm thinking Maynard's our starter next year unless he totally stagnates. Obviously nothing Maynard does is mechanically sound. He might be the most mechanically unsound quarterback Tedford's ever had, and he still misses guys (although not quite as badly as before). But he's a playmaker, and that's probably all you need to win a conference title. I'm excited to see what he shows us in the bowl game and beyond.

That being said, I hope Bridgford keeps on working hard. He'll get his chance, so will Hinder, so will Boehm. If they prove they can handle the offense, they'll get in the mix. But right now Maynard's the guy.

LeonPowe: its not so much plays - but more of this - when he is on the move (whether rolling left - always left - or scrambling) - there's was a sense (ok, USC and UCLA aside) that something positive was happening. Didn't quite feel that when he stood in the pocket and threw.

Through the entire season, even in the beginning, it felt like Maynard was much better as an improvational quarterback. Sometimes that lead to really bad things, 4 picks or passes 10 feet above the receiver, but sometimes it led to genius. Not that I can count myself as someone who believed in Maynard the entire way through, but even in the rough beginning, there was one or two throws you'd say "wow, where did that come from - that was awesome!" and then wonder why the other 18 throws were wildly off target.

OhioBear: Here are the Zach Maynard plays I will remember most from this season:

1. 1st and 30 at the Colorado 35 in overtime: Maynard to Allen for 32 yards and a 1st down at the CU 3.
2. 3rd and 20 at the Cal 10 on the first series vs. Washington: Maynard to Allen for a 90-yard touchdown .

These two plays I will remember because it said something to me about Tedford and about what he thought of Zach. Tedford has been criticized over the last couple of years for being too conservative, like perhaps he has lost the playcalling "edge" he had earlier in his tenure at Cal. These two plays contradicted that "conservative" label and also signaled to me that he had confidence in Zach -- or at least signaled that Tedford wasn't going to feel like he had to be constrained by conservatism in the offense with Zach at the helm. In both situations, I expected Cal to do something more conservative or high percentage. In the Washington example, for instance, I expected us to run a draw or screen to get us some room and just have Anger punt it out of there -- take our lumps on that possession and move on. (PUNTING IS WINNING!) We didn't.

3. The interception in the end zone at the end of the first half vs. USC
4. The last interception by Tevin McDonald in the fourth quarter at Ucla, inside the red zone

These two plays were the "bad" ones that stick out for me. Both of them were evidence of the growing pains that Cal was experiencing with Zach. In both situations, Cal needed a score in the worst way. In both situations, Cal had put together a nice drive, getting the ball down into position to score. In both situations, Zach threw an ill-advised pass into coverage in the middle of the field. These plays frustrated the heck out of me as I watched them (as I'm sure they did for many Cal fans). Bad decisions, bad throws. But to be fair, the reasons these bad plays stick out so much are because of the last two plays I will remember

5. Big Game, down by the goal line, first Cal drive of the fourth quarter: Maynard scrambles left, fakes run to bait a defender, then throws to a wide open Spencer Hagan for the touchdown.
6. The 74-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Anderson at ASU in the 3rd quarter

These two plays are particularly fresh in my mind since they happened in our last two games of the season. These are two signature plays of Zach's that showed me how much he had improved since the beginning of the season and especially since the low point at Ucla. In both instances, Zach was patient and bought time as he left the pocket. In both instances, he didn't make a quick decision to take off running. And in both instances (especially the play in the Big Game), I really sensed that Zach was purposely trying to bait the defender(s) to defend against him running. That created the opening and Zach took advantage both times by making throws to open receivers. And the CJA play was particularly nice because Zach made a nice, accurate throw in the run. More of that, please!
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