So why did Jordan Rodgers stay on the sidelines Saturday against Presbyterian?
First of all, it's not necessarily a slap in Rodgers' face. Think Eric Kresser. In 1995, when Florida was steamrolling to an SEC championship and a berth in the national title game, Kresser started against Northern Illinois — and Danny Wuerffel, an All-American and eventual Heisman trophy winner, didn't take a snap.
Kresser set a Gator record that day with six touchdown passes. What did Spurrier accomplish by playing Kresser and sitting Wuerffel? Well, he let an inexperienced backup run the team in a game the Gators couldn't lose, which protected Wuerffel from injury and prepared Kresser in case he was needed later in the season. (He wasn't. Kresser transferred to Marshall for his senior season, led the Thundering Herd to a national championship and played three seasons in the NFL.)
Maybe Franklin called Austyn Carta-Samuels' number because he's seen enough of Rodgers and he wants ACS, the Wyoming transfer, to run the team for the rest of the season.
I doubt it. He wanted ACS to get some experience because Vandy's going to need him at some point. Remember how Franklin gave Rodgers some limited reps in our first four games last season so that he was ready to run the team when Larry Smith faltered? Now Rodgers is struggling to get on track, and Franklin needs a second option. The Presbyterian game was the perfect opportunity to start developing a Plan B. (It was also a great chance to get walk-on John Townsley into a game.)
Franklin is looking to the future. If he really wanted to get the maximum number of wins this season, he'd have let Rodgers get a confidence booster against Presbyterian and he'd have burned the redshirts off a bunch of freshmen. You know, the Robbie Caldwell method. (Instead of starting Jared Funk in a blowout of Eastern Michigan, Caldwell decided to insert him in the game when Vandy had a 14-0 first half lead on the road against Arkansas and Larry Smith looked like RG3.)
Sure, Franklin wants to win now, but in the big picture he wants to build a solid program capable of consistently winning future games and even championships.
In his first season, he inherited an embattled quarterback whose backup was a transfer with no experience. This season, he inherited an embattled quarterback whose backup was a transfer with no experience.
Next season, his most experienced quarterback will once again be a senior transfer with only one partial season of SEC play under his belt. But here's the difference: He'll also have highly regarded redshirt freshman Patton Robinette, as well as a pair of four-star true freshmen quarterbacks, Johnathan McCrary and Chad Kanoff, to groom.
Finally, he'll have something to build on. It will take a couple of years, of course, but by that time our young offensive line, the best class of prospects we've ever signed, will be hitting their stride. Throw in a couple of four-star receivers, a couple of gifted young tight ends, a terrific class of linebackers, a stable of cornerbacks, and some talented edge-rushers and you've got something to work with.
In the meantime, Franklin has the mission of building a winning culture, staying in games against the SEC big boys and hopefully pulling an upset or two, and holding onto all these blue-chip recruits who've verbally committed to him.
As history constantly has shown, as the Vandy coach he'll need more than one experienced quarterback to do that. I think Rodgers gets the start against Georgia. If he does well, and continues to look sharp, then ACS may not be needed the rest of the season. But you can bet we'll need him, at least a little bit, next year. And odds are, we'll need him this year too, and sooner rather than later.