Commentary: Stanzi deserves more credit

BY JON LINDER | OCTOBER 14, 2009 7:30 AM

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Ricky Stanzi is the only quarterback in the Big Ten still leading an undefeated team. It’s time to get off his back.

In a more logical world, I wouldn’t need to say this, but sometimes the lure of Iowa football can cloud the minds of the Hawkeye faithful.

Every fall, Iowa football players — especially quarterbacks — live in a giant petri dish under the microscope of Hawkeye Nation.

That’s not necessarily a terrible situation for any human being. It’s never bad to be held accountable for the things you do.

That said, Hawkeye fans really need to pump the brakes on their grumbling about Iowa’s junior signal caller.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a little bitter after watching Stanzi throw his third pick-six of the season to open the game against Michigan.

However, as I rewatched the game online Sunday afternoon, I had an epiphany of sorts in regard to Stanzi and his occasional struggles with ball security.

My conclusion was that the Mentor, Ohio, native’s biggest flaw is a frustratingly rigid adherence to his coaches’ play-calling.

Still, that should be something Hawkeye fans can live with — and someday maybe even appreciate.

That rigidity has led to the majority of Stanzi’s interceptions this season, but even a casual fan can realize the blame doesn’t rests solely on Stanzi.

Miscommunication on a football field is easily pinned on the back of a team’s quarterback despite the fact that it rarely reflects a mistake of his own.

Every big-game quarterback is expected to throw anticipatory routes — passes that leave his hand before a receiver even looks for the ball. These passes are absolutely standard at any level of football.

Iowa’s brand of football welcomes these anticipatory plays. When they break down because of a poorly run route, the result is often a turnover or a glaring incompletion.

That’s just the nature of the game.

The thing that impresses me most about Stanzi is his reaction to these adverse situations. He is amazingly resilient.

No one is more disappointed after any interception than the quarterback. But as soon as the play is over, Stanzi pushes it from his mind.

“That clearly is his best attribute,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said after Iowa’s 30-28 win over Michigan. “It’s tough to rattle him … at least visibly, and the other best attribute is everybody on this team believes in Rick.”

Stanzi showcases a tireless obsession of holding his teammates accountable, another benchmark for a successful leader.

Whichever member of Iowa’s constant shuffle at receiver it may be, Stanzi expects players to be where they’re supposed to be. This two-way respect and confidence allows Iowa to air out longer and more complex pass plays — a key to Iowa’s numerous scoring drives in recent weeks.

I can’t imagine two traits more valuable than resiliency and accountability for a position that is so often cast as the linchpin for a team’s success. Stanzi is the epitome of both.

As much as that stubborn resiliency causes Iowa fans to grind their molars, it’s time to wake up and embrace the player leading a special squad in Iowa City this fall.

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