Open letter to Joe Burrow: Just keep doing what you've been doing
Dear Joe Burrow:
This week is why you came to LSU.
It’s why Ed Orgeron welcomed you to LSU.
It’s why Orgeron brought Joe Brady here to mentor you.
All those eye-popping numbers against Georgia Southern, Northwestern State and Utah State – and even Texas, Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State and Auburn – are nice. Real nice.
All the speculating and prognosticating – Heisman Trophy this and NFL Draft that – are nice too. Real nice.
But this is Alabama Week. Your team is No. 1, they’re No. 2. They’ve beaten your school 8 consecutive times, definitely denying it 1 national championship, probably preventing a couple more opportunities to win one.
This is the game you dreamed of when you were growing up, though you probably didn’t realize it.
You were in Athens, Ohio, and over there Ohio State and Michigan was THE Game. You were a Buckeyes quarterback, but you never got to be THE Buckeyes’ quarterback – against the Wolverines or anyone else.
Now Ohio State-Michigan is still a big deal, but this is bigger. Last time we checked Michigan wasn’t a factor in this season’s CFP race, or any other.
It would be pretty cool to be the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback – this season or any other during your college career. But that wasn’t going to happen.
Some things are meant to be.
This LSU-Alabama game is the biggest game of this season. LSU actually has a chance to win this time – and you’re the primary reason.
Alabama has been the gold standard in the SEC – and basically the country – during this string of LSU losses to the Tide.
You learned about that last season. You were a good quarterback on a good team. But you couldn’t guide your offense to any points in a game that wound up 29-0 and basically was over before halftime.
But now you’re a really, really good quarterback, running a really, really good offense on a really, really good team.
Your job this week is really simple. It’s not easy, that’s for sure, but it is simple: Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
That starts with blocking out the noise. Coach Orgeron will be growling this into your ear throughout the week. He probably started while this was being written.
That starts with forgetting about this Heisman stuff. Yes, you’re on everyone’s radar as a top-tier Heisman candidate, but that has nothing to do with this week’s game.
You win this game, you’re going to New York – and probably coming back with a big piece of hardware. But none of that happens unless you do on Saturday afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium what you’ve been doing all season.
Forget about the NFL Draft. People say you’ve played yourself into being a 1st-round choice, maybe a really high 1st-round choice.
But the draft is a long way away and NFL people tend to do weird stuff after the Combine and individual workouts – stuff that won’t happen until 2020.
You keep doing what you’ve been doing and all that NFL stuff will work out sometime down the road.
But this is about the here and now – this week.
Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have put you in a system that plays to your strengths and the skillful players surrounding you.
They send 4 and often times 5 talented players into pass patterns on every play. Your job and that of the coaches is to identify the right matchup – which rarely takes more than one or two looks – and exploit that, quickly.
You have done that expertly. You identify the best option. You deliver the ball quickly and accurately. And then you watch your teammates make the most of the opportunity you’ve given them.
But there’s more to your success this season than the system.
You’re tough. You’re a leader. That predates Brady and the off-the-chart numbers.
You showed it in the 4th quarter at Auburn last season. You showed it a few weeks later against Georgia. You showed it again after that cheap shot you took against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.
Maybe it’s something you discovered after you left Columbus. Maybe it’s something that can only be demonstrated under game conditions that you didn’t get to experience. Maybe your competitors at Ohio State had the same thing. Maybe their other skills negated it. Probably it’s some combination of all of that.
But it’s clear that you have the talent, the toughness and now the system to be a special quarterback who leads a special team to special things.
Yeah, this is Alabama and things will be more difficult than they have been in any other game this season.
But nothing else changes – not because of the rankings or the Heisman race or draft projections.
You just keep doing what you’ve been doing.