This season not gone the way you wanted?
Try being John Brantley.
No one has had a tougher go of it because of the Gators’ struggles — not even Urban Meyer’s esophagus or heart. Brantley has handled it in a fashion that dwarfs his play on the field.
Put yourself in his shoes: You grow up 45 minutes from Gainesville, son of a UF quarterback and nephew of an all-time great Florida linebacker. You dreamed of following in their footsteps, a dream you made a reality by being one of the nation’s best high school quarterbacks.
Then, you sit behind Tim Tebow and have to deal with being The One After The Chosen One.
You finally take the reins amidst lots of hype about your skill as a drop-back passer, only that’s not the offense you get to run.
And in your debut, your center thinks he’s playing “Monkey in the Middle” with the referee (you’re the monkey) so you get off to a terrible start. Turns out, your team kind of sucks and in a four game stretch, you lose three times and throw five interceptions without a single touchdown.
Through all this, the offense never changes to suit your strengths, you get pounded by linebackers because your teammates treat stopping blitzes like a Rubik’s Cube, and you have to split playing time with a freshman.
Then, a tight end gets in on the act and throws a touchdown on his first career pass — on that play your team always used to run with the quarterback you had to watch from the bench.
Sure, you throw two touchdowns against Vanderbilt, but one is a lucky underthrow and the other is a 39-yard catch-and-run.
Now, no one can really tell if you’re actually good. You certainly haven’t met expectations or been much of a threat at any point in the season, but some of that is due to the square-peg-in-a-round-hole offense you’re running.
Your friends and family are supportive, but no one can deny this isn’t going well.
On top of all that, you have to talk to reporters three times a week about it, and now there’s a borderline quarterback controversy brewing because of that tight end, Jordan Reed.
How would you handle that? What would you say?
Would you gush over Reed’s play against the Commodores, even pointing out that Reed threw his touchdown without a warm-up pass?
Would you talk about how much you respect your linemen for having to deal with those blitzes that, more often than not, end with someone in your face?
Would you support the three-quarterback system and talk about how sharing your position with two other players is fine as long as you win?
I wouldn’t, but these are all things Brantley has said in the past few days.
He doesn’t bristle at questions from the media, and he never throws anyone under the bus, even when they can’t catch, snap, block or call plays well.
Sure, it’d be nice to see some of the fiery confidence that made Tim Tebow a fan favorite, but this is the way Brantley leads. And in a season held together by bubble gum and toothpicks, his attitude is invaluable.
“It would be different if some other things were going on that would be more manageable for what he is perfect at doing. His objective is to help Florida win,” UF coach Urban Meyer said. “That tells you the character of him and his family because I am sure he is just taking shots across the bow.”
Brantley deserves some of those shots for the way he’s played this season, but he also should be applauded for taking this in stride — in a way befitting a true role model.