Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson played the worst game of his life against the Boise State Broncos. Although the team doctors haven't given the BYU coaches a medical diagnosis that justifies not playing Nelson, it is evident he is not physically fit enough to play.
As a team captain and one of the most respected leaders on the team, Nelson needs to accept this fact, and do what is best for the team. That means Nelson needs to endorse Taysom Hill as the starting quarterback for the next game against Hawaii.
The lessons of 2010 and 2011 make Nelson's endorsement essential. The players want Nelson to be their quarterback. Whether subconscious or intentional, they do not play their best if a healthy Nelson suits up and stands on the sidelines. If Nelson is incapacitated, the team is able to continue playing at the same high level.
Two years ago, BYU started the season rotating Nelson and true freshman Jake Heaps. The offense scored much more with Nelson at the helm. After he left the third game with a season ending shoulder injury, the offense struggled to find any rhythm. By season's end, the Heaps led offense was a typical high octane Cougar O.
The excitement and anticipation by onlookers for 2011 could not be restrained. Visions of Ty Detmer's sophomore season in 1989 filled everybody's thoughts while they waited for Heaps' sophomore campaign.
Everybody but Nelson.
Nelson rehabilitated his shoulder and worked tenaciously to be the best player he could. He wanted to contribute every way possible to help the team. His efforts didn't go unnoticed by his teammates.
Heaps was impressive in fall camp, but with Nelson healthy again, the team knew who they wanted to lead them. BYU coaches felt Heaps had earned the right to start, so he remained the starter. Without the backing of the team, Heaps struggled to lead the offense. Although Nelson was less talented, when he replaced Heaps the offense started playing much better.
Later in the 2011 season, however, Nelson was injured again. Heaps took his place. This time, the Cougar offense and defense didn't skip a beat. They posted back-to-back 42-7 wins with Heaps at the controls.
Nelson's back is shot. He needs to accept this fact. He has made an admirable effort, but it is holding the team back. Hill needs to fill in, at least, until Nelson's back can recover.
This team has shown in the past, they will stay loyal to Nelson. His charisma and sacrifice has captivated them to this point. Therefore, sometime before Monday, he needs to call them together and apologize for playing longer than he should given his present condition. They need to hear him say with his own mouth he is physically unable to perform. Nelson then needs to throw his full support behind Taysom Hill, who the coaches have designated at the second string quarterback.
This is leadership. This is teamwork. This will ensure the team can reach its full potential.
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