CJ Stroud has been as close to perfect as a quarterback can get many times over his two years at Ohio State.
A couple of his throws will live forever in OSU lore, and more would be on that list if he hadn’t made perfection look routine throughout various parts of his 19 career starts.
Stroud is arguably the best passer in Ohio State history — and the arguing may be futile as this season goes on. But he’s not perfect, which is unfortunate for him considering that is what he is being judged against.
Stroud currently leads the nation in pass efficiency (203.85), leads the nation with 28 touchdown passes, and is completing 70% of his passes. This used to be acceptable.
Critics will tell you what he can’t do or won’t do while taking for granted everything he does that other quarterbacks can’t do, won’t do, or never could do.
For instance, there are some people out there who want Stroud to pick up a first down with his legs just once per game. As if those eight yards would finally change their mind.
Would running the ball a few times per game make him even more dangerous? Sure. Picking up every first down instead of most of them would definitely be ideal. But if head coach Ryan Day isn’t calling any read plays for him to pull the football on a hand-off, when should he run? Should he take off after the second read in his progression is covered? What about the third?
Maybe people would feel better if he had taken off after his second read late in the Rose Bowl against Utah last year rather than coming back to Jaxon Smith-Njigba and throwing an absolute bullseye to him in the corner of the end zone to give OSU their first lead of the game.
Would that 8-yard scramble have finally changed minds?
Every time you’re asking him to scramble, you’re asking him to give up on all of the future NFL wide receivers running around in the secondary. Do they really want Stroud to have the ball beyond the line of scrimmage over Emeka Egbuka or Marvin Harrison or Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave or Jaxon Smith-Njigba?
Is a 3-yard scramble on third and two better than a sack? Yes. Every time. But how many first downs and touchdowns has he picked up because he stood in the pocket and went through his progressions instead of tucking and running?
Some point to Stroud’s reticence to run as a fear of being hit. As if standing in the pocket and knowingly and patiently being the main target of 1,100 pounds of pain somehow makes him a coward.
Would he be deemed tougher if he ran from that?
“He’s afraid of getting hit.”
Then he’s playing the wrong damn sport and the wrong damn position.
You can’t play quarterback in major college football and be afraid of getting hit. It’s part of the job description.
When you’re watching the ball sail through the air for a touchdown, you may have missed the part where Stroud got hit and is being helped up off the ground by one of his offensive linemen.
Does he like getting hit? Does any quarterback like getting hit?
Would it be preferable if Stroud didn’t trust his receivers and linemen as much as he does? Would it be better if he took off at the first sign of pressure? Is that what tough quarterbacks do?
Ohio State is scoring 49.6 points per game, but some people get upset with him because he didn’t take off and run for a first down.
If the season stopped today, CJ Stroud would have the best pass efficiency season for a Power Five quarterback in college football history.
But imagine if he had run for seven yards that one time instead.
Stroud is currently fourth in career pass efficiency in the history of college football. His efficiency numbers this year are going to start to drop as defenses get better, but his season last year was the second-best in Big Ten history, so there’s a track record that tells us that what he’s doing isn’t some kind of fluke.
The crazy thing is, Stroud could absolutely still play better. He has left yards on the field. He has thrown interceptions in four-consecutive games. And when you watch him as closely as we all do and have seen everything he is capable of doing, it’s noticeable when he makes a mistake.
He is not perfect. He is not above criticism. After a few games this year, we’ve all asked, “What’s wrong with CJ Stroud?” And this is always after a game where he completes nearly 70% of his passes for 317 yards with four or five touchdowns.
What’s wrong with CJ Stroud is that he is actually human and he actually makes mistakes despite our demands that he shouldn’t. When he is judged just off of those mistakes, however, it ignores all of the plays that he makes.
If you take a test in school and your grade is based just off of the answers you got wrong, would that be an accurate assessment of your preparation and knowledge about that subject.
“You missed two out of 50. Here’s your 0. You missed both of the questions about scrambling for seven yards.”
See how that works?
If this feels like an admonishment to a small portion of the Ohio State fanbase, it absolutely is.
But it’s also a reminder to myself and anybody else that needs it that what CJ Stroud is doing this year is impressive. The numbers show it. And the fact that he is still putting up those numbers despite what seems to be a semi-disjointed season, should tell us just how effective he has actually been this year.
By all means, go ahead and criticize Stroud when he makes mistakes. Just don’t forget to grade him on all of the answers he provides, and not just the ones that suit your purpose.