Danny O'Brien wasn't great in his time at Wisconsin. In fact, I was one who was vocal about him not seeing the field after the Michigan State game. But was this nearly as good of a situation that Russell Wilson got to enter in? No. Not even close. Wilson was the last remaining piece.
Plus, while Scott Tolzien was good, there were no pun-based fan t-shirts of him because the fans loved him so much. I agree with Mike, there were unrealistic expectations for Danny O'Brien as a Badger. And while he didn't come close to matching them, there were four reasons as to why the situation for O'Brien wasn't likely going to work out.
1. Randy Edsall Fatigue
There are some coaches that just don't help with quarterback play. In fact, there are some coaches that turn average quarterbacks into bad ones and decent ones into average ones. Randy Edsall has a disturbing tendency to have seasons where his quarterbacks are in the hundreds when it comes to yards per attempt, as well as completion percentage. In fact, his 2009 UConn Huskies, which ranked 76th, were his team that passed the best. From the start, we were getting a devolved form of O'Brien from Maryland.
2. The Mike Markuson Dork Age
A part of the reason why most Badger quarterbacks have been models of brutal game-management efficiency is the fact that you have to respect the run. In fact, the Badgers have failed to churn out a thousand-yard rusher only twice since 1993. The Badgers ran people over, except for those two weeks to start 2012. O'Brien was facing defenses that saw the Badgers weren't doing Badger things. And they could capitalize.
3. The Well-Mentioned Receiver Problems
O'Brien essentially played three games as a Badger. We know the Badgers didn't really have a second receiver all year. But what gets forgotten? Jared Abbrederis got hurt in the second quarter of the Oregon State game and missed the Utah State game. Essentially, for a full game, O'Brien had no consistent passing target. You have no consistent target to throw to? You're going to have a tendency to play like rat feces.
4. Small-Sample Sizes Versus Great Defenses
Outside of one game against the Air Raid magic that was Sonny Dykes and Louisiana Tech? Dave Aranda's Utah State was one of the best defenses in 2012. That's where we saw O'Brien get pulled. And if you remember, this was a game where he had no receivers. He only played in the second half of the Michigan State game. This was what frustrated me into endorsing Phillips.
But here's the thing. This hurts me to say, but Michigan State had a tremendous defense last year. In fact, it was the fourth-best defense yardage-wise in the country. As such? Danny wasn't put into the grandest of scenarios once again.
Am I trying to revise history? No. O'Brien had a tendency to not look beyond his checkdowns and he wasn't as mobile as Stave or Phillips. He wasn't great, and there's a real, logical reason O'Brien was running fourth coming into fall camp.
But he fell into a quagmire, and he handled it with class. He could have made this situation a lot worse. Sports fans can be monsters, and until recently O'Brien did have a Twitter account. He deserves to find a place where he can get all the snaps he wants.
And I hope he finds it.