When Darius Wade went down injured against Florida State, head coach Steve Addazio decided to roll a two-headed rotation into the lineup to determine who would become the next starter of the Boston College football program. He turned to redshirt freshman Troy Flutie and true freshman Jeff Smith to replace his fallen sophomore, with the hope being one of the two signal callers would grab the starting job and progress to the point where he had to be played more often than not.
Starting with Northern Illinois, Troy Flutie would start the next three games for the Eagles. He would rotate with Jeff Smith and split snaps until Addazio named Smith the starter prior to the Clemson game. Flutie wouldn't see time again until Smith was injured against Louisville two weeks later, later taking the start and playing minimal snaps against Virginia Tech. Overtaken by John Fadule, Flutie did not play against NC State and enters the next two weeks as a presumed backup.
Prior to the Duke game, I paused to discuss the Flutie/Smith debate in a futile attempt to address the former's last name. I talked about a segment of the population wanting him to come in and be the spread offense passer, the guy throwing and running all over the field. I contrasted that with a segment of people who immediately put him down for no other reason other than that people wanted to see him do well because he's a Flutie.
All season long, I've tried like to analyze him as a quarterback without a last name. I look at him as a body, talent, intangibles, and statistics. Just because someone has a last name doesn't mean anything. He simply needs to be a quarterback capable of developing. It's unfortunate when a debate becomes about a guy's last name and family affiliation and not solely about his play on the field.
When it comes to Flutie, I looked at the numbers, and there's no questioning the potential as a passer. There was progression, and he was the type of player who threw better in the second quarter than he did in the first. In first quarters this season, he was an abysmal 2-10 for 18 yards. In the second quarter, he bumped up to 10-15 for 152 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. He remained pretty good in the third quarter, but he didn't really attempt all that many passes (4-6, 127 yards with a deep ball for good measure). That contrasted with the fact that he fell to 8-18 in the fourth quarter.
Flutie's breakdown had to go a step further into deeper analysis. When losing by a touchdown or less (or tied), Flutie was 13-35 on the season - good in terms of yardage at 195 but extremely poor in terms of completion percentage. Even with a poor offensive line, he still failed to check down or make reads, and I really don't feel he could be trusted as a reliable quarterback to bring BC back from down points.
Flutie was poor in his own territory, going 11-25 on passes inside his own 40 yard line. If you look at his stats in other ends of the field, he went 9-19 for 79 yards between the 40s, which reinforces the belief that drives would stall. Inside his own red zone, he was only 3-10.
Again, though, the potential as a passer is there. Even though his completion percentage was poor, he threw for 244 yards inside of his own 40 yard line, and he did display, at times, an ability to go downfield or over the middle. This is where an improved offensive line and improved playcalling could have helped him progress on the field to a point. That said, there's no way to know if that would've been true or false, so we can't objectively state it would or wouldn't have happened.
Digging even a little bit deeper, take a look at some more situational football. In clear passing downs of 3rd-and-long, he only went 4-11 for 82 yards, and he was only 3-8 on 3rd down intermediate lengths. In general, he struggled on pressure downs of first and third, going 7-17 on first down and 8-21 on third down. So again, he's capable of going downfield on vertical passes, but he's not capable of completing passes with regularity. Again, it's not entirely on him, but it's worth mentioning.
In their assessment of Troy Flutie, ESPN's recruiting profile called him a "minimum height FBS quarterback" who "needed to add bulk over time" to a frame capable of supporting the weight. It talked about how he would operate well out of a shotgun or spread set, but at the same time, it talked about how he needed to get better at his technique and footwork. He was quick rather than fast and lacked a second gear, something that was obvious when he would get open on the read option and then not be able to gain more than a couple of yards here or there. Coincidentally, that contrasts with John Fadule, a QB with a thick frame who has a slower first step but is able to hit a second gear.
The end result on Flutie's profile was a quarterback who had raw tools but needed substantial work. He's a guy that needed the redshirt season last year and probably more before he ever set foot on the field. Thrust into work this year, he simply wasn't ready and wasn't able to progress through the adjustments, which is why he couldn't be the full-time starter. He's neither as good nor as bad as performances in singular plays would have you believe. He's a guy who simply needs more time to develop, something he wasn't given this season with the injury to Wade and the struggles of the offensive line.