Only LSU and its fans can say they witnessed the spectacle of Joe Burrow from the beginning of his meteoric rise. Burrow’s 2018 season wasn’t anything special, but for the established standards of quarterback play in Baton Rouge, it was good enough to warrant praise on its own.
Combine that with his now legendary 2019 season, Burrow’s career with the Tigers is now historic. At least that’s what Zachary Junda—the Managing Editor of And The Valley Shook—has to say about it.
Junda was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Cincinnati Bengals’ first-overall pick.
John S: What were the expectations when LSU fans heard an Ohio State quarterback was transferring to Baton Rouge?
Zachary J: I think the expectation was for Burrow to play just as well, if not slightly better than, the other Big 10 transfer quarterback who played at LSU for two years: Danny Etling. There’s a running joke among LSU fans that #DannyEtlingIsAGoodQuarterback. Personally I thought Etling was just perfectly okay. Maybe not good but definitely better than every quarterback LSU had the past decade sans one year Zach Mettenberger had with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.
So that was the bar for Burrow. Come in, and just be passable. Maybe complete 60 percent of your passes, throw for about 2500 yards and 20 touchdowns and let the loaded roster at other positions carry the team home. LSU won a lot of games in the 2010s with a lot worse production from the quarterback so if Burrow could at least hit those benchmarks maybe they could win an SEC and make a playoff push.
But to do *gestures at 2019* that? Yo. Nobody could have expected that. And why would they? Why would anyone expect to grad transfer quarterback to have literally the best season a quarterback’s ever had? He broke the school single season record for yards and touchdowns in seven games and spent the final eight putting the record so far out of reach it won’t ever be threatened let alone broken. The expectation was for Burrow to come in and be good, instead he was the greatest.
JS: What do you tell the people who think that Joe Burrow is just a “one-year wonder”
ZJ: So there’s a few snapshot moments in the 2018 season where he showed why he’s a starting caliber quarterback. Against Miami in the season opener he checked out of a play at the line to a run and it went for a 50-yard touchdown. He led a comeback down eight points against Auburn on the road. Go look at the throw he makes to Derrick Dillon that went for 71 yards and a score. Sure most of it’s Dillon winning the footrace to the end zone, but the needle Burrow threads is a minuscule one. He kept the ball on a RPO late in the game against Georgia and thanks to his *ahem* DECEPTIVE SPEED he gained 59 yards on the play.
Burrow started to come into his own after the Alabama game. He completed 67 percent of his passes the final four games of 2018 and averaged 291 yards over that stretch; he capped that off with 394 yards and four touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl against Central Florida. So there were signs a good quarterback was emerging, [passing game coordinator] Joe Brady and [offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach] Steve Ensminger helped fully realize that potential.
JS: We’ve heard a few player comparisons to Burrow. In your mind, who does he remind you of?
ZJ: The Tony Romo comparisons make the most sense to me. The way Burrow manipulates the pocket, not just rolling to his left or right but how he can climb up in the pocket reminds me of Romo. Romo completed 65 percent of his passes for his career and I can see Burrow sitting somewhere around there thanks to his remarkable ball placement skills.
I swear I’m not trying to blow smoke and I’m sure I’ll be accused of wearing purple and gold glasses, BUT...I see a little Tom Brady in Burrow. What I’m saying is I think Burrow has the same psycho competitor mindset that Brady has.
JS: What do you think is Burrow’s legacy at LSU?
ZJ: Simply put he is the best player in LSU history. He’ll have his No. 9 retired, he’ll probably have a statue built and hell some think they ought to rename Tiger freakin Stadium after him.
He’s second in school history in yards and first in touchdowns and only played in 28 career games. He threw for 5,671 yards last year and that season alone put him eighth all time in passing yards. Myles Brennan, LSU’s presumed starter for next season, could throw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and people will say “hE’s NoT jOe BuRrOw”. No one is! No one will ever have the year Joe Burrow had in 2019.
Burrow has changed the program forever. A few days ago Caleb Williams, the top high school quarterback prospect for the 2021 class, put LSU in his final three. That wasn’t happening prior to Joe Burrow. He showed that you can be a successful quarterback at LSU. The Tigers have always had great skill position players and defenders. Now they’re in position to get top tier quarterback talent and that’s all because of Joe Burrow.
JS: What can Bengals fans be the most excited about with Burrow as their quarterback?
ZJ: They should be excited about the kind of mindset Burrow has. He’s so calm, nothing seems to rattle him. All last season he prepared for each opponent like a professional and it showed on the field. He plays quarterback with a linebacker mentality and it’s infectious. It makes his teammates want to go to war with him. In the Fiesta Bowl he threw a pick-six and a Knight defender threw himself into Burrow’s helmet and another stood over him and spat on him. Burrow, bleeding from the chin, picked himself off the turf then proceeded to torch UCF and its win streak to the ground.
That’s the kind of guy Burrow is.