Perhaps I'm just reading too much into all of this, but the statements made by Greg McElroy the past ten days with regard to how well he played against Tennessee -- and more generally how well the passing game as a whole functioned -- have really struck me as very odd. Per various sources (click here, here, and here), McElroy was quoted with the following:
"I was back on my game. I was going through the reads quick. I was hitting the correct guy at the correct time."
"Statistics speak for them self but as far as execution in the passing game, we really did a good job."
"We had a good game against Tennessee."
"But I feel great about the way I played against Tennessee."
"I feel strongly about the performance I had against Tennessee."
"... I was really pleased with my performance."
And in many ways it wasn't just McElroy saying all of these things. Coach Saban himself largely endorsed McElroy's take earlier this week with the following quote:
"He had command of his pitches, if he was a baseball pitcher. He was throwing the ball in the right place. He was throwing on time. He did a good job of executing what he was supposed to do in the game. So we're pleased with that, very pleased with with it. I think that's how we want him to play."
And again, perhaps I am just being paranoid and reading entirely too much into all of this. But with that disclaimer out of the way, being brutally honest, all of this just strikes me as extremely odd.
Just as a refresher, we generated only 4.14 yards per passing attempt against Tennessee. We did not throw a touchdown pass, and the longest passing play from scrimmage was 19 yards. The best chance we had to knock the Vols out before halftime resulted in two incomplete passes. And of the four longest passing plays we had, two came on screen passes to Julio Jones, and the third came on a scramble by McElroy.
Now, admittedly, McElroy is right that we didn't necessarily beat ourselves in the passing game, as you can tell by the zero interceptions and the zero sacks allowed. Nevertheless, even with that in mind, we came within a hair of defeat because we could only muster 12 points, and easily the biggest reason for that lack of point production was that the passing game was, by and large, completely and totally incapable of moving the football consistently down the field and / or generating big plays. It's certainly good not to beat yourselves with mistakes, but at some point as an offense you have to do more than that and actually go out and make positive plays, something we clearly didn't do against Tennessee. There is far more to good offensive performance than merely avoiding the big negative plays.
Regardless, all that said, it certainly seems like both McElroy and Saban were pretty happy with how the passing game performed against Tennessee, and that just strikes me as really, really strange. Usually when we struggle under Saban, both the coaches and the players involved are pretty open about the need to correct the problems and perform at a higher level, yet in this case everyone is seemingly just walking around with a big smile like it's no big deal. That almost comes off as Shula-esque -- remember, we were the 2006 national practice champions -- and atypical of the modus operandi under Saban.
I'm not really criticizing anything here, mind you, but I do find all of this very interesting. One way or the other, though, we'll find out for certain soon. If Saban and McElroy's public comments are to be believed, we're going to take a lot more vertical shots against LSU this weekend, and Lord knows with all of the skill position talent the Bayou Bengals have, if you are struggling to throw the football they will certainly make you pay for it. Hopefully I'm just being paranoid.