The fourth-and-1 decision arrived Thursday for David Beaty in the form of his final press conference until the week of the season opener against Nicholls State.
This was going to be the moment that Beaty, who seemingly has built his deepest, most experienced, most exciting roster, showed he has grown into his challenging job as head coach of the Kansas football program.
This signature moment was going to be remembered as the point that Beaty showed his confidence and, in turn, his decisiveness had blossomed.
I was confident he was going to be ready to let the world know he had picked a quarterback, was excited about him and was really looking forward to seeing the entire team follow him all the way into the Sept. 1, 6 p.m. kickoff at David Booth Memorial Stadium.
I expected him to say something along the lines of, “Miles Kendrick left us with no choice but to name him the starting quarterback. We’re going to run the football, y’all, because, I mean, Khalil Herbert, Pooka Williams and Dom Williams, they will make ... you ... miss. Miles is going to lead this team and he just might lead this team in rushing. We’re older, stronger up front. We are going to run the football, and we don’t care who knows it.”
That sound bite plays on the radio over and over and a line forms at the ticket window. Well, maybe not a line, but maybe enough activity to keep the ticket department employees from falling asleep. The sound bite plays in the locker room and the players form a line behind their quarterback, hurry to the practice field and play with heightened passion.
Instead, it was, “Coach, would you like Coke or Pepsi?”
Crickets. Sigh. A scratch of the head. Finally, “Go ahead and put the food order in. I just need a little more time to think about it.”
The fourth-and-1 moment arrived and he punted. Again.
Beaty said at the start of fall camp that there were advantages to naming a starter earlier than in past years, but also said he wouldn’t do it just for the sake of doing it. He wasn’t ready to do it Thursday, which is too bad, because it felt like one of those moments where making the wrong decision just might have been better than making no decision.
Naming Kendrick would have generated the most excitement with the fan base because he hasn’t lost a game, thrown an interception or been blindsided with a particularly painful sack in a Kansas uniform. He’s fresh, and fresh always inspires hope.
Making the fans happy is no way to pick a quarterback, of course, but naming one now and explaining the decision would give the team time to rally around its leader, the more time the better.
Had Beaty made up his mind on a QB, he could have used Thursday’s forum to sell the choice — be it Kendrick, Carter Stanley or Peyton Bender — with statements such as:
"Y'all know Peyton can sling it, but you can't sling it when you're flat on your back. Y'all are going to see what Peyton can do when he has time because our offensive line is going to give him time this year."
Or: "A lot of y'all probably had Carter running third heading into this competition, but he's a born leader and he showed that every day of camp, and this team is ready to run through walls for him because they know he'll do the same for them. We're going to run the football and y'all are going to see just how good a runner Carter is. And he can sling it, too."
Beaty said one QB has the edge in his mind, but the coach wants to see one more scrimmage. Well, what happens if the QB with the edge has a lousy scrimmage? Is the competition then back to where it was at the beginning of fall camp?