Not putting this out there as fact, just passing along that there’s a story kicking around in Baton Rouge legal circles to the effect that the district attorney’s office isn’t going to press the case any further.
Whether that’s because the grand jury won’t return an indictment or the DA’s office doesn’t think they can get a conviction is unknown.
It’s been pretty clear for some time that Jefferson won’t get convicted. There’s as much evidence he didn’t kick anybody in the head in that bar fight as there is that he did. And the BRPD clearly overcharged him when they went for a 2nd degree battery charge rather than just a misdemeanor battery summons like almost everybody else who gets in a bar fight gets. It’s clear that was a completely botched case on the part of the Baton Rouge Police Department and the stink of the error wafts all the way up to Mayor-President Kip Holden, who seems to be doing everything he can to create a leadership vacuum in East Baton Rouge Parish on virtually every front.
Was Jefferson involved in that fight? That seems to be the case. And it also seems – more than seems, actually – that Jefferson attempted to conceal his involvement in the fight from LSU head coach Les Miles. Which, combined with Jefferson’s having violated Miles’ curfew on the night of that ill-fated trip to Shady’s Bar, gives Miles more than enough ammunition to have suspended Jefferson.
Strangely, LSU looks like a lot better offensive team with Jarrett Lee taking over for Jefferson as the starting quarterback. The Tigers look a lot like the team they were when Lee came off the bench last year, only he’s clearly improved this season.
And if Jefferson’s charges are dropped and Miles welcomes him back to the team, which he will do, it will be interesting to see how he’s integrated back into the offense.
Lee has to remain the starter at quarterback. You don’t beat three Top 25 teams on the road and put your team at #1 in the AP poll while hitting 64 percent of your passes and boasting a 6-1 TD-to-interception ratio and then lose your job. Not gonna happen, and it shouldn’t.
But after a couple of weeks of getting back into football shape, Jefferson is probably going to expect to play this year. If he doesn’t, one wonders whether he’ll want to redshirt this season and compete for the job with Zack Mettenberger next year. Or maybe use the NCAA exception to the transfer rule for student-athletes who have gotten degrees to ply his trade as a free agent and land at another program in need of a quarterback next fall.
Miles has to be watching this situation and seeing it for the double-edged sword it is. He’s got an offense that really looks like it’s evolving into a good one. Perhaps not a 500 yards-per-game offense, but then again between the defense getting four turnovers a game and the potency of Brad Wing as a weapon to control field position with it’s going to be difficult to get 500 yards a game under any circumstances. If your average starting field position is the 50 yard line, which isn’t quite what LSU is averaging but it’s pretty close, then at around 12 possessions a game on average you’d have to score a touchdown on every possession to get to 600 yards of offense. That would mean scoring 84 points a game. Nobody would expect LSU to do that; scoring half that much and maybe getting a first down on the rest would mean 360 or so yards per game.
Guess what? LSU is averaging 350 yards per game and they’re at 38.8 points a game. You can’t ask for a lot more production than they’re giving, particularly against the competition so far – two games against teams who will win 10 or more games and win their conferences, plus a likely bowl team out of the SEC, and none of them at home.
Russell Shepard just came back, and while he didn’t look like he was in midseason form yet that will likely come pretty soon, and the rest of LSU’s receivers look like they’re getting better every game. So does Lee. And that smash-mouth offensive identity LSU currently has is a welcome change from the schizoid offense they’ve had the past three years under Gary Crowton.
But Jefferson was LSU’s starting quarterback the last two years and he was the guy expected to lead this team right up until a week before the season started. It’s a bit hard to have him back on the team and sit him on the bench for his final season and not expect an erosion of team chemistry. He’s got friends on the team and they see his situation as a terrible injustice regardless of how happy they might be with the job Lee is doing.
Of course, you’re going to need depth at quarterback like any other position on the field if you’re going to play an SEC schedule. Guys get hurt. Lee could turn an ankle or get his bell rung, and while Mettenberger looks like he could be a superstar when his time comes you’d like to have a senior available in reserve.
It’s a delicate situation. And while you’d hope Jefferson understands that circumstances have dictated his role on this year’s team might not be what he expected it to be, a week or so ago when his lawyer Lewis Unglesby decided to make a PR push to LSU to put him back on the team before first doing his job and getting those charges dropped it was an indication maybe that hope might not be as grounded in reality as you’d like.
Miles and his staff prepared an offense this season based on Jefferson’s capabilities. One imagines much of that was shelved when Lee took over, because he’s not going to run like Jefferson can. And maybe a package including that stuff that Jefferson can come in and run starting in, say, the Tennessee game or Auburn game might be enough to both boost the offense and give him a chance to showcase his development.
But there’s a reason why most coaches don’t like a two-quarterback system. Offenses work best, in most cases, when the quarterback is managing the game. And so far this looks like Lee’s offense and it’s better than LSU has had since 2007. So to dilute that with a recently-returned Jefferson who runs a different style than Lee is running while asking the backs, receivers and line to master both in practice, as politically helpful as that might be, could go down as a real mistake.
Let’s just hope that Jefferson – and Lee, for that matter – are more interested in maintaining that No. 1 ranking than individual considerations like playing time or statistics.
And let’s hope the people of Baton Rouge get a look at the performance of the BRPD and its political supervisors in this episode and deliver a crushing rebuke in next year’s elections.