Maybe we had it all wrong.
Two months ago in preseason camp — a time that now seems like an eternity ago — if you had taken a survey of the fans/commenters who regularly visit this site, 99 percent of them would likely have said they’d rather see Hunter Johnson take the field at Stanford instead of presumed backup TJ Green.
Fans ultimately got what they wanted, but ever since HJ came out to take that first snap, the production NU has gotten from the quarterback position has been almost exactly the opposite of what fans envisioned. People scoffed and laughed when it became clearer and clearer as the season neared that there was a legit quarterback battle taking place in Evanston.
As the season opened up in Palo Alto, the reasons behind the legit quarterback battle became evident. In the limited action he saw in the season opener, Green looked poised and comfortable, while Johnson looked rusty and nervous as he rushed into some poor decisions and throws throughout the game. The first-game jitters were understandable and expected from Johnson, however, it was quite clear that having Green under center gave NU a better chance to win that game.
Just as Green seemed to be coming into his own as he drove the Wildcats inside the ten yard line early in the third quarter, everything suddenly changed. Trying to extend a play, he was sacked, fumbled the ball, and injured his foot. In the blink of an eye, a Northwestern offense that seemed to finally be finding a groove after a sluggish first half to start the season opener came to a screeching halt.
At this point, there is really no benefit or productivity that comes out of harping on Green’s injury — it was nothing more than an ill-advised decision and a freak accident. I can sit here and hypothesize all I want about “what could’ve been” had the fifth-year senior gone down earlier to avoid an injury, but at the end of the day, we can’t even come close to knowing what would’ve happened and where this Northwestern team would be had he not gone down.
It would be naïve to say that a healthy Green would’ve fixed the current struggles facing this Northwestern passing attack given Mick McCall is still at the helm of this offense, but that doesn’t stop there from being a sour taste in our mouths given the way this QB battle prematurely ended.
However, given the current state of Northwestern’s quarterback situation, it’s hard to dismiss the potential value of having a fifth-year guy like Green take the reins of the offense right about now. With Johnson seemingly banged up and Aidan Smith searching for any semblance of confidence and comfort dropping back, the prospect of having TJ — a guy with more experience and knowledge than anyone on the offensive roster — could mean everything to this program in the wake of the adversity it’s currently facing.
As this Northwestern passing attack continues to operate as one of the worst in the country and surely the worst in recent memory, it’s impossible to help but think if the circumstances would be different had TJ Green not gone down in Palo Alto.