Joe Santoro: How many more ‘last’ chances for Nevada Wolf Pack’s Malik Henry?
For the Nevada Appeal
It sure didn’t take Malik Henry to, well, remind us that he is Malik Henry. The Nevada Wolf Pack’s controversial quarterback came to Northern Nevada this past spring with more than his fair share of baggage after stops at four high schools, two colleges and countless unflattering YouTube videos and Netflix reality episodes. After starting just two games for the Pack, Henry is now suddenly off the active roster because of undisclosed off-the-field issues and isn’t even listed on the depth chart for this Saturday’s game at Wyoming. “(Henry has been) taken off the field so he can continue to focus on academics and his life outside football,” Pack coach Jay Norvell said in a convenient no-questions-allowed statement on Tuesday. The only definite and clear information Norvell gave in his statement was that he did not suspend Henry or kick him off the team. How many chances can one young man get?
It now appears Norvell is clearly on a path to making a huge mistake by bringing Henry to the Wolf Pack football program. It’s the kind of decision, especially if this season turns into a dumpster fire, that could get a coach fired. Norvell, for some reason, went out of his way to bring Henry and all of his off-the-field problems to Nevada last spring. It was a strange decision from the start, a needless risk for an already fragile football program. The Pack, after all, already had a starting-quarterback-in-waiting in freshman Carson Strong, a young man that spent the previous 18 months or so doing all the right things and learning the Wolf Pack way. So what does Norvell do last spring? He goes out and gets a troubled quarterback that no other Division I coach would touch with a set of 10-yard first-down chains. Why take on someone else’s problem? Didn’t the Pack, like all college football programs, have enough problems of its own already? And why toss all of that controversy and all of those off-the-field problems into your most important position? Is it a head coach’s responsibility to travel around the country looking for young men to rehabilitate and give yet another chance? Is the Wolf Pack now a YMCA or a local Boys and Girls Club? Playing college football is a privilege. It should be earned. It should be cherished. For a college football program to allow you to put on its uniform for even a day is an honor that anyone should treasure and hold dear to their hearts forever. Henry also reminded us this week that he continually goes out of his way to squander that privilege and honor.
Will Henry play quarterback ever again at Nevada? Probably. The former “Last Chance U” quarterback, after all, keeps getting one more last chance. He’s still a part of the Pack program. He still has the skills that made Florida State (and, apparently, Norvell) drool over him. Norvell, like most coaches, will never admit defeat or a mistake. And if Henry is kicked off the team never to return he will become a Norvell mistake forever. By keeping Henry around and continuing to give him chance after chance, what message does that send to the rest of the team? What message does that send to the other quarterbacks who will lose their job once again when Norvell sticks Henry back into the starting lineup? What message does that send to the community, a community that is already ignoring the football program, about the type of program Norvell is running? There is probably a former high school quarterback or two sitting around his house in Northern Nevada right now who always took care of his off-the-field responsibilities, who never embarrassed his football program, who did his best to lead his teammates on and off the field, who always did the right thing. But those quarterbacks will never get even one chance of ever playing college football because they don’t have Henry’s on-the-field ability. College football is simply pro football with classes, you know, for those players who understand why they are in college in the first place.
Henry fooled us two weeks ago against San Jose State. He made big play after big play. He played with a confidence that seemed to inspire his teammates to do great things. He said all the right things after the game, praising his teammates, coaches and the program for sticking by him and giving him an opportunity. It was inspiring. It seemed that all of Norvell’s trust and belief in Henry was being rewarded. A week later Henry was off the active roster. What possibly could have happened in one week to get your starting quarterback kicked off the active roster? And if the incident was that severe why wasn’t he suspended or even booted off the team? When Norvell made Henry his starter two weeks ago we assumed Henry earned it. We assumed he proved to everyone in the program that his problems of the past were gone. We assumed that Henry had grown and matured enough for Norvell to trust him with the leadership of his football team. “I believed that by giving Malik Henry an opportunity on the field it would help him continue to progress off the field,” Norvell said in his statement. One wonders if Norvell can ever get back to the point of believing in what Henry tells him ever again.
Who is the worse postseason pitcher between former Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw? It would have to be Kershaw. Verlander, who lost Game 2 of the World Series to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night, is now the first pitcher in World Series history with an 0-5 career record. He has a 5.73 earned run average on six World Series games, allowing seven homers in 33 innings. Verlander, though, has been fairly good in the other rounds of the playoffs, with a combined record of 14-5 in the ALDS and ALCS. Kershaw has been slightly better than Verlander in the World Series at 1-2 in five games (four starts). But he’s just 8-9 combined in the NLDS and NLCS.
The best World Series pitcher in history? The vote here would be split between Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees holds almost all of the World Series pitching records simply because he pitched in the Fall Classic most of his career. Ford was 10-8 in the Series over 22 starts and 146 innings with 94 strikeouts. Gibson, the former St. Louis Cardinal, pitched nine games over three (1964, 1967, 1968) World Series with a 7-2 record, 1.89 ERA, eight complete games, two shutouts and 92 strikeouts in 81 innings. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Koufax was 4-3 with a 0.95 ERA over eight World Series games (seven starts) with 61 strikeouts, four complete games and two shutouts over 57 innings. That is how a Cy Young Award winner should pitch in the World Series. It must be noted, however, that one huge advantage Gibson and Koufax had over Kershaw and Verlander in the World Series is that they didn’t have a Division Series or Championship Series to deal with before the World Series began. Baseball now wears its pitchers out in the postseason simply to generate more revenue (and pay some of those pitchers $30 million a year).