And just like that, LSU’s quarterback battle became a vigil.
The thunderclap news Monday that quarterback Myles Brennan suffered what coach Ed Orgeron ominously referred to as a “severe injury” to his left arm turned the thoughts and expectations about the coming football season on their collective earhole.
A 50-50 fencing duel across August between Brennan and Max Johnson to become LSU’s starting quarterback? Not happening.
A chapter of plays in new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz’s playbook, designed to feature Johnson’s RPO threat? May have to be edited out or toned down, at least for now. At the moment, LSU’s only other scholarship quarterback is the never-taken-a-snap-in-college freshman Garrett Nussmeier.
LSU fifth-year quarterback Myles Brennan suffered a “severe” left arm injury and will undergo surgery, coach Ed Orgeron announced Monday afternoon. The timeline for Brennan’s recovery has yet to be determined.
Hopes of returning to the glory days of 2019 (everyone is hoping for that, one way or another) and a dark-horse run at the College Football Playoff? Could still happen, but now marinating in a gumbo pot of anxiety.
To be clear, Johnson could have ended up beating out Brennan to win the starting job in camp. He quarterbacked LSU to wins over Florida and Ole Miss to end the 2020 season, despite the fact his defense was surrendering an average of 41 POINTS PER GAME.
But it could just as easily have been Brennan. Beyond an Xs-and-Os standpoint, I expected Brennan would get the nod, all else being equal. The worry that had to gnaw at Orgeron was that if he picked Johnson as his No. 1 QB, Brennan might bolt to another school. Even on the eve of the season.
It would have been, for lack of a better term, more politically prudent for Orgeron to pick the senior Brennan and make the sophomore Johnson wait his turn, just as long as he didn’t vastly outperform the veteran in camp.
Now, Brennan has to wait again. And you have to wonder if his turn at bat will ever come back around.
It is all grossly unfair. Not from an LSU perspective, but from a football fortune perspective.
Brennan, who it seems has been here so long he was backing up Herb Tyler, probably thought he had a great shot at the starting job in 2018 or 2019. But then this Joe Burrow character showed up and grabbed the job, a national title and a Heisman Trophy, making Brennan bide more time.
Then it all got snatched away from him when he tore an abdominal muscle in Week 3 last season at Missouri (he finished the game on something that goes beyond toughness). Brennan got back in time for spring practice and appeared to have made a full recovery.
What appears to be a broken arm might not be as devastating as a torn muscle, even one requiring surgery. But in all practicality, it might be just as devastating for Brennan, especially if Johnson continues to pile up the wins as he did in his short starting stint in 2020.
Say, for example, that Brennan gets the all-clear the week of LSU’s Oct. 2 home game against Auburn, but Johnson has led the Tigers to a 4-0 September, including a win the previous week at Mississippi State? How could Orgeron and Peetz do anything at that point but keep the throttle down — Max power, as it were — with Johnson?
If there is a silver lining to this situation for LSU, it is that the Tigers still possess a proven, if young, quarterback to go with. A quarterback that the rest of the team can coalesce around, without having to worry about whether there were going to be #TeamMyles or #TeamMax factions that might have sprouted during camp.
It would be an even better situation if TJ Finley hadn’t transferred to Auburn when he saw his paths back to the starting job (Finley started five games in 2020) blocked by Messrs. Brennan and Johnson. But from an LSU perspective, it could be worse.
For Brennan, it could not be worse.
Here is a guy who has paid his dues with patience and diligence on a scale not seen since the days of Matt Flynn. Flynn was rewarded with his four years of waiting by quarterbacking LSU to the 2007 BCS national championship. Where is Brennan’s payoff, outside of the cash from that NIL car dealership ad of his that started airing last week? The devastation must be off the charts. Whether you backed Brennan or Johnson in this derby, you have to feel sympathy for the young man.
Will we ever see Myles Brennan in a starting role for LSU again? Suddenly, that is uncertain. Maybe even doubtful.
And the uncertainty over LSU’s season — one that already looked like it could end with a 6-6 record, a CFP bid or anywhere in between — just increased by an unnerving degree or two.