When asked nearly two weeks ago by a business executive attending a seminar on how he would choose between two equally-important and talented individuals, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was set to gave a simple-enough answer.
That was, until the gentleman threw him a curveball…
“There isn’t a win or lose, it’s Coke or Pepsi,” the executive said. “How do you make a decision?”
Coke or Pepsi? One scenario jumped immediately to mind for fans of the Spartans’ football program: Cook or Maxwell?
Andrew Maxwell, last year’s starting quarterback for Michigan State, had a rough first season as the team’s leader. Though he had a dismal offensive line to protect him, he certainly wasn’t up to the caliber many had thought the junior would be after the departure of all-time leading QB Kirk Cousins.
Conner Cook, on the other hand, has had an incredible spring this year and even made quite an impact during the second half of last year’s season – including leading the game-winning touchdown drive during the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl between the Spartans and TCU Horned Frogs.
So when presented with Coke or Pepsi, or rather, Cook or Maxwell, Dantonio took a moment before uttering a response.
“At the beginning of each season, I always tell our players, `stand up if you were a captain in high school,’ and 80 percent of them stand up,” he said. “So now they’re all coming together, and from there they will divide themselves into who are the leaders in the room.”
The executive persisted, unhappy with the response, “So how do you decide?”
“Well,” Dantonio answered, “I’d have a little sip of Coke, a little sip of Pepsi, maybe keep trying both until I could decide,” he said. “I’d give them equal opportunity. I’d want to be fair.”
And there you have it. As it was between then-battling QBs Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol in 2009, it seems destined to become again in 2013 between Connor Cook and Andrew Maxwell.
It has always been Dantonio’s style to be fair and impractical when deciding between two players, even to a fault. Back in ’09, when it was obvious that Cousins should be selected as the starter over Nichol, Dantonio persisted game in and game out by jostling the two QBs under center throughout the games – a decision that sometimes seemed to cost him the game under certain circumstances.
In the end, the two-QB system failed Dantonio back in 2009. Had he come to the obvious conclusion that Cousins should be named his starter sooner, more games would have likely been won. Nichol went on to become a talented receiver for the Spartans, and Cousins went on to become one of the most-successful quarterback in MSU history, but the delay cost the team and their record. And now, it seems like it could all be set to happen all over again.
“Maybe it’s to take the Coke and Pepsi and blend them together,” Dantonio resolved. “That’s a good problem. Competition breeds success. If you have great competition, you’ll get great practices, great preparation and involvement by both groups.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.