It’s been over a week since the news broke, so I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Marcus Curry has been dismissed from the football team for a violation of team rules and is likely to transfer.
Like many Navy fans, I hold my breath from January until August; news that breaks during the offseason is almost exclusively bad. You won’t read fun things like “Associated Press Retroactively Awards 1957 National Championship To Navy,” or “Yellowstone Caldera Erupts– Air Force Academy Swallowed Whole.” No, instead it’s always about somebody leaving the team, somebody getting hurt, someone looking to hire away a Navy coach, etc. It sucks, and this offseason has been no exception thanks to the drama surrounding Marcus Curry. Curry’s troubles came to the public’s attention back in January when it was reported that he had failed a drug test, yet was retained. Now the news of his dismissal from the team is picking at that scab, leading to a re-hashing of conversations that had mercifully ended despite the best efforts of random Facebook moms to stir up enough populist outrage to get a congressional inquiry or something. This latest episode of wailing and gnashing of teeth hasn’t really led to any new or insightful commentary other than serving as a vehicle for some people to take their indignant side out for a spin.
I think a lot of us figured that Marcus would transfer anyway, for his own sanity’s sake. Who would want to put up with the kind of mocking and public scrutiny that he’s seen for the last 4 months? Apparently he was, but couldn’t walk the straight and narrow line that was undoubtedly placed before him as a condition of his second chance. Oh well. We all know that Naval Academy life isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Marcus gave it a shot, and it didn’t work out; just like countless others who, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, have left or will leave the Naval Academy. Attrition is inevitable in every class, and Curry is hardly the first person to be kicked off of the football team. Knowing this, I am absolutely dumbfounded as to why some people insist on making his impending transfer personal. Insulting him? Saying things like, “good riddance?” Really? Have we completely lost perspective? The Naval Academy needs young men and women who are willing to give it a shot, even if some of them come up short. Curry, for all his alleged faults, was still willing to attempt something that most people his age will not. There is value in the attempt, even if it was ultimately misguided. As a graduate I am far less ashamed of anything Marcus Curry has ever done than I am of those who would spit on him as he walks out the door. Tell some people that they’re the “best and brightest” enough, and you’ll create the kind of arrogance that gives Academy graduates a bad name. It’s the stereotype that well-adjusted alums have been fighting for generations, and until this episode I thought it might have been somewhat unfounded. Holy crap was I wrong.
None of this is to say that Marcus Curry is without blame for his own situation. He made his mistakes just like we all have in life. The difference is that the court of public opinion doesn’t rule on our worth as a person based on our mistakes. It is unfortunate, and more than a little disturbing, the way Curry has been dissected in the media. Admittedly, the nature of the Naval Academy makes headline news out of things that might be footnotes at other schools; if a player has a positive drug test, it’s a big deal. That comes with the territory. On the other hand, that isn’t an excuse to broadcast Curry’s entire conduct record to a predominantly clueless audience that has no idea what something like “demerits” at USNA entail. The Naval Academy is not a reality show where we all get to vote undeserving mids off the island. Those of us who are married probably don’t want all our arguments to become episodes of The Marriage Ref. I’m quite thankful that my conduct record wasn’t public; I inherited my father’s “you rate what you skate” approach to Academy conduct matters. Marcus deserved the same privacy that any other mid expects in Academy matters.
But again, that’s just a repeat of things we’ve already said. Meanwhile, the team has to find a way to replace their top slotback. Conventional wisdom regurgitators that populate internet message boards will say something like “that just means someone else will step up” or some other manner of rah-rah, although that undervalues the contributions each individual player makes to the team. Starters are starters for a reason, and losing Marcus Curry shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.
Curry was a big part of the 2009 offense. Among other things, he was the team’s leading reciever, averaging nearly 30 yards per catch. The bulk of his numbers came in Navy’s biggest games; he had 101 yards and 2 spectacular touchdowns against Ohio State, 5 catches for 97 yards against Missouri, and a 25-yard TD reception against Army. With Bobby Doyle graduating, the Mids now lose their top two receivers going into 2010. Losing receivers probably isn’t the worst thing that could happen to this offense, but it certainly isn’t good. These were some clutch catches, especially in Ohio State and Mizzou games. I don’t think you could say that any random schmo could step in and make those plays.
Of course, the Mids won’t be asking any random schmo to step in and make those plays, since slotback is widely considered the deepest position on the team. In fact, there are probably 5-6 guys who are ready to step in as the #2 guy right now. The question now is whether any of them are ready to be the featured slotback. Curry shouldered a hefty load; despite missing three games due to injury, he still had 46% of all slotback carries last year. That’s the third-highest percentage since 2004:
2008 Shun White 73.7%
2006 Reggie Campbell 53.2%
2009 Marcus Curry 46.2%
2004 Eric Roberts 37.7%
2007 Shun White 35.4%
2004 Frank Divis 32.8%
2007 Reggie Campbell 32.2%
2005 Marco Nelson 30.9%
2007 Zerbin Singleton 30.4%
2005 Reggie Campbell 29.3%
Are any of the remaining slotbacks ready to assume that kind of responsibility? Gee Gee Greene is the leading candidate athletically, but the transition from freshman to #1 guy is a lot to ask. Curry did it, so it’s certainly possible; but it isn’t something that should be taken for granted. The other possibility is that there won’t be a clear-cut #1 A-back, and that carries will be distributed a little more randomly. Either way, Curry’s absence means a change of plans for what was one of the most stable positions going into 2010.