This discussion: when was Joe Burrow at his best? – It will always be a theme in the halls of this city. In what we are venturing now, after the blunt victory of LSU 42-25 over Clemson in the national championship game College Football Playoff, it is a legendary territory. Burrow is such a complete player, partly a magical wizard, a working part of the lunch bucket, that his best works face each other, because there is no other competition. In three months, it will be the first selection in the NFL draft. For all eternity, he will be a main character in the football folklore in the swamp.
“I don’t know about the whole” hero “issue,” Burrow said later.
He jumped down Bourbon Street when Tuesday morning dawned, and he would receive an argument from anyone and everyone with purple and yellow beads. He won the Heisman Trophy. He won the national championship. That will win you the hearts of an entire region. Free gumbo for life.
“We always knew this was Joe’s team,” linebacker Patrick Queen said, “from the day he entered.”
Choose a work of Burrow Night, and LSU fans will treasure it. The 24-yard touchdown launch to sophomore Terrace Marshall Jr. who put LSU on three scores early in the fourth quarter is notable for his touch. The 52-yard bomb to Ja’Marr Chase, another sophomore, got LSU on the board and set aside the first nerves of the Tigers. And so much in between.
But I’ll take something a little more harmless. The play in question did not show the strength of Burrow’s arm, which is tremendous. He really didn’t highlight his accuracy, which is amazing. And it didn’t lead to an LSU touchdown.
But here, at the end of the third quarter, Burrow took a shotgun shot from the center. With protection cracking, he slid forward. It is a danger to run at any time, fast, agile and strong enough to take a hit. In fact, he ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on Monday.
Here, however, with Clemson’s defenders approaching, space was scarce. Burrow found a slice, then headed parallel to the scrimmage line. Eyes down the field – eyes always field down: he saw wide receiver Justin Jefferson a few meters away. He turned the ball around, with nothing but a wrist movement. Thirty-five yards later, Jefferson had a first attempt.
Right there was a lot of what Burrow brings: inventiveness, intelligence and meaning. He is smart enough to execute an elite offensive at the highest level. No team averaged more yards or scored more points than LSU this season. That requires the accuracy of an engineer. But if you need to make a play that looks like it’s drawn in the sand, very well if you can’t do that too.
“Joe was going to take the ball in his hands,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “Some of those moves were called passes that Joe ran. Some of those moves were races Joe approved. Simply give the big players the chance to make plays, and he did.”
A great player, with the greatest of achievements. For the same. For your team.
“It’s at the top of the hill right now,” Jefferson said.
In Baton Rouge, it will never go down. Take into account the unlikely career of Burrow. Remember that it started in the state of Ohio in Burrow’s home state, and that it was transferred to LSU just because it became clear that Dwayne Haskins, yes, that Dwayne Haskins, now of the Washington Redskins, was going to beat him to be the head of the Buckeyes in 2018. That his path was so tortuous in some way makes the result, as an indisputable icon, more special.
“He had a lot of respect for him and his trip,” said his counterpart, Clemson’s sophomore, Trevor Lawrence, who first lost as a college player.
Which says nothing about your interpersonal skills. Something is needed for a character who came to campus as an unknown transfer, “Silence,” according to Jefferson, to essentially put his personality into a whole team. However, for this summer, that’s what Burrow had done.
“Joe demanded everything he wanted in terms of being the headline and the top team leader,” said the powerful and small runner Clyde Edwards-Helaire. “This was his team.”
The results support it and, in turn, are backed by numbers. When Burrow found a statue of Thaddeus Moss in the end zone just before halftime, giving LSU a 28-17 lead, it was his 58th touchdown pass of the season. Think about that for a second. It’s an average of almost 3¾ score passes per game, and I still had half to play. More than mathematics is history. The pass to Moss, son of the Hall of Fame open receiver Randy Moss, tied Colt Brennan of Hawaii (and, for a fleeting moment, those same Washington Redskins) for the most scoring pitches in a single season at the highest level of college football. Never.
Yes, of course, Burrow had the advantage of playing a 15th game. (Remember, these “student athletes” should be protected from playing soccer too much. Unless they earn more money. Money that goes to other people. But I’m rambling).
Consider how Burrow senior season looks out of place at Baton Rouge. Before this year, no LSU quarterback had thrown more than 28 touchdowns in a single season. Burrow exceeded that total in seven games. And then he used the rest of the season for more than double that total. That final score pitch to Marshall was his 60th.
More data: Burrow led the country in percentage completion (77.6). He led the country in passing efficiency (204.60). He was second in aerial yards and in endings per game. It is an indisputable curriculum.
When there are two weeks to exaggerate an event, and the main character came out of a game in which he threw seven touchdown passes, as Burrow did against Oklahoma in the semifinal, it seems natural for a minor character to stand out. Burrow was not willing to allow that Monday. Not for some selfish reason, look at me. Rather, because he is the difference between all previous and this LSU equipment.
“A lot of work was put into this that nobody saw,” Burrow said.
It could be argued that Lawrence leads a more diverse offensive attack, with runner Travis Etienne Jr., the school’s first 4,000-yard runner, that provides more balance, and open receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross look like first-round picks in the draft outside.
Such an argument makes Burrow look even better. Clemson had a million ways to beat the teams. LSU had one. Or maybe two. Joe Burrow’s arm. And Joe Burrow’s legs.
When Burrow left LSU’s locker room later, with the pads still on, he was chewing a cigar, fully lit. He sat at a press conference and was asked to reflect on his achievements, which made him cry. When he finally stood up to return with his teammates and begin the celebration seriously, Orgeron, in his almost indecipherable baritone Cajun, shouted: “Take it easy on that cee-gar, boy.”
Joe Burrow has not taken it easy for anyone in the whole year. He earned that cigar. He won that moment and all the Louisiana hagiology that will follow. He can beat you with a wand. He can beat you with a mallet. And for the rest of the time in a region crazy about football, they will talk about the way they did better.