I am going to steal a joke from a television writer, said by a actor playing an actor, and that actor was impersonating George W. Bush, and he used this tragically bad line in a sketch on a fake show that was the main setting for a single season of television mediocrity:
"Legacy is a 480 SAT word, which, turns out, does not mean a woman with nice legs. As in, 'Paula Zahn: primo legacy.'"
The writer is Aaron Sorkin, the show is "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," the actor is Nate Cordry, and the point is that we're not here to talk about former national newscasters. We're here to talk about how history will judge something or someone. In this case, we're here to talk about an Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback.
No, not the one who might end up begetting the most ferocious MMA/football Hybrids ever conceived, literally or figuratively. And, no, not the one who set pretty much every single offensive record in the Ohio State books last year before an injury in The Game set him down for the year. Hell, we're not even here to talk about a quarterback anymore.
What a long, strange trip it has been for Braxton Miller.
There's a reason the picture above has Miller wearing a suit, and not suited up in scarlet and gray. For one, it's because no one has really seen him on the field in uniform since the 2014 Orange Bowl, which took place more than 580 days ago. Since then a few notable things happened to the Ohio State football program. You may remember a few of them:
Trophy just got delivered! pic.twitter.com/vSlINCK0fW— Nate Meyer (@nxmeyer15) January 17, 2015
So, yeah, without one of the Big Ten's best and most decorated athletes on the field, the Buckeyes:
- Won some slightly important games
- Returned a team and conference to national prominence (in the eyes of the executives, producers and on-air talent that have the most say in that discussion),
- Ended one of the most prolific reigns in college football history
- Set themselves up to do it all over again as the odds on favorite.
Who needs Braxton Miller? Certainly not the offensive backfield, with Barrett and/or Jones under center, and Ezekiel Elliott as part of a multi-pronged attack with not one but all three players on pre-season Heisman short lists. One could argue that Ohio State without Miller was better last year than any of his previous three years on the active roster, and the results would tend to agree with that.
Who needs Braxton Miller?
That is one of the main reasons why it was so surprisingly unsurprising when Miller decided to eschew the chance to compete for the starting quarterback job (which he probably and rightfully would have lost) and switch positions in his final year as a Buckeye. Surprising because in moving to the secret weapon H-Back position, he potentially makes Ohio State's already loaded offense that much more potent.
The unsurprising part is what's worth discussing. Braxton Miller, when it is all said and done, will be remembered for a number of things as a Buckeye, but not much of it will really be that surprising. For the most part, Miller was a known commodity when he committed to Ohio State in 2010. Rivals had him at five stars, a 6.0 rating, the No. 1 QB in the country, No. 1 player in the state of Ohio, and the No. 34 player nationally. Getting the kid from Huber Heights to come to Columbus may well be the best (only?) thing that Nick Siciliano ever did for Ohio State that had a positive effect on the program.
In his first three years in Columbus, Miller's production in 36 games aren't anything to scoff at, either: 5,292 passing yards, 52 TDs, 3,054 rushing yards and 32 more TDs. If you only look at 2012 and 2013, Miller dominated the entirety of the Big Ten, earning Offensive Player of the Year honors both seasons, and sitting in the top-10 (usually top-five) in almost every statistical category or metric measured. That's not a joke, and his sports-reference.com page is nuts.
And yet some people might only remember Miller for his lesser Buckeye moments. Saying, for example, that this dynamic athlete is injury prone is a bit of an understatement -- he's basically the fifth name you put into Oregon Trail: if the dysentery doesn't get him, then typhoid, a broken bone or cholera will. Remember the tail end of the Purdue game in 2012? Welp. Remember that gutty Orange Bowl loss to Clemson? WELP. Remember gearing up for Virginia Tech last year? WELP. And so on. Even Miller's first real game of national prominence ended prematurely due to injury. The high ceiling expected of Miller when he got here always seemed like a one rung too many for him to climb to truly succeed at Ohio State -- just look at the undefeated season with no rings due to probation in 2012, or the consecutive losses to Michigan State and Clemson in 2013. He was great ... but never great enough.
But that isn't fair to Miller, or to the historical mark that he leaves at Ohio State after this season. Miller's true legacy should be his position change for a few reasons. The most interesting part of the move isn't that it is a very team-first move, or that it makes Miller a better potential NFL prospect, which it is, and it does. The interesting part is that it allows Miller the chance to wipe a decorated and successful slate clean, see the field from a new perspective, and add even more entries to an already engorged curriculum vitae. And, in so doing, Miller will allow his teammates, one of Jones and/or Barrett, to take a helm that either have already earned. It's the most selfishly selfless thing he could do for the program.
Even if he has a decent (or worse, mediocre) year at his new position, and it is no given that he is going to succeed (though Miller certainly looks the part), this year's iteration of Ohio State Football shouldn't have many issues without an effective H-Back Braxton Miller, even if he is only there to scare enemy defensive backs into biting on decoy routes, as a football sails over their heads into the hands of a different, open Buckeye receiver. Whether this team repeats as National Champions or not, Miller can really only add to the reasons why the Buckeyes might succeed in that endeavor; it's doubtful he could be a reason why they won't.
Miller's journey through Columbus should be celebrated for many, many reasons. But in switching positions and putting the team ahead of himself, he's already become the primo legacy of which a fake George W. Bush could be proud.