If the Tate Martell Era at Ohio State is Truly Over, He Played His Part Beautifully

By Johnny Ginter on January 11, 2019 at 10:20 am
"C-U-P. I want a C-U-Oh my God!"

Here are Tate Martell's stats as a quarterback for Ohio State: 28 passing attempts, 23 completions, 269 yards passing, one touchdown. He also ran the ball 22 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

If he ends up transfering from Columbus, as many suspect he will, that will be his last will and testament. A couple of nice highlights, a touchdown or two, and a bunch of dudes going "aw yeah, that guy" in about five years after incoming Georgia transfer Justin Fields wins his third consecutive Heisman or whatever.

Assuming Fields achieves the same kind of success that Dwayne Haskins had as a Buckeye, Martell ends up as a footnote, mostly known for making super hot take-y social media posts and then deleting them a few hours later. If Fields leads the Buckeyes to a national championship or some other form of glory, it gets even worse; Martell becomes a bumbling Gargamel-esque figure, a villain who almost stood in the way of greatness but ultimately was defeated (in part because of his own buffoonery).

Either one would be wrong, and unfair. Tate Martell is unreservedly as good a quarterback to play for Ohio State since he arrived on campus, the equal of Dwayne or J.T. Barrett or Joe Burrow.

Kind of.

"If you give me awards, do I not kick ass? If you recruit me, shall I not swagger? If you bench me, should I not be pissed?"

If you don't know Tate Martell's story, let's do a quick recap: a multi-faceted quarterback who can both run and throw, Martell racked up a 45-0 record at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas with over 7,500 total yards of offense and 113 touchdowns, 2016 Gatorade National Player of the Year, committed to Washington as a 14 year old, changed it to Texas A&M, changed it again to Ohio State, and somewhere in there is an "ass, my dude" and a Netflix series.

Tate Martell is cocky, self-assured, undeniably an incredible athlete and hell, even potentially a great quarterback if given the chance. He is also of the Martell hobbits from Buckleberry in the Shire, and was decisively passed over in favor of Dwayne Haskins in 2018 (and frankly, 2017) because Dwayne is taller. And better. And more likely to give Ohio State chances to win games. Despite Martell being ostensibly a better fit for Urban Meyer's offense.

And to his credit, Martell was sort of chill about it!

“This was Dwayne’s year,” Martell said. “I was never worried about a thing. We’ll see how it ends up playing out (next year).”

For a guy who literally has a crown above his Twitter profile picture, this is about as much humble pie as you're going to see him eat.

This was not the case when it came to Justin Fields' transfer.

“There's no reason I shouldn't (stay),” Martell said on Sunday. “This dude hasn't put a single second into Ohio State football. I don't know why somebody would think that the grass is greener on the other side, but I guess he's kind of looking at it like a fantasy way, I guess.”

Martell also said that he'd do well "once we put the zone read back in," which, knowing what a Ryan Day offense looks like, is the kind of wishful thinking I used to conjure when circling a Power Wheels Jeep in the JC Penney catalog every Christmas. But you can't blame the dude for a little campaigning.

Also: he's right! Not about the zone read stuff, that's never happening. But whatever righteous indignation Tate Martell might've had about Justin Fields coming to Columbus, he's absolutely dead on in pointing out that in a just world, someone who has put in the time and effort and hours into making Ohio State football great should have an inherent advantage in possible playing time over a guy looking for a transfer and immediate playing time at a place he doesn't have any familiarity with.

Unfortunately for Tate, that's not really how major college football works.

Justin Fields is really, really good. Though Martell and Fields have similar stats at this point in their careers due to sparse playing time, Fields was one of the highest rated high school football recruits back in 2017 for a reason. He's potentially a turbo boosted Braxton Miller/Dwayne Haskins hybrid, and while that's his ceiling, your typical ol' Deshaun Watson would be pretty sweet to have as well.

So yes, as he's loudly and repeatedly reminded us, Tate Martell has put in the time and effort for the Buckeyes. Unfortunately for him, the cold hard mathematical formula of playing time doesn't say that the "most deserving" player gets to play. Though it sometimes works out that way if your coach has the kind of cache that goes along with winning multiple national championships and can do whatever they want, Ryan Day is not that coach.

Instead, Ryan Day wants to accomplish two things: put his own personal stamp on the Ohio State football program, and win a butt load of games. In 2019, Tate doesn't appear to fit into that equation, at least not in Columbus. Justin Fields does.

Football as a sport is a paean to swagger, self-confidence, being cocky, and generally just rubbing into everyone's faces how good you are. Ohio State fandom in particular loves crowing about the inherent greatness of the Buckeyes and why none of us should ever apologize for being The Best and routinely pointing that out to The Rest.

It'd be the height of hypocrisy to apply a different standard to Tate Martell, the living embodiment of I Rule and You Drool. Some of us may say that we want a certain aw-shucks humility from our players, coaches, and team, but in truth we want to see whoever is in charge dunk all over the Big Ten, go for three against Michigan, and generally just humiliate the rest of college football in bowl games.

Martell has built his brand to those exact specifications that football fans go crazy for; hell, the man who eventually brought him to Ohio State had an entire public persona centered around it. We can't demand that kind of swagger in one breath and then turn around to tut-tut the kid because he is extremely public about the football talent he believes he possesses.

So I hope that Tate Martell gets an opportunity to showcase that talent, somewhere. Not necessarily because I believe that he'll be an All-American world-beater (although I do think that given the right situation, he can be very good or even great), but because that kind of arrogance and belief in yourself is the bedrock which this entire damn sport is built on.

Maybe it's all bluster. Maybe Tate will dip out of Columbus because he thinks that Justin Fields is legitimately a better talent than he is, or maybe he'd rather be a comparatively larger fish in a somewhat smaller pond.

Doesn't matter. It's all part of the show, and in this respect Tate Martell has played his role as well as or better than anyone else on Ohio State's roster during his time in Columbus.

“I have no doubt that I'll go out there and win the job,” Martell said on Sunday at Rose Bowl media day.

Well, it doesn't look like that's going to happen at Ohio State. But Tate Martell will land somewhere and compete for a starting job. It'll be fun to watch when he does.

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