Jake Browning’s second year as the starting quarterback for the Washington Huskies can be considered a rousing success, especially considering the team finished 12-2 and made a trip to the national semifinal Peach Bowl. Butr while he threw for 3,430 yads and 40 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, it’s easy to see on the stat sheet that he was less effective as the season wore on.
Washington coach Chris Petersen was asked Thursday on “Brock and Salk” if Browning’s arm strength had waned later in the season, and Petersen had an interesting answer that suggested Browning may not have been at 100 percent down the stretch.
“I don’t necessarily think his arm strength has waned. I do think he was fighting through some things as the season went on because he’s a tough guy,” Petersen said. “We had to do some things. Let me say this: We’ve got some tough kids on our team. Those kids, they fight through some things, and we don’t talk about who’s hurt and all this stuff, but Jake’s a tough kid and I’ll just say that. He fought through some stuff.”
Petersen didn’t indicate much else about Browning’s health because, as he alluded to, the Washington football program does not divulge much about injuries, whether it’s the severity or the affected body part. He did elaborate on his belief that Browning did not lose arm strength later in the season, though.
“Everybody likes to get hung up on arm strength and I’m not one of those guys,” said Petersen, who built a reputation for developing great quarterbacks during his time at Boise State. “A couple of the deep balls were a little bit short. I think that’s a little bit different than, like … are we saying his arm strength waned because he can’t throw a deep ball as well? A deep ball is something we’re going to work on continually. We had the same thing in Boise. It was like, we can’t throw a deep ball. So we work and work and work, it’s low percentage and we’ll get better at that.”
Browning’s start to the 2016 season was noticeably stronger than his finish. Over the first six games, he completed 72.2 percent of his passes, had 23 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and finished four games with a passer rating of 200 or more. Over the last five games, though, he completed just 55 percent of his attempts, had nine touchdowns to six interceptions, and didn’t post a single game with a rating over 200.
Of course, that final five-game stretch for Washington was the toughest the team went through all season, and Petersen pointed out that it’s easy to put too much credit – and therefore blame – on a quarterback. He used the Huskies’ 24-7 loss to top-ranked Alabama last weekend as an example.
“That guy gets probably sometimes a little too much credit, and if things aren’t going well – a guy drops a ball, the pass protection’s not right, not good enough – he’s gonna take all the blame,” Petersen said. “So it’s very easy to go point the fingers there when you play against an Alabama, those type of things.
“We gotta create some things for him to give him some more options and the receivers gotta be able to shake loose a little bit better. One of the things we said about Alabama going in, you know, No. 1 run defense in the country, but the most impressive thing to me might have been how they rush the passer. So we’re tying to create things to get the ball out of Jake’s hand quickly, but yet you gotta be able to take some shots down the field, so it was a tough dilemma going against these guys.”
And when all was said and done, Petersen was pleased with what Browning did as a 20-year-old sophomore quarterbacking the Pac-12 champions.
“I’m really proud of Jake and I think he’s going to continue to get better and just keep progressing.”