At the risk of turning this into a "how it started/how it's going" meme, it was just a few months ago that Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck said of quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis, "He's got a little of this moxie, this 'X' factor, that he can create, and I think that's the difference. He's got to keep going and keep developing, but he sure is fun to coach."
On Tuesday — after a 2023 season that fell short of everyone's expectations, after Fleck expressed disappointment in the quarterback's progress and after New Hampshire transfer QB Max Brosmer said Monday that he had an offer from the Gophers — Kaliakmanis announced that he is taking his moxie into the transfer portal.
Assuming Kaliakmanis, a third-year sophomore, does not make the rare U-turn back to the Gophers from the portal, he will descend instead onto a long list of quarterbacks under Fleck who didn't deliver on either potential or results.
There is a comparatively short list of successful quarterbacks during the Fleck Era, which I talked about on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Bill Belichick had Tom Brady in New England. Fleck had . . . Tanner Morgan at Minnesota?
This a bit of a fun stretch when we talk about comparative skill level and accomplishments, but these are the plain facts: Belichick has a .774 winning percentage as Patriots head coach with Brady as a starter and a .460 winning percentage without him.
At Minnesota, Fleck has a .702 winning percentage (33-14 record) with Morgan as a starter and a .444 winning percentage (16-20 record) with everyone else.
The "everyone else" starting QB category includes Conor Rhoda, Demry Croft, Zack Annexstad and Kaliakmanis. Others like Seth Green and Vic Viramontes (remember Vic?) were hailed as big-time QB options but couldn't lay claim to the starting job.
This is not meant to slight any of those players, nor is it meant to cause Fleck to spit out his cake on this, his 43rd birthday. It also should be noted that Morgan presided over a natural rise with the Gophers as Fleck put his stamp on the program.
But it also serves as both a cautionary tale and a lesson going forward. Some of us — after getting bored with Morgan's game and lamenting that he couldn't replicate his excellent 2019 season — couldn't wait for someone new to take over.
Coaches crave consistency, and there's a clear reason why Fleck wanted him here for as long as he could have him.
(Side note: It's also a big part of the reason Kevin O'Connell might consider a switch from the erratic but exciting Joshua Dobbs to the system-friendly Nick Mullens post-bye).
It's also just as clear, though, that Fleck and his staff need to get this position right in 2024. Even if we grant Fleck the grace of a "readjustment year" there will be no such sentiments next season.
With mediocre QB play in 2024 against a schedule without the forgiving cushion of the Big Ten West, the Gophers will be lucky to win even five games again. With better-than-average QB play, Fleck's Gophers can start to swing their arc upward again.
It's that simple, even if winning with a QB other than Morgan has proved to be so hard.
Here are four more things to know today:
*Would benching Dobbs be a bad idea? I mulled that question on today's podcast.
*Social media is a bad representation of real life, but Wild fans seemed somewhere between relieved that the seven-game losing streak ended with a 3-1 win in John Hynes' coaching debut Tuesday and miffed still that Dean Evason was fired.
*The Wolves are 13-4 after beating Oklahoma City, and even a scary spill for star Anthony Edwards doesn't seem to be dampening enthusiasm. Should the Wolves just copy the Lynx's championship parade route, or plan a new one?
*Thursday's podcast will go deep on Gophers volleyball with Jeff Day. Minnesota rallied to reach the NCAA tournament and will open play Friday in Omaha vs. Utah State.