and since I finally started watching 30 Rock* this season and have enjoyed the hell out of it, I was definitely down with that. So I'm readin' along, feeling good, and then all of a sudden we get to the Montez Billings academic issues / wait he graduated conundrum I mentioned Monday, and then ... this (emphasis added):
I frankly have no idea what to make of the situation. What I do know is Trooper Taylor told me last week that he doesn't count on Billings contributing to the team this fall. He said that could change any day, but right now he is going about his business as if Billings will not play.!!!
Stay tuned for some important clarifications just as soon as we get them...
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the first indication we've had from someone on the coaching staff that Billings might not be back this fall? Chizik mentioned that it was an academic issue--but the vibe I got at the time was that, as with McKenzie, Billings was expected to get things ironed out. Here's your TWIST.
And, as best we can tell, Taylor's leaving that door open. But if the default position for the wide receiving corps has already been set to "No Billings," how can we feel good about his odds of returning? If Taylor's making the assumption that Billings won't be around--and he knows a great deal more about this situation than we do, safe to say--is there any reason we shouldn't make that same assumption?
It's hard to say losing a player who didn't catch a touchdown pass last year and didn't break the 300-yard mark would be a devastating blow, but I don't think the potential loss of Billings should be underestimated, either: he's still the team's leading returning receiver, and in fact he's the only returning wide receiver who even cracked double digits in receptions. Sure, maybe Benton and Hawthorne will be the home-run hitters we're all hoping for and maybe Trott and Lutzenkirchen will make the tight end position a strength again and maybe someone like Frenchy or Harry Adams or one of the freshmen will turn into a dangerous slot jitterbug ...but even if all of that happens, we still need a new Rod Smith to be the dependable guy who runs solid routes, makes those sure grabs at the sticks, and generally provides our inevitably beleaguered QB's some sense of security. I'm not saying Billings has been the best example of that kind of player thus far in his Auburn career ... but if you've got a better candidate on the roster, I'd love to hear it.
In short: losing Billings might not be the end of the world, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a stiff, stiff blow to a unit that needs every bit of help it can get. I'm kind of stunned to find out that the picture on his return is bleak enough that Taylor is already preparing for the worst ... and even more stunned that in the middle of the offseason, this bit of news wound up buried at the bottom of a random beat hack blog post. Weird**.
*I'm a massive Office fan that would still take Michael Scott and crew in a heartbeat if forced to choose, but I think the contrast NBC's set up with their two flagship Thursday night shows is fascinating: The Office can be broad, but it's still nearly exclusively character-driven, from the perspective of both the humor and the ongoing dramatic storylines; 30 Rock has some character-based humor, sure, but the show as a whole is 100 percent devoted, first and foremost, to the gag. There's no such thing on 30 Rock (at least that I've seen) as an "ongoing dramatic storyline" or character development. there's only the tiniest shreds of pathos. It's a full-bore, damn-the-torpedoes approach to producing as many laughs as possible in their 22 minutes, everything else be damned. That decision limits the show's depth enough that it's not ever going to reach the heights of its Thursday night partner, I think, but it does make it a hell of a lot of fun to watch. [/fakecritic]
**It also could be an indication that I'm making entirely too much out of this, or that Brietzke--who doesn't quote Taylor directly, not here at least--somehow got his signals mixed. But I doubt that.