First of all, props to my good friend Brinkhater. His "senior thesis" on why he adopted the moniker should be on the short list of best post of the year. Very, very good view as to why he's "hated Brink at hello" (great line btw).
That said, for all the hatred and disgust towards the young man, isn't it somewhat amazing that we're sitting here on the verge of a QB set to break every passing record in the WSU media guide?? How did we get here? Why does Brink have such a polarizing effect on WSU fans? It's not an easy answer is it?
Some point out that he's never stepped up in the biggest games, like Auburn last year where he was a woeful 11-for-24 for 67 yards and several 3-and-outs, helping to wear out our defense in the humidity that led to a huge second-half fade. Or at ASU, where the entire team laid a major egg and Brink got a ton of the blame for not "stepping up" without Bumpus and Hill with a bowl game on the line. Or the horror show vs. USC in 2005, where the team was embarrassed so badly that they were outgained 745-284 and USC had an amazing 40 first downs to only 13 for the Cougs! That's a game where you just wish in hindsight that the plane never left Pullman.
Yet that same haters conveniently ignore the efficient 20-for-23 game vs. Oregon in a game that they absolutely, positively had to have. If you remember last year, that Oregon game was coming off a disappointing 21-3 loss to Cal that left them at 4-3, and the season was teetering on the edge of disaster. Brink responded by playing a nearly flawless game against a ranked team. But how about the next week, where he topped the Oregon performance by winning POW honors in a 28-for-38, 405 yard win at UCLA to get the team to 6-3 last year, a game that nearly returned them to the post-season? Wasn't that a big game? UCLA, by the way, had a very good defense last year and even held the vaunted Trojans to just 9 points later in the year. Going down to Pasadena and having a game like that, maybe Brink's best game ever, was no small feat.
So why is it that the majority ignore the positive and write it off as basically saying "he should do that every week" and then as soon as he doesn't play well, he gets a ton of the blame? It's never been an easy question to answer.....but....I think I understand it better today than any other time.
He's just NOT A LIKABLE GUY, in many different ways. Think about it - On the field, he doesn't have the Bledsoe or Leaf tools, with the dream size and cannon arm who can make any throw that John Elway could make. He is a very strong 6-3, 215-220 now, however, and the word is that the velocity and accuracy at this point are better than it's ever been. 6-3, 215-220 is not small. In fact he's actually a little bigger than Jake Locker, a guy who's already loved so much he's rumored to actually walk on Lake Washington.
Ok, so he's not the most "toolsy" guy around, and in reality he's closer to Gesser than the Bledsoe/Leaf group. But "I've watched Jason Gesser, and I've watched Alex Brink. And you, Alex Brink, are no Jason Gesser" or something along those lines seems appropriate. Why? Because the team, from the moment Gesser showed up, saw that Gesser had an extra quality about him that players just gravitated towards. Many stories are about how much love other players had for Gesser, even during his scout team performance his true frosh season, and later that they were just so confident when they took the field that he was THE GUY. In the end, they were right. Even Davard Darling credits the time he spent with Gesser on a recruiting trip post-FSU that Gesser was just the greatest guy and the best recruiter WSU had, and was one of the reasons he not only came to WSU but also roomed with Gesser. But it was never about the tools with Gesser. He had some great games with fat numbers, but he also had his share of stinkers, especially early in his career. But some of that gets overlooked because of the total package. Gesser is the most successful QB in the modern age at WSU, and, maybe the biggest winner in the history of the school, in any sport. Does Brink have anything close to what Gesser brought to the table in terms of the total package? Absolutely, positively not. Yet here Brink sits, roughly a half-season of stats away from bumping off Gesser at the top of the career charts.
Today's Times opened my eyes to one thing. Maybe it's not just the fans, but also the players, that realize something about him. For example, Brink shows up late to lunch, and instead of sitting with other teammates? He sits by himself, and nobody invites him to sit with them, and nobody comes to join him. Can you imagine Gesser walking into lunch late and sitting down, eating all by his lonesome, without even getting invited to sit with them? Neither can I. It doesn't sound like it's a big deal, but deep down, it is.
Brink also lives alone, something I never knew until today, and that might speak volumes. How many players do you know of, outside of the ones that are married or have a wife-to-be or whatever, that actually don't have a single roommate? Why? He's only got two friends that are acknowledged in the article, Bobby Byrd and Chris Baltzer, one of whom is a high school teammate. But that's it? And how many players are quoted in the article? ONE, Jed Collins, who just says that Brink is smart and knows where everyone should be in every play and that he leads by example. But not one other player was quoted in the article? Nobody coming forward to say Alex is misunderstood and is really a great guy who takes a while to really get to know? And think back over the last few years. How many players have ever really stepped forward to say that we're all wrong about him and that he's a great guy? I remember Hill and at times Bumpus being quoted last year as saying Alex is the QB and there shouldn't be a controversy, but never, ever did you see the article about the great leadership and the intangibles that other players respect so much.
One more thing, and this is purely anecdotal and/or rumored. The whispers on Brink are, basically, that he's very aloof and appears arrogant to the general public. One very good friend (and potential writer this year on this blog) was down in Pullman during spring ball this year, and being a great Coug, of course he ventured down to the Cottage one evening for a few cold ones. Who does he see? Brink, and Byrd, and maybe someone else (Collins?). But what did he see? Brink, wearing a tank top, with SUNGLASSES ON AT NIGHT, sitting in the corner and looking like, well, let's just say looking like a guy you glance at and shake your head, "who's the jackass with the sunglasses on at night?? What a CLOWN."
Look, Brink isn't a thug, or anything close too it, off the field. He's not running a dog-fighting ring, he's not raping or hitting women or shop-lifting or getting DWI's or starting brawls, or even getting into confrontations with coaches or reporters. He's just simply being who he is, kind of a recluse that comes across arrogant and self-serving and someone that just doesn't have that extra-something special in a magnetic sense. The same quality that drew us all to Bledsoe, Leaf (at least in 1997), and of course, Gesser, that same "thing" that we were so happy to have in our QB, is the same thing that Brink simply lacks.
And sadly, what Brink lacks off the field, is something that he also lacks on the field. 12-16 as a starter, coming off the most successful 3-year run in school history, is just poison for him to be loved. All the come-from-ahead losses in 2005, where the onus fell to him to lead one more late-game drive, yet continually coming up short, did him in. I for one was extremely hopeful that the 2005 Apple Cup win, where he finally led the team on that game-clinching drive, was going to lead to huge things the rest of his career. I told Brinkhater, FINALLY, he did it, and now it's all about turning the corner. But when the chips were down late last year, without his best weapons, he couldn't get it done.
In the end, Brink is going to go down to a similar fate of someone like Cody Pickett or Damn-it-Damon Huard at UW. Guys who put up big numbers, but rarely got the big W. Guys who, despite their overall fat numbers, never got to the big game, and basically under-performed in the eyes of fans everywhere. Don't believe me? I was at Husky Stadium when Damon Huard broke the UW passing career record vs. the Cougs. And there was, easy, about 40% of the stadium that booed him. And the only thing UW fans will remember about Pickett, other than being a great athlete who was a rodeo champion from Idaho, was great numbers with Reggie Williams, but he never won the biggie.
All that said, the book isn't closed on Brink. At least not yet. He's got 12 more games to go, and every week is another chance to shut us all up and bury the difficult past. 12 games to not only break records, but do the thing that senior QB's are supposed to do, and that is perform at the highest level when the chips are down. We've gone through nearly 3 seasons of ups-and-downs with Brink, and we're nearing the end of the line. How will the legacy be cemented? Will he explode this year, when the predictions are generally for an 8th or 9th-place finish? Will he come through when it matters the most? Last call Alex. Now go prove us all wrong.