Tom Savage did not sign up for this.
Rutgers looked like a perfect situation for Savage in nearly all respects back when he committed in 2008 . The football team ran a productive pro style offense, with Mike Teel catching fire through the second half of that season. A young offensive line was really starting to come into their own. The appeal of playing with Savage helped put together a great recruiting class, including receivers in Mohamed Sanu and Mark Harrison with the potential to grow into a dynamic pairing.
Rutgers and Savage were a fantastic match, with a thin depth chart virtually guaranteeing that the incoming signal caller would follow in Teel's foot steps as a multi-year starter. Offensive coordinator John McNulty left after the season for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. In his stead Greg Schiano gave play calling duties to a promoted Kirk Ciarrocca, who had previously crafted an unstoppable spread offense for Joe Flacco at Delaware. There is always a degree of uncertainty involved with any staffing change, but Ciarrocca's resume looked as impressive as any candidate Schiano could have realistically hired.
There were some rough patches with Tom Savage and the Rutgers offense last season, but relative to expectations, the future looked bright. Savage and Sanu played fairly well for true freshmen. Then the bottom fell out entirely in 2010, producing one of the worst offenses in all of Division I. The offensive line, which had been as bad in 2009 as it ever had been under Schiano (including 2004, where tight end Ray Pilch had to play center), turned into the single worst line of any bowl subdivision team. Tom took far too many hits even against the likes of FIU and Tulane, battling through injury before finally sitting in favor of freshman Chas Dodd.
The press asked Savage about his future plans after the West Virginia loss, and from watching the video of that interchange there is no clear implication from his brief answers. Any time a quarterback loses his job there is going to be speculation about eying the door, but Tom clearly has to take a lot of different factors into account when it comes to his next course of action. Both quarterbacks were doomed from the start this year, and cannot possibly be fairly evaluated in light of everything that went wrong.
Dodd gave Rutgers the best chance to win in a spread offense and behind the worst line in football, but that does not necessarily mean that he is the quarterback of the future. He could well be, but this past season's offensive performance was such a brazen outlier that is has little predictive value, and should not be taken into account when it comes to setting future depth charts . This year's quarterbacking was the fruit of a poison tree, and any wholesale changes that may be coming necessitate starting over in the spring from a clean, fresh slate. 2010 was a bad dream, a nightmare even, and with hard work and the right adjustments it can be an aberration.
That will come down to whether any changes are coming down the pipeline. If Greg Schiano plans to double down on his current staff, then Tom Savage cannot be blamed for transferring. Savage envisioned Mike Teel in 2008, not this year's unfettered mess. Not only would going back to a pro style offense be the best use of his skills, but a working running game and placing more of an emphasis on traditional routes and formations would do wonders for RU's beleaguered pass protection. That is not to suggest that other changes are not needed as well, but it all goes back to schemes and player development.
While I am not suggesting that Schiano should ever be beholden to one player, Coach should shake up the offense on the merits. What they are doing right now does not work. What they used to did. If Rutgers football can bring in a top offensive coordinator who runs a pro style offense, then Savage should stay, and realize his dream from two years ago. That is how I would approach this from his perspective. He could have gone anywhere, and chose Rutgers because it was the best fit. A bad year does not automatically prove him mistaken in retrospect, and deciding to actually leave would be a drastic and extremely difficult step for anyone.
I am not privy at all to Savage's decision making process, but reasoning this out I think Tom stays (with the caveat from two paragraphs above). If he does leave, then I will not disparage him, but that would be extremely disappointing. Not to dwell too much over hypothetical spilled milk, but it would be crushing based on the promise from 2009's recruiting class. Rutgers football has come back from worse (see: 2004), but his transfer would be an immense psychological blow. Even more pressing is the absolute necessity that Rutgers football completely changes course on offense. The loss of any player an acceptable price to pay with the entire future of the program at stake.