further adventures in Jed York being unsuited for his position
Scott Shafer on his resignation/dismissal:
The two coaches had differing philosophies from the start as Shafer believed in a base 4-3 defense and Michigan began the season with that before morphing into Rodriguez's traditional 3-3-5 format late in the season.
"That’s kind of the reason the decision was made," Shafer said about their differences. "It's one of those deals throughout the whole deal (we debated.) We came up with that decision that it was time to go our own ways. It just didn't fit as simple as that is. I wish Michigan all the success in the future."
On the surface this seems like an indication Rodriguez desires the 3-3-5 to be Michigan's base set, but there's a possibility he wasn't speaking directly to that particular formation. If we had a transcript of the interview we would know; we do not.
One thing is clear. We did this:
That, as mentioned previously, is Tony Franklin's sad fugee face after his midseason canning. Franklin was brought in as Auburn's offensive coordinator to run a system none of his assistants ran—though surely they must have been more familiar with the 4-3 than Auburn assistants were with Franklin's Air-Raid-based spread—failed to get buy-in, suffered through an abysmal season, and were shuffled off after a brief period of time. That was a failure of management on Tommy Tuberville's part and it's a failure on Rich Rodriguez's part. Rodriguez will get an opportunity to try again; Tuberville was not so lucky.
Yesterday the internet rumor mill (and the above-linked article) were suggesting linebackers coach and former Southern Miss DC Jay Hopson would be promoted internally. My inbox also contains some Hopson chatter, though nothing definitive. That rumor has recently been downgraded from "near certainty"; it remains a strong possibility.
Picking Hopson makes some degree of sense. He was a grad assistant at Tulane when Rodriguez was the offensive coordinator there and seems to have fit in well after his first year; at Southern Miss he started moving towards the 3-3-5 towards the end of his term, albeit irregularly. If cohesion and the 3-3-5 are the top priorities he's the best choice outside of nabbing Jeff Casteel, who probably would have left WVU already if he was going to.
Outside of those guys, it's a bunch of gentlemen who haven't run a 3-3-5, because no one really runs the 3-3-5, and how well will that work out, etc.
If it's Hopson you are—read "I am"—in luck, because last year when Hopson was rumored to be the next defensive coordinator I analyzed him, complete with the two posts SMQ (now Dr. Saturday) had made about Hopson. The general upshot:
Hopson, if hired, would be a wildcard. He has some experience, some knowledge of/affinity for the stack, some success, and some decided meh going on in the doldrum days of a coach heading for pasture. Judgment is withheld.
This is no slam dunk, unfortunately.
I also pinged Mr. Hinton via email; by the time he responded Hopson was in but as the linebackers coach and the response no longer seemed relevant. I'll post it later today. It's interesting, if not particularly encouraging.
On said wacky defense.
Some people will criticize anything Rodriguez does at this point, so watch out for this outstanding hypocrisy sure to be unleashed if it is, in fact, Hopson or Casteel: the same people who are claiming the golden age of the spread has passed and it's all downhill now will dismiss the 3-3-5 as a defense that can't work in the Big Ten and cite the complete lack of "big time programs" running it as proof it's a guaranteed failure. The thought that maybe Rodriguez's desire to be innovative and unusual extends to the defensive side of the ball and may serve him well will not cross this sort of person's mind.
As far as my opinion: eh, whatever. The 3-3-5 has been pretty good at West Virginia the last few years and obviously can work as a base defense when, you know, you don't install it the week of a game with players who don't really know what they're doing. (Again: we Franklined it this season. Or maybe Weised it?) I tend to dismiss any and all "scheme X can't work in conference Y" arguments. I am a little concerned a flip to the 3-3-5 will be another painful transition in a year we kind of need to show improvement lest the banshees come out in force, but if that's what he wants to run that's what he wants to run.
Now watch all this be moot when Rodriguez hires your standard 4-3 defensive coordinator.
That crazy quote. It's hard for this not to seem sarcastic:
"Bottom line is, I take full responsibility for the demise of the Michigan program," Shafer, 41, said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "I accept all the responsibility."
Um… all of the responsibility? Surely some of it falls on the country's 109th-ranked offense or the gentlemen who fumbled the ball so often Michigan ended up 105th in turnover margin, Mr. Shafer.
Commenters seem sure that Shafer was genuinely attempting to take as much heat as he could. Shafer did bluntly state he had been outcoached after the Illinois game; maybe he's just prone to self-immolating quotes.
Whatever it is, it must seriously suck to be him right now. Earlier this year he joked with the media that his wife was none too pleased with the constant moving; this will be another year with the U-Haul, and very probably a step down the coaching ladder. All this after two years in which he went from Western Michigan to Stanford to Michigan. He must be crushed.
Recruiting fallout. I didn't get the impression that Shafer was heavily involved with a lot of recruits, but one he had a serious relationship with was Cass Tech safety Thomas Gordon, who posted something to his Facebook account saying he would open up his recruitment. There's a Scout article up on it, too, though a premium one.
This appears to be an immediate reaction that should settle down. Tom VanHaaren confirmed with someone close to Gordon's situation that he has not decommitted and as long as Michigan continues to assure him he's wanted he should remain a member of the class.
No one else has made noises like the Shafer departure seriously affects them, though it's early yet and we may get wind of someone who is displeased. As of yet: no change.
As you can probably tell by the USSR themed title, this is Wolverine Liberation Army joint. Go time is 8PM.
In no particular order:
Jeff Casteel, West Virginia DC. Casteel passed up the opportunity to follow Rodriguez to Ann Arbor last fall, but maybe a year of life under Bill Stewart—and the job security that goes along with that—might have changed his mind.
Many will be skeptical of the 3-3-5, but West Virginia finished 8th and 9th in scoring defense the past two years, though yardage was considerably worse (35th) this year. I also note that the recruiting class has an ton of safety/OLB types (Jones, Hawthorne, Gordon, Emilien, Bell, maybe the other Gordon) that are 4-5 spots on the field in the 3-3-5.
Corwin Brown, Notre Dame DC. Brown is a Michigan alum that Charlie Weis chose to be his defensive coordinator; before that he was an NFL DBs coach. In Brown's time at ND he's killed Chicago recruiting and racked up kind of eh results on the field. This year ND was 38th in total defense, 43rd in scoring. They were 65th in yardage in Brown's first season, but given the crater that was Notre Dame's offense it's hard to pass any judgments.
Brown's a high risk, high upside kind of guy. He'd be a dynamite recruiter if his returns from ND are any indication, but he's only been a DC for two years and hasn't exactly torn it up. More damningly, the defenses Notre Dame has run against Michigan the last two years haven't made any sense: ND sits back in a cover-two shell and lets running backs race up and down the field against them even with Ryan Mallett and Steven Threet the opposing quarterbacks. I guess it made sense this year once Notre Dame raced out to that lead. In 2007? Not so much.
Also, ND brought in TAH-NOO-TAH this offseason to be the "linebackers coach," but it seemed like co-coordinatorship at best. How in control of ND's D was he? Also also, he reportedly dissed Michigan when recruiting some kid, though he later denied he said such a thing.
Also also also: he has a giant umwellyouknow.
John Chavis, former Tennessee DC. Currently unemployed, Chavis was Tennessee's defensive coordinator since 1995. A pissed off Johnny Majors took a shot at Fulmer by praising Chavis:
“Frankly, I think (defensive coordinator) John Chavis has saved his job for 10 years.”
So there's that. In the twilight of the Fulmer era Tennessee was wildly variable on D: 4th in yardage last year, 70th in 2007, 50th in 2006.
Chavis is old and kind of looks like Gittleson so probably won't be a bang-up recruiter but the guy knows his way around a defense.
Paul Rhoads, former Auburn DC. For fans of irony this is choice A1, as Rhoads was Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator in 2007 when the Panthers held a mostly Pat-White-less West Virginia team to nine points and precipitated the string of events that ended with Rodriguez taking the Michigan job.
Auburn's defense was 27th in yardage and 15th in scoring this year despite taking the field opposite and offense that was the functional equivalent of Michigan's. That chaos butterfly of a Pitt defense was fifth in yardage and (somehow) 42nd in scoring. Wikipedia on Rhoads' Panther career:
In 2000, Rhoads was hired as the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Panthers by Walt Harris. In his first season, Rhoads was credited with improving the team's defense to their best performance since 1980. In 2001, his defensive unit ranked among the nation's top 30 in five different categories at season's end. Additionally, Pitt finished with 38 quarterback sacks. In 2002, the Panthers defense ranked among the nation's top 25 in an impressive seven different categories. In 2004, Pitt ranked ninth nationally with 17 interceptions and Rhoads was kept on staff by new head coach Dave Wannstedt. That decision proved wise as by then end of the 2005 season, Pitt was ranked second nationally in pass defense (yielding just 152.82 yards per game) and sixth in pass efficiency defense with a 99.36 rating. In 2006, Sporting News named Rhoads the Big East's best defensive coordinator. In 2007, Rhoads' defense was among the nation's leaders in various categories, finishing fifth nationally in total defense (allowing just 297.7 yards per games) and third nationally in pass defense (allowing just 167.3 yards per game). While the team finished 5–7, they ended on a high note by holding then-#2 ranked rival West Virginia to a season-low nine points in a 13-9 victory in the Backyard Brawl, limiting the Mountaineers high-powered offense to 183 yards (292 yards below their average).
Even setting aside the irony, Rhoads appears to be a good choice. He has eight years of DC experience, most of which is impressive. He's a guy Rodriguez has gone up against a half-dozen times, so there's some familiarity between the two coaches. He's young enough (41) to be an energetic, motivated recruiter. A guy like Tommy Tuberville surveyed the nation after losing Will Muschamp and picked him out, and Tuberville can find himself some defensive coordinators.
Hell… what about Tommy Tuberville, former Auburn head coach? Tuberville may want to sit on the sidelines for a while or whatever, but the parade of defensive coordinators that worked their way through Auburn never seemed to have much impact on the fortunes of the D. Tuberville was a DC for one year at Texas A&M before getting the Ole Miss job.
Eh, this one's pretty far-fetched.
Vance Bedford, Florida DBs coach. You know Vance from his two stints as Michigan's DB coach; those sandwiched an up-and-down career as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator. This year he's vastly improved a previously porous Florida secondary.
But… no. Bedford's last stint as a DC ended in ignominy and controversy after he called Okie State fans "roaches" and then wouldn't back away from it. We all know how that sort of comment would play in this media environment. Also he wasn't a good DC; as long as Rhoads and Chavis are out there there's no reason to go back to a guy who didn't do well in a coordinator role before.
The Orgeron. Come on. You know you want him.
Chris Spielman. I'm kidding. Okay, I'm half-kidding.
So, who do I like?
Of the listed: Rhoads. He's got a good track record and could revive Michigan's Pittsburgh-area recruiting. After that, probably Corwin Brown, actually, for recruiting/piss off ND/Michigan alum issues.
That postseason chat promised is happening at 8PM tonight; the WLA has organized and various eminences from the Michigan blogosphere will participate. Be there or be square. It'll be running both here and the WLA.
Scott Shafer has resigned as Michigan's defensive coordinator:
"Scott and I agreed that moving in a different direction was in the best interest of the program," said coach Rich Rodriguez. "I appreciate Scott's hard work on behalf of Michigan football the past year. He is a good football coach, a good person and a true professional. We wish him well in the future."
So, there you go. Sorry, GSimmons.
Warning: not about sports.
The media and its current direction is a semi-frequent topic of discussion around these parts, so this is worth mentioning:
The News and Free Press are scaling back home delivery to three days a week. This is the beginning of the end. The newspaper companies are voluntarily giving up half their subscription revenue in exchange for not losing money on the printing and distribution of a paper without sufficient ad revenue to cover their expenses. There is only one way this arrow points: down.
Allen Mutter, Silicon Valley CEO, former newspaper guy, and blogger, says the radical scaling back was the only alternative to total collapse:
“The choice was to shut down or to try to salvage the newspaper,” said the former executive, who was familiar with the months-long deliberations earlier this year that resulted in the decision to scrap home delivery four days a week at the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.
The radical plan, which is likely to cost some 190 people their jobs by March, was not as much a carefully conceived business decision as it was an act of desperation, said the executive, who declined to be identified because he did not want to compromise continuing business relationships.
You can sign up for the News or Free Press's new half-digital, half-dead system on the internets now, and it includes options to buy single electronic editions of the paper online. Which like… if there's no paywall—and there apparently isn't—why would I pay for the newspaper in an inconvenient format that attempts to mimic the experience of having a newspaper when I have a vastly more powerful medium at my fingertips?
Look! It's the internet! It links to things. It has infinite space and can insert video or audio if it wants; it can be interactive. It does not jump to another page unless I am evil and trying to get more pageviews out of each reader. The effort to develop an "electronic" edition of the paper is going to work about as well as The Sporting News' electronic daily thing, which ends up in my inbox every morning and exits, unread, because you're completely bats if you think I'm going to wander through a clumsy PDF file in search of two hundred words about Michigan.
You're either in or you're out, and this half-measure may slow the implosion but not for long. This morbidly funny event…
While Dave and the editors of both papers promised “vastly improved” digital products to satisfy the evolving information needs of their customers, they offered few concrete details of what new products were in the offing. The live webcast of their news conference was interrupted by repeated lapses in the transmission.
…is a microcosm of the situation. None of these people has any idea how to adapt. They can't because they formed their brains in a world without an internet. You can put a thing created by people who don't understand the internet on said internet and it will still be broken because its mentality remains wrong.
Clay Shirky explains this as clearly as possible:
The things that live on the internet are communities, not institutions, and these communities are brought together by a shared love of something. My personal example is the fungal community that grew up in the old MGoBlog 2.0 haloscan threads. (Here's a 2000-comment one.) I had no idea it was even there because the sheer vast insanity of them forced me into a choice: read and understand all this, or have a blog. People in there just talked, and kept talking, and a lot of it was about Gary Sheffield.
I saw this as a problem, and when I made the move to MGoBlog 3.0 I instituted registered commenting, threading, little signatures and avatars, diaries, and so forth and so on. I liberally applied fungicide to a community I had no idea existed. They responded by complaining, then started their own blog with haloscan commenting. When haloscan annoyingly got bought by someone or changed their feature sets or something—I didn't follow the exact nature of the offense that closely—they built their own crappy, featureless, drive-by-infested commenting system. This is the Wolverine Liberation Army, a community brought forth entirely by Michigan football, MGoBlog, and the world's worst commenting system.
I have another example: my brother is the administrator of a message board called UFCK that formed in the long-long ago as a Dave Mathews Band fan site. Everyone is now ten years older and so knows better, but the community still exists because the people on it just like talking to each other, probably about Gary Sheffield. The board recently went to a subscription-only model because donations were not covering bandwidth costs, and dozens, maybe a hundred, people shelled out. For a subscription. On the internet. To a message board.
Not even the New York Times could make a subscription model work.
What does this have to do with newspapers? Nothing, and that's sort of their problem. Go read the comments on any particular newspaper article and see how healthy their communities are.
What is there to love in the Free Press or News? Extremely little. About the only time in the past couple year's I've thought either local paper was useful was during the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal(s), because only they would dig it up and take Kilpatrick out. Other than that, it's just a bunch of content that touches the surface of things. I don't care about most of it and what I do care about I know is shallow.
The newspaper model is to appeal just enough to a vast swathe of a metro area. It's a monopoly model. Successful things on the internet usually appeal a great deal to a fervent niche.
I don't think the Detroit News is going to be around much longer, and the Free Press will continue to shrink in relevance and power until it's just another something. Neither institution deserves better, and in the interim between newspapers and whatever replaces them there is opportunity and chaos. Buckle up!
Etc.: Clay Shirky is really on top of this stuff; if you are seriously worried about what a journalist-free future looks like, 1) probably not going to happen, and 2) the internet has many, many upsides.