that is nice bonus change
A very special mailbag, with just one question. This one has been asked, or implied by people sending me reasons the play of the team is definitely the fault of the coaches, by many, many people the past couple weeks. If you sent one, I read it. I'm not responding except here. Sorry. Usually I try to be better about it.
The platonic ideal:
Just talk me off the ledge...
Please explain what it would take for you to no longer support Rich Rod. What specifically has to happen? And then, please state not just what you expect to see from the program in the coming years, but how the team will improve? To me, that's why I just can't support Rich Rod anymore. Show me where are the underclassmen who will show improvement and how you actually see the coaches making them better.
I just don't see it. Instead, I see a mentally soft team, that while yes, has serious deficiencies, is currently losing to teams that also have serious deficiencies. Our players seem to be all over the place and just poorly coached in general.
Like I said, talk me off the ledge..
I get emails like this because I've been a supporter of Rodriguez throughout his tenure at Michigan and am moving much more slowly towards the conclusion that Rodriguez should be fired than the rest of the universe. The emailer asks for specifics. To set ground rules, here are the assumptions I am working with.
Virtually nothing that happened in 2008 was avoidable, and it was mostly not Rodriguez's fault. Michigan's program had already been gutted by attrition and poor motivation by the time Rodriguez made it to campus, and the exodus of offensive stars in the aftermath of his hiring was an inevitable consequence of the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
I have it from reliable sources Ryan Mallett was gone no matter who was the coach and that Manningham was headed for the NFL after three years from day one. Arrington left because Mallett left. Boren left because he was asked to put in the same amount of effort as the rest of the team and not given special exemptions to go be Mr. Plow. If you want to blame Rodriguez for Boren, fine. Add him to the team last year and you still have a disaster of an offense that starts Nick Sheridan most of the year.
Arguments that Rodriguez should have stuck with a pro-style offense he's never coached and forgo the installation of his system in order to get to 5-7 when hardly anyone on the roster has even played in a pro-style system have been discussed already; I think they are silly.
Rodriguez is not responsible for the enormous holes on the roster. Rodriguez has had a single full recruiting class and had a brief window in which to patch some spread-type players onto Carr's last class. The gaping holes on defense and the lack of talent at outside receiver and offensive line are almost entirely Lloyd Carr's doing. The freshmen quarterbacks are a combination of Carr putting every egg for three years in Mallett's basket and the radical shift in offensive philosophy.
This has been discussed elsewhere on the blog; I won't belabor the point.
Hiring Scott Shafer was a terrible mistake, and the other hires are questionable. At the very least it was a misjudge of the guy's ability to fit in on the staff. At worst, he allowed his DC to get submarined and saw the defense implode because of his assistants' impatience.
This may extend to Rodriguez's other hires as well: Jay Hopson has recruited very few players as Michigan withdrew entirely from Mississippi after last year's debacle; Hopson also secured the commitments of both defensive tackles who went elsewhere on signing day. His linebacking corps has regressed horribly.
And while the jury is still be out (very, very out) on Robinson given the players he has to work with, but his track record since his salad days with the Broncos is one of relentless failure with a single good-not-great year at Texas mixed in.
It is worth noting that the guys who can really be considered DeBord-style crony legacy folk are Magee, Tall, Smith, and Gibson. Dews is a vagabond who was a grad assistant at WVU for a few years before wandering around to Holy Cross, CMU, and UNLV. Frey was picked off from South Florida a year before Rodriguez left WVU and had no prior connection to Rodriguez. Hopson is obviously new. Fred Jackson was an enforced hire by the Michigan AD.
The crony guys are the offensive coordinator who everyone loves, the DL coach who is, IME, doing a very good job, the QB coach who helped Pat White be Pat White, and… well… Tony Gibson. At this point I'd rather see Rodriguez hire a guy he knows inside and out; the folk he brings in from the outside haven't done that well.
We are not at the point yet where the deficiencies in the team are clearly the doing of the coaches. It's pretty suggestive at linebacker, sure. But the secondary is just a disaster zone and would be a disaster zone if Monte Kiffin cloned himself eight times and had all eight players try to teach the safeties how to play football. The offense has improved greatly from year one to year two and has done so with true freshmen at quarterback. Since Rodriguez has a track record of success, he should be extended the benefit of the doubt.
They're not "soft." They don't play like mincing Frenchmen. They play like speed-addled kids with ADD. They are irresponsible and sometimes dumb. This is because they are terribly young or Michigan's linebackers. What does "soft" even mean? Jonas Mouton blowing coverages and cutback lanes game after game is not soft. Mike Williams overrunning everyone on Illinois is not soft. Michigan blowing assignments on the Illinois goal line stand is not soft.
It takes time to dig out.
Michigan was not a 3-9 team by accident; they had the talent of a 3-9 team. If you disagree with that, it's probably to suggest that Michigan was really a 5-7 or 4-8 team that Rodriguez screwed up into being a slightly more horrible team, right?
If you think that Michigan's downfall was entirely Rodriguez-made and you're pointing to the gutted recruiting classes that were in the top ten at their inception but have been ground down to dust, you can safely move on from this post since nothing in it will convince you. My opinion is that a combination of poor late stewardship from Carr and the wrenching transition to the opposite of Lloyd Carr in so many ways is what doomed us to this transition.
I expect Rodriguez to provide continual improvement until Michigan is back to being Michigan. That's my baseline. I'm not exactly thrilled with what's gone on this year but I think it's understandable. Given the roster situation and the chaos at DC—which Rodriguez is responsible for—this Michigan team is within the range in which Rich Rodriguez is not an idiot who got lucky with Pat White and Steve Slaton. It's towards the lower end of the range but it is in the range. It takes time to dig out from the hole they were in.
Next year, Michigan must be better than they are this year. I have no idea where the emailer is getting the idea that Michigan can't be a better team when they return at least 16 starters on offense and defense, with Donovan Warren a potential 17th, some combination of Dorrestein and Omameh a potential 18th, and Darryl Stonum a functional 19th.
Additionally, the players on this team are still extremely young. There are 11 starters on the team who are sophomores or freshman by eligibility, and many of the guys with redshirts in there are guys like Hemingway, Huyge, and Molk who missed large chunks of time with injury. The quarterbacks should take huge leaps forward in their second year. The only spot at which Michigan should be appreciably worse next year, excepting special teams, is Brandon Graham. That will be a major loss; it won't offset improved play at every position on the field.
So, sure. If you really don't think Michigan is going to be better next year I can understand why you'd want to see Rodriguez fired. I also think you're completely nuts.
If they aren't obviously better, then Rodriguez should be fired. If they don't make a bowl game, if they aren't obviously moving away from the Big Ten cellar, if they don't approach yardage parity against BCS opponents, Rodriguez should be fired. I think all of those things are seriously unlikely, and am willing to invest a year to find out. Where it is in black and white: acts of God nonwithstanding, Michigan has to go 8-5 next year or Rodriguez should be cut loose. 7-6 might be okay if the bowl matchup is obviously bad.
This is the last I'll say about it until next year.
- Injuries: Brandon Minor's ankle injury is ongoing, and now he has a bruised shoulder as well. Junior Hemingway has a back bruise and was limited against Purdue. Martavious Odoms is still day-to-day, he hasn't progressed that well. Perry Dorrestein is getting better. Carlos was limited against Purdue because he missed the week of practice with tendinitis.
- Personnel notes: Brandon Minor gives the team a completely different dimension because he is able to break tackles and run downhill. Without him, the offense isn't as good. Patrick Omameh played pretty well, especially for his first start. He has some technical things to improve, but he played hard and was physical. Tate had a few missed reads and bad decisions, but didn't play poorly. JB Fitzgerald graded out OK. Rich doesn't know who will start on defense this week,because nobody on the defense graded out at a championship level. Olesnavage should be fine mentally - it was his first extra point miss of the year. Brandon Smith is moving around trying to find a position. He's at safety now, though his future might be at linebacker. The coaches wanted to get Denard in the game more, but didn't want to disrupt Tate's rhythm.
- The defense plays well in practice, but seems to be clueless in games. For players to think that is "disheartening" for Rodriguez. He thinks the lay well, but for a few big mistakes. On both big pass plays (excluding the one to the RB, I assume), the player in man coverage just let his eyes get off his man for a second.
- The offense didn't seem to be that different from first to second half. Purdue made a couple adjustments, and there were some execution errors, but other than that it wasn't bad. The second half collapses of late have been a result of just needing to play better. There isn't a lot of time at halftime to attribute the difference to "halftime adjustments." The team needs to mature mentally and show resiliency. They should be mentally mature enough at this point in the season. Rich was more disappointed with the resiliency against Illinios than he was this week.
- Purdue's onside kick was a very good call and executed to perfection. Michigan needs to be more prepared for that.
- The decision to go for it on fourth down was never reconsidered. It wasn't an issue of whether the coaches thought they could score again if they kicked the field goal, but a matter of stopping Purdue to get the ball back.
- Against Wisconsin, the team needs to just play. Don't worry about outside factors (though bowl eligibility may be motivation), or the surroundings just play football. They're a big physical team, and Clay will definitely be the biggest back that the defense has seen all year.
- There are only 70 or 71 recruited scholarship players on the roster this year. It will take 2-3 recruiting classes to get the numbers up, and have the ability to let younger guys wait their turn. Players like Justin Turner and Thomas Gordon will be good players in the future.
- Boise State never approached Michigan about playing each other in 2010. Rodriguez thinks the schedule is probably set for the next couple years, but Boise is a possibility 4-5 years down the road.
- His decomitment from Purdue gave the Boilermaker players a lot to talk about all day. They were constantly talking to him, but he's not a talker, and didn't respond. Torri Williams was his recruiting host for Purdue, and Roundtree broke Williams's tackle on his touchdown reception.
- Martavious Odoms is a helpful teammate to Roundtree. They get to go against each other as competition in practice, but that doesn't mean Odoms won't give Roy tips on how to improve his game.
- Roundtree's strength and conditioning has come a long way since he first arrived. He was a laughingstock when he first arrived, but now his teammates appreciate how far he's come.
- Tate is just a freshman, so ups and downs are to be expected. He's currently on a bit of a down cycle, but will be ready for Wisconsin.
- Feels pretty healthy. His shoulder should be fine. The knee injury was just a slight twist, he'll wear a sleeve but no brace over it for the rest of the season. He expected to get a little banged up during the season, especially because his body isn't fully developed yet.
- Past games are in the past, and the team can't worry about them anymore. They need to focus on the future, and beat Wisconsin to get the seniors to a bowl game. Lots of the seniors are from Jason's class, so Tate knows them.
- The second half letdowns have been partially because the team comes out flat. There's no real explanation for it, but it's visible on film. They are pumped at the start of the game, but the leaders need to remind everyone to do the same for the second half.
- The defense is playing well, except for a couple critical mistakes. The offense hasn't helped at times, putting them in bad situations with turnovers. Having a new defensive coordinator makes it hard for them to achieve consistency.
- Tate feels he's been making too many freshman mistakes. He can't do that and expect the team to still win. The game has finally started slowing down for him (he noticed it against Illinois). He just needs to not make mistakes and get the ball to his athletes.
- The second half struggles shouldn't be an indication that the defense isn't good. Sometimes people are just pressing too hard to make things happen. He's not sure if the deficiencies are mental or physical. Sometimes, when the opposing offense has success, it feels like the defense didn't prepare well, even though Troy knows that's not the case. they just need to focus and get it done.
- Greg Robinson is a calm coach, and he's been successful in a bunch of places. Troy feels like last year's defense was bad because the schemes simply weren't working. This year, it's a good defense with too many execution errors at times.
- With a young defense, Obi Ezeh and Donovan Warren are the players who will get on guys when they make a mistake. Warren is a very passionate player, though it usually isn't displayed like it was on Saturday unless things are going very well or very poorly.
- Going to a bowl would be an accomplishment for this team. If they don't go to a bowl, they can't be too disappointed with their progress, because they've still improved the record from last year. Goal #1 is to beat Ohio State, and they want to beat Wisconsin as well. Troy can't wait to get into the atmosphere of Camp Randall and play.
Warning: post rated PG-13 for f-bomb drop.
11/6/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 3 – 4-3, 2-1 CCHA
11/7/2009 – Michigan 36, Purdue 38 - 5-5, 1-4 Big Ten
11/7/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 5 – 4-4, 2-2 CCHA
In the aftermath of The Horror, my coping strategy was to shut off the blog—which was then still on Blogger and subject to the chaos of Haloscan's free-for-all—to avoid any emo suicides and watch The Big Lebowski. (Kittens would show up Monday.) Yes, I am one of those annoying people who thinks The Big Lebowski is the pinnacle achievement of western civilization. I haven't gone to a bowling alley dressed up like Saddam Hussein or the police chief of Malibu, at least.
I didn't do this for any reason related to football. I just like the movie. It makes me laugh to beat the band. I'd never thought there was any sort of overarching philosophy in the movie worth starting a religion over. I was in a mood to reflect on the underpinnings of my life, though.
As the movie unfolded I belatedly realized—or maybe it just seemed way more relevant given my mental state—that the Dude is a spectator throughout. At no point in the movie does the Dude actually take an action without being badgered into it by Walter.* Even the cabbie who likes the Eagles ends up taking a decisive action at the expense of our hero. By the end of the thing, Lebowski's rug is gone, apartment destroyed, car burned to a crisp, and friend dead because an inexplicable series of events he had almost nothing to do with.
My girlfriend says that the reason there is not an academic paper about the Dude's shocking lack of "agency," as the smart kids say, is that it is "too obvious to be interesting." So, too, are the parallels to Michigan fandom**.
I didn't intentionally configure my hair to match the Dude but it does and goddamn if big, incompetent misery factory Walter isn't a good stand-in for Michigan athletics at the moment:
(Sorry about the Turkish(?) subtitles. Woo inadvisable copyright claims.)
"Everything's such fucking travesty with you" was my weekend.
I'm worn out after the last two weeks of football and the fiasco at Yost this weekend; when Miami scored to make it 4-1 with maybe 15 minutes left in the third period I reached a breaking point and just left. Other scenes from earlier this week: some guy tells me not to swear so much in front of his kids at the Friday Miami game, I get in a verbal fight with some guy who wants Rodriguez fired and is complaining about Tate Forcier, cousin of mine gets in separate verbal fight after the game when a different guy is yelling "you suck" at Forcier as he runs off the field, and an adorable child in the row behind me at the Saturday Miami game screams "Mich-i-GAN" the whole game—which was cute the first 50 times.
I've got no real analysis of either team other than they're both worse than I thought. I'm burning out after two years of almost unrelenting misery, and looking forward to football season being over for the third straight year. I mean, when Michigan was down to Purdue in the second half, some fan ten or twenty rows behind me kept shouting "they've got no heart" over and over again as the guy in the row in front of me called for Rodriguez's firing. Having a conversation about Michigan football right now is trying to remember that episode of GI Joe where Destro finds a secret ninja manual in a volcano*** that allows him to kill people with precisely-applied touches: if you can just remember where the red dots are you can spare everyone a lot of pain.
I'll address the question I've gotten in a thousand different forms the past couple weeks—"when can we fire this guy?"—in a separate post. It's been that kind of era.
*(The movie opens with a couple guys peeing on his rug because someone else's wife owes money to Jackie Treehorn. The Big Lebowski directs him to make a ransom drop. Walter screws up the drop despite the Dude screaming at Walter not to screw it up. Walter leads the Bay of Pigs invasion of Larry Sellers's home. Jackie Treehorn invites him to his beach party, so he goes. Maude directs him to show up at her place and directs him to sleep with her—"love me". When the nihilists confront the dude for his three dollars, Walter re-enacts Hill 368 as Lebowski attempts to throw money at Amie Mann's boyfriend.
About the only action Lebowski takes in the movie is telling Brandt that he can have a rug.)
**(Freudian slip: spelled that "fandoom.")
***(This may not be the right character, or even the right cartoon.)
- I wonder if the gameplan on offense was specifically designed to piss Joe Tiller off. Probably not. But dang Roundtree is going hold onto his spot in the lineup when Odoms gets back. He is a Purdue wideout in all ways: physically limited but precise, fearless over the middle, and a guy the quarterback clearly trusts.
- Mouton got pulled for JB Fitzgerald after his (-3, cover –3) on Purdue's first drive but re-entered in the second half; Leach got yanked for Obi Ezeh late, too. So much for the hope that either of the two backups could prove clearly superior to the guys who started the season.
- Carlos Brown had one carry. Injured? Or doghouse after Illinois? Not that I mind: Minor is clearly superior when healthy.
- Omameh played RG the whole game and Dorrestein never came in. If guys like Brown and Dorrestein aren't even on the injury report, why bother having one? Not even "probable"?
- Related: it was really frustrating how many times it seemed that Purdue's offensive line had gotten blown back and Bolden would pop through a hole after taking a circuitous route around a mess. I bet there are some major minuses for the LB corps on the UFR.
- That damn rollout play was shades of the Toledo game. Surely there's an adjustment that can be made there, isn't there?
- Warren doesn't seem good enough to go to the NFL this year anymore. He was mostly a spectator as Purdue complete a ton of routes in front of him.
- With Banks out, Sagesse slid over to act as RVB's backup and Campbell got 20-30 snaps as Martin's backup. He seemed to do a little better.
- I would have gone for it on fourth and ten, too. Michigan had one, maybe two more possessions and needed eight points. Kicking a field goal there only helps you if you get the ball back and score a touchdown, events that seemed unlikely given the defense's performance to that point. It think it's a close decision because it was long yardage and a field goal is a defensible option, but I would have gone for it. That's a real gray area.
- I did have a problem with how much time Michigan took on their final touchdown drive. Scenarios there in the event of a touchdown:
You get two: If you hurried up, Purdue has three or so minutes on the block. If you didn't, Purdue has two. Either way they have an opportunity to drive for the win; the minute there doesn't make a big difference.
You don't get two: If you don't hurry, you've got one timeout and two minutes left and have to try an onside kick and get the ball back with 30 seconds when that fails. If you do, you can kick it deep and hypothetically get the ball back with 1:30 needing only a field goal.
Michigan should have been in jet tempo on the final series, and should have thought about throwing for the touchdown instead of running for it.
- Michigan breaks out the triple option—though I bet the dive is not a read yet—for the first time all year and gets a negative play and a crippling fumble out of it. Two initial thoughts: how is that fair when we haven't run that in the history of Rich Rodriguez, and if Purdue can defend it why the hell can't we?
- The Higgs boson theory from the Purdue preview might be publishable after Michigan lost to Purdue because the kicker missed an extra point in the same game he hit a 51-yard field goal.
Danny Hope introduced Rich Rodriguez to Zack Reckman, the Purdue lineman who got suspended in the wake of the Jonas Mouton Suspension fiasco, in a pissy drama that promises to make future Purdue games more interesting. MVictors has the relevant audio clip from the post-game press conference where Rodriguez complains about the incident.
Obligatory "take" I will bring strong: short of slapping yourself, press conferences don't matter. People use them to support/hate a coach they already support or hate because of on-field events. Nothing from Rodriguez's press conferences has ever made me think he was more likely to succeed or fail at Michigan. It is just talking, and that's a skill that a lot of coaches don't have.
As for the act itself: bush league, but I like bush league. It makes things spicy.
MVictors also reproduces an interesting statement from the officials who did the game about what went down on the crazy Carlos Brown lateral review:
What was the interpretation on the fourth down review with the forward lateral? What was it that the replay official saw?
TODD GEERLINGS: “The replay official saw that the ball, when it left his hand to the point where it touched the receiver’s hand, was clearly forward from the 13 to the 12 yard line. That’s why we had an illegal forward pass from the spot of that pass.”
Who called for the review?
GEERLINGS: “The booth called for the review and I announced that on the field prior to. The coaches on the field were trying to but Purdue did not have a challenge left so they couldn’t have. They were trying to but just as I got the buzz on the pager, I just turned to Purdue and said ‘We got it’ but I think people thought they had challenged it. They were trying to, but they did not.”
This is great. I haven't seen it on tape yet but given the lack of bitching it's probably the right call, and having some clear explanations for what happened in the heat of a critical moment is a much better way to go about defusing potential controversy's than the SEC ham-handed—nay—Delany-esque handling of its ongoing and never-ending refereeing fiascoes.
There's a press conference torrent, too.
|Last week's ballot|
Dude, the deltas on my ballot are not working at all. That probably (helps) explain why I got Mr. Stubborn last week, and it actually looks like I may be cruising for that award again.
I moved Texas ahead of Alabama, because the 'Horns showed that even when they play horribly, they're capable of blowing a team out.
I'm finally giving Pitt the respect they've probably deserved for the past couple week. I think that NC State loss was really holding me back, but there's hardly anybody out there who hasn't had a couple sketchy games.
I was surprised how little Iowa and Oregon moved down. I'm not sure if I like the small difference there, but I think the resumes still fit.
I don't like moving BYU in at the end of the poll, since they've gotten blown out in their only two games against actual competition. I also don't like dropping Wisconsin (though their resume isn't too different from BYU's). I think I'll switch Wisconsin back out for BYU in the final.
As per usual, the Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post exists and you should check it out if you are a n00b.
Michigan (0-0) 73, Wayne State 54.
It was an exhibition game against a D-2 team. It's meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and counts toward nothing. Yet it still felt good to be back in Crisler Arena, and perhaps even better to emerge with a win, be it over Duke, Michigan State... or Wayne State.
In the grand scheme of things, nothing is more important than junior Manny Harris's hamstring injury. Though it has been hampering him throughout fall practices, there was no noticeable effect on the floor. "I think it got a lot better," Manny said following the game. He led all scorers with 25 points,tied senior DeShawn Sims for the team lead in rebounds (5), and even came away with three steals to lead all players. Manny said he wasn't sure how much he was going to play, but coach JOhn Beilein Beilein explained, "I wanted to make sure he got enough touches and just felt good before the real thing starts."
The fast break was a good source of offense for Michigan, as well. "This year, we're trying to be faster, and just really anticipating that. We've got more people athletic on the wing, so there's no reason why we shouldn't be running," said freshman Darius Morris. The three ball wasn't quite as consistent, except from sophomore Zack Novak, who went 5/8 from behind the arc.
I was somewhat surprised that Michigan's athleticism wasn't able to simply overpower the Warriors for the entire game. Basketball is a more skill-oriented sport than football in some respects, so the difference between the divisions may be there and in size, rather than raw athletic ability. Wayne did have a couple guys who could really shoot the ball, but Michigan's defense made it difficult to get a lot of open looks.
The Crisler atmosphere was pretty good, with 9,657 fans in the house. "It's blessing, with all those Maize Rage fans are out there, calling your name. It was just a great atmosphere," said Darius Morris. "It was great," Novak said, "The Maize Rage was awesome, and we had a really good turnout, I thought." A good turnout indeed: That's within a thousand of last year's season average. It's not guaranteed to continue though, according to Beilein: "We certainly have to win to keep them coming back, but it's really neat to have that type of student support."
- Your starters were Darius Morris, Laval Lucas-Perry, Manny Harris, Zack Novak, and DeShawn Sims.
- Coach Beilein mentioned that he would like to get DeShawn Sims on the court with another bigman more often. He couldn't tonight because of Sims's foul trouble, but look for that in the future.
- I was surprised at how little Matt Vogrich played. You'd think a good outside shooter like him would get more run in Beilein's system. He was unable to get into a rhythm in his 11 minutes and was 0/2 from the floor.
- Michigan was able to empty the bench at the end of the game. You can see that those guys aren't as talented as those who will get more regular playing time, but there are a couple guys who could be contributors in the future.
- Zack Gibson is still good for at least one play per game that makes you think "he can do that?".
- It's touched on above, but I was shocked at the fan turnout for a weekend exhibition game. Good work, Michigan fans (or is this a sign we're just waiting to transition from football to basketball?).
- Area for improvement: Free throw shooting. The sample size is small (and Michigan was an excellent free throw shooting team last year), so hopefully the 60% number is just an anomaly.