coaches say you can't, so don't sign a loi
Michigan started the season with some wins and a few bad losses. Up next was their old rival, the Minnesota Gophers. Leading up to the game, the head coach was dealing with some legitimately injured players. "There was also a bunch of guys who were hurt - a little bruised and banged up, but not injured, where practicing can make it worse." There were other issues the head coach was dealing with, so he made some changes to the starting lineup. That Michigan team "couldn't do anything in the first half against the Gophers, and returned to the locker room down 9-7." One of the players looked the coach straight in the eye and said, "Coach, I'm going to play." As the story goes, the players "left that locker room jacked!" That team went out there and just ripped the Gophers. That team scored 28 points, shut down the Gophers and won 35-9. That was Bo Schembechler's first Michigan Team. The contrast to Brady Hoke's fourth Michigan team can't be more stark.*
If you look in the boxscore, you'll notice that it doesn't explicity state what the objective of the game is. It's understood by all, one would think, that the goal is to score more points than the opposition. Indeed, the first section of the boxscore is the "Scoring Summary." The boxscore also lists players names and their contributions to the game. One would think that if one wanted to score more of these "points" than the other squad, one might want to play their best players. I'm left scratching my head wondering what Brady Hoke was trying to do in this game. In Schembechler's account of his first game against Minnesota, he admits this:
Let me tell you the God's honest truth: Even if we got beat up there in Minnesota, I would still have felt better about taking the squad I took than I would have if we'd won that game with a bunch of guys who hadn't practiced all week, guys who let their teammates down, guys who didn't take my word seriously.
So it's obvious Schembechler had a larger goal in mind; it was a "lose the battle but win the war" mentality. Oh to be a fly on the wall in Schembechler Hall so that I might understand what Brady Hoke was trying to prove with this stunt. He sat a 5th year quarterback with significant playing experience, a player so distinguished, with so much ability, talent, and skills that he was given the honor of wearing the Tom Harmon Legends jersey, for a 2nd year quarterback with one start under his belt in college. I thought maybe, just maybe, Gardner was injured. That's the only way this makes sense to me, if the objective was to win the football game. However, when Russell Bellomy couldn't find his helmet to sub in for a play, the truth was revealed. Gardner was not injured, for if he was, Bellomy would have practiced all week and would have the slightest clue where his helmet was. No, Gardner was sat to teach some sort of lesson. I suppose it may have been about ball control, but then, why replace him with someone who has shown even less competency in this area than Gardner? Was this lesson really so much more important than giving the Team the best opportunity to win? To even explore this line of thinking casts aspersions on Gardner, and I would rather not go there. So why, Coach Hoke, why did you find it necessary to start Morris, and then further compound your error by letting him return to the huddle to start the second half? If, in fact, the object of the game is to win the game?
* first paragraph obviously borrowed heavily from Bo's lasting lessons. I think I'm going to stop doing this as Bo shouldn't be associated with whatever Brady is trying to do.
Boxscore link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/092714aaa.html
Burst of Impetus
* Toward the end of the first half, Michigan punted to Minnesota and actually had something good happen as we were able to down the ball at the 1 yard line. Minnesota had 2 minutes and 17 seconds to drive the length of the field or at least get in field goal range. Not likely, right, 'cause they are Minnesota. Ha ha, what a joke of a team, right? They only completed one pass last week. I mean, their coach looks like a gopher. Ha ha, right? So Minnesota ran for a yard. Then they ran for four more, and Michigan called time-out, leaving Minnesota 1 minute and 31 seconds left. Everyone will tell you that was the right call, and it was; however, the defense has to make a play. On the next play, Mitch Leidner passed to Lincoln Plsek for 21 yards and all of a sudden, Minnesota had the momentum. They never gave it up. The next thing they took was our gameplan, and then our composure, and then our spirit, and then our health. And finally, they took our jug.
* Imagine the boos if Brady had let the clock run out on that 3rd and 5 play. Let's consider the alternative. Let's just say the defense made a stop, or the much derided Mitch Leidner floated a pass and Minnesota had to punt. We'd get the ball back with a minute left at midfield with no timeouts and a QB making his first start in the Big House. A QB who had shown nothing so far, having thrown for 41 yards on 10 attempts for a 4.1 YPA average. I read this blog a lot. I mean, A LOT. I've learned that 4.1 YPA is not very good. So is that a situation that instills any confidence in you? I'm afraid the correct call in this very strange situation would have been to let Minnesota run the clock out and go into half at 7-7. The next correct call would have been to thank Shane for his efforts, but to let Gardner start the 2nd half.
"What kind of throw was that?"
* Shane finished 7 for 19 for 49 yards with one interception. I guess that's about what you'd expect from a QB that entered the game 7 for 20. Yet Coach Hoke thought Morris gave the team the best opportunity to win, or something else, whatever that might be.
"I thought he was good."
* One thing that my son's teacher is trying to teach him is to use descriptive language when he writes. Saying, "I thought he was good," is somewhat vague. At this point, I don't know if Gardner is still good, (I know he is not "legendary") but I can say that he is better than Morris right now. Gardner was only 3 for 6 and had some dangerous looking throws, but he did average 6.5 YPA, and that at least isn't bad.
"That doesn't help at all."
* De'Veon Smith led Michigan with 57 yards rushing on 9 carries and had a touchdown. He carried once in the second half for 2 yards. The whole point of toughness-manball-toughness is that you wear down your opposition and make hay in the 2nd half. Giving your one back who showed anything in the first half only one second half carry, "doesn't help at all."
* Derrick Green had 4 first half carries for 10 yards. He was given two 2nd half carries and lost 2 yards. Everybody say it with me, "that doesn't help at all."
* Michigan received the kick to start the second half. We were hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and began the drive at the 12.5 yard line (half way to the goal from the 25.) The boxscore shows 2 penalties for 23 yards, so it appears they round up. I've always wondered about that.
* So the big halftime adjustment was to give the ball to Green, the guy who wasn't gaining yards in the first half, and then throw to Darboh, the guy who wasn't getting open in the first half. Hurray for haltime adjustments.
* One of Michigan's few experienced offensive linemen, Erik Magnuson, didn't play. I didn't hear why.
* Net punting yardage was pretty even at 38.2 for Minnesota and 39.2 for Michigan. So even though I'm tempted to complain about the punting strategy, I'll let that one slide this week.
"I could run better than that. He just stops."
* See above.
* Minnesota did have 6 TFLs. I noticed on at least two of them, the play design asks the offensive tackle to downblock a guy 1.5 gaps away from him. I don't see how this is supposed to work.
* Another quote from Bo's lasting lessons:
We took every opponent seriously, and even if we were heavy favorites-and we usually were-our goal was to get better every game.
Does that sound like a Brady Hoke-coached team? How are we taking the Gophers seriously if we think we can win with our backup quarterback and his one career start?
"Another huddle? Really?"
* The blog has complained about the offense and special teams, but generally feels satisfied with the defense. There's a common refrain that goes, well, they played well for awhile but just wore down as the offense couldn't get anything going. The defense was on the field for 70 plays. That's not that many more than normal, thanks to the slow tempo. The defense was actually stout when Ryan Glasgow was in the game. Whenever he came out, Cobb gashed us.
* The defense gave up 23 of the 30 points. Only 10 points were scored on drives that covered more than 40 yards, so I'll concede that the offense and special teams put the defense in some pretty tough situations. But on the flip side, the defense didn't force any turnovers and didn't put our offense in very good positions either.
* The defense gave up 20 first downs and 5.3 yards per play to Minnesota. Michigan was held to 12 first downs (three coming via Minnesota penalty) and 3.2 yards per play. At least the boxscore and the final score make sense this week.
* In a game where Minnesota's lead running back, David Cobb, carried the ball 32 times, Jake Ryan recorded 5 tackles. Read that again. Let it sink in. If, oh I don't know, someone like Chris Spielman was playing linebacker and the opponent's running back had 32 carries, I'd expect Spielman to make 15-20 tackles. I guess what I'm saying is we really missed Desmond Morgan in this game.
* Let's give some credit to Minnesota's line for identifying Michigan's defensive leader and taking him out of the game. Their line played like Epping Campions.
* Will Hagerup made a tackle. I guess under the circumstances that's better than not making a tackle.
"What is facilitating the comfort level?"
* Hurray, I finally have a section heading for inane announcer comments.
* Jineene Edwards (?) asked this of Jerry Kill before halftime. His answer was direct and to the point, "He is gettin' comfortable." So gettin' comfortable facilitates the comfort level. A ha, I'll have to remember that for our next game.
* Shane Morris is from Hazel Park, Michigan, not Minnesota, as Mike Patrick incorrectly stated. This only matters to me since ST1 moved from Pennsylvania to Hazel Park many years ago because of Grandma's hazel eyes. At least that's what he used to tell us. And it's for that reason that I'm a Michigan fan instead of say, the Pitt Panthers, or - shudders - Penn State.
* I thought Ed Cunningham did a fine job. Mike Patrick was horrible, unless you think it's acceptable to mix up Berkley Edwards (5' 9", 190 lbs) with Blutarsky Wolitarsky (6' 3", 226 lbs.)
* Ryan Glasgow, JourDON Lewis, and RayMONE Taylor facilitate my comfort level. (Those last two are thanks to Mike Patrick.) Starting Shane Morris does not facilitate my comfort level. Looking at Brady Hoke on the sidelines does not bring me any comfort.
This is going to be a little shorter than normal for a variety of reasons. Mostly because I have better things to do than rehash another ass-kicking, but also because I have a half-marathon on Sunday that I decided would be a good idea not training for and I want to enjoy my last couple of hours with functioning calves.
Worst: Caring is Creepy
I want to care. I really do. I want to look at barely 100 yards of total offense against Minnesota through 3 quarters, giving up 30 straight points, the pick-six, the continued dumb punting, everything and care. And the fact I'm going to write over 3,000 words about it probably means I still do in some way. But right now, man, I just don't know why I keep watching this team. I get that Brian and co. need to because this site pays the bills, but what's in it for fans like me who are supposed to derive pleasure from watching their alma mater line up every Saturday? As I've mentioned before, I have a young daughter, a beautiful wife, good health, and enough hobbies to keep me busy most weekends. And yet, even after Notre Dame. Even after Utah. Even after the last x number of years of watching Michigan football screw it up more times than not, in ever-more-agonizing fashion, I keep coming back.
I don't know anymore. I might keep writing these columns out of force of habit, but I don't know why it matters. Michigan is poofarting its way toward its 4th coach in 7 years, another 2 months of talk radio complaining, former players calling out the current administration, anonymous sources reporting Dave Brandon is out, is getting a raise, is wandering around Meijers at 2 in the morning trying to Synergize with valued consumers about their love for Michigan and Dr. Pepper.
This season is 5 games in and it feels like it's been going on 40 years, the saddest carousel just spinning around and around while little kids are bored and everyone just wants to get off and get on some other ride. Somebody commented in my last post that they wish I showed more emotion in these posts, that I write them about passion but don't display it. Well, this is what ennui looks and writes like. It's a broken guy who is looking at the screen and looking forward to apple picking next weekend with his family over watching his favorite team in the whole f'ing world get worked over by a commuter school in NJ because it means Cablevision might carry the B1G Network on its basic package instead of the extra "sports" one I pay for.
Worst: Compounded Stupidity
Shane Morris is trying his best out there, so I want it to be clear that I am not questioning him. But there is no reason in the world why he should have started this game if Gardner was even remotely healthy, and nothing in this game dispelled the notion for all of his failings, Gardner is the better QB for this particular team right now. Morris threw one pick-6 that was a combination of poor blocking and staring down a receiver as soon as they broke the huddle, but he also threw 2-3 more passes that probably should have been picked off. He also fumbled a ball for no particular reason, and after being injured early in the 3rd quarter was clearly moving in pain. Morris may be the answer, but certainly not to the questions surrounding this putrid offense.
(I'll leave claims of Morris possibly being concussed and still on the field for those with more information, because I wasn't there and we've seen many players take shots and bounce back up. Not to play devil's advocate, but it looked as much like Morris had the wind knocked out of him by that hit than he was concussed, and the fact he was taken out 2 plays later felt like a coaching staff realizing something more was up than a hit. Putting him in a couple of plays later for that handoff is obviously bad, and his fumbling with a response in the postgame didn't help anything. [EDIT] That said, Brady Hoke is many things, but it takes a pretty extreme jump in logic [admittedly, one that a certain subset of the fanbase is dying to make] to claim that he would knowingly endanger the health of one of his players in a game. But as more information comes out, that could obviously change the story. I'm just wary of the reactionary tone that took over immediately following the game, especially by [mostly] uninvolved third parties).
And yet, Hoke just kept running him out there, giving him the "game experience" of having 300 pound men land on his injured leg and forcing bad throws into bad coverage while the line crumbles around him. Mercifully he was pulled late in the 4th quarter, his ankle clearly ravaged and immediately bound up in bags of ice, and then Gardner was sent in to, I don't know, try to move the offense after being put so far behind the 8-ball that he was basically playing Snooker. After the first sustained scoring drive of the day gave the fans a slight bit of hope, the offense again became bogged down after poor field position and that was the game.
Sadly, this is becoming a running theme with Hoke. Like his QBs after one too many sacks, he locks onto a single target and just won't let go even when it is clearly futile. In his mind, Shane Morris starting was the decision Brady Hoke, the head coach of Michigan, made, and come hell, high water, or complete scuttling of the offense he was going to play every down possible goddamnit. As with the continued stupidity surrounding the punting formation (which cost them another 66 yards after last week's debacle) and his clear preference for a slowed-down, huddling offense, Hoke seems unwilling or unable to look at the current situation and reassess his options; like the mark at a Poker table, he can't read the table one bit and just keeps raising on his 2-7 because there's the possibility he'll hit a flush. All coaches have their blind spots (RR was vilified for not changing his offense when he arrived at UM given the talent available, and the less we talk about GERG the better) but Hoke's seem so wide that we should probably just take his keys away.
Worst: Tough Enough
One of the hottest of #HOTTAKES going on these past couple of weeks has been the railing against the "toughness" of the players the coaching staff. Everywhere you go, you hear and read people questioning the heart and desire of this team, about its willingness to do "what is necessary" to win, to be great, and every other insipid sports cliche uttered by screenlight coaches and players. Amplifying this mentality has been former players calling out the program and players, questioning their abilities and lobbying for the removal of the coaches and Dave Brandon. The general sentiment on the always-reliable internet is that the program is rudderless and that the players have given up as a result, or at the very least aren't able to put the effort forth necessary to win.
I know last week I described the death of my optimism about this season, so this might sound a bit hypocritical to then attack others for voicing their own displeasure, but I am profoundly, mind-numbingly tired of people questioning the desire of college players and the people who have dedicated their lives to making them better. Now, I'm not defending the results so far on the scoreboard, nor am I saying that I believe guys like Hoke, Funk, Ferrigno, etc. are the best choices for the jobs the currently inhabit. I still believe that Hoke should be gone, as the number of boneheaded decisions (the punting formation fiasco and the lack of anything resembling tempo or urgency on offense being prime examples) has only increased since he's been at the helm. But I absolutely believe that he cares about Michigan football and is trying his best to make it a winner, just like everyone else involved with the program; to question the effort and desire put forth by the players and coaches is asinine.
But caring about results is only part of the equation; you need to be able to perform well to achieve them, and obviously that is where the team has fallen short. And some of that is maybe due to "mental toughness", though I guess I read that as more to do with lagging preparation and compounded mistakes than the idea that the players are too "dumb"/easily manipulated by bad circumstances and just mentally check out. Nobody is happy with the season thus far in toto, but the reductiveness displayed by a portion of the fanbase that conflates this objective outcome with subjective interpretations of how much college-aged kids care about their performance is even worse.
It highlights the disconnect and, frankly, the gladiatorial "are you not entertained"-ness of how fans view most athletes, but it is especially disheartening when we treat college athletes, many of whom are juggling lives far more complicated and strained compared to their peers, as pawns for our entertainment. When they succeed, we tend to imprint those successes on ourselves, taking pride in accomplishments we have no connection to beyond the fact that we root for the name on their jersies. And when they inevitably fail to meet our expectations, we bristle at the equally-absurd insinuation that this reflects poorly on ourselves and our passion, resulting in questions of manhood and effort being put forth by people who are, with few exceptions, infinitely better at the sport they play than anyone reading about them is, was, or ever will be at it.
So as a fanbase, I would love nothing more than the bulk of people (because there are going to be mouthbreathers who stopped reading this post at the hashtag and will continue to perpetuate this behavior) stopped wondering about whether or not kids and coaches who represent Michigan care about putting forth the best effort possible (they do) and instead focus on how to support them while also fixing the MANY institutional and administrative issues that have lingered with this team through its various permutations.
Or, to put more succinctly, stop shitting on college kids because you don't like your team losing and need to rationalize that sad feeling in your stomach away by questioning the character of other people.
Best: Fire Brandon
That's it. Oh, you want something more?
Okay, Fire Everyone.
I'm fine with the fans chanting. Might as well direct it toward something reasonable. While I am loathe to believe it matters much to the people in control, the complete clusterf*ck that has been the athletic department these past couple of weeks might as well be highlighted by the brave souls who actually watched the game this week in person.
Best: Former Players Having Opinions
Worst: Needing to Share Those Opinions Every Chance They Get
On one hand, I absolutely believe that fans of this team should voice their opinions, and that former players and others involved in the program have a unique perspective on how the team is being run and what should be its future. I'm just a guy who sits on his couch 13 times a year watching Michigan football and remembers how it felt sitting in the stands over a decade ago watching them play under Lloyd Carr. Like the overwhelming majority of fans, my involvement with the team began and ended when I paid for tickets, and even as an alum I don't feel any great connection to the program beyond the unhealthy obsession fostered by this site and the internet more generally. So guys who bled for this team, who sat through the two-a-days, the tough losses, the long trips and the late-night study tables, and performed admirably for my entertainment should absolutely be allowed to hold their own opinions and, in certain contexts, feel free to voice them much in the same way I do here.
That said, there is a fine line between voicing your displeasure and piling on, and when you step over that line you are simply providing even more distractions for a program that doesn't need them. When someone like me writes a couple thousand words bitching about the team, nobody puts a microphone in front of me or plasters it on the front page of the sports section, and that's probably for the best because I'm kind of an idiot. But former players aren't nameless, faceless goobers; they are "important people" who "speak for the fans", and so their words are given extra meaning when they are probably based on the same raw emotions and frayed nerves that swell in most UM fans' hearts right now. They aren't pointing out something new or unknown; to continue my analogy from last week regarding the Titanic, everyone's seen the f'ing iceberg and the ship ain't getting out of the way.
Brady Hoke should be gone; full stop. The likelihood of him surviving has moved from the nearly-impossible (beat OSU and/or MSU and win a bowl game) to non-existent; even with two upsets over the rivals I can't see the toxicity surrounding him to dissipate enough. Wins will be treated as blind squirrels finding long-forgotten nuts; the core problems people have with him aren't going to change and, frankly, they would only become more calcified if Hoke could pull off a couple of wins to validate them.
It may be counter-intuitive, but I think far volumes would be spoken by former players simply remaining silent through this whole process. Brady Hoke isn't a bad guy (sure he's ornery with the press but that's the nature of any antagonistic relationship) and his love for the University is true and, sadly, unrequited right now. But we've already seen with RR how a toxic environment, fostered in part by former players speaking out against him in the press with nothing more than poorly-thought-out rants and references to a fabricated "way we used to do things", can submarine a program when it is already floundering, and both for this team as well the next coach coming in, it would be a positive for everyone if the vitriol was dialed down. I don't expect that to happen, but it would definitely help.
That's the number of plays Minnesota ran against Michigan, including 40 in the first half. For comparison, Michigan ran 53 plays all game. I thought the defense held up reasonably well in the first half despite UM having only 1 drive in that first half that lasted more than about 2 minutes and change. It felt a bit like watching the MSU game from last year, where the defense tried to hold the fort against a bruising team while the offense sputtered pretty spectacularly. Even Smith's TD was mostly a short-field drive helped by a single long-ish run. There was no sustained offensive playcalling, and it left the defense facing a rush-first team going downhill at halftime, especially after Minnesota worked their way down the field for a FG to end the half. After stoning Minnesota on the first drive of the second half and holding them to a long FG after a bad punt gave the Gophers great field position, you had a sense that the defense desperately needed the offense to do something, anything to keep the floodgates from opening. Of course, Morris then threw his pick-six and the game was effectively over.
I know it is popular to complain about every completion or positive run as if the defense is falling apart, but at some point you can't expect a defense to shut down a competent offense for 4 quarters. Minnesota's offense isn't amazing by any stretch, but it knows what it's good at and when Mitch Leidner is hitting Maxxxxxxx Williams down the sideline for one-handed grabs, there's not much else you can do. The corners, especially without Peppers and a still-slow Taylor, didn't look great, and the front seven played well but failed the dominate the line of scrimmage, which was going to be necessary to keep the game close. Yet despite the offense's ineptitude, this was a game late into the 3rd quarter, and in another world with a different offense Michigan still could have pulled this game out. I don't believe the defense is dominant, but it wasn't "exposed" here any more than most defenses are "exposed" when they are left out there far too long and without any real hope.
Worst: The Offensive Line, Again
After a couple-game reprieve to start the year, the offensive line has been downright porous the last two weeks. It's clearly a young unit trying to figure it out on the fly, and that obviously isn't conducive to keeping everyone healthy and upright. That said, Minnesota was credited with 6 TFLs, but it felt like double, and this a week after Utah recorded double-digit TFLs and seemed to be living in the backfield. The running game seemed marginally better with Smith in there, but outside of that one TD drive the rushing attack never got on track. That, plus the mounting point differential, let Minnesota pin its ears back even more. Tight end blocking remains a major issue, as Morris's near-safety in the endzone was only "saved" by Williams starting his hold outside of the endzone. Neither side of the line seemed particularly sturdy, though with Morris as a lefty it will be interesting to see if that adversely affected blocking a bit more than usual.
As people have said, competency is the shining beacon at the top of the hill for this year, and right now that feels like it is miles away.
Worst: Gotta (Get) Some Separation
I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago against Miami, but without Devin Funchess at full speed it doesn't feel like any of the other WRs can get consistent separation from opposing corners and open up the types of windows a QB needs to hit. Given how bad Funchess has looked in the weeks since he picked up the most important 4 yards in the history of UM football against Notre Dame (hear those echoes), someone else in the receiving core needs to step up and provide an open target, and in this game it rarely seemed like anyone was doing that downfield. True, Morris didn't help the matter by consistently throwing behind, ahead, around, etc. his receivers, but when your QB's long completion is 14 yards and it's to the guy with a gimpy ankle, you are in trouble. It does feel like the team might be overflowing with possession receivers, which is great if you have other options but deadly when the defense can sit on them without fear of being burned deep. Minnesota does have a good secondary and Morris was, again, pretty erratic, but if this team has any hope of moving the ball going forward somebody is going to have to start catching the ball downfield.
Worst: Next Week
I keep saying it couldn't be worse but it still does. Rutgers should be a very winnable game, but who the heck knows anymore. I presume Gardner will get the start so that will help, and Gary Nova may just be inept enough that Michigan can pull out a win. But I'm finally ready to accept that Michigan is going to probably blow this game, and it might get ugly at the end. I hope I'm proven wrong, but I'm definitely not going to worry about it either way.
After getting nailed with the only rain shower in SE Michigan to start the game, and then getting slammed with storms, last week - who's ready for a picture perfect game day?! :D High pressure over the Great Lakes region will give us a continuation of what we've seen the past week - great weather. An absolutely beautiful Saturday with plenty of sunshine and above normal temps! Let's keep the jug at home!
Some fog early this morning - locally dense, it'll reduce visibility in spots to a quarter mile. Look for it to completely burn off approaching 9am. Plenty of blue skies throughout the morning with calm winds. Temps will be chilly to start, in the mid 40s, but will jump quickly after sunrise - mid 50s by mid-morning, and 70 for lunch. The afternoon will bring a light easterly wind at about 5mph (just enough to rustle a few leaves and feel the wind on your skin). We'll hit mid 70s in the early afternoon. It's an absolutely gorgeous day for tailgating! Pack the cooler full of ice for the cold ones and bring out all the fun games!
B-E-A-U-tiful start to the game! Upper 70s, and hitting 78 shouldn't be too hard. An east wind at 5-7mph - very light. Even though we're officially in fall, it's going to feel a lot more like summer! Tons of sunshine in store for A2 today. Keep in mind, although we're in late September, we'll still hit moderate levels of UV, so you may want to put some sunscreen on!
Probably grabbing a water by now! Hot is the word of the day if you're just sitting in the sun! We'll start to see just a few fair weather clouds pop up, and we'll keep the wind right at 6-7mph out of the ESE.
Low 70s as you're walking out of the game (proudly after a win!), and we're set for a mild evening if you're headed out to celebrate - hopefully at the Jug, but even some outdoor areas shouldn't be too chilly! Temperatures will fall through the 60s throughout the evening. A few clouds stay with us into the late night, with winds turning calm again and temps dropping to the mid 50s into the late night. Staying out late? You may want to grab a sweatshirt - with those mostly clear skies temps will be near 50. C'mon blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for ABC in Flint, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!
Why has my team moved to Norman, Oklahoma? Lessons from coaching transitions past; Keys to “Great Success” in football; Tempo i
Why has my team moved to Norman, Oklahoma? Lessons from coaching transitions past; Keys to “Great Success” in football; Tempo is for favorites and other people who hate variance; Broad evolution in coaching hires; Ideologies kill coaches; Special teams venting; And, maybe… all is not lost?
I present the first 15 years of conference records for two coaches I hold in very high regard. Bo Schembechler and Bob Stoops. The first seasons and the tie give it away but I’m so struck by how similar they are. They even switched to a nine game conference schedule in the same year of their tenures.
Bob Stoops might be this generation’s Bo except that he got a NC. Their win percentages are about the same and OU is almost always great regardless of the assistant coaches or players they lose. OU hired Bob at age 39 and Michigan hired Bo at 40 so both had very long runways to establish their programs. Both paired good defenses with good offenses which SURPRISE, makes football teams good at football. Bo’s offenses where great mostly due to talent since back then teams had more scholarships available so the best teams could hoard all the talent making schemes matter less.
Side Note: The 85 scholarship cap is responsible for a lot more parity nowadays, but success still breeds success. Captain Obvious says, “Ideally our next hire would be that kind of home run.”
What can learn from the Stoops hire? I think we learned that you can hire a coordinator to a prestige program and have success. Also you need to cover the HC’s blind spots. Stoops was a DC and hired Mike Leach to run his offense after seeing what he was doing at Kentucky while they were both in the SEC. Mike Leach was hired away after 1 season but from then on the Air Raid + good defense has been what’s made OU great.
Bob Stoops’ coaching tree is pretty impressive, also he is from the Bill Snyder / Hayden Fry coaching tree which is also huge so there is plenty of connections to help an assistant from his tree find more quality assistants.
Bob Stoops Coaching Tree
· Mike Leach – Good HC; probably got screwed at TT; a little crazy
o Greg McMackin – Not bad but resigned under odd circumstances
o Sonny Dykes – Good at LaTech but too early to call for Cal
o Ruffin McNeill – ECU has been good under him but they were good when he took over
o Dana Holgorsen – Like RR needs Jeff Casteel on D to win
o Art Briles – Turned Baylor into a team that actually wins at football! Baylor!
· Mark Mangino – Made Kansas good! More than a little crazy
· Mike Stoops – Could never get Zona past OK
· Chuck Long – Not so good at San Diego State
· Kevin Sumlin – Do want! BTW former OSU DC Mark Snyder under Tressel is his current DC
· Bo Pelini – Pretty good but not Tom Osborne, but no one is Tom Osborne; Also more than a little crazy, but not Mangino crazy
o Carl Pelini – Florida Atlantic didn’t go very well
o Tim Beck – I just like his offense so I included him
· Kevin Wilson – Indiana is chaos team due to insanely good offense and terrible defense
I would be pretty happy with the success most of those guys had if they also had Michigan's resources, though I would prefer less crazy in my head coach than a lot of those guys.
I also thought it was very interesting how some of the most successful coaching transitions transpired. The best at it is probably Urban Meyer. First, he leaves BGSU to go to Utah and keeps Kyle Whittingham to run his defense. This worked out pretty well. Then he moves on to Florida to find that Charlie Strong is there so he keeps him and that worked out pretty well too. He then keeps Luke Fickell around at OSU. That worked out only ok by his standards so he brought in Chris Ash this year since Fickell isn’t as good as than the other two guys, but it still probably helped with the transition year. Another example in this mold is Dana Holgorsen going to WVU and keeping Casteel around and winning big until RR stole Casteel away. More along the lines of Bob Stoops, Kevin Sumlin hired Mark Snyder to be his DC at A&M who had won the NC under Tressel as his DC, results so far have been positive.
In the final analysis the key to being really good at football is being really good on offense and defense, and being good on both sides of the ball depends on having good coordinators on both sides of the ball, who’da thunk it.
If you can be good on a play to play basis then you have to get the higher level game theory strategies right so that you get the results you deserve more often than not. Also, you do not have to be able to coach a team to figure this out and since time is so limited to coaches they probably never think about it since being good on a play by play basis is rightly their main focus. Besides if you suck than this doesn’t matter as much, but this is where tempo comes in to play though. If I’m a crappy team then I want to slow the game down as much as possible so that randomness becomes more important to the outcome of a game, because if talent and skill alone determine the outcome then I will always lose. If I’m an awesome team then I want a huge sample size so that randomness becomes less of a factor, so I’ll want to play at as high a tempo as possible so that I don’t lose due to bad luck. If I’m evenly matched with the other team then it doesn’t matter as much but going slow will still increase the variance in the outcome so I’d prefer to go fast so that our evenness will get a better chance at playing out and the order of events matter less.
Now that we’ve laid the ground work for what tempo people should run based on their skill level I want to consider how this should be taken into account with coaching hires. Most head coaches at bigger schools are hired away from smaller schools. When the coaches were at the smaller schools the optimal strategy was to go as slow as possible to increase their chances of winning. When coaches get hired to bigger schools they carry over everything that worked for them in the past because experience tells them that it made them successful. Thus, the slow tempo trait was naturally selected into the upper echelons of coaching. Things that the coaches perceive to have aided them in the past are raised to the level of an ideology and ideologies cannot be changed. This is mostly due to man’s influence from association tendency and inconsistency avoidance tendency but other psychological biases are at play as well.
A few things happen to generally bring about the demise of slow tempo in the temples of college football. First, with necessity being the mother of invention small schools develop better schemes in order to compete. They also try to tire out the other team since everyone is used to going at a snail pace and most teams don’t have the conditioning of these smaller schools since they didn’t plan on using it and the other guys did. Second, is the David vs. Goliath effect where if you are David do not try and out Goliath, Goliath. You need to do something else so that you can fight more evenly, get yourself a damn slingshot! So, teams go to a spread the field style since at the power schools they are typically smash mouth, load’em up style teams so their nickel and dime packages aren’t as good as their typical starters. Third, the traditional slow pace of power teams makes upsets more likely for the underdogs which then get their coaches hired away to the power schools. Lastly, once at the power schools their tempo that they adopted for other reasons helps them avoid as many upsets and high variance losses as their predecessors which means they get to keep their jobs.
Broad evolution is iterative so that at any single point in time we are not likely to have reached the optimal solution. I believe this was especially true with head football coaches that inherited significant competitive advantages and saw no reason to change since they were still winning due to those advantages, but they never reached the optimal solution. I don’t think anything exemplifies that better than Carr’s last game where every fan thought to themselves, “where has this been all my life?”
I have a feeling that Brady thinks that he needs his dominate defense to carry his bad offense and the best way to do that is to play slow. I don’t think this is the right solution since a dominate defense still needs a large sample size to prove it. By going slow and increasing variance the actual effect is that the defense’s awesomeness can be hidden by randomness. I think that this was probably naturally selected into Brady which he then elevated into a belief and beliefs like ideologies are very hard to change in people.
I think other psychological biases have caused shield punting to be verboten in the Hoke era. Other people have pointed this out but Brady was on the Carr staff that first introduced shield punting to Michigan and it went very poorly. This type of extra vivid evidence causes the data to be overweighed in the human mind since it is more available than the myriad of non-event data points that dominate the punting game. Confirmation bias then sets in so that anytime one of his teams, or any team for that matter, blocks a punt against the shield this further entrenches his belief. Everyone is susceptible to these biases unless you are Darwin and make it a habit to pay extra attention to disconfirming evidence.
In other special teams’ issues, missed field goals are essentially turnovers and long field goal attempts in college have a high probability of being missed. Why do we bother kicking these? If we make it we get three points and they likely get it at their 25. If we miss we get nothing and they get great field position. The odds are high that a college kicker will miss a 45+ yarder. If we go for it they either get good field position if we fail or we get a chance to score a TD or at least increase the odds of a FG by being closer. It would depend on distance to go to determine the probabilities but most of the time if feel like going for it is the call. This is mostly venting since I didn’t do the math and am thus allowing myself to be swayed by psychological forces that impair cognition but even so missing a field goal is essentially getting sacked for seven yards on fourth down and it hurts a certain sensitive part of my soul every time. I think this might show up properly in Mathlete’s win probability charts so math may absolve me yet.
All may not be lost for this season though since on a per play basis Michigan is actually not bad. The problem is that we are killing nearly every damn drive with a turnover or some similar disaster. At least that’s what my availability addled brain is telling me. If turnovers disappear then what you do on a per play basis matters again and maybe we can be good, or at least not bad. That’s our only hope for this year really; that we stop killing ourselves on offense and our very good defense carries us to victories. Maybe even the slow tempo will help us against MSU and OSU, variance does help the underdog and we are certainly that this year against both of them.
Wait never mind, I just read the offensive UFR and all is probably lost for this season but at least our defense doesn’t suck anymore so that’s pretty awesome and maybe we can keep the coaches on the good side of the ball this time around. Always look on the bright side of life…
So after all of this my conclusions are thus:
For a new Coach:
1. Usually the new HC is the from opposite side of the football from previous one and all coaches have blind spots; Protect the blind spots
2. Keeping some of the previous staff significantly reduces transition costs and teams tend to have one bad side of the ball that is keeping them down, the New Mexicos of the world don’t have much hope anyway
3. If the new HC is an offensive guy (likely) then he should retain the defensive staff since the defense is actually really good
4. If the new HC is a defensive guy then we should help him find an OC that has proven to already be awesome somewhere else
5. The Air Raid is picked up quickly by new teams and has aided in first year successes of the Stoops progeny
6. Josh Heupel, anybody? No, ok just me.
For football in general:
7. Being an ideologue typically leads to underachievement and losses and firings and pain
8. Shield punting or death
9. Slow pace leads to high variance which is the enemy of the favorite and people who don’t like luck to decide games, Michigan should always hate variance
10. Missed long field goals are TOs
11. TOs kill football coaches and fans
12. Gugh… why can’t we be like Oklahoma anymore
Lots of talk about the possible dismissal of Brady Hoke this week. And deservedly so. We lose.... often. Those traditions not being ignored are cannibalized to maximize profit. The students aren't interested because the games are too filled with commercial timeouts and the product sucks. We are treated to a weekly air show made up of private planes. Sweet Caroline and Sweet Cherry Pie. Thank goodness for the regents' call on the fireworks.
Is Michigan Football broken? If it is then someone else needs to repair it. Dave Brandon can go to hell (or at lease be fired) immediately, but what of Hoke? The last 10 games have been awful, there's no denying, but I see hope. The coaches talk about the building of a foundation and I see that. The defense appears to be poised to be near-elite by the end of the year. The offensive line remains bad, but it's clearly improved from last year and this while working with an entirely new offense (again). The skill positions are fine and improving. The QB situation will figure itself out as the line provides better protection and a better running game. Our players seem like decent guys and I don't worry about a tattoo or car scandal hitting campus.
The fact is I want my Michigan Football back and it's not my Michigan Football without a "Bo" level of class. Hoke strives for this and it's important. For those who want to compete the way the SEC competes I have no good argument. It just isn't my thing and I don't want to associate myself with it. There was so much promise after Hoke's first season. Even before this season. But we all suspected 2015 would be our real year to compete. Starting over now may put off winning another 5 years.
Here's what I think.....In 5 years Ohio won't give a damn about our whole state and they'll field a good team. Iowa or someone else will replace Sparty as a good B1G team that isn't normally very good. Tennessee or Miami will be in the news for a group of their players caught with a retail supply of the drug of the day. Mississippi State will be caught up in an academic scandal. Auburn and Alabama will each have 24 verbal commitments on their way to 33 member classes. USC will be breaking in another head coach. And if we stay the course, Michigan will be a Top 10 team we will be proud to associate with. The damage done by Lloyd's end-of-career bad recruiting and RichRod's poor performance (his fault or not) have taken time to fix. We're almost home.
Hello. First Diary entry, woo! [ EDIT: Lol nope, my 2nd. forgot about the one I did in '09]
So, when the offensive line struggles, the claim is frequently made that the offensive line is too small. I heard this alot on call-in radio shows during the RR era, and it's starting to creep back into style, or so it seems to me.
So, I thought let's see just how big Michigan's line is compared to the rest of the B1G. I basically went through every B1G teams site, got the roster and then checked the game participation notes from the most recent game they were in to see who was listed as starting on the OL.
I then computed the average weight of the OL for that team/game.
Notes: I didn't include any TE's or FB. Just from one tackle to the other.
I didn't check for situation subs (unbalanced lines, etc.)
I went by weight alone, didn't look at height. Perhaps I should have gone by body mass index?
Would be nice to do a comparison of games played / experience as well. Maybe next time.
Also some teams rather suspiciously seemed to have players weights in exact increments of 5 pounds. Some teams roster's were worse than others in this regard. But the roster is all I really have to go on, so, it is what it is.
So, here is the sorted list of average weight of offensive lines in the Big Ten.
*If Kalis is in UM's line instead of Glasgow, the average drops to 301.0
Michigan is smack right in the middle. No surprise Wisconsin is tops, by a relatively large margin. Iowa, a somewhat run-first offense, is surprisingly near the bottom. Indiana's potent offense is also only at 295.
The most notable thing here is probably that in terms of weight most lines are roughly the same.
So IMO this shows that Michigan's line isn't undersized. To some this may not be a big deal, but I've always bristled at the claims of UM's line being small for a reason for them struggling. I always felt that is just a knee jerk superficial criticism. It's kind of a pet peeve and I wanted to dispel any such notion.
Raw data below
52 Mason Cole OL 6-5 292 FR
78 Erik Magnuson OL 6-6 294 RS SO
60 Jack Miller OL 6-4 299 RS JR
61 Graham Glasgow OL 6-6 311 RS JR
71 Ben Braden OL 6-6 322 RS SO
67 Kyle Kalis OL 6-5 298 RS SO
average weight: 303.6
w/Kalis instead of Glasgow: 301.0
LT 71 Lewis, Alex 290
LG 68 Cotton, Jake 305
C 56 Pelini, Mark 290
RG 74 Moudy, Mike 305
RT 57 Sterup, Zach 320
LT 66 Cermin, Cameron 303
LG 72 King, Jason 309
C 57 Kugler, Robert 298
RG 70 Roos, Jordan 312
RT 73 Prince, J.J. 302
LT 68 Cvijanovic, S. 310
LG 5H Hill, Alex 310
C 71 Spencer, Joe 300
RG 69 Karras, Ted 310
RT 74 Heitz, Michael 310
LT 65 Campion, Josh 317
LG 52 Epping, Zac 318
C 58 Olson, Tommy 306
RG 77 Bush, Foster 304
RT 78 Lauer, Ben 315
LT 78 Jorgensen, Paul 295
LG 53 Mogus, Geoff 295
C 66 Vitabile, B. 300
RG 57 Frazier, Matt 290
RT 76 Olson, Eric 290
LT 68 Scherff, B. 320
LG 79 Welsh, Sean 285
C 63 Blythe, Austin 290
RG 65 Walsh, Jordan 290
RT 78 Donnal, Andrew 305
LT 68 Decker, Taylor 315
LG 65 Elflein, Pat 300
C 50 Boren, Jacoby 285
RG 54 Price, Billy 312
RT 76 Baldwin, Darryl 307
RT 59 Nelson, Andrew 305
RG 53 Dowrey, Derek 323
C 66 Mangiro, Angelo 309
LG 70 Mahon, Brendan 292
LT 76 Smith, Donovan 335
74 Jack Conklin OT 6-6 303 SO
63 Travis Jackson OL 6-4 291 SR
66 Jack Allen C 6-2 299 JR
76 Donavon Clark OL 6-4 306 JR
79 Kodi Kieler OL 6-6 304 SO
average weight: 300.6
61 Marz, Tyler OL 6-5 321 RS JR
73 Lewallen, DallasOL 6-6 321 RS SR
70 Voltz, Dan OL 6-3 311 RS SO
54 Costigan, Kyle OL 6-5 319 RS SR
78 Havenstein, Rob OL 6-8 333 RS SR
LT 78 Spriggs, Jason 300
LG 68 Kaminski, David 295
C 64 Rahrig, Collin 285
RG 67 Feeney, Dan 305
RT 62 Evans, Ralston 290
T 76 Dunn 300
G 68 Altamirano 290
C 65 Conaboy 295
G 66 Zeller 310
T 55 Doyle 300