things go poorly
UFR coming tomorrow; I tried downloading a big file that didn't get down in timely fashion.
It's grim. You know it's grim. The "Michigan 2008 = Notre Dame 2007" equation that Michigan fans—and this blog—scoffed at in the offseason appears to be nearing QED MFer status. A smart person just emailed me something that suggests death would be a more pleasurable alternative than the six games that loom over the next month and a half. The sky hangs low and ominous, all slate-gray clouds and distant rumbles and the sweaty prickle of unnatural humidity.
So, obviously, blame must be assigned! Assign blame, media! ASSIGN BLAME
Think West Virginia would return the buyout and take back Rich Rodriguez?
No. Of course, this guy's big idea…
Clearly, before this debacle reached a 2-4 boiling point, with the rugged part of the schedule yet unplayed, Rodriguez and his staff should have installed a second offense.
…worked out great last year when Charlie Weis installed the spread option for a single game against Georgia Tech instead of indicating that his offensive linemen might want to block someone. He says "Saturday's game almost isn't worth reviewing," and it's clear he didn't: Michigan did sort of install a second offense, deploying a Moundros-fronted I on several occasions and running isos up the gut. Unless he thinks a new offense is magically going to make Steven Threet a junior or Nick Sheridan physically capable of running a Division I offense, this is complaining just to complain.
Meanwhile, Mike Rosenberg continues proving that he's lost his mind over Rich Rodriguez. After doing the usual disclaimer bit ("Rich Rodriguez may yet restore Michigan to Big Ten supremacy") in an attempt to ward off the obvious riposte—SIX GAMES—he goes into the usual array of misrepresentations designed to cast Rodriguez in as unflattering a light as possible.
Here's one of many:
“We’ll adapt. I like winning too much not to adapt a little bit to our personnel.”
Has there been any sign that he will adapt?
Rodriguez says that every spread offense is different, but his scheme looks exactly like the one he ran at West Virginia, even though his players don’t fit the scheme.
Yes, exactly like the West Virginia spread:
- WVU, 2007: 26% pass, 74% run.
- Michigan, 2008: 46% pass, 54% run.
This only looks "exactly like the West Virginia" spread if you have literally no memory for play proportions and sequencing.
I won't belabor you further with the column; it's a pastiche of the usual unrealistic complaints like "Rodriguez ran off Mallett!" that remain as wrong as they were when Rosenberg brought them up earlier this year and I fisked it. I only bring it up to highlight the weirdest criticism leveled at Rodriguez this season: leaving a semblance of Lloyd Carr and Mike Debord's pro-style offense would have been an improvement.
This is preposterous in the following ways:
Last year the Michigan offense was bad. Injuries had something to do with it, sure, but Mallett played less than half the year, and the other half of the year they had a senior Chad Henne. Mike Hart played about nine games. The #1 pick in the NFL draft was the left tackle, and Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington were standout wide receivers.
With all these advantages, Michigan finished 68th in total offense, 10th in the Big Ten. Can you imagine what the offense would look like with freshmen everywhere and nothing resembling a competent quarterback? Yes, you can, it looks like last year's Wisconsin game minus the 97-yard Manningham touchdown. Or last year's Ohio State game. This isn't exactly the Greatest Show On Turf we're ditching.
You cannot make a good offense out of these parts. The best quarterback was a freshman so shaky in camp that a guy who would look out of place on most I-AA teams got the starting nod; he has been wildly inaccurate downfield and is charting horribly in UFR. This would not improve in a different offense. Different offenses do not make it easier to throw accurate passes, especially when the screens have been problematic.
There is one returning OL starter and six plausible starters, one of whom (Schilling) seemed destined for a career as anything other than a backup before massive attrition forced them into the starting lineup. The tailbacks are freshmen, injured, or fumblers. The wideouts are probably the worst crop since… uh… Michigan started throwing?
Meanwhile, Cory Zirbel, Carlos Brown, Mark Huyge, Mark Ortmann, Carson Butler, Martavious Odoms, Junior Hemingway, Steven Threet and Greg Mathews have all missed time with injury or stupidity (Butler's punch; whoever decided Sheridan was a plausible starter). A walk-on saw time at left tackle.
Nobody on the team even knows the Carr offense. Your skill position starters are five freshmen (Odoms, McGuffie, Threet, Koger, Stonum) and a junior.
…except the linemen, who are pretty much doing the same thing anyway. There are slight differences between Michigan's zone stretch this year and its zone stretch a year ago; their main problem is not being unable to understand the scheme but being unable to execute it because they are bad at football.
To be fair, you wouldn't know this if you watched the game on Saturday and then spat out a 600-word column about it without putting in the time review the tape or learn about football.
Rodriguez hasn't run a pro-style offense in two decades. How is he supposed to teach something he doesn't know very well? How is he supposed to run an offense completely divorced from his own? What is the point of hiring Rich Rodriguez?
So you've got one of two options here:
- Decide to run an offense you have zero experience with that finished just above 70th with an enormous slate of NFL talent in the vague hope you make a crappy December bowl game if it's even an improvement, which it probably won't be, or…
- Get on with the process of building your program.
Here's door #1: Auburn decided to bring in a spread guru, implement half his offense, and force him to call a lot of dumb plays he didn't want to. The result? Fired offensive coordinator with sad box and sad beard:
Meanwhile, Auburn blogs are considering whether or not Tuberville should get a sad box, too. This is the Great Solution proposed by Michigan newspaper columnists.
I pick door #2, as should everyone except evangelicals who think the world is ending before next fall.
With Vandy no longer undefeated, that seems a small risk.
(HT to Ron Cook at the PPG)