he grew a beard
Last year I attempted to coin a clever nickname for the Feagin-Threet quarterback pairing: "Dual Threet." Dual is now a slot receiver and Threet is moseying on out of town, possibly to North Dakota State if you believe random guys on a message board. (Do not believe random guys on a message board. Believe specific guys on a message board.) So it goes for Michigan in the past couple years.
I've been a stalwart supporter of Rich Rodriguez since his arrival. I didn't think Ryan Mallett's departure was his fault, nor did he have much of an opportunity to land a dual-threat guy in the month or so he had to finish off Michigan's 2008 recruiting class. The one guy it seemed he did have a chance with, BJ Daniels, ended up at South Florida amidst a flurry of payoff rumors that even The Wolverine—normally a place that shies away from incendiary allegations like that—lent credence to. The hand he was dealt was an exceptionally poor one. I can find no better way to sum it up than this: how many walk-on quarterbacks can you remember at power (or even decent) programs, and how did they do?
I've got exactly two:
- Notre Dame's Matt Lovecchio, AKA A Major Reason Ty Willingham Was Fired.
- UCLA's McLeod Bethel-Thompson, AKA The Only Reason Notre Dame Beat A BCS Opponent In 2007.
There's almost no precedent for a quarterback situation like the one Michigan faced in 2008, and almost no way to claw yourself out of a hole that vast at the most important position on the field. Once that hand was dealt, Rodriguez was dead meat.
So the reasonable criticism of Rodriguez are mostly confined to his role in setting up his hand: "running off" Mallett, the Boren defection, the fruitless chase of Pryor, and so on and so forth. I didn't find any of these arguments compelling, since I knew Mallett had a foot and a half out the door even when Carr was running the team and that the Borens had major daddy issues and the options outside of Pryor were about nil. The decision to hire Shafer was a poor one, and that seemed like it should be held against Rodriguez. Other than that, it was Angry Michigan Whatever Hating God all the way.
You can tell there's a but coming, so: but. But the Threet transfer bothers me. Even with the recruitment of Forcier and Robinson, Threet is the most experienced quarterback on the roster by two years and has some decent starting experience. He will find no better situation wherever he transfers unless it's to some podunk I-AA school. The transfer makes little sense for him personally or professionally unless there's something behind the scenes we don't know about.
Meanwhile, Michigan now finds itself down to two true freshmen before they have to drag out another walkon, be it Nick Sheridan or Nader Furrha or whoever. Even if Threet was mostly poor a year ago, he was obviously far superior to the alternative, and at worst he would be the backup next year. With Denard Robinson something of a project, every one of Michigan's egg is now in Tate Forcier's basket. Threet leaving the program is an obvious negative.
So it doesn't make sense on anyone's part. Why did it happen? I go back to a quote from Calvin Magee in the aftermath of the Michigan State game. Dan Feldman's Daily article on the transfer highlights it:
By staying and giving Michigan another feasible option besides Sheridan, Threet opened himself to public criticism from the Wolverines’ coaches. Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee described Threet’s three-interception performance against Michigan State on Oct. 25 as “inconsistent, like it always is.”
Man, that's pretty rough. Behind-the-scenes reports from insiders always said Threet had major confidence issues and didn't respond well to this staff's high pressure style. Maybe they tried to adapt. That evidently didn't last, so Threet decided he'd be better off elsewhere.
It's obvious neither side had much faith in the other. That's not unexpected given the rickety nature of the pairing, but I can't help but think that Bo or Lloyd would have found a way to finesse it better. I don't know. Maybe I've been talking to John U. Bacon too much.
- Pretty sure Matt Hayes has no idea that Nick Sheridan is a walk-on. Asked "what does the Threet transfer mean for M" he responded "It means Nick Sheridan, who shared time with Threet last fall, is next out the door." This is unlikely unless Sheridan wants to go to UM-Dearborn or something.
- Maize 'n' Brew blows up a pretty dumb Blade article on the transfer. HT to them for the NDSU link, too.
- The Ann Arbor News thinks there's "no heir apparent," which, could not be more wrong since there is one obvious guy who is obviously the starter now.
- But, hey, Forcier seems slightly more confident than Threet (link ibid): "In this offense, there's always somebody open. You should never throw an incompletion.'' Forcier's cockiness should serve him well.
- Chengelis says you shouldn't anoint either freshman your lord and savior yet.
- DocSat has a take as well.
I was back visiting Michigan last weekend, and I was able to catch the hockey game on Saturday against Miami (of Ohio). I haven't seen any hockey games this season since I'm at a grad school where hockey doesn't exist. I was wondering about the addition of a second referee on the ice. My friend pointed that out to me at the beginning of the game, and I asked him if he felt more calls were made this season since there is another pair or eyes on the ice. He said that it didn't seem so, and someone around me said that it may actually make the game flow better(!?). Well, that didn't seem to happen as Michigan ended up with like 11 penalties.
So I was wondering if you could drag up the penalty minutes from the last couple of seasons and compare them to this season so far, and see if the extra ref has significantly impacted the number of calls or has changed the game somehow.
Via collegehockeystats.net, per-team penalty minutes per game the last three years:
|Year Before That||19.01|
Survey says… eh, not so much. While teams are taking most of an extra penalty a game this year the numbers are actually down from the two years previous. Of course, the NCAA's overreaction to the Robbie Bina hit, which led to virtually any hit along the boards being an automatic major for a year, and their intermittent obstruction crackdowns play a role in the numbers. The moral of the story appears to be "do not expect remotely consistent enforcement," which isn't surprising to anyone familiar with the travails of college hockey refereeing.
Recently, Sports Illustrated had a series of articles on recruiting and how Florida is a gold mine for D1 recruits. In one of those articles, Jimbo Fisher had this to say about recruiting:
Florida State's Fisher doesn't deny that he offers a chilly warning to southern skill-position players thinking of crossing the Mason-Dixon line. "I don't know if we ever said, 'You'll freeze.' But the landscape of playing, especially if you're a skill guy, is not as conducive as it is in The South," Fisher said. "The weather can prohibit you from using all your skills at times and prevent you from getting the numbers and recognition and things you want. I think it is a significant difference."
I have been a big fan of Rich Rod since the Clemson days and thought he was a top 5 coach in the country at WV. I even picked them to win the National Championship in 2007. Good ole' Wannstache…
During Rich Rod's top years at WV (05-07), I remember a few late season games where the Mountaineers couldn't hold on to the football and it cost them. I had a feeling that this was attributed to his recruits being from the Deep South and not being accustomed to playing in cold weather conditions. And then this year Odoms couldn't hold on to the ball for his life during that nasty NW game. So after Jimbo's quote, I thought that there may be some serious truth to this argument.
So I went back and looked at the stats from WV's 2007 November games (I didn't look up game time temperature but they were all November games in cold weather locations including three night games) and found that WV had put the ball on the ground 13 times in those four games while losing 8. Twice (including the infamous Pitt game that most likely led to our hire of Rich Rod instead of Les Miles) they had 5 fumbles, losing 3.
Would you review the games from 2005-2007 and see if there is any correlation between the late season colder temperatures and putting the ball on the ground. With RR ravaging Florida for recruits and Michigan being a colder place than WV, I am worried that this could be an issue for us in late season games.
First: the Jimbo Fisher stuff is just talk. If you can play, you can play. Even if it's cold. The parade of Michigan receivers in the pros (Toomer, Alexander, Edwards, Avant, Breaston, Streets, uh… Terrell nevermind) in recent years suggests that Fisher's statement is more snake oil than anything. The NFL will find your ass if you can play football.
As far as the fumble theory, it's going to be extremely tough to prove either way. We don't know how cold was for all these games. We're looking at extremely random events in just a few games. Statistical significance laughs at us from afar. But here you go:
No, wait, sorry. I tried, but the NCAA doesn't have the relevant 2005 games' boxscores up. Sorry. I did find that in 2006 WVU had 8 fumbles in 4 (possibly) cold weather games, but four of those game in a game against Cincinnati during which the Bearcats also fumbled four times so I dunno, maybe they didn't kill the ball properly and it was running around squealing all night or something.
Does this help your troubled heart any?
That's West Virginia's turnover margin in the last three years of the Rodriguez era, when Pat White was the quarterback and WVU was goooooood. Even when WVU coughed up the ball 15 times in 2007 they were still top-10 in TO margin because they ran so much and had so few interceptions.
I think people are attempting to come up for an explanation for last year's epic, defiant-Pharaoh-style plague of fumbles when the most likely explanation is that there just isn't one. It was mostly randomness combined with youth and poor talent level at certain positions like tackle and quarterback. There is no grand pattern of Rodriguez teams coughing up the ball a ton. In fact, the numbers above suggest the opposite*.
*(Although, again, TOs are rare and even the seemingly wow numbers above are by no means definitive.)
I was recently in a debate over the Rich Rodriguez hire in which my opponent stated that the spread offense has to have too many top tiered athletics in critical positions to work effectively, therefore believing Rich Rodriguez was a terrible hire.
He went on to say that you need to have a star QB & RB, a quick offensive line, WRs that can not only catch but who can run fast, and once one of those positions are taken out of the equation, the whole offensive system is dead. What are your thoughts on this? I truly believe that Rich Rodriguez is not only great for Michigan, but could ultimately strengthen the Big Ten with his progressive style offense, which in my opinion is greatly needed right now. Michigan could have hired 15 different types of Bo Schembechler who would have kept tradition and powerhouse football intact, but they didn’t. They took a risk, and hired outside of the box. I thought I would get your opinion on the spread offense and the argument above.
Your friend appears to be making the argument that for an offense to be effective it has to have good players. I agree. The larger theory—that Rodriguez's offense is more dependent on massive levels of talent than your average pro-style thing—is counter-intuitive at best. Rodriguez developed the system at Glenville State, won with it at Tulane and Clemson and West Virginia, and until he had the Pat White-Steve Slaton terror combo there's no plausible argument you can make for the superiority of the talent at Rodriguez's disposal.
If there are concerns with the spread 'n' shred they go in the opposite direction: it's an offense that can make do with iffy performers at a lot of spots (WR, OL, FB, TE) because it basically ignores them, so when you've got the talent there it's not going to help you. And even that criticism is tough to apply when the near future of the QB position is some combination of Threet and Forcier, guys who aren't going to win games like Vince Young did.
I noticed that Bryce McNeal mentioned that Christianity was a factor in his decision to commit to Clemson. I also recall Shavodrick Beaver citing God as one reason that he ended up committing to Tulsa instead of Michigan. Do you think that Michigan under Rich Rodriguez has a 'Jesus deficit' in recruiting and if so, how big of a problem is this? Is it possible that in addition to being a secret-file shredder and snake oil purveyor that RR is also Muslim or, even worse, Catholic? For what it's worth, my sister-in-law's cousin sings in the same church choir as Les Miles' wife. She reports that Miles regularly attends services, even the morning after away games.
Recruits commit to schools for their own private reasons. When asked about them, they come up with any old thing they think will sound good: God, family, national championships. When the real reasons are "my girlfriend is going there" and "I am afraid of Tate Forcier" and "cash money, homes" they get replaced with God, family, and national championships. Beaver's quotes were especially grating because he'd been giving similar quotes about Michigan for a long time and he had decommitted in favor of a coach who had spent all of one freakin' year at Rice. (Malzahn's immediate departure for Auburn was karma.)
But there might be something in this God deficit theory. Michigan hasn't fared too well against Notre Dame of late despite the presence of the great green goblin, after all, and Tressel participated in some sort of football-player-sponsored revival meeting at Ohio State's old basketball arena a few years ago. Michigan is highly secular compared to its two main rivals.
That hurts with some with recruits, but it probably helps with some others who may not walk around wearing Darwin fish but also aren't too enthused about getting evangelized for four years.
Do you think the amount of verbal de-commits is more of a philosophical difference between the recruiting methods of RichRod vs. Lloyd?
Wouldn’t Lloyd take a verbal commit from a kid only if he was not going to visit anymore schools; whereas RichRod may let a kid verbal commit & still visit other schools?
Also, hard to take a commitment seriously if the kid is from out of state & hasn’t visited the school yet. The de-commits do not bother me as much when it is a kid from Texas, or Virginia, as opposed to Michigan, or Ohio – harder to sell a kid if he isn’t from Big Ten country.
There are a number of factors at work in Michigan's tide of decommitments:
- Kids are committing earlier and earlier and decommitments naturally rise. Nowadays a lot of kids are committing just to reserve a slot and then keeping their options open. I've heard that one Michigan decommit never had any intention of signing with Michigan and just used the commit for leverage, publicity, and offers.
- A 3-9 season can't help things, and…
- …neither can the tidal wave of negative publicity that accompanied Rodriguez's move from West Virginia and the accompany Boren hootenanny.
The geographical thing is a red herring. Michigan's decommits almost all came from the Midwest (McNeal, Barnes, Campbell if you count him) or re-committed to a school no closer to them (Newsome and Fera both picked Penn State).
Only Beaver's bizarre Tulsa defection and the presumed commitment of Peace to a Big 12 school really fit that pattern. Two of seven isn't exactly definitive. With both DT recruits other than Campbell on the fence, that percentage may rise, but not to the point where it's going to be a majority of the issue.
A story I thought you and your readers may enjoy:
At the beginning of the school year, someone in our house bought a fish tank. We added a few guppies to the tank, and decided to honor the new football season by naming one lucky guppy "Sam McGuppy."
Over break, Sam tragically died. (fitting, no?) However, there is a new season of Michigan sports underway. So, when we bought a replacement for Sam, we decided to name him "DeShawn Swims."
We all enjoy your blog, thanks.
Marco and Chris
Yes, these are my readers.
The Dear Leader has been on WTKA a couple times in the past few days, first with John U Bacon and then with Andy Evans. News has descended. Quotes that follow are very close but may be slightly off from what was said (in a superficial way, of course.)
It will exist, and will be at Michigan Stadium on April 11th. MGoBoarders are planning some sort of tailgate that will inevitably descend into a melee when a 14-year-old shows up and says "h1 evr1 whut u thnk bt 4cier"; sounds like a good time.
Most magnificent sex mullet gets a free copy of Hail To The Victors 2009, yo.
Not a whole lot, obviously, because Rodriguez can't mention anyone until they sign or are enrolled. He did say "the most you can have in a year is 25," but not mention the possibility of going to 27 or 28, which Michigan has the room to do because of the seven early enrollers.
"Never had this many" early enrollers, cited a Florida class with 7 or 8 a few years ago but gave the general impression
A "little bit of progress," but has spent most of his time on recruiting. Done research, talked to some guys. Floated the national coaches convention as a key opportunity to talk with people.
Andy Evans brings up Nick Holt's 700k DC salary, to which Rodriguez says "I didn't know that, geez" and says "we're nowhere near that, obviously." Boilerplate about Michigan opportunity follows.
Rodriguez is looking for the "right fit; the personality has to fit what we want." Chemistry amongst staff wanted—clear implication that Shafer just didn't get on with the other guys. "Whoever has the title of coordinator on defense isn't going run the defense himself… that's the #1 thing I'm looking for, someone to coordinate everyone's input."
Yeah, that Tony Franklin comparison is still looking pretty good.
Has "absolutely not" ruled out an internal hire, but "our schemes aren't going to be radically different from what they were last year," which follows up on his comment the day before saying they would be a 4-3 team with some odd front stuff sprinkled in.
Rodriguez went into more depth on the topic with Bacon:
“You can’t just be a 3-4 guy or a 4-3 guy. At West Virginia we ran a 3-3-5 base, which was a little different. We’ll maintain here the 4-3, 3-4 principle,” he insisted. “We did a lot of 3-4 stuff in our second- and third-down packages this year, and we’ll continue to do more four-man and odd front.
“I know what I want to do philosophically, but I don’t want to change everything because of what we have on our team and what we’ve recruited so far. Our full-time defensive coaches, Jay Hopson, Tony Gibson and Bruce Tall … I’ve coached with Bruce and Tony for several years, Jay this past year but I’ve known him for several years … all have been college coordinators, so they’ve got a lot of experience in the 4-3 and 3-4 packages. They get along great, they are good people and they are going to be involved in which direction we want to go.”
Sound like you can cease your panic about the 3-3-5, if you were one of those guys.
Obvious parallel etc etc etc.
"We're close" to filling the open date, but no names.
There conversation then went to Meyer and Stoops and stuff, both of whom Rodriguez is friends with and so forth and so on. One interesting bit in here was Rodriguez saying he doesn't get any negative recruiting when going up against either guy but "a lot of other schools do it."
Any interest in the NFL?
"This may seem crazy to people in West Virginia, but I've always taken the approach that you should look at each job as your last." Never coached in the NFL, a college guy, likes the 18-22 range (don't we all ZING!) as you watch the kids mature, etc.
The last couple days have seen a minor internet hubbub about Rich Rodriguez's statement that Michigan fans should "get a life," or something like that. That's all 95% of the people who have seen this story have comprehended. In their minds, Rich Rodriguez sat down at a press conference and said "everyone who's upset about 3-8 needs to get a life."
He did not.
On Saturday someone posted this on Rivals:
"Way to tough it out McGuffie. Maybe his little fingers were cold?"
Someone else posted this on Scout:
"I've never been more excited for senior day
goodbye and good riddance."
No links, as both are locked behind paywalls (and the Rivals one is probably lost in the ether by now) but it's not like anyone familiar with the depravity you can find on any message board more confrontational than Hello Kitty Forever is surprised by this genre of comment. You could dig them up on most message boards after a horrific loss. I do it on a weekly basis.
The men who said these things are in need of anger management or a kitten or something to do after a loss other than get so angry steam comes out their ears and they post stuff about amateurs their mother would slap them for. You might describe this something as a "life."
Rich Rodriguez was asked about them because all years of struggle must be followed by stock question #49: "Do you read the horrible things written about you on the internet?" Rodriguez responds:
This is a public position. It's not like a politician, I'm not running for office. I mean, God bless them. They choose to have that public scrutiny. As coaches, we know it's part of the job, but we don't choose to have it. Most of us would rather not.
But the biggest thing that is disappointing is when somebody, not necessarily the media, but when a fan or somebody would make it personal to your coach or to your players. Especially to the players, because those guys are amateurs. When they would make a personal comment or say something that's not related to coaching or not related to playing.
I don't get on message boards. I don't think anybody, any of our players or family should. But it's amazing some of the things that people would say or amazing things people will yell at you of a personal nature. You almost want to tell them get a life. I mean, there's a whole lot bigger problems. You lose a ballgame, and then you look at the economy or after every game I usually get to meet one of our veterans or somebody. You know, to take it personal on a coach or player to me, I don't think it's ever right.
But I'm glad fans have passion, but it's still kind of I guess a lot more bolder. You all would know. It's a lot more bolder what people would say and write. Not you all, but bloggers or whatever, than it used to be. We've seen it coming for a few years.
Absolutely, right? The saddest thing about the internet is this sort of anonymous hatred. I love the internet. It gave me a writing outlet and a job and online scrabble. But, man, trawling through message boards after a loss in search of some scrap of useful news and/or analysis is depressing. It kills my productivity. It makes me want to do something else. And it's because of these little hate factories that just lose their head and spew.*
Here Rodriguez talks about this, gives a reasonable answer across four paragraphs, and even manages to conclude it with "but I'm glad fans have passion." He is obviously talking about that small segment of the fanbase that runs to post bile on the internet and almost seems happier when the team loses. Guess which part of this four-paragraph response got put in an AP story?
“It’s amazing some of the things that people would say (on a message board) or yell at you of a personal nature,” Rodriguez said Monday. “You almost want to tell them, `Get a life.’
“There’s a whole lot bigger problems. Look at the economy.”
Cue sarcastic responses from around the internet. Here's one from increasingly retarded Deadspin:
He's right. The economy is dreadful in the Great Lakes State right now. That's probably why your fans don't like paying $60 a pop to watch your comically inept offense destroy everything they hold dear. Or that their school had to pay $2.5 million to West Virginia University just to get you out of the contract you bailed on. Or that you're earning another $2.5M to deliver the most losses in school history. (And they have a lot of history.) One fan even has to sell his allegiance to pay the rent.
That guy's a Michigan State fan, so fine. I get that I have to think Mark Dantonio is a ridiculous insecure hothead who is just so perfectly Sparty No(!)* and this guy has to think Rich Rodriguez is a heartless mercenary cheerleader-nailing guy.
Then there's this from Kevin Donahue (emphasis mine):
I have just four letters for Coach Rod: STFU.
Is it unthinkable to this college football fan that the one guy who cashed in more than anyone else in this sport in the last twelve months would dare question the passion of fans. Hey d-face, you are where you are today BECAUSE fans care about this game.
I'm not even a Michigan fan... and this pisses me off BIG TIME.
Rich Rodriguez takes some time to talk about the internet's depressing tendency towards mocking and anger in some depth. The media takes the three sentences sure to generate the most outrage and create the dumbest image of Rodriguez, and the internet responds with mocking and anger.
I mean… what can you even say here? The way information spreads is messed up. Thanks to the restrictions of newshole the AP writer has to snip out 90% of what Rodriguez says. He picks the lines sure to cause commotion when taken out of context. Thanks to the epic fail of the newspaper industry, everyone with the story headlines it as sensationally as possible in order to get their OMG hits. Given the opportunity to whack the piñata, the internet does so. The whole thing is depressing from stem to stern.
You know, the media complained for 13 years about how gruff and inaccessible Lloyd Carr was. Then they get a guy like Rodriguez who's far more open and they heap crap on him. The net impact of this will be to make Rodriguez gruff and inaccessible.
I don't understand. Unless you assume that the people running newspapers cannot model the future beyond tomorrow's newspaper, it makes no sense. Oh. Ohhhhh. It appears I do understand.
*(The comments here can be vicious at times because there is a cabal of people committed to relentlessly policing stupidity. Sometimes I wish it didn't have to be like that, but when I go read comments other places I am swiftly disabused of that notion. The cost in lack of civility to people outside the tribe is far outweighed by the maintenance of a coherent identity. No regular here would dare post the things that lead off this post and if they did they would be ridiculed by a dozen people before I had the opportunity to deploy the banhammer. This has happened multiple times. Everything I delete already has several responses asking the poster to FOAD.)
**(Okay, seriously: seriously. No, seriously: if Michigan wins on Saturday Michigan State plays Penn State for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Which is THE ROSE BOWL. Dantonio's response to the question "are you rooting for Michigan?"
"I'm not rooting for Michigan… I have too many good friends and too many people that wouldn't let me back into their house to let me do that. So Go Bucks."
Seriously. Sparty, man. Sparty.)
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)