To All Michigan fans; to all students, alumni, staff, etc.
You must choose.
You have to choose between one of two, irreconcilable versions of our football program and our institution.
One version was voiced explicitly today by Athletic Director David Brandon. He labeled the fall-2009 newspaper reporting by the Detroit Free Press as "false and misleading." His statement to that effect follows the previous statement on behalf of the University that was contained in the institution's Response to the Notice of Allegations, that the Free Press' early reporting was "wildly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect."
Those are the official words, spoken on behalf of the University.
On the other hand, there is Michigan alum Drew Sharp, sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press. He now actively defends the reporting with which he had little original involvement. Sharp states today in the online Freep.com: "The final verdict validates the basis of a thoroughly detailed Free Press investigation in August 2009 in which former and current player charged the coaching staff with routinely violating."
It is of course possible for Michigan fans to have differing points of view about many things; about coaches and players, about games, or plays, or opponents, about recollections of history, and about any vision for the future of our intercollegiate athletics.
But you cannot resolve what Drew Sharp says, with what our University says. You must choose. All Michigan fans must choose.
As you know, I diarize weekly on the subject of Denard Robinson's record-setting season. At the suggestion of Comrade Raoul, I thought I would add some research on some of the team offense records that this year's Wolverines are chasing, especially given that some of our fellow MGoProletarians are arguing that Michigan's offense is "inconsistent."
Did you know that Michigan is averaging 518.4 yards per game in total offense, higher than any other team in Big Ten history? (Second place belongs to Penn State's 1994 team, which averaged 512.7 yards per game.) This year's team is on pace to demolish the old Michigan total offense record of 466.9, set in 1992, when Gary Moeller roamed the sidelines, barking orders to Elvis Grbac, Desmond Howard, and Tyrone Wheatley.
|Big Ten All-Time Leaders||Year||YPG (Total Offense)|
|2. Penn State||1994||512.7|
|4. Ohio State||1998||497.6|
|5. Michigan State||2005||497.3|
|8. Ohio State||1974||493.2|
|9. Ohio State||1996||490.4|
|10. Michigan State||1978||481.3|
|11. Ohio State||1995||478.6|
|Michigan All-Time Leaders (QB/WR/RB)||Year||YPG (Total Offense)|
|1. Robinson / Roundtree / Smith||2010||518.4|
|2. Grbac / Howard / Wheatley||1992||466.9|
|3. Navarre / Edwards / Perry||2003||446.7|
|4. Henson / Terrell / Thomas||2000||446.1|
|5. Grbac / Howard / Vaughn||1990||432.5|
Here are some other impressive stats:
- Michigan is averaging 7.4 yards per play, which is most all-time in Michigan history (the existing record is 6.4 yards, in 1992 and 1947).
- Michigan is averaging 35.1 points per game, good for 10th all-time in Michigan history, and the fourth-highest Michigan total in 63 years.
- Michigan is averaging 275.5 rushing yards per game, 6th all-time in Big Ten history and 3rd all-time in Michigan history. (The Big Ten record is 349.9 in 1974 by Ohio State; the Michigan record is 345.3 in 1976.)
- Michigan is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, higher than any other Michigan team in history (the current record is 5.9 per carry in 1976).
- Michigan is averaging 246.1 passing yards per game, 3rd all-time in Michigan history. (The record is 270.8 in 2003.)
- Michigan is averaging 23.1 first downs per game, second-highest in Michigan history. (The record is 23.9 in 2003.)
None of this is to excuse the performance on the defensive side of the ball -- but merely to remind people that our offense as a unit is one of the best Michigan has ever fielded.
As noted above, this year's team is averaging 35.1 points per game, one of Michigan's best in recent memory. But the Fielding Yost "point-a-minute" teams averaged 50.5, 58.5, 47.1, 56.7, and 38.1 points per game from 1901 to 1905. Fritz Crisler's 1947 national championship team of Bob Chappuis and Bump Elliott, nicknamed the "Mad Magicians," averaged 39.4.
Dynamic offenses have been few and far between in the postwar era. The 1976 Bo Schembechler team, led by Rick Leach and Rob Lytle, scored 36.0 points per game, and owns the rushing season record with 345.3 yards per game. The aforementioned 1992 team averaged 35.9 points; and the 2003 team averaged 35.4.
The difference between the Rodriguez offense and the previous two is that for Carr and Moeller, an all-time offense came around once or twice a decade, when there was a unique confluence of talent at every position. If Rodriguez is allowed to stay on, there is every reason to believe that this offense will get even better next year and the year after.
By all means, fix the defense, using whatever means necessary. But let's not send our offense back into the Dust Age. The Hegelian dialectic tells us that only Spread and Shred can lead us to a workers' paradise.
Omaha is my hometown, Michigan my school. Living in the heart of Big Red Country, if you want to be included in sports conversations you better be ready to talk about the Huskers. The ultimate villains in Nebraska are not Barry Switzer or Mack Brown, but Steve Peterson and Bill Callahan. Peterson fired Frank Solich and hired Callahan. Callahan was the first head coach that had no direct ties to the University either as a player or assistant coach since Bob Devaney. He was brought in to bring an offensive spark to an “outdated” system. In his first season, Nebraska had their first losing season since 1961 and ended their 35-year bowl streak.
When they were both fired following the 2007 season, people put mock gravestones in the backyards reading "RIP Bill Callahan and Steve Peterson".
Sound eerily familiar? So does the 30-35 years prior to the outside hires.
The coaching legends: Tom Osborne (25 years): 255-49-3 (.835) Bo Schembechler (21 seasons): 194-48-5 (.802)
The understudies (not including Gary Moeller): Frank Solich (6 seasons): 58-19 (.753) Lloyd Carr (13 seasons): 122-40 (.753)
Callahan and Rodriguez were both hired because of their offensive expertise. Both came in after the successful understudies of legends were fired or “retired”. Other than record, they would be judged by their teams’ offensive outputs. Here is a simplified analysis of their results by points per game (excluding 1-AA opponents):
Bill Callahan Rich Rodriguez
2004: 21.9 ppg 2008: 20.25 ppg
2005: 24.6 ppg 2009: 24.25 ppg
2006: 28.6 ppg 2010 (through PSU): 34.4 ppg
2007: 33.4 ppg 2011: ?
Both programs clearly improved offensively from year to year, delivering on their promise to improve offensively. However, for both the other side of the ball was a different story. Here are the points allowed per game (excluding 1AA opponents) for both programs:
Bill Callahan Rich Rodriguez
2004: 28.1 ppg 2008: 28.9 ppg
2005: 22.3 ppg 2009: 29.45 ppg
2006: 19.2 ppg 2010 (through PSU): 29 ppg
2007: 37.9 ppg 2011: ?
The interesting divergence is that through the first three years of Callahan’s regime the defense improved from year to year. Then in 2007, the wheels came off when in a crazy Big 12 North loaded with teams who had similar team structures to the 2010 version of Michigan, they lost to Missouri 41-6, Kansas 76(!)-39, and Colorado 65-51.
Thus far in Rich Rodriguez’s tenure, the most points allowed in a game has been 46 to Penn State in 2008. Instead, his defenses have been more consistently pathetic by giving up at least 30 points in 16 of 20 Big 10 games.
One note of optimism is that it seems once the Nebraska defense was entirely rid of Solich’s players, the defense took a complete nosedive. While in Ann Arbor, the defense has been on a steady decline since the great 2006 defense. Perhaps Michigan’s defense could turn around as Rodriguez’s defensive talent from the 2009 and 2010 classes mature and take greater control of the defense…or perhaps not.
Finally, a look at their records:
Bill Callahan Rich Rodriguez
2004: 5-6 (3-5 Big 12) 2008: 3-9 (2-6 Big 10)
2005: 8-4 (4-4 Big 12) 2009: 5-7 (1-7 Big 10)
2006: 9-5 (6-3 Big 12) 2010 (through PSU): 5-3 (1-3 Big 10)
2007: 5-7 (2-6 Big 12) 2011: ?
(2007 record worst in Nebraska history)
After four years of underachievement, frustration, and an entire state deep in depression, new AD Tom Osborne (people claim Nebraskans didn’t vote him in as governor because the AD job was more important) fired Bill Callahan and his defensive staff led by Kevin Cosgrove.
Instead of starting from scratch, Osborne kept OC Shawn Watson and hired defensive guru Bo Pelini as head coach. In year one, the Huskers went 9-4 while still giving up 30.33 ppg. In year two, they went 10-4 and had a Rodriguez-like leap on defense giving up only 10.5 ppg, all with Callahan’s recruits (Larry Asante, Prince Amukamara, Jared Crick, Phillip Dillard, Zach Potter, and of course, Ndominatin Suh). Interestingly enough, Pelini was Solich’s DC during his last year at Nebraska and took over as interim head coach for the bowl game (they beat Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl 17-3). It would be pretty weird if Michigan managed to keep the offensive staff and hire Ron English as head coach. Of course, that is probably about as stupid as it is unlikely.
Now, if I’m going to point out their similarities, I should also go into their differences. This begins with their coaching resumes prior to their respective jobs. Bill Callahan spent 15 years as an offensive assistant in the college ranks (primarily coaching OL) at most notably Illinois and Wisconsin before moving on to the NFL. He spent a few years as the OL coach for the Eagles until he was hired as Jon Gruden’s OC in Oakland. As many remember, he took over for Gruden when he left for the Bucs and ended up losing to his old boss in the Super Bowl. The following season, the Raiders finished 4-12 and many of the veterans (like say, Tim Brown and Charles Woodson) publically criticized him, some even saying he was purposely sabotaging the team. Those two years in Oakland represent his entire head coaching experience prior to Nebraska. Meanwhile, Rich Rodriguez had 15 years of successful head coaching experience at different levels of college football prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor.
Another difference has been their success in big games against big opponents. Against ranked opponents Callahan had a 4-10 record, never beating a team ranked better than #20. And while Rich Rod’s record against ranked opponents is a paltry 2-8, all but one was ranked higher than #20, and four of those teams were ranked in the top 10. Furthermore, Rich Rod has a victory against a top ten team (#8 Wisconsin in 2008). It may seem like splitting hairs or grasping at straws (probably because it is), but all of Callahan’s top 25 victories came against weak Big 12 North opponents who soon vacated the national rankings.
Perhaps more than the losing, the way in which he ran the program was a key reason Callahan was let go. He understandably wanted to do things his way, but that involved largely ignoring in-state recruits who would give both their legs and a testicle to play for Nebraska. He also killed one of the most successful walk-on programs in the nation, thus leaving the program without the blue-collared identity that it and the state has had from the beginning. Players like Seth Olson (Iowa, 3rd round pick of the Broncos), Adam Shada (Iowa), Jeff Tarpinian (Iowa), and Paul Homer (Washington) left to go elsewhere when all they needed was an offer. He ran a loose ship like he was still coaching in the NFL and it showed; the teams were undisciplined (particularly on defense) and didn’t have much fight to them. Rodriguez, on the other hand, made an effort to learn Michigan’s traditions and incorporate them in with his own. Instead of turning a blind eye to former players like Callahan did at Nebraska, he welcomes them to the facilities.
What does this all mean? Hell if I know. There are some alarming similarities in the way in which the two situations have played out to date, but some important differences. I have been telling myself for the better part of three years that the differences matter more than the similarities and that everything will work out. Let’s just hope that sentiment is right. Go Blue!
I was curious that I haven't heard about Michigan hold a "Piss off" press conference today. I would have thunk DB would be out front declaring a great day blah blah blah before he got 94 idiots questioning him about RR's job security.
Is Michigan just going to let this end quietly?
4-star CB that had UM interest as of a couple months ago - we will see him plenty in the next 4 years.
Times are rough, and none of us are happy with the current state of the football ream right now, but it's time to get our chins off the ground and remember all the things we have to be happy about. Here's three:
- Without the bitter, the sweet ain't so sweet. As Michigan fans, we've tasted success more often than most college football fans. The last 2 and a half years have been trying, but think about how much you're going to enjoy that next bowl game now. Think about how sweet that next win over OSU is going to be. We've taken a lot for granted as Michigan fans, but not anymore.
- We've got the best coverage (media, not secondary). Sometimes I wonder why I've enjoyed watching the last three years of Michigan football even more than I enjoyed watching the very good 2002-2004 teams. Mgoblog is the reason. Would you rather watch a 9-3 team and have nothing but the freep to read, or watch a 7-5 team and have this depth of analysis and community of intelligent fans? Obviously we want both, but Mgoblog is a big part of what makes UM football fun. No matter how bad it gets, nothing is taking that away from us.
- We root for the greatest university in the world. No matter what the rival fans say, nothing is going to keep us down for long. We have Dave Brandon, and he is committed to getting this thing working, regardless of whether the coach is RR or Harbaugh or whoever.
Even if it's ugly on Saturday, just remember that these kids are going to play their heart out, and they're going to suit up next Saturday and the one after that. Win or lose, I'm going to enjoy every time they run out of that tunnel, every snap, every touchdown, every turnover. Tears of joy or tears of sadness, every moment is special. Because this is more than football--it's MICHIGAN. Hail.