10/30/2010 – Michigan 31, Penn State 41 – 5-3, 1-3 Big Ten
these were the same pictures used in the very first Greg Robinson post and were named –fail1, –fail2, –fail3.
A few years back my fiancée (then girlfriend) and I had one of those conversations that draw out over two weeks. You have them when the other person's position is so bizarre and unbelievable that unlocking the reasoning behind it is important if you're going to hang around this person for a long time—because it's possible the reasoning goes something like "I'm a stabby person who stabs you in the stab places."
The argument was about the narrative of overarching, capital-P Progress that the world is or is not making. I, the engineer, pointed to various statistics that all point in the right direction. She regarded all of it as different paths to the same thing: misery for all but a few. A Foxconn factory is just a handy place to jump off, and they take even that away from you.
I don't think we ever came to a satisfactory conclusion despite the lingering threat of stabbing, but I don't think we have to anymore. Since that conversation the world's financial system exploded, the economy fell into a deep and lingering malaise that figures to last most of a decade, and Greg Robinson was hired to coordinate Michigan's defense.
The worst part has been the illusion. Actually, the worst part has been the actual progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress and the relentless losing.
The illusion: two straight years Michigan has leapt out to a hot start only to see all the supposedly quality wins evaporate. A thrilling win over Notre Dame devalued as the Irish collapse into a heap of laughable crap. UConn goes from team on the verge of a Big East championship to a team that can't even keep its head above water in a horrible conference. Indiana is still not a surprisingly good, competitive version of Indiana. It's just Indiana. Then there is losing, and not competitively.
The actual progress: Michigan has the #1 yardage offense in the Big Ten by a huge margin. The gap between Michigan and #2 Ohio State is considerably bigger than the gap between Ohio State and #7 Iowa. The prophesied Rodriguez Leap, which did happen last year, happened again this year. Rodriguez is what he was sold as.
That progress looked like enough to get Rodriguez through 2010 into a prove-it 2011 until some walk-on shredded Michigan for 28 first-half points. If Progress means not being Minnesota, Michigan is failing. At some point last night the extremely depressing score was 31-10 and the ticker scrolled to the OSU-Minnesota game, which was also 31-10. The Gophers managed to hold Penn State to a mere 33 points and caused them to punt an astounding six times. Michigan did it twice. A comprehensive description of the ways in which Michigan's defense failed last night is impossible, but here's an attempt: Penn State scored 24 points against Kent State, 22 against Temple, 13 against Illinois, and 44 against Youngstown State… with their starting quarterback.
Youngstown State is a 3-6 I-AA team ranked 94th in total defense. They are the closest comparison to Michigan's D amongst Penn State's opponents to date.
Greg Robinson should be fired. Tomorrow, yesterday, bring in Gary Moeller, bring in anyone, don't care. He should never have been hired, just like Jay Hopson and apparently Scott Shafer. At the time of his hiring he was a decade removed from his last sustained success, fresh off driving a respectable Syracuse program into Washington State territory. As a head coach, he sounded like an idiot. His team played like he was an idiot. Michigan hired him and has gotten exactly what they deserved.
The worst part other than the illusion and the actual progress and the relentless losing is that this was obvious at the time:
Anyway: being a stunningly incompetent head coach does not necessarily mean one is a stunningly incompetent coordinator. Numbers will have to make that case. Go, numbers, go!
Year Team PassEff Rush Scoring Total 2008 Syracuse 101 101 101 101 2007 Syracuse 109 108 104 111 2006 Syracuse 81 110 72 107 2005 Syracuse 37 97 67 57 2004 Texas 31 16 18 23
I'm a little stressed out by that. Robinson walked into a good situation at Texas* and managed not to screw that up, then went to Syracuse, where he had an average defense on a horrid team (1-10), which he then proceeded to crater for the next three years. Before his brief, star-making turn at Texas—again, for doing nothing more than treading water—he presided over one of the worst defenses in the NFL, getting fired after three years. The last actual success you can plausibly attribute to Greg Robinson came during his tenure as the Denver Broncos' DC, when his defenses were top ten in the NFL and a significant aid in Denver's back-to-back championships. Since then it's been abject failure save the one year in Texas.
Now it's even more blitheringly obvious. Syracuse is 6-2 despite Doug Marrone having R-U-N-N-O-F-T huge swathes of Robinson's leftover pack of unmotivated jackaninnies and while Scott Shafer's defense has gotten bombed in a couple games and is severely overrated because of games against two terrible I-AA schools and the worst I-A school (0-9 Akron, 56-10 losers to WMU and everyone else), the last two weeks they've allowed 7 and 14 points in road games against West Virginia and Cincinnati. Neither of those teams is good at offense, but neither is Penn State.
Greg Robinson is a terrible football coach. Hiring him was literally the dumbest thing Rich Rodriguez could have done, and he did it. Hiring Jay Hopson to see him leave two years later was a terrible decision, as was whatever the fiasco was with Shafer. The rot on defense goes deeper than Robinson, though—Michigan has insisted on being "multiple" this year, to what purpose is unknown. Week after week Michigan plays teams that sit in a 4-3 with a two-deep shell and play defense adequately enough for this Michigan team to be headed for a New Year's Day Bowl; Michigan has not maintained the same system year-to-year during the Rodriguez era, largely because the leftover guys on the staff are all 3-3-5 guys and they keep insisting that these DCs who have never run the system become One of Us. Braves and Birds nailed this problem when he compared it to Tommy Tuberville's zombie offensive assistants submarining Tony Franklin and eventually Tuberville himself.
Michigan's addiction to the 3-3-5 is causing them to do the exact same thing Rodriguez rejected as dumb his first year when he installed the spread because that's what he knew how to coach—they're shoehorning a coach into a system when that coach doesn't even know how to properly align his middle linebacker. At left, Michigan's horrible defense. At right, West Virginia's excellent 2007 D:
Kenny Demens finally moved further from the LOS in the second half of the Penn State game. The supposedly attacking, slanting, different-front-making defense has been a passive heap of quivering goo coached by someone who clearly doesn't understand what the system he is running is supposed to accomplish. Robinson's been put in a terrible position, but he has no track record save blithering idiocy and there is no reason to retain him.
As for Rodriguez, well, hell. The are four games left, for one. Michigan is #4 in total yardage nationally and isn't scoring at an insane pace only because the special teams and defense have been beyond terrible. The special teams were not a problem before this year and really the only problem this year has been the kicker*, which is a thing that just happens sometimes in college. If they overhaul the defensive coaching by either bringing in an actual 3-3-5 guy like Jeff Casteel—who may be in need of a job after the season—or toss the Tuberville saboteurs overboard and bring in a Serious Man, I'd be willing to see where the Denard Robinson era ends up.
*(Willing to bet that by year's end Michigan isn't giving up any yards on an average exchange of punts; kickoff returns have been bad but that's an incredibly minor facet of the game—an average team is gaining one more yard per attempt than M.)
Change please. How many terrible decisions does Jeremy Gallon have to make before he loses his job at returning things?
Also: gararagagagargh Vincent Smith third and two. Hopkins's fumble was not his fault; Robinson put the ball in his shoulder. (I'm surprised he handed the ball off high—if Smith was in the game Robinson's handoff would have been in Smith's facemask.) Shaw can't be healthy, Cox is not healthy, Toussaint is not healthy… it's actually possible that Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God has been more wroth than Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God this year. The tailback situation is so bad that even Fred Jackson has gone no sugarcoat:
“We have to play better,” Jackson said. “Let’s call a spade a spade. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got plays there to be made and we’re not making them, I’m talking from the running back position.
“We have to play better.”
This is different from Jackson's usual approach of calling a spade a fantastical thousand-story casino in the clouds.
DerpBord. The circumstances behind hiring Greg Robinson are eerily similar to those behind the re-hire of Mike DeBord after his "no mas" faceplant at Central Michigan, down to the seemingly more competent guy being pushed out due to unconfirmed but widely speculated conflict. One dollar Robinson is assistant (to the) linebackers coach in the NFL next year.
The Ron English Effect. The next defensive coordinator (or next head coach, depending) is in line for a mega Ron English Effect, wherein some guy takes over a crew of players returning a ton of starters and looks like a genius for improving them when all he really did is not prevent his players from aging normally. In 2006, Ron English inherited Alan Branch, Lamarr Woodley, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable, and Leon Hall and looked like a genius. The next year absent all those guys save Crable he was bombed into oblivion during The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game.
Anyway, next year's DC gets every starter back save Mouton, Rogers, and Banks, adds Troy Woolfolk, and should have a healthy Mike Martin. He could pick his teeth and look SMRT.
Martin doom. It's clear by now that Martin's injury is the dreaded high ankle sprain and we probably won't see him play effectively the rest of the season. Hurray.
Aw, hell, it's just variations of this with either equal or slightly less tolerance for Rodriguez's terrible choices on the defensive side of the ball. I do like the Hoover Street Rag saying the "shields are down." That's about right. Zook is loading his photon torpedoes.
This is just pure aaargh right here, but how about a preview of why the Michigan defense was so terrible against UMass?
It's first and ten on the Michigan 35 on what will be UMass's second touchdown drive. UMass comes out in an ace set with two tight ends to the short side of the field:
Michigan is in a 3-3-5, basically, but the twins formation and the double TEs distort it. Roh's off the field momentarily, replaced by JB Fitzgerald. UMass is going to run it up the gut:
There's no pull on this so it's an inside zone. There's nowhere to go with RVB shoving his guy into the backfield, Kovacs beating the second TE to the inside, and Leach blitzing unmolested off the weak side. Michigan has basically killed this play as the RB has no choice but to head outside, where…
…Mouton is totally unblocked. You can also see Kovacs poking his head through at the top of the line and Van Bergen getting his shove on.
Anway, Mouton: with no one outside of him because of the alignment he's the force defender who must get the tailback inside of him, where Leach and a scraping Ezeh can deal with the tailback if he cuts back inside tackle. (For some reason, this is "keeping leverage on the football.") And he's playing against a I-AA tailback. So he runs up real fast…
…lets the tailback outside of him…
…and personally turns zero yards…
Seriously, there's nothing else here except Mouton making an enormous mistake. The good news is that if they fix that stuff the scheme of the defense is fine. It's not like they're asking the players to do anything particularly difficult or novel: make tackle. If cannot make tackle, funnel RB to help. Do not let RB outside of you. This has nothing to do with a shift to a 3-3-5. Look, here's Mouton doing the pretty much the same thing last year, albeit against a blocker:
That's the bad news: if these linebackers have been starting for three years and are still making these mistakes, why would they stop now? GERG linebacker fairy theory is about it and that took a major hit against UMass.
Maybe it was just an off day, one on which the linebackers took it easy and reverted to old, bad habits. Yeah. That, too, is the ticket.