The way we were
Drew Hallett has a series on MNB called "Film Focus" that's a lot like the stuff Space Coyote used to diary here, i.e. screenshots with the play drawn on them. A few weeks ago Drew called for Michigan to add a packaged bubble screen to the zone read running game that briefly resurfaced in the 1st quarter on Saturday. Then he called this a "pop pass" and referred to the QB OH NOES play from 2010.
I started a long reply to make it clear that those are really two different things from two different offensive play groups, though both are predicated on the same spread concept of using the QB to add another player to the running game. Then I made drawings. Then I had video. Then I had a Hokepoints to save for OSU week.
Interesting things people do on offense are so far from topical right now at Michigan, but between interesting offense and Michigan's offense, which do you really want to read about this moment? Exactly.
Spread offense has been around several decades now, and has therefore had time to branch out and expand. A truly great offense will be great at all aspects: zone read running, WR screens, option routes, pre-snap reads, and packaged post-snap reads. But you don't really get that much time in college football to practice them all, so spread offenses become specialized.
Zone Read and Bubble
Drew showed that the bubble screen could be incorporated as a packaged play with the zone read, and yes teams do this. In fact it's so common now that last adapter in the world Al Borges deployed a packaged run-bubble last year.
The zone read/bubble was the base of Rodriguez's offense at West Virginia, and the genesis of the Rodriguezian slot smurf who could best take advantage of that space, but there's a key difference between RR's West Virginia offense and the "packaged play": when that bubble read is made. At WVU it was a pre-snap read, based on the position of that nickel/SAM/Spur/HSP guy. If he tiptoed into the box: bubble. If he stayed spread out like a good boy Rodriguez could continue running his zone read game.
Packaging makes that read after the snap:
The problem is you now have two reads, i.e. a triple option. Asking a QB to read more than one thing on a play takes a big commitment to that offense, and a quarterback who can/will put the time into it. Denard was an amazing player, but Michigan didn't get very far running the zone read offense with him because for reasons of time (he didn't get to redshirt and was a sophomore when he became a starter) and the level of commitment he could put into film, etc., when dude was constantly rehabbing injuries and trying to be a student.
Keep in mind defenses have seen the zone read for two decades now. They run scrape exchanges, and CB blitzes at it, and deploy dudes like MSU's Marcus Rush (the best I've ever seen at this) who can shut down an entire option game by delaying, delaying, delaying that first read until the rest of the defense arrives to bottle it up. By that point the field corner and safety have beaten those outside blocks, and the harassed QB throwing the bubble is an invitation to a pick six, a slotback blown up in the backfield, or even a backwards pass fumble. The defense has some other schematic things it can throw against it to take advantage of a QB who's too green at reading the package, but the point is they're already trained to blow this up in more ways than walking the HSP down.
[Jump for more fun things that Michigan doesn't do for religious reasons].
We're from the Erik Campbell branch
From 1995 to 2007 Michigan had a Hall of Fame head coach who embodied the ideals of ethics and education within a championship-caliber football program, the thing we're actually referring to when we venerate "Michigan." It won a national championship, usually beat its rivals, took a lot of trips to Pasadena and Orlando, won a share of the Big Ten as often as not, and put more players on NFL rosters than any team save Miami (YTM).
But in two (soon to be three) coaching searches hence, there has been a remarkable lack of suitable head coaching candidates from that 13 season span, and it's all due to the single biggest flaw of its last successful head coach: Lloyd Carr was too loyal to mediocre assistants.
A baseline. I'll start with what I consider normal. A coaching staff will typically go through a lot of dudes. On the whole it's more common for an assistant to get a better job than be fired from their current one, with the caveat that a new head coach most often cleans out the old assistants. One or two new guys per year is normal for a successful coaching staff.
You want fresh blood and fresh ideas coming in, but also a core stability, especially from the guys you lean on for recruiting, and that's why a mix is important. The group is usually a mix of the head coach's best bud, a few lifetime position coaches who are loyal and great fundamental teachers but not coordinator/HC material, and a few up-and-comers who are. Have one spot for a young guy who's loyal to your program and can relate well to the players. In coordinators, unless one of them is your best bud, you optimally expect a pair of strategic operatives who'll be around for three seasons or so before their success gets them a head coaching job. You replace those guys with other up-and-comers, or promote one of yours if you think they're ready.
The head coach can take on one of those roles, since in himself he probably has one of the best possible position coaches or coordinators in the country. You see why Mattison is so valuable to Hoke then, because he's good at his job, and good at recruiting, and doesn't want to leave it. That's the kind of rare luxury who can make a staff extraordinary.
For Lloyd's guys, I'll break it up by group.
|2007||Mike DeBord||Scot Loeffler||Andy Moeller||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|2006||Mike DeBord||Scot Loeffler||Andy Moeller||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|2005||Terry Malone||Scot Loeffler||Andy Moeller||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|2004||Terry Malone||Scot Loeffler||Andy Moeller||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|2003||Terry Malone||Scot Loeffler||Andy Moeller||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|2002||Terry Malone||Scot Loeffler||Andy Moeller||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|2001||Stan Parrish||(Parrish)||Terry Malone||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|2000||Stan Parrish||(Parrish)||Terry Malone||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|1999||Mike Debord||Stan Parrish||Terry Malone||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|1998||Mike Debord||Stan Parrish||Terry Malone||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|1997||Mike DeBord||Stan Parrish||Terry Malone||Erik Campbell||Fred Jackson|
|1996||Fred Jackson||Stan Parrish||Mike DeBord||Erik Campbell||(Jackson)|
|1995||Fred Jackson||Kit Cartwright||Mike DeBord||Erik Campbell||(Jackson)|
Primary complaint was offense so I'll start there. Number is parentheses is the guy's current age.
Lloyd's first OC, Fred Jackson (64), was promoted more for loyalty than any supposed grasp of the offense. The fan consensus at the time was that Jackson was in over his head, and wasting all of that air-the-ball talent that Moeller had so carefully constructed. The latter half of '96 was brutal (except for OSU), and Jackson was demoted back to RBs coach, where he will remain until the end of eternity.
|The reason we thought Lloyd Carr would only be an interim head coach at first was he made Fred Jackson his first offensive coordinator, i.e. he replaced GARY EFFING MOELLER with a lifetime running backs coach/program glue guy. [photo: Fuller]|
At that point, rather than find a real OC, Lloyd promoted OL coach Mike DeBord (58). It's likely that had the defense not been enough to win a championship with just mediocre offense, DeBord would not have become as entrenched. Nevertheless Michigan spent half of its championship season doinking Chris Howard into stacked lines for two plays then passing on third down, succeeding just enough thanks to a couple of really shining young guys on the offensive line, and spot offensive duty by Woodson.
The DeBord who ran zone left all damn day in 2007 had been a wonderful offensive line coach before that. Prior to 1992 Michigan had Bo's de facto associate HC Jerry Hanlon as OL coach, and then Les Miles, except for a year Bobby Morrison (more on him later) coached it. Moeller hired DeBord after watching Northwestern's theretofore crap OL suddenly not suck in one year, and found a resume of just-as-quick turnarounds at Fort Hays State, Eastern Illinois, Ball State, and Colorado State in a matter of 10 years. From Runyan and Payne to Hutchinson and Backus, DeBord's OL were ready to insert after a year in the system, and usually ready for the NFL after three.
The problem was he approached offense coordination the same way: repetition, execution, toughness. Carr recommended DeBord to CMU as a training ground for eventually taking over Michigan, and when DeBord proved bad even by directional school standards (this was the disaster Brian Kelly remediated), Lloyd made room for him as special teams coach and recruiting guy. The loyalty to DeBord was the biggest complaint we had about Lloyd's tenure, and the caveman-style football they championed survives as a cancerous ideology within the program. As Carr's handpicked successor, DeBord is the personification of this complaint.
Michigan found a spot for him coordinating various non-revenue sports. This seemed nice and natural because dude did dedicate his life to Michigan, but something about DeBord being around now gives me the willies.
[After the jump: the rest of the staffs]
From left: Brady Hoke & Jerry Kill in 2011 [Upchurch], Les Miles and Cam Cameron at the 1989 spring game [Bentley], and James Franklin as a coordinator [courtesy Maryland Athletics]
For HTTV this year I did a study on Big Ten and SEC, and the factors that led to a marked disparity in football success that grew up between them since 1999. One of the most stunning differences I found was in the splashiness of coaching hires.
Someone on the board early this morning asked whether high-profile candidates are such a big deal. The original study answered this emphatically: "Yes!" I thought I'd extend it to the rest of the Power 5 hires since '99 and see if that's still true.
Methodology: I looked at the circumstances at the moment of hiring of every coach (156 total) who started a tenure at a currently Power 5 program since 1999, and put them into one of three (plus one) categories:
- Strong: Stealing another BCS school's coach, or the heir apparent at a power program, or grabbing the year's hottest candidate, or being the school that finally pries a legendary mid-major coach away when everyone else has been trying for years. Universally, these are headline-grabbing guys who probably needed a major monetary incentive to pry them from their last position.
- Average: A guy who was obviously responsible for turning a mid-major into a perennial 9- or 10-win team, a successful NFL or power program coordinator, promoting your own heir apparent (not after firing his boss), etc. These are the hires that you nod at and say "that makes sense" or "B+".
- Cheap: Promoting a coordinator you didn't plan on, grabbing a mid-major coach with mediocre success or success that's not obviously his. Grabbing a washout from the NFL or the Power 5, or a guy who wouldn't have been on any coaching radar except yours.
- (Interim): Don't count unless they were made full.
- These are of course debatable, since they're the opinions of one dude who's been obsessively following college football over this time period, so you can only draw so much. I didn't remember all of them, obviously, but I was able to jog my impressions by reading articles on coaching searches around the time. This is one instance when my life was actually made better by the annual proliferation of "we grade this year's hires" articles from mainstream outlets. When I couldn't decide, I defaulted "average."
- I welcome your suggestions for changes, so long as they fit the criteria (hindsight must be irrelevant).
- The data:
[After the jump: what we learned]
You're going to see plenty on these pages about guys we think might coach at Michigan next year, since it's pretty much a sure thing at this point that Hoke will not. I thought it would be as good a time as any to build some sort of consensus of what we're looking for and how much of it we want relative to other factors. Other than, you know. "Jim Harbaugh."
Last week one of the diarists put together a matrix for evaluating the coaching candidates. I didn't like how he weighted the things, so at the time I put together a draft version of a more detailed "what we're looking for" system. I have since overhauled and updated it to be a more accurate reflection of my feelingsball:
The last five Michigan hires are given at the time of their selection to establish a baseline. Some things may seem wonky, like Bo being rather low, but remember his resume was that of an assistant (not coordinator) who'd been successful in the MAC. Some candidates in short:
|Category:||Jim Harbaugh||Dan Mullen||Gary P'son||Les Miles||Mike Gundy||Tom Herman||Bob Stitt||Pat Narduzzi|
|Success (25 max)||43*||24||23||42*||28*||12||12||12|
* I calculated success but maxed it out at 25, at which point the guy's proven he can coach.
We can change things around but I figured one matrix would be useful for our discussions going forward. At least it passes the eye exam. Kinda. I don't know how to make it stop rating Les Miles so high unless I need to raise the importance of long-term success.
Why the matrix?
Usefulness is in discussing the particular pros and cons of these guys in context, because things like "is he a culture fit" otherwise tend to outweigh "can he coach football." A brief explanation of my scoring system after the jump.
Among this year's great disappointments has been the understandable, but nonetheless depressing, regression of 2013 Michigan's two best defensive players. Jake Ryan looks lost at MLB. Blake Countess is now the third or fourth best cornerback on this roster. Both appear to be a direct result of the offseason decision to switch from Michigan's 4-3 under/zone defense to a jam-man, nickel/4-3 over base.
I'm sure Brian is going to cover Jake Ryan with a picture pages, so I thought I'd zoom in on a play that's demonstrative of what's happening with Countess, and how that's hurting the defense. This is the first of Rutgers's many 3rd down conversions. Michigan had a backside blitz on with the front seven and was playing man-high pass D. Rutgers ran a pick route from the trips tight formation:
This is a standard thing you do against man coverage. The Y receiver will run his route directly in the path of the cornerback trying to guard the outside (Z) receiver. It works just a like a perimeter screen in basketball: the pick man and the defender following him create a wall between the target and his defender…
Voila: easy pass…
…which is unfortunate because a certain Rutgers lineman blew his MIKE assignment and Jake Ryan was about to turn Gary Nova into paste. Jeremy Clark then compounded matters by setting up too far inside and turned it into a big play.
To a degree you might RPS this, because Rutgers called a pick route against man coverage, and Nova pointed right at the matchups to show his guys they had what they wanted. But the way Michigan's defense is supposed to work is for man-tight to be a base play, and there is absolutely a way to defend this pass with Michigan's defensive call… [jump] [also if you're at work maybe put your headsets on because you know what's coming]