I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
when can we fire this guy
So I couldn't in good conscience do a basketball or hockey or softball roundtable question the week of the Ohio State game, lest Bo leap from his grave and stab out my eyes.* On the other hand I've been around here long enough to know what it means when the otters and Big Lebowski references come out (I don't know what posting the game column at 5 a.m. means but it's probably bad).
In that "game column"-type thing Brian suggested a future that's basically 20 years of the late-Carr program. Perhaps a more detailed assessment is in order:
Play out the next four years of Michigan football (If you think Coach X is replaced by Coach Y you can incorporate that into your fantasy.)? What are some of the potential pitfalls along the way? Any reassessment on our rivals going forward?
*People were asking what happened to the Blog That Yost Built.
Mathlete: If I would have charted my optimistically realistic expectations entering the Hoke era, here is what it would look like versus achievement on a completely arbitrary scale.
One year of lucky over-achievement, then a year of par and this year. The trajectory is all wrong but the total results are about right. With the strong recruiting and a quality group coming of players moving into the upper class I still think last year could be close to expectations. After nearly three seasons here would be my grades for Hoke and the coordinators:
Brady Hoke: Incomplete
Greg Mattison: A
Al Borges: D (GERG gave up 37 points to UMass, Borges at least torched Indiana)
Hoke gets an incomplete pending how the offense turns out next year. The defense is his specialty and their solid progression is a positive sign. Whether Borges survives to next year or not and if he stays and how much things get better (it has to get better, right?) will be the major determiner of his grade. Most of the offensive failures to date aren't on Hoke in my mind, but everything going forward will be.
|The future on defense is Tacos. [Upchurch]|
That's a long preamble to the original question, what do the next four years look like?
Next year the defense will be good, probably very good. The offense who knows. At this point I think anything is possible. Borges could get fired but probably won't. He could stay and things could be marginally better, he could stay and things could click and they could be good but probably still frustrating.
Beyond 2014 the defense should be consistently good. Historically, defenses loaded with talent like Michigan is bringing have a pretty low variance. They may not always be elite, but it's pretty hard for them to be bad. I really don't know what to say about the offense. Anything is possible, they could turn into Stanford next year or they could limp through a couple more years of Borges, with enough talent and a good enough defense to keep things intact but not good enough to compete with the best teams on the schedule.
As to the rivals, the only question for Ohio State is, can Urban maintain success at one place for an extended period? He has never stayed in one place for more than six seasons. As long as he is there Ohio State should be pretty similar to what we've seen from him to date. Are they going to go undefeated every year, certainly not, their win streak hasn't exactly come against murderers row. But the schedule isn't going to get a lot tougher in the Big Ten and I would expect their regular season win total to reach double digits more often than not.
Across the state, it's a bit more complex. Does Narduzzi leave after this year? How high of a level can the defense maintain with Dantonio but no Narduzzi. If he stays or Dantonio can keep things moving without him, the Spartans aren't going anywhere. The offense will probably never be good enough to put them at a consistently elite level, but they should be a real player in the East division. If the defense can't stay elite, Michigan State's chances of staying competitive at the top year after a year probably leave too.
This 'Merritt's Mention: How much punning has David Merritt had to put up with? Not enough that he balked at calling his fashion-brand-for-a-cause "Merit." The store donates a fifth of its revenues to college scholarships and educational enrichment programs, and he just opened one in Ann Arbor.
We Start Up Front. In 2009 Michigan started off pretty strong, including an encouraging win over Notre Dame. Maybe the shaky backfield got a little beat up for want of a safety or two but hey: Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. Then it got worse. Then it got worser. Then it got awful. And then there were lots of diaries (myself among them) blaming attrition and poor recruiting on the old coaches and all sorts of things that could explain it other than "this is what will get our coaches fired."
So…offensive line diaries.
A Single Unified Theory of Offensive Lineptidute? Provided by Yeoman and bumped early last week, "Short Ride in a Broken-Down Machine" is the definitive study relating Michigan's offensive issues to young starters on the interior OL. As to the small correlation he had a great answer:
Given those enormous differences in baseline levels of the various FBS teams it's amazing to me that we could see anything like 5-8% of a performance difference being credited to any one team demographic, especially when the difference is measured using an SOS-adjusted metric like Fremeau.
The rubber really hits the pavement when he thought to compare teams to their historical norm, which is a quite elegant stand-in for expectations (including recruiting). Ultimately he found teams that have significant depth and start freshmen are just fine because the freshmen are just that good, but teams in Michigan's situation typically have very large systemic problems. Because fans tend to overstate, there's a reactionary tendency from the more rational among us to think "it's probably not as bad as it looks." Reality check: it's as bad as if we had Idaho's recruiting problems. Yeoman did throw some hope for next year in the comments:
(1) [OTs Do Matter Theory] The Bust Index for the entire line will improve from 75% to 65%, which would improve oFEI by about .06 and move us (all else being equal which of course it isn't) up about ten spots, or
(2) [OTs Don't Matter Theory] The Bust index for the interior will improve from 69% to 46%, which would improve oFEI by about .175 and move us up about about 20 spots.
He followed up with a Kalis-centric study that tracks every (non-juco) 5-star offensive lineman since 2003 and what contributions that player made in Year X. Findings are the good ones mostly started by Year 2, but that there's no cause to worry until they're not starting in Year 3. Actually the biggest thing to worry about is how few actually make good on their promise, not that Kalis hasn't yet. Diarist of the Month, this guy.
Third Down and Guh. The guy in the running with Yeoman is reshp1, who had a great OL diary two weeks ago, and this week decided to get into all those failed 3rd downs. It's UFR-long, so if you promise to read it (okay if you promise to skim through it) I'll share the money table here. Promise. PROMISE! You know what, fine, I'll put it after the jump, so you still have to click on something you lazy straw man of a dear diary reader.
It would seem obvious
Event reminder: MGoBlog is coming to Chicago next Friday. Moe's Cantina, River North, 6-9 p.m.
The coping mechanisms kicked in about Tuesday, and the diaries flowed. The best, I thought, was by Ron Utah, who took this base alignment
…from the UFR and pointed out why it's hard to attack this in myriad ways because MSU's defense is good. That is true, but it doesn't invalidate the primary complaints: it isn't cohesive. Indiana faced the same defense and their OL isn't all that great, but they have committed themselves to running option routes and tempo, and it works because it puts the offense mostly on the shoulders of three really good receivers to execute. A short list of some of the hands Michigan gambled on:
- Toussaint's pass blocking vs. Denicos Allen blitz
- Funchess's threat as an inline blocker vs. MSU having watched Funchess this season at all
- Half-hearted play-action on 2nd and 15 when Michigan hasn't shown a run out of that formation in ever vs. MSU safeties' ability to read play-action.
State's defense is great, and that gives teams limited options for beating them. But the offensive coaching was awful independent of that, on the game level more so on a macro level: They haven't been able to figure out from week to week what the hell kind of offense they are, let alone who's going to be playing it. Eventually they want to be a TE-mismatch outfit but right now there isn't a single TE or RB on the roster who can block. I get it, but it's not getting better because in three years nobody on that staff has been able to answer "what are we going to do about it?"
The OL can't block either. Well the freshmen can't and hey, they're freshmen. But since OL coaches are particularly difficult to judge (especially when their oldest recruits are all redshirt freshmen this year) Erik_in_Dayton went over all of Funk's previous OL charges going back to Ball State. No conclusions—almost everybody was a 2-star recruit—but interesting read.
Meanwhile Gameboy has been trying all sorts of ways of assessing Michigan's O-line experience versus that of other teams. In three attempts he's got a bunch of data and no sense to make of it still because Michigan has two extremes and the coaches don't do things to cover up for their weak points. The chart at right shows O-line starts and game experience. His big mistake I think is averaging: Team One has a tackle with thirty starts and a left guard with none; Team Two has a tackle and guard who've started next to each other for fifteen games. Both average fifteen starts, but Team Two has a big advantage that is hidden by your method.
Chunkums put up a survey to ask if you want to fire which coaches, but your feelings are irrelevant since this staff won't be budged unless there's wholesale failure the rest of the year and Dave Brandon's pimp hand has to step in. Even then, what are the chances Michigan grabs the soon-to-be-unemployed Nebraska OC we're pining over? What's that guy going to do with Morris and Speight? It's clear now that Borges should never have been brought here in the first place, but then a world where Michigan hung on to Calvin Magee for a few years (as OSU did with Fickell) comes with its own negatives. Either way the future is what matters now; if we're going to advocate anything maybe it's a consultant who can teach Borges constraint theory.
While you're assessing, here's a handy chart of Michigan's games under Hoke by dnak438, with the betting lines included. I think jamiemac once told me that Michigan's final lines, like ND's and other power programs, are worse predictors because they're responsive to the huge number of people who bet knowing nothing more than that Michigan is traditionally pretty good. Early lines are more accurate. By the way dnak took my suggestion of rotating the chart 45 degrees. This week I'm suggesting overlaying last week's to see progression:
[Jump to find out how Brian got banned, and you can too!]
Watch Michigan lose to Michigan State on Saturday was frustrating and somewhat difficult to put into perspective. We want to believe that the coaches are capable of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their players so the players can successfully execute. We also have to have the right players. It seems that we are still not where we want to be in terms of talent, coaching and understanding. How far away are we before we have the right combination?
Let's just get to the big question first. Michigan is still staring at the crater where their senior class is supposed to be, and reeling from Rich Rodriguez's inept offensive line recruiting. The 2011 class is also not spectacular, as it was a few in-state true believers, Blake Countess, and guys with little recruiting profile thanks to Rodriguez's sinking profile and Michigan giving Hoke three weeks to pile ten guys in. The talent on this team is mostly underclass.
That will not be the case on next year's defense. A projected starting lineup:
- DL: Clark (Sr), Beyer (Sr), Pipkins (Jr), Henry (Rs So)
- LB: Morgan (Sr), Ross (Jr), Ryan(Sr)
- DB: Countess (Rs Jr), Taylor (Sr), Wilson (Jr), J. Clark (Rs So)
This defense is an okay unit still beset by personnel issues. Snaps at NT not given to Quinton Washington against MSU went to… Jibreel Black. Yup. 250-pound Brennen Beyer is now the starting SDE. Before that the existence of Black was the only thing separating the situation the SDE and 3TECH positions from the one Michigan is dealing with at guard: one sophomore with a middling recruiting profile (Bryant on OL, Heitzman on DL) and a pile of freshman who are still freshman no matter how touted. I expect Michigan's defense to take a significant step forward from good but not great to maybe great next year.
The situation on offense is much more frightening. Michigan hasn't been able to move snap one away from Fitzgerald Toussaint, which is an indictment of Michigan's recruiting or development or both there. Michigan hasn't had a QB who wasn't massively turnover prone since Borges arrived, and there are zero seniors on next year's OL. Does a starting line of Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis-Braden featuring four sophomores and a junior who is a former walk-on entice? No.
Michigan's probably a 9-3 team next year and then you're putting all your eggs in Shane Morris's basket at QB the year after. So… not for a while.
[After the JUMP: oh good the "when can we fire this guy" tag is back. Yost: not really Yost.]
1/1/2010 – Michigan 14, Mississippi State 52 – 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten
Amongst the many many things posted over the weekend that could have been posted at any time in the last three years was one odd bit of history that's apropos: a letter drafted for Nixon to read in the event that Neal Armstrong and company were to die on the moon because the lander wouldn't leave.
Men in charge of things make difficult decisions and live with the consequences of their actions even if they result in reading the thing William Safire wrote for you about two men watching at their oxygen gauges count down in an airless wasteland.
Back in the summer of 2008, when we were a happy-go-lucky band of mountain yodelers with flowers in our pockets and caviar dreams, I finished up that year's preview with that picture of Don Canham staring down a thicket of microphones as Bump Elliott searched for a sandwich and Bo exuded his Bo-like confidence. I've referred to it ever since, and here it is again:
Lives were not literally at stake above, but even so it's hard to imagine Nixon adopting an expression that more perfectly sums up the feeling of someone who's made a big decision and now has to watch someone else execute. At the end of that post this is what I said:
We are all Don Canham now. Rich Rodriguez comes in with a wildly successful pedigree but promises to finally tear down the culture of Bo’s program, to replace it with something uncertain. This has caused apprehension in some, joy in others, and disdain verging on hatred in a select group.
The program risks changing into something people drift away from because it has drifted from them, or, worse, something that you only wish you could drift away from. It also promises fireworks and fun and victory and a feeling that’s something other than that thing we’ve felt so much before. Other fanbases go through this every five or ten or fifteen years; for us it’s been 40.
I could welcome it, I guess, or celebrate it, or proclaim inevitable dominion over the land. But I don’t feel like it. Nor do I feel like fretting over imaginary scandals future. Like Canham, I just hope it works.
I don't think it has. A game somewhere around expectations would not have moved the needle enough for slight support for Rich Rodriguez to morph into a call for firing, but I turned the game off before the third quarter was over and when I felt remorse and turned it back on a few minutes later Mississippi State had put up another touchdown. It was not around expectations, except in the ways that it was by not being around expectations in a depressing direction. Before the season I thought 7-5 would do it but now at 7-6 with every loss a blowout and three of the wins last-drive nailbiters, Michigan's progress seems minimal at best. But for the opening week, this is the worst seven-win season imaginable.
If I'm slotting Rich Rodriguez into the picture above he's on the right, and it's time to look for the guy on the left again.
On the likelihood of a change. Still nothing definitive but everything that enters the inbox adds to the circumstantial pile of evidence suggesting we're done. If Harbaugh escapes Michigan's clutches Michigan is in a bad spot because of the "process" and how much time it's left them in the event they do not immediately transition to a new coach, but having no serious options other than Rodriguez is probably the only scenario in which we don't see a change.
As to when, Tom says he's hearing there's a team meeting tomorrow at 7 PM that was scheduled before the bowl game. If that's now be a wake we'll hear about it soon after. There are unconfirmed third hand reports about coaches saying goodbye, which could mean anything from the obvious canning of Greg Robinson to a wholesale broom.
Also, while some players have been publicly supportive, a lot of parents have jumped ship and have met with Brandon expressing frustration at goings-on on the defense. Some players may have been "lost" by the bowl debacle as well.
On recent Harbaugh panic. The Big Lead probably doesn't know shit and even if he turns out right he got lucky because he's just randomly saying things people email him without even a cursory check. However, Adam Schefter is serious business and this is foreboding:
Schefter on ESPN: "Now, there is a real feeling around the league (Harbaugh) would prefer be in the NFL."
On the other hand, "a real feeling" is far from definitive and Schefter was just reporting that Harbaugh was leaning towards Michigan with the same strength—coaching change stuff is "fluid," and by fluid people mean "batshit."
On Brady Hoke. "Not an option."
On Plan B. The Plan B name in the event Harbaugh escapes is probably Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald actually makes quite a bit of sense as a young guy with a spotless media profile who runs a spread offense Denard would feel at home in. He hasn't put together a monster team or anything but recovered from a shaky start in the aftermath of Randy Walker's death to go 9-4, 8-5, and 7-6. Not exactly Harbaugh and another guy who'd be leaving his alma mater for greener pastures, but Michigan is not in a great spot right now.
HATE THE BCS? HATE AMERICA
The dumbest thing ever written. This is not literally true, but it may be the dumbest thing ever written about college football. It is this Bill Hancock guy's shoddily argued nonsense about the BCS. I've become a playoff guy over the past decade or so but even BCS proponents in the blogosphere (of which there appears to be one, the guy behind Get The Picture) have to wince at statements like this:
College football was one weekend away from Boise State participating in the BCS National Championship Game because of what happened on the playing field — not in a chatroom, a boardroom or a newsroom.
In the event that Auburn lost and Boise State won, yes. The reverse happened and instead the BCS works and is fair and that's Gary Patterson's artery spraying a red mist over most of the Southwest but how did you think Sedona, Arizona, ended up looking like that? Do you want a thriving tourist mecca to evaporate overnight when college football coaches cease venting the bloodmist that gently descends on the mesas?
Orson has gone FJM on the thing—it exists to be fisked, I thought about doing it myself—but you don't have to do anything other than blockquote to obliterate this extremely stupid system:
A playoff also would mean the end of America's bowl tradition as we know it. As Rick Baker, president of the Cotton Bowl, said, "A playoff system would ruin the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic."
We can't have that.
BONUS: Putting "Classic" in the name of your thing is a 100% sure way to tell that your thing is neither classic nor an actual thing anymore, in the, you know, traditional sense where entities are somewhat authentic outgrowths of desires instead of remanufactured bullcrap like "chocolate" diamonds that make me wish that authentic outgrowths of desires that form entities like Adbusters weren't equally odious and even more shrill. The "Cotton Bowl Classic" is at Jerryworld, not the Cotton Bowl. It can die in a fire for all I care.
OBLIGATORY REMINDER OF MGOBLOG PLAYOFF PLAN: Six teams, no autobids, byes to the top two teams. No more than two teams per conference, and those teams can't play each other in the first round. Home games until the final, one the week after the championship games, one on January 1st, final at the Rose Bowl January 8th, leave bowl system alone.
This preserves almost all of the urgency of regular season and guarantees that the champion is also the team with the best season-long resume since five of the top six lose and anyone not 1 or 2 wades through three elite opponents, staking an undeniable claim.
This year's hypothetical bracket:
1. Oregon vs winner of 3. TCU / 6. Ohio State
2. Auburn vs winner of 4. Wisconsin / 5. Stanford
If Auburn had lost to Alabama they would probably have fallen to fifth (ballparking it) and gone from a first round bye and January 1 home game to a first round game in Madison or Palo Alto—a freaking huge deal. Losing one game boots Boise and Michigan State, and two is fatal for everyone. Since the current system frequently sees one-loss teams into the championship game it's difficult to argue this system cheapens the regular season.
If you want a lengthier explanation I pretended I was talking to Joe Posnanski about it last January. In sum, there is no reason people who do not stand to lose money would oppose the idea.
This Week In Less Charismatic Than Stalin. Terrelle Pryor:
"I'll put it like this: You put me in any of their offenses — any of them — and I'd dominate," Pryor said, when asked about the attention afforded the likes of Newton, Robinson and Persa. "I'd dominate the nation. What those guys do, that's what they're supposed to do in their offense."
He goes on to say the usual boilerplate about how he's all about winning, which could be interpreted as a mitigating factor if Pryor didn't manage to twist every bit of boilerplate into another reason to think Pryor should be locked in the basement by Tressel until his graduation. Doctor Saturday looks at the numbers and says pretty much what I did in the OSU preview—against defenses that are actually good Pryor folds alarmingly.
Robinson said he also remembers picking up some snow, playfully chucking it at Rodriguez, "and then running pretty fast after that."
Robinson also packed snow into a plastic bag for his return flight.
"Melted on the plane," he said.
How does Robinson know if he's running fast?
This Week In Coaching Blah Blah Blah. Have fielded a couple inquiries as to why I'm not covering the "coaching search" or "situation," depending on your point of view. I'm not because there is no "search" and there is no reliable information on the situation. Time and again I have been told by people one or two or three steps removed from insiders that Rodriguez is going to get fired after the Ohio State game. Or on Monday (yes, as in three days ago, which makes absolutely no sense). Or pretty dang soon. Or that Brady Hoke is a viable candidate. Or etc etc etc etc. I got so much chatter in my inbox that made no sense that even the plausible stuff now carries the sheen of ulterior motive (not necessarily from the emailer, but from the discontent insider-type person) or wishful thinking (from Brady Hoke's friends and family).
I have no updates that are reliable enough to relate. There is a cottage industry of people telling other people that Rodriguez is definitely gone that has proven inaccurate multiple times so far in the past month, so I probably won't be able to say much definitively unless I get something solid from a few established guys.
To reiterate, I've run everything I've heard through filters of reliability and making a damn lick of sense and come up with this:
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is not brought back or Brandon would have/should have already announced it.
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is brought back or ditto.
- One game is probably not the deciding factor.
- Harbaugh exists. No other candidate strong enough to make a move compelling does.
- You cannot start a real coaching search that takes two to four weeks a month before Signing Day.
The conclusion is that on January second Harbaugh or Rodriguez will be Michigan's coach and that person will be the coach in 2011. No one peddling a story other than that is credible unless their name is Dave Brandon, and even then he's probably just having you on.
I don't know which is more likely. If I get anything that changes my opinion I'll mention it.
BONUS: A scientific poll shows that Michigan fans are split right down the middle: 35 percent want him gone, 32 percent want him to stay, and 33 percent are unsure. That's amazingly apropos. Too bad it doesn't include a section asking people "have you raged incoherently at someone about this opinion?" Three percent said they'd prefer Brady Hoke over Harbaugh (64 percent) or Miles(23 percent).
Penn State exodus? With Joe Paterno slightly old and doddering Penn State relies heavily on its ancient, incredibly stable coaching staff to prop up the ship. There was slight panic when DL coach Larry Johnson Sr. seriously considered taking the Illinois DC job a few years ago—it's testament to the loyalty of the staff that he stayed—and now with Pitt searching around BSD's a little concerned the Panthers might look at the blindingly obvious candidate: Tom Bradley. Bradley's considered the be the heir apparent to Paterno and probably should be since he's been the motive force behind the good bit of Penn State forever, but if he can't leverage the Pitt opening into something approximating a guarantee he's the guy he could be tempted to go. Too bad the NCAA put a kibosh on that coach-in-waiting stuff.
Meanwhile, LB coach Ron Vanderlinden is "linked to" the Ball State job. This will probably lead to nothing except a couple of raises but it's worth keeping an eye on if only to see how easy OSU's path to the Big Ten Championship game is going to be.
Etc.: The Daily's Nicole Auerbach scores a WSJ article about the Big Chill and the growth potential of college hockey. Big Ten Hockey cannot come fast enough. Thoroughly patronizing AA.com article explains to you what "faceoffs" and "hat tricks" are. Dave Brandon says Michigan is "highly interested" in adding D-I lacrosse if it proves viable. Monumental's series of awesome wallpapers continues.