Before Desmond Howard, before I knew there was a thing such as rushing stats (let alone scoring defense), I learned to watch Michigan football with my dad and his friends. This is the opposite of a stadium experience: standing, hollering at refereeing, displays of game-induced emotions, etc. are not appropriate. The way old Jewish men watch football is to sit on very comfortable couches, the day's host holding the remote, while his wife puts out a spread of non-nutritious delectables that he isn't allowed to eat. We talk about this guy's law firm, that guy's consulting business, and by the end of the game everybody's had a chance to get their really cool thing out there.
My dad's best friend's really cool thing is usually an update on his nephew, Ann Arbor-born Mayer Hawthorne. This is typically prefaced with "my nephew's in the entertainment business…" Except this time, the Hawthorne update was totally one-upped by another old guy, who was like "my son's in entertainment too: Mike Posner, have you heard of him?"
For those not familiar with Posner (pictured above—you know, the one who isn't a tiny 2-star freshman safety) his shtick is Justin Timberlake oohhh girrrl cooing while looking like a well kempt bad-ass. If you apply this same formula to punk, you get Good Charlotte. If you apply it to rock, you get Nickelsuck. If you throw in Jeebus you get Creed. The formula is old, annoying, and tremendously successful. More importantly, it has been giving the music world's innovators and intellectuals and poets jealousy fits since Elvis Presley realized dodging tackles didn't require tacklers, and Big Joe Turner's friends muttered the '50s slang equivalent to "WTF!"
If you haven't yet figured out where I'm going with this analogy, Ohio State is Mike Posner, and every other teen idol, and boy band, and crappy formulaic rock band whose astounding popularity has deigned to piss me off. There's nothing creative about it, and any edge is some sort of manufactured, watered-down version of something that got stuffy parents upset 10 years ago. You will never say to yourself "gee, that is a really brilliant Creed lyric" the same way you'll never say "that play that Tressell came up with was absolutely genius."
Really, the Posners and Timberlakes added their own ludicrous hours and amazing talent to the formula, just as Ohio State's starters have probably put their bodies through more pain over the last three years than Michigan's football program has given my soul. But that's small consolation to those who imagine themselves artistically superior when the guy cooing on a Carson Daly show is getting megamillions and adulation and a blank check of support from the industry.
I will no more ever understand why people will keep going gaga for Mike Posner or Nickelsuck than I will understand why they keep committing to play football for Jim Tressell, except if every song is going to have the same beat anyway, it's best that everybody who likes music for its beat will agree on one song so everyone knows the words.
And there's the rub: cool begets cool.
All of this music bitching is hypocritical from a Michigan fan like me, because I had zero complaints when Michigan was chugging along on Bo's fumes and the cachet of four decades of success.
A Rich Rodriguez team is musical superiority, but just as a band will be judged by hits and concert turnout, a college football team is measured in wins and rivalry wins. Those of us declaring "Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" in late 2007 weren't doing so solely because Michigan's playcalling was going to be a lot smarter. The dancing bananas were because we were Warner Bros. and figured we'd just co-opted the college football equivalent of Nirvana: by 2010, painted fake buffoons obsessed with the smell of their own reverb were supposed to be toppling before 60-21 obliterations in Columbus. This was our destiny!
I spent the second half of my college years as the best friend of Oblivion, an intellectual Ann Arbor hard rock band (sample mp3) that we were convinced was going to make big. Those years provided plenty of opportunities to harden hatred and envy of Creed's success-based success. Eventually, we all managed to at least stop worrying so much about how much money Scott Stapp was making, and concentrate on making better music. Likewise, hating the Sweater Vest for his substantively vapid program gets Michigan nowhere. Michigan's purpose is to beat him, not be him.
And us: we're the friends, really with no more ability to generate Michigan wins over Ohio State than Mayer's uncle has of making a nerdy soul singer cooler than Mr. Posner's son.
1. There's a rhythm to Detroit Jewish baby boomer football viewing, where the interruptions for plays are conversational interludes that allow the speaker to think of the right word (proper word selection is important in this sub-culture) or to move on to the next thing.
1970s-80s Michigan football was perfect for this kind of fandom, a steady beat of 3-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, OH!, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 0-yard play, setup, AWW, punt, who wants pie?
Michigan in the Rich Rod Era is no better fit for that room than I am: 25 YARD PASS!, setup wait no it's called back, setup, GREAT PAAA aww he dropped it, setup GO GO GO GO DAMMIT, setup, HEY REDZONE, setup, WHAT A THROW 1ST DOWN ON THE 5 – WAIT HOLDING HOW WAS THAT HOL—interception—Wait no that hit the ground, REVIEW REVIEW—0 yard run EXPLODING SQUIRRELS! Fumble.
It's tense, and punctuated, a Pavlovian tease-fest that goes to the red zone more than 60-somethings go to the bathroom, and just as often comes away with nothing more than a fart.
2. If you were around M in the early '00s he's that guy in Athletic Mic League—you know, the white one.
3. FYI: A fellow Wylie E. Groves Falcon. Also, Misopogal thinks he's awesome.
4. Golly gee whiz?
5. Or 40 years ago, if you're talking devil horn hand gestures.
6. It's not the subject. Muse does as much religion as Creed, and Muse is awesome. Furthermore, my favorite album of all time makes a hundred overt references to Catholicism. It's just that it does so in brilliant metaphorical lyrics and musical compositions written to complement the poeticism of those lyrics, all in the context of a cohesive, album-long concept:
I'm quitting the internet. No more TV, I want to stay the hell away from the Midwest except for Ann Arbor. This sucks.
Forget it. If he goes, he goes. He's a good coach, but maybe just not the right man for Michigan. I also blame God and the universe, karma, etc. How is this fair? We haven't had any miracles. I hoped that today would bring redemption for RR, but instead people now have a stronger case against him. Not just a close loss, but we're getting destroyed in a game I sincerely thought we could win.
That was in a thread criticizing – of all things – the refereeing, by the way. This is a typical response to any fanbase that remembers its good years better than its bad ones. Go back far enough and you'll find a group of unhappy Israelites at firemoses.com who thought parting the Red Sea and climbing a mountain to get directions straight from a 5-star deity is nice and all, but none of this is getting to us to the Promised Land. Dayenu.
More of this continued in the Emo Diaries of the week:
An avid follower of Brian's (currently) SB Nation column This Week in Schadenfreude, Meechigan Dan noted that recent championship teams all had a point when their brilliant coaches got their teams called in for the 'freude.
JonSobel is sick of the bickering and arguing, says RR is Bo and Yost et al., but wants to fire him because it would shut everybody up.
Oakland Press columnist and local radio press's Bob Wojnowski weighed in, earning him a ruthless MGoFisking by Ann Arbor Cardinal.
It's clear now that, while Dave Brandon is (I hope to God) going to be spending the next few months making this call the right way, i.e. exploring all avenues of information and options, we're going to be using a lot of Internet to share our views on it. So, before we embark on When Should We Fire This Guy: Round 3, let's set some ground rules:
Keep Rich Rodriguez
Fire Rich Rodriguez
Let's first admit:
1. We are disappointed with the results to date. Even if this year met expectations for the beginning of this year, 3-9, 5-7 and 7-6/8-5 was not the start to RR's Michigan career we envisioned.
2. Rich Rodriguez has made terrible, possibly fireable mistakes in his handling of the defense, especially in building his defensive staff.
3. Even with expected improvements, the 2011 team is probably not at a championship level.
4. Jim Harbaugh is a strong candidate, would unite the fanbase, and might not be this available again.
5. Keeping Rich Rodriguez as a win-or-go lame duck in 2011 is an anchor on recruiting, one that has been putting a noticeable damper on this already.
6. Unless RR can outperform expectations next year, something he's never done at Michigan, we've already lost the battle of perception.
1. This is a legitimately great offense, perhaps among the best in Michigan history (despite being young and mistake-prone) and Rich Rodriguez is the reason the offense is so good. Without him, we're looking at a rough transition, probably more transfers.
2. He's been building the program with integrity and keeping to his bedrock principles.
3. We haven't yet seen what RR is fully capable of. This is young guy who was a proven winner before coming here, and a big 2011 is not only possible, but could lead to several decades of great football.
4. If we fire RR and Harbaugh doesn't come/work out, we could become Notre Dame.
5. It's not exactly easy to find established coaches who share Michigan's higher academic expectations and also keep up with the Joneses of Ohio State and the SEC who have no such compunctions.
Jeff Casteel replaces Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator (although this probably keeps Gibson) and we see immediate returns in the bowl game. The defense gets to average in 2011, while the offense reaches maturity and we are next year's Oregon. This leads to Top 5 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, and we're a 10-win machine again until RR retires a Hall of Fame coach with 4 national championships in the 2030s, when his star disciple is given the reigns.
Jim Harbaugh takes over, convinces most of the recruits and players to stay, and rides the positive press of a new hire to finish 2011 recruiting strong. He manages to translate RR's players to a wide open and almost as effective Spread HD offense, while bringing a new attitude to defense. We beat MSU and OSU, and then in 2012 upset Alabama, and the Empire of Bo witnesses a Justinian revival.
This offseason witnesses more transfers and injuries, and another failure of a DC is brought in and told to run the 3-3-5 though he's never coached it before. A loss at MSU makes RR a lame duck, recruits know it, and the team goes on to a lame 7-win season, followed by a depressing coaching search that seriously uses the words "Brady Hoke" again.
Well, first let's imagine Harbaugh doesn't want to come, or that he was just lucky to have some great players at Stanford and can't repeat that. Players recruited to play for RR quit on him or transfer out, and it's 2008-2010 all over again, except by the time New Guy has his guys the Ohio State ticker is up to 10 years and Michigan State is a solid, Wisconsin-level Big Ten 2nd tier power.
Outlook for 2011
Offense is older and probably less prone to big mistakes, but the defense is very far away and we really have zero evidence that the defense can get better since it has regressed every year under this regime. However, the schedule is easier, with Ohio State at home and some of the tougher Big Ten teams off the schedule, and an Oregonian romp is not outside the realm of possibility.
Rebuilding with a new coach is a major gamble, especially because we would be firing the best possible person to run next year's offense given the personnel and their system experience. However, it's an instant press success, and a good hire cuts the anchor that head coach job speculation puts on recruiting. 2011 under any coach but Rodriguez probably has 1 or 2 more losses than otherwise, a sunk cost to regime change.
Outlook for 2012 and beyond
Continuing with Rich Rod means we are effectively putting all of our chips down on the bet that he will be successful next year. Otherwise, it's another wasted year, another class of guys who weren't recruited by their future head coach, and the likelihood of pulling out a miracle replacement is substantially lower than it is now.
Another rebuilding phase now would be a huge gamble on the new guy. However, keeping RR is also a gamble, and if there is going to be a regime change again, better to do it earlier. Michigan still has enough cachet that a bout of good press and success can attract 4- and 5-stars. I doubt Calvin Magee stays if RR goes, but it's possible that a few positives of the Rodriguez era can be retained in the fabric of the program and what we end up with is a rebirth of Bo's legacy that has had a Barwicizing wake-up call.
Next comes a crap bowl, and then next year, which should be better just because so many of the starters return, and even the most ardent supporters of the coaching staff agree that some of them (the coaches) won't.
Luck and miracles are X factors that don't mean anything beyond the psychological mindset of the team, recruits, and donors. Not having a single Big Ten caliber cornerback or free safety option after three years of running the team, linebackers who still look clueless as 5th year seniors, alignment mistakes that one trip through a Jeff Casteel instructional video could clear up: these are long-term problems that may not be fixable without drastic action. Ray Vinopal is a gutsy kid who has already outperformed his highest recruiting expectations, but even so there's about 20 teams in the country who would probably take him right now over their free safety.
The Decimated Defense split blame between shitty luck, shitty recruiting/retention by Lloyd, and shitty retention/recruiting/player development by Rich Rod. A year later, the shitty luck has continued, and the shitty retention/recruiting/development by Rich Rod has gotten even worse than the Carr year it replaced. At this point, the defense is more than half the fault of the current head coach. Any discussion of firing him should begin there, and any case for keeping him must demonstrate that this trend can be reversed. Conversely, we're all agreed that Rodriguez can coach/recruit/scheme offense better than any candidate we could hope to replace him with.
Those parameters set, go forth and discuss, keeping every comment, for or against, higher minded than anything put out on the subject by the Detroit media. Given the spectacularly low (the opposite of Mornhinweg-ian) bar they're setting, this shouldn't be too hard. Then again, a substantive debate on a coaching fire/keep situation on an Internet message board is probably just asking for a miracle.
After jump: More Diaries.
Oblivion's lead guitarist now publishes an MGoBlog-sized site in music called Metalsucks.net. It's thanks to him that I learned last week that you can download, for free, the entire collected works of J.S. Bach edited, mastered, and made available to the public by…wait for it…the University of Michigan. HAIL to Kibbie!
The intellectual side of metal is based in the masterworks of the classical greats. Likewise, while this week got nothing from the apparently vacationing Mathlete (sorely missed), the statistical diaries he pioneered were as strong as ever this week.
Bumped to the front page this week was blublooded's State of the Offense address. This excellent diary picks apart Michigan's offensive production, looking hard at Points Per Drive. This is an unfair statistic, really, since it's heavily affected by field position, which hurts Michigan. But it does show pretty conclusively that better defenses do slow us down – Dilithium is not invincible, but it can turn on against teams like Wisconsin and UConn. The real finding is the difference between Michigan when winning and when we're tied or behind:
The turnovers keep opponents in the game, and prevent M from building big leads.
Enjoy Life, known for his densely statistical diaries, is lightening them up a bit: upgrade your Diary triage to "read immediately" when he posts something, especially since he has a new feature to the weekly Turnovers diary that we should all encourage he keep for the duration of the universe:
That's right: a Chart of Unforced Errors. So useful, EJ.
Also in turnovers, psychomatt is tracking turnovers, including failed 4th downs, and penalties, and shows that the former have really been the story of the past two seasons. In both years, the margins were positive until after Indiana, then took a nosedive. Even moreso this year, Michigan's offense is almost better at stopping itself than are opposing defenses. Standard bler about the kicking game, youth of offense, etc.
We got another blog from the steadily improving tasnyder01 that looks at QBs with legs of NCAA lore and uses them to predict how often Denard is likely to progress as a passer as his career progresses. Pat White (4.8 interceptions per 100 pass attempts) had a worse INT/100 pass ration than Denard (4.3) his sophomore year, and improved that to 1.8. Vince Young went from 4.0 to 3.0. Troy Smith and JaMarcus Russell were incrementally worse with substantially larger workloads. Dennis Dixon leapt from 2.8 to 4.3. The author thinks that's an outlier and predicts Denard will throw a Vince Young Heisman season-like 9 interceptions in '11.
Lets_Go_Blue used some spare time at work to look into rush/pass breakdowns of this year's team in different downs and different scenarios, confirming what we've been suspecting: falling behind and mistakes that lead to long yardage (e.g. dropped/overthrown passes) and opponents' adjustments are working to force Michigan to go away from the run. With a lead, we are almost 80 percent to run on 1st down. Trailing, that number is under 50 percent. LGB promises further installments in this series, which I am very much looking forward to.
All Your Records Are Belong to Dilithium
Denard Robinson: THIS kind of touchdown machine
Did you know: Denard Robinson is breaking lots of records this year. Communist Football keeps up the count as Dilithium passes Quarterback Rushing Ludicrous Speed, and we start comparing 2010 to the best rushing offenses of Michigan history. The gold standard: 1976, led by the late and great Rob Lytle.
In a follow-up, CF also ran some numbers of TDs/game, meticulously culling the old game descriptions. The result: Denard Robinson's sophomore campaign is the second-greatest TD generator in U-M history, between two Tom Harmon seasons. For his great works, Communist Footballwins another Diarist of the Week honor.
HeismanPose this morning provided a more comprehensive statistical update for our guys and units. Bookmark for all future 2010 season references, and memorize the following: Offense, 23rd in scoring, 11th in yards. Defense: BLOOD DESTRUCTION EAT SOULS EVIL WORST EVER IN EVER DIE. Also: 103rd in turnovers lost. When we get the ball, we either turn it over or score. When they get the ball, they usually score. That's 2010 in a nutshell. This of course has played havoc with the rankings of any team lucky/unlucky enough to meet our schizophrenic bewinged units, tracked by TennBlue in his ongoing "The Michigan Difference" series.
In 2011, We May Shred
Despite all the soul crushing, there's some statistical hope demonstrated by comparisons with other turnarounds. Diary virgin justthinking makes a really interesting comparison between the last few years of Michigan, and teams that made national championship runs in recent years, next to the deconstruction and rebuilding of their defenses:
These are mostly traditional powers (LSU is the lone nouveau-riche), and all but Texas had plenty of .500-ish seasons in the run-up to NC seasons. On the other hand, those who went from losing to championships in three or four years generally did so under new coaches.
MichiganAggie, our resident Texas A&M/Michigan fan suggests that TAMU's DC switch might result in a similar bump for Michigan next year. Maybe properly aligning Kenny Demens means 2 more wins alone? Hey, that sounds like a random segue to a MOVING PICTURE PAGES OF DANGER. Moving Picture Pages of Danger:
Finally, this isn't about the football team, but superstringer makes a strong case for how improving the improvements to the Crisler facilities could catapult the basketball program back to respectability.
When you're 20 and in a band, or around a band, you spend a lot of time talking about the metaphorical and metaphysical place the band has in the world that it will almost certainly be changing soon enough. I had a long-running theory about Oblivion that the lead singer was the brains, the guitarists the savvy and talent, and the drummer the experience; the heart and soul was the bassist.
Nowadays the bassist, who was a higher-up on Art Train for a few years, is now settled in Kentucky, raising twins, and bringing an appreciation of art back to his hometown. The bassist was the one who knew, better than anyone else, that the music was just music, and cared about it because good music makes life better.
It's well to remember, when we want to throw things at the television, that Michigan football is around because we find it entertaining. In the run-up to the 2006 Michigan-Ohio State Battle for Evermore, Brian called it "war by proxy," which is apt. But sometimes I seem to forget the proxy part of that. Here's some diaries that, like the bassist, have kept me sane following the Wizz against Wis, and that thing on TV yesterday:
Ohowwehate Ohio State
Above: MonuMental's weekly wallpaper, wherein all that is green and maize and blue struggles to hold the Earth from all that is the red of pain/blood and the desolation of gray. Bonus: he also made a Turkey Day one.
The Shredder: He hates things again, and I hope he will continue to hate things forever. On the Buckeye hate list: fatheads, roid ripples from Boston, suburban aliens, a human mullet, a penis-shaped mascot, beanies, articles, the douchiest fanbase in the country, and shriveled, hairless nuts. Also: why USC but not Ohio State?
Coach Schiano: He hates things too. In fact, he hates everything! Matt Millen's stache, and much more.
Am I the only one who would think that if a coach understands the game of football so well that he can create an offense so potent and unstoppable, that he'd be able to at least identify a coach who understands football well enough to create a good defense? I mean, yeah, they're different sides of the ball, but it's still all the same sport, right?
"... and the Empire of Bo witnesses a Justinian revival." That's just glorious.
But "Ray Vinopal is a gutsy kid who has already outperformed his highest recruiting expectations, but even so there's about 20 teams in the country who would probably take him right now over their free safety." Are you attempting to compliment or condemn?
Ray Vinopal is a gutsy kid who has already outperformed his highest recruiting expectations, but even so there's about 20 teams in the country who would probably take him right now over their free safety.
So, we've been reading on this blog all season that one of the biggest problems with this defense can be summed up in a single word..."freshmen". And, we generally believe that that problem will be solved when they become sophomores (read: better). It just sounds like you (Misopogon) are writing off Vinopal before he has some time to grow and mature. I don't think people will mistake him for Troy Polumalu any time soon, but he seems to know his responsibility, fill his gap and make good tackles. Also, his ball instincts don't seem to be awful.
I agree, most teams right now wouldn't take a true freshman over their current free safety. Big woop.
Harbaugh won't wave a magic wand no more than Rodriguez did. It took him 4 years to build Stanford and we want him here, without giving Rodriguez the same chance? Especially after how Rodriguez has progressed at WVU and GSU before that.
This was an absolutely fantastic article. Particularly the Keep Rich Rodriguez / Fire Rich Rodriguez table. It is almost perfectly accurate and shows how this will be a really hard decision for DB to make.
Amid all of the repetition and the state of the football program, it is insightful analysis like the above that keeps me from being completely depressed.
but I think Rich deserves 2011. All of the +/-'s laid out are accurate. The bottom line for me is he has been put an extremely challenging position and really has only 2 recruiting classes under his regime. He has put this offense in an all-time Michigan dominant position. To watch them when they are on is to watch sometihng unlike anything I have ever seen at Michigan in 25+years of fandom. That being said, obviously the D and special teams are a disaster to which an answer does not appear readily apparent. Still, switiching to a new coach now would mean we ran RR too soon. One more year, if the strides aren't more eminent, then we move to another candidate.
Caveat: I love Harbaugh as much as anyone. He's the first Big Ten icon I truly remember embracing at Michigan as a youngster. He has had a great year at Stanford (emphasis, really only this great year htere, but has shown steady improvement). I wish he could wait possibly one more year for out ideal scenario t play out and the thought of getting him does excite - but only if RR gets one more year to try to really put his stamp on this program. I am an RR backer, not an apologist. If we made a switch to Harbaugh (he's the ONLY possible replacement I would be on board with) I will back him just the same. Still I hope for one more year and a maturing program to which RR can reclaim Michigan's lost glory.
One other thing, just for perspective's sake...how many people were really happy with the last 3 or 4 years of Carr's regime? He didn't beat OSU, and didn't perform in the Rose Bowl (I know - at least we got there, but still). I was eager for a change and change takes time. I believe RR is the guy for the job, and you know darn well, if he leaves, he will become a success elsewhere. His track record indicates that. Peace.
If I were Dave Brandon, I would make the switch to Harbaugh. But only if he is on board. And I'd know that before I said a word to Rodriguez.
Having said that, I don't fire Rodriguez without that sort of immediate plan in place. And, while I think that this just hasn't been Michigan Football the past 3 seasons, I'm don't believe that Rodriguez "must" be fired. I'm a supporter, not an apologist as well. But if he stays (like I said below), heads must roll on that Defensive staff. Michigan should never have one of the worst Defenses in D1A, even if they are starting 11 freshmen.