Ah, the blessed 'fail' picture. That pretty much does the opposite of making my day.
Houses of Usher
11/1/2008 – Michigan 42, Purdue 48 – 2-7, 1-4 Big Ten
As you might have noticed from such posts as "Brian goes to Auburn-LSU," I have an Auburn friend in town. You also might have noticed that Auburn sucks exactly as much as Michigan does this season. In general, this is some small comfort to both of us.
However, this friendship has caused me to pay more attention to Auburn's fortunes, such as they are, and write things about Auburn's botched hiring of spread guru Tony Franklin, and this is where the uncomfortable comparisons start.
If you missed the story, a précis: Auburn fires offensive coordinator Al Borges in December last year, replacing him with Troy State OC Tony Franklin. Franklin's newly implemented "Spread Eagle" racks up 423 yards against Clemson in a Peach Bowl victory. Auburn had eight days to practice it. Clemson was the #6 defense in the country. Woo!
Expectations are high coming in to 2008, whereupon Auburn implodes spectacularly, has an internal hissy fit, and fires Franklin midseason. A couple weeks before the firing Tommy Tuberville starts saying things that make it clear he's not really on board with this spread noise; Smart Football notes that whatever Franklin is running at Auburn isn't the Tony Franklin System(tm).
Underperforming unit, head coach focused on the other side of the ball but with a tendency towards one particular system the coordinator does not run, midseason philosophy shift… it's hard to avoid the parallels between Auburn adopting a shotgun formation and then running tank-sized power back Ben Tate on ill-fated zone stretches and Michigan's bizarre decision to adopt a 3-3-5 stack that, as far as I know, Shafer has never run before. Michigan proceeded to give up 48 points and 559 yards to a 2-6 team starting its third-string quarterback. Said quarterback was a running back three weeks ago.
This is where fail picture goes.
We have two unpleasant choices here: Shafer elects to pull Will Johnson, one of his better starters, for a freshman Boubacar Cissoko and having the move backfire spectacularly, or Rich Rodriguez dictates that change from above. I prefer Door #1 because then the 3-3-5 against Purdue is just an idea that really didn't work, not a sign of internal strife. Internal strife is bad.
So now everyone's guns are trained on Scott Shafer, coordinator of the Worst Defense In Michigan History and designated scapegoat for all (well, half) of Michigan's ills. Arguments will rage between the Fire Him Now and the Probably Fire Him Next Year camps, and interwebs blood will be spilled and people will be virtually roasted alive and it's going to be very dramatic on the message boards and so forth and so on.
Already the inbox is filled with emails asking whether Shafer needs to go. My answer is "probably not," but just like the guy who was asking whether Stevie Brown is shaving points I can no longer say so for certain.
- Hey, at least MINOR RAGE was back in good effect; on one of his touchdowns he ran through a couple tacklers like a giant parade balloon version of Mike Hart. I don't think anyone was surprised when he left the game injured; the only surprise is he didn't have to have a limb amputated and actually returned.
- The other standout was Martavious Odoms, obviously, who was the king of variance on special teams: touchdown, ridiculous punt muff providing someone else a touchdown, etc. I'm pretty sure Purdue's kick coverage team was horrible, but any progress from the return units is welcome, and several times Michigan was one guy away from busting a touchdown.
- As the year progresses I am increasingly skeptical Threet is a long term solution. I don't know if the elbow injuries had anything to do with it, but he refused to keep the ball on the zone read despite Purdue selling out to stop the running back. (If you go back to the liveblog you will see several "keep the [email protected] ball, Threet!" requests from yrs truly.)
His accuracy was also spotty, especially on screens and the like, and if that doesn't improve I don't see how he can maintain a long-term grip on the starting job. For his sake I hope the elbow injuries are a major drag on his performance; otherwise it's Forcier/Beaver time in 2009.
- They futzed around with the offensive line some but eventually went back to their normal starting configuration, I think. Molk definitely got back in there, and I believe Ferrara got booted. I'll check the film on UFR.
- Did Michigan really burn Justin Feagin's redshirt on some kick coverage? WTF?
It sums it up perfectly. One big clusterfuck.
I think Ferrara played the whole game?
I think so, too. I checked the participation part of the official stats, and only 5 offensive linemen are listed as participating.
Rivals actualy singles him out as doing well, and quotes him talking about how much he enjoyed playing the whole game.
Yeah, I didn't focus on him all that much, but from what I saw, I thought that he did okay. Particularly for a guy who was a defensive lineman two months ago and just hopped over everyone into the starting 5.
Just took another look at the box score, and it does say that McAvoy played, although not in what capacity. I can't find whatever I read on Saturday that made me think that only 5 guys played OL the entire game. At any rate, it seems that Ferrara played most of the game, and, obviously, he's won the starting spot.
Ferrara is listed as #1 on the new depth chart at LG.
No real surpise there, I guess. Just reinforces the idea that the OL is a raggedy house of cards.
Who is #1 at RG. Is it McAvoy? Because I think BTN said he was the starting RG on Saturday, and Mooseman was starting at center. But then they said Molk was in the game later on.
No, it's Molk at C and Mooseman at RG.
I may be wrong about this, but, I thought there was a post on here or on another message board that said Rich Rod dictated the change to the 3-3-5 "stack" last Monday and that Schafer was surprised with the call. For the life of me, I can't remember where I read it.
either of the SS options are better than the other. if he did just 'try something new,' that just means he MAY not be confident in his own scheme/abilities. in other words, if he has not the confidence of his convictions, then what exactly does he have?
i mean, did the D really do so terribly in the last few games so as to justify a new package mid stream? if you don't believe in what you are doing, then WTF are you doing it for in the 1st place?
are putting out the shizzle on the 3-3-5 stuff, according to them Shafer is sailing in choppy waters, FWIW!!
At least we get kittens (well a cat in this case) back on the blog!!
That might've been where I read about RR dictating the change to the 3-3-5. Is it possible that Schafer will be out after this season and Rich Rod will make a run at Jeff Casteel?
if the DBs are going to line up 7-10 yards off the LOS on a 3rd-and-7. This is the most mystifying thing to me. This happened plenty under Herrmann and English, so I guess it's a deeply ingrained Michigan tradition.
Looks like RR's hiring of Shafer was about as well thought out as McCain's selection of Palin.
WTF was warren plaing safety for?
I don't think Shafer is really in charge anymore. This had to be a Rich Rod call to switch up defense; why would Shafer install a D that he has never used before? Regardless, the experiment was a disaster.
The defensive staff assembled isn't a good fit. Shafer runs the OKIE, Rich Rod's defense guys came from the 3-3-5 stack background, and Hopson ran a 4-2-5 defense at Southern Mississippi. Simply cobbling together different coaches to run a D doesn't work; we'll need more time for all the D coaches to buy into one system.
I still believe Shafer will be done after the season; if people thought
this past offseason was long and annoying, then they haven't seen
anything yet as this upcoming offseason will be a never-ending
thanks, man, classic pointless internet speculation.
believe we burned Feagin's redshirt on special teams either. That truly perplexes me. Removing a DL so that another DB can miss a tackle downfield makes no sense. Especially if we are unable to get pressure on the QB> We didn't even sniff Dennis Dixon, I mean Siller. I don't want to hear that it was because they spread us out, or he took a quick drop and released - Neither of those are true. Our pass rush got handled, and as usual, we could not defend the pass in the air, or tackle in space. Absolutely any QB can complete some of the throws we were giving them. You have to go man, and make him put some passes on the money.
Pass interference on Warren in the endzone when we had 3 guys surrounding their WR is inexplicable. We are the only defensive backfield in the country that not only does not intercept that ball, but committs a 15 yard penalty. They are playing with zero confidence, and as the game went on it looked as if we didnt care. We thought we were "soft" earlier, my god this was bad. Ezeh refuses to shed blocks and fill the hole on counters, and iso plays that that leaves it to our safeties to make plays. Mouton continues to impress, kinda. Cissoko will be a good one, he was being picked on a lot, but I am not sure he is cut out to play a zone and give a 15 yard cushion on every play. Not sure if that is scheme or confidence.
THEY ROLLED OUT ON MORE THAN HALF THEIR PASSES. That's why we didn't get a pass-rush. Watch the game, dude.
I think we're all beyond that at this point, Chitown. What is alarming is a head coach ordering a switch to a defensive philosophy that the DE doesn't seem to believe in right in the middle of the season. This makes me believe that there has been turmoil for some time on the coaching staff and COULD be a contributing factor as to why this defense has been so piss poor for weeks now. It has to be confusing for the players.
Scheme is irrelevant when you miss 25 tackles.
"Absolutely any QB can complete some of the throws we were giving them."
I can think of two right off the top of my head that can't.
Apparently Brandstatter said during the broadcast that Rod ordered that the D move to a 3-3-5. Bummer if this is true.
Its asanine to play 3 down linemen as a base set when Michigan has 3 of the best DTs in the conference, and bad LBs and Safeties.
Not to say that Shafer should or should not go, but if this is true doesn't the head coach implementing the shift seem to indicate a permanent switch is forthcoming?
If so, who is our DC next year? Hopson or Gibson promotion? Someone from outside? Is there a 3-3-5 guru out there on the market?
I kind of hope that it was an experiment too and not arevamping. yeesh.
This meme seems to have a lot of legs. While acknowledging that the DL is by far and away the best unit on defense, they can't do a whole hell of a lot against a really mobile QB in a spread because the back 7 aren't very good. If Michigan rushes 4, Purdue just rolls out Siller, which negates the 4 DLs and leaves 7 fairly weak defenders. The idea behind the three man nickel is to put 8 out there to deal with the mobile QB in a spread. It didn't work, of course, but then running the traditional 4-3 against the same offense hasn't exactly worked either.
I used to think it crazy to pull a strong player from the DL in favor of a weaker player in the secondary, but now I'm beginning to think that it's more a sign that the DL is being asked to be as good with 3 instead of 4 so that they could add a player in the secondary to dilute the impact of any of those lesser-able players. And, yes, though I'm no football coach, I think bad-player-dilution is still technical football jargon.
I listened to his broadcast and heard him say that RichRod insisted that something in the Defense needed to change, but I don't think he went so far as to say that he specifically ordered the 3-3-5. It definitely sounds implied.
The D was pretty pathetic before the 3-3-5 debacle at Purdue. It seems the motivation for the change was to put more bodies in pass coverage. Siller would've escaped a DL rush every time if we were in the 4-3. The root cause of the D's problems is not the scheme, but rather the players' tackling and coverage fundamentals.
Go Blue Michigan Wolverine, that oddly named site of mysterious ultra-knowledgable people WHO KNOW things! (but desperately need an editor!), reports that RR mandated the 3-3-5 stack shift and that Shafer's been a dead man walking for 2 weeks.
Ugh. I'm with Brian and greatly hope this is not true. With the exception of this last game the defense may not have been good but there was hardly anything to fire a dude for after you picked him extra special-like. There could always be 'Miles slept with Carr's wife' chemistry problems but whatever. I occassional bitch about Shafer but really don't want him fired. Stability is huge. RR already second guessing Shafer and firing him would concern me greatly.
Shafer tinkering is fine. It's not like what they've been doing has been working so super great. Beating your head agaisnt a brick wall to demonstrate belief in your system is not necessarily a virtue.
I say this with of course the full benefit of 20/20 hindsight, but it's looking truly stupid now that we hired all the defensive position coaches before we hired the coordinator.
RR's got guys who are loyal to him, not to Shafer. If RR is truly going to be hands-off with the defense, he needs to give his DC the ability to get his own people. Regardless of scheme, you all have to be on the same page or disaster will ensue, as we've seen this year.
That's a really good point. Never thought of it.
But will this happen? Sadly, I have my doubts.
I wonder if Casteel was "supposed" to come with RR and decided against it or something?
The thing I find disturbing, outside of a potential power struggle between RR and Shafer, is the lack of progress from many of the players. Mouton and Martin are the only ones that seem to be better now than they were in Sept. I don't really care who the coordinator is as long as they teach our players how to tackle.
the D wasn't a complete catastrophy, so how can going to a totally new set be 'tinkering?' to me, this smells like change for change's sake and abandoning midstream the thing you think works best.
but, this is all moot, b/c it sounds like SS had no choice.
is worse than I ever imagined possible. As Brian alluded in his post, Rodriguez overuling his DC to put in a new game plan mid-season could spell disaster not only for this year but speaks poorly about his judgement for the long term.
Does anyone think we would have won if we stayed with a 4-3?
I kind of do.
Getting smoked by a mobile qb has been a Michigan tradition for as long as I can remember.
No one should be shocked by this.
This preformance will probably vault Siller to stardom just like the 2004 game did for Troy Smith.
it seems like he wanted the 3-3-5 against Purdue and wanted to try something new. I guess they were concerned with having 4 DL's chase Purdue's guys around all game and wanted to rotate them.
Threets accuracy was spotty, but when was it not? The guy just doesn't throw the ball well.
"Did Michigan really burn Justin Feagin's redshirt on some kick coverage? WTF?"
My thoughts exactly.
Is it honestly relevant?
Well, like you said "He's a fucking Freshman... Man" Why needlessly burn a year of eligibility? If you're saying he's not a relevant player, how can you predict? Like you said, he's just a freshman.
And I know you were talking about Threet, so don't bother explaining; but the same statement applies.
I'm going to assume the staff had a reason to play him. Moreso, I'm going to assume that they discussed with Feagin if he wanted to get on the field, or keep his redshirt, as, generally, this is a mutual decision.