The Story 2014: Memories Of Butter
So I'm in Canada and I'm shopping for food and we're in the dairy isle and my friend laughs and says "no way." But yes, yes way. There is a margarine they are selling called Memories Of Butter.
This is an acceptable name for something only if dairy cows have been obliterated by whichever flavor of apocalypse comes home to roost. In between shifts at the sludge plant you smear Memories of Butter on your protein cube and weep silently when the child who doesn't know any better asks you what it was like during the Before Time.
In a world where there is butter, this is literally the worst possible marketing. The butter is three feet away. Once moved to action by the memory of butter, you can reach out and acquire butter. Our operative theory was that it was badly mistranslated from French, or at least there was something lost in translation. What that could possibly be we do not know.
And so: Michigan football. There is no quote more Memories Of Butter than this Gerry DiNardo exclamation about Michigan finally getting rid of that Denard Robinson guy:
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams. It changes your entire program. Just like the spread makes your defense soft, the West Coast offense makes your defense tough."
That comes from a Mark "Stretchgate" Snyder article that is almost as embarrassing as the article that will follow him around until he dies:
Every spring and fall, the network analysts would attend a practice, try to absorb the flavor and make nice about the impact of an offense they knew didn't fit.
Then they strolled into Ann Arbor this spring and had to check their GPS — or their mirror to see if they rolled back a decade.
This was Michigan playing smashmouth football, the game's nastiest, purest form.
Michigan finished 11th in the Big Ten in sack-adjusted rushing, ahead of only Purdue, and was last nationally in TFLs allowed. A tub of margarine may well have made the two-deep on Michigan's "smashmouth" offensive line. It would clearly be the Free Press's best reporter.
Michigan football is a white tub proclaiming to be a memory of a feeling. It is on the shelf next to things that still provide dat mouthfeel tho. For everyone reading this Michigan basketball has provided the craved-for combinations of hope, joy, and even eventual, forgivable disappointment. For myself and a goodly hunk of the people reading this, USA soccer has also filled that void. But when we cleared the NBA draft and the World Cup, the cliff loomed ahead.
The dread was palpable. Dread. Unprecedented, but true.
How did we get here? Every year the fact that I declared 2005 the "Year Of Infinite Pain" becomes yet more ridiculous as we explore new avenues in not feeling real good about football, but I submit that 2013 was the worst football season I have ever experienced. 2005 just isn't even in the ballpark anymore; 2008 had an obvious explanation and novelty; 2010 was GERGtastic but man I can't get that mad at a season containing the 2010 Notre Dame game.
Why was 2013 the nadir? We've learned that it's worse—so much worse—to know that you have absolutely no chance to score points than to have absolutely no chance to prevent them. Ludicrous pointfests like 2010 Illinois and 2013 Ohio State are full of explosions, at the very least. Farting out a three-point loss with under 200 yards of offense is death on a field. There are tense, well-played defensive battles that are the football equivalent of pitcher's duels, and then there's 2013 Michigan: Don Kelly, the football team. (Except when they weren't.)
I kind of lost it as a result. By the end of the year I was giving up on UFRing anything and proclaiming that I was going to go bowling because the Big Lebowksi taught me how to sportsfan my best…
The movie is a series of unfortunate events culminating in the death of Donny thanks to the bullheaded stupidity of Walter, who doesn't want to give up his fifteen dollars to some nihilists. That Donny dies as an indirect effect of that decision is the capper: your desires and actions are futile; you are subject to the random capricious whim of a universe that doesn't care about anything and if it was going to care about something it absolutely wouldn't be you. I don't have to spell the rest out for you. Sports!
…and I remember watching the bowl game in this state of obligation. Worthless, stupid obligation. We had gone from infatuation to a bad 30-year-old marriage that will never end because no one can think of anything better to do.
In retrospect, all of that seems… on-point, actually. Semi-quitting and having public conniption fits at the folks who defended Borges looks like eminently defensible behavior, and that's coming from a guy who occasionally remembers certain actions in high school and has to quickly think of something else lest the eyerolling self-shame overwhelm.
This is where we are: when I got around to doing the Iowa UFR at the last possible moment, most people just asked "WHY?"
How do we get away from here?
Many of you aren't going to like my answer to this. It is: hold on to what we have and hope like hell. Transitions are awful. Michigan has suffered through two consecutive botched ones that left the roster in a state of strip-mined mid-majordom for the better part of a decade. The next one will either be run by Dave Brandon or an unknown person who has just arrived. With nothing approximating a terrific idea out there after Texas snapped up Charlie Strong, with zero reasonable, available Michigan Man™ options out there, the move appears to be to sit tight and hope.
And Brady Hoke does provide a good deal of hope. Seriously! His recruiting is bulletproof. He is the real William Carlos Williams. Michigan can suffer through the least tolerable season since the 1960s; he can lose three top-100 commits; Michigan State can win the Rose Bowl. None of this prevents him from locking down a class of consensus four-stars minus a kicker and an OL legacy. Save for the rare Skeeps suckerpunch or microfracture surgery, all of these players will arrive qualified and stick around until they've been definitively passed on the depth chart… and possibly beyond.
If these are the kind of positives that seem beneath This Is Michigan, well, yeah. This Is Michigan is fiction. This Is Michigan has rarely meant anything better than 9-3 since the 80s ended, and the program is now 1-5 against MSU and 2-11 against OSU since [insert year here]. They haven't had anything approximating a complete roster since 2006, and even that team was so desperately short on cornerbacks that Chris Graham spent much of Football Armageddon trying to cover a future first round pick WR.
This is were we're at: trying to figure out exactly which things we took for granted for 40 years are real assets and which are replaceable. For me, keeping guys around until they're good is not replacement-level performance—as much as I wish it was. And even if I think Hoke is set on 1997 Michigan as the endpoint of football as the sport mutates at breakneck speed around him, there are teams that make it work.
I just want something to work now. I just want something to sit on my tongue and dissolve into a salty heaven, like my father told me about in the long long ago. I may be of the mines and forever from the mines as we try to keep the engine that keeps us all alive running, but by God even a man of the mines has heard about grass, and the possibility of moving forward upon it for upwards of three yards at a time.
Let's find a cow. Let's punch it until it excretes butter. We may later find out that punching a cow until it leaks is not the optimal way to do these things, but that's for later. Now is for building a society like idiots who have only read about it in books.
AVALANCHE! *takes cover*
This is the kind of football catharsis I come here for 10/10 would read again.
and I am not talking about the cow punching part
This is why you are the best sportswriter in the world. Please don't ever stop doing this.
"For everyone reading this Michigan basketball has provided the craved-for combinations of hope, joy, and even eventual, forgivable disappointment. For myself and a goodly hunk of the people reading this, USA soccer has also filled that void. But when we cleared the NBA draft and the World Cup, the cliff loomed ahead.
The dread was palpable. Dread. Unprecedented, but true."
"The dread was palpable [for a goodly hunk of people reading this.] Dread. Unprecedented, but true."
Don't count me among the Dread People.
However, this does reflect Brian's view, which then of course permeates this blog. It is opening week and so many, including our fearless leader. seemingly see (hope for?) nothing but doom ahead. Now that we are about to play some football, I was hoping that Brian could suspend the Debbie Downer act at least until some 2014 results are actually in.
Well, last year we got rows of shark teeth written after either CMU or Notre Dame so basically we're doing a 180 here. Maybe the season's results will also be drastically different than what many people expect. Maybe there were locker room issues that affected the team's performance. Maybe the Oline will gel at some point this year and perform better than the nation's worst OL unit.
That's a lot of maybies. You are 100% correct that not a single down has been played and right now the coaching staff is playing coy and knows they have a team that can do big things this season. I'd personally rather be pleasantly surprised than build up my expectations like last year only to have them run into a brick wall. I wouldn't insinuate that people who may not have the rosiest outlook for this season are hoping for a let down this year.
...but it bears repeating here. Take a look at the attrition of the 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes. Unprecedented. The program (read: RichRod) was bleeding players. (And yes, I know all too well the "no excuses" mantra). Fast fwd to 2014. Hoke finally has his players (albeit still very young) who also so happen to be highly skilled relative to what he inherited. It's inexeperience stupid! Hoke is turning the corner right before our eyes.
Yes, but I believe Brian's concern might be Hoke's limited but heretofore unrealized ceiling. In 2008, we were hoping RR would take Michigan from annual B1G contender to annual MNC contender. Now, we simply want Lloyd-level performance.
I agree, let's keep Hoke around for several more years before considering another transition.
I would be happy just to return to Lloyd ball! Mostly 9-3 with the occasional 11-1 or 12-0 records. May be in 5 or 6 years I may be yearning for a new jump like after '07. Hopefully, the next time we try to make the elite team jump, we will find the perfect fit coach!
I hear what you are saying uminks and I understand this rationale, but I can't ever accept finding 9-3 acceptable nor, I suspect, can this program afford 9-3 seasons for too much longer for a couple of reasons.
First, when you look at the Eastern division, there are three teams, in addition to Michigan, who won't find 9-3 acceptable and will have resources that match or exceed ours, at least in terms of coaching. OSU and MSU have their ducks in a row, and I suspect, in a couple of years, PSU will be there also. Franklin is pulling in a ton of talent and give PSU three years for these young recruits to mature and watch out. That 9-3 might put us in 4th place in the conference, depending on where those losses fall. After years of being average or worse, this isn't acceptable.
Second, Michigan athletics is heavily dependent upon filling Michigan Stadium seven times each year. Even with an average attendance figure of 100K per game, that represents about 80,000 people who used to show up and won't in the future. And the numbers could get worse, much worse. IF you doubt it, take a look at schools likeTennessee, whose recent past isn't much different from ours, and their finances are hurting. Alumni donations and winning are related. There will be a huge amount of pressure for change. Even if it's Brandon's guy.
Third, and I'm less sure of this, is how long will we keep getting top talent and fall on our faces (assuming that things don't turn around)? At some point, do the four stars and the occasional five star stop showing up?
I have no doubt that Hoke is a good guy, a very decent person who loves his players and will do what he can to make them good adults. No doubt that he loves the University of Michigan and wants to win. Wanting to win and being able to do so are not one and the same. Hoke may simply lack that little piece of the puzzle that people like Saban, Meyer and the other highly accomplished coaches possess. Even with Mattison and Nussmeier, it may not be enough,
In spite of this, I enter this season with guarded optimism. I have learned to control my emotions to mitigate some of the pain I have felt over the last few years. I keep telling myself that the O-line will learn its job, that we are strong in the skill positions and by mid-October, we will kick some serious ass. If I can't believe that the Leaders and Best really are, then my view of a University I am deeply attached to is compromised, at least on one level, and that takes me to a place I don't want to be. Ever. I feel Brian's pain, and it sucks.
9-3 is often good enough to win the league. It was that way before we had divisions, too.
I prefer 10-2, 11-1, 12-0, but if 9-3 is enough to win the league you should probably grow to accept it.
That's a loser mentality.
unexpected stunted growth in the Oline based on either false expectations, poor development and coaching or stubborn refusal to acknowledge your roster's strength and play to it, instead of trying to recreate the past to restore old world order, might explain this overall feeling of malaise.
We wemt from the pinnacle to three and out to a Sugar Bowl win and then two years of wtf.
Has Michigan become a basketball school in the interim vaccum? Yes, judging from a lot of sentiment here, that transition may not have officially occurred yet, but one more less than stellar finish by Team 135, and the job might be complete, especially after Beilen's 4-0 European tour.
This is still Michigan. But for reasons we have studied to death, we know why it's not the historically great Michigan.
So, this has changed the fan outlook, not the team outlook. And if some of the comments of the players are to be believed, they are tired of the sameness and lack of success that has gripped this program's phsyche.
I really don't know what this team is capable of because if it really wants to succeed, it will have to prove it by winning on the road. The season runs through South Bend, E. Lansing and Columbus not Ann Arbor. You play each game, win it, and build momentum so that the key dates have larger meaning. It's not basketball. Each loss is magnified because it has greater value without a tournament to salvage your season.
People claim Ohio State is The Game. It is. But only in the context of the rivalry in any given season. In special seasons, the game has larger meaning because it's the lynchpin to a championship brand. It's been awhile since Michigan has had a roster that put it on track to make the last game as vital as it was in 2006. It has the look of that roster. But it has to play like that one did.
It would be nice to revisit that feeling again and shake off the cobwebs of time that have left Michigan a shadow of its former glory. Maybe they will and may be they won't. But again, there is always basketball season.
We don't know how limited Hoke's ceiling is. He took a bad Ball State program and while it took a few years, ultimately went 12-1. Then he took a terrible SDSU program and got them to 9-4 in two years. He went 11-2 here in 2011. He has not yet demonstrated that he can sustain success, but that's primarily because he left his other two stops once he achieved it.
At what point do we no longer have to listen to RichRod as an excuse? Here's hoping that Hoke works out, but he has now had more time in the program than RR did, and the further we've gotten away from the prior regime, the worse the team has performed.
When it is no longer pertinent.
You can't write a blog post about how we got here without talking about Rich Rod.
We're pretty much done with Lloyd excuses now. And the Moeller firing excuses have definitely run their course.
I am thinking you weren't around during the RichRod days, to argue that Michigan has gotten worse since he left. RichRod never produced a team capoapble of carrying OSU's jockstraps. His last, best team lost to them by 30. He never once got a score as close as Hoke's worst loss; hell, Hoke's worst season was better than RR's best!
It is true that last year was hugely disappointing, but so wre 2008, 2009, and 2010 - only more so.
It's his fourth f'ing year. That means he has his Seniors and Juniors.
It's almost amusing to hear this sort of thing alongside the criticism about Senior leadership from last year and the brilliance of demanding leadership from each class.
No, it means his first recruiting class (which was actually a hybrid of RR/Hoke) is hitting Junior year. Look at the depth chart by class, http://mgoblog.com/content/michigan-depth-chart-class-0 , and notice that gigantic hole at junior/senior OT/OG. The first full recruiting class for Hoke are either true juniors or red shirt sophomores. That is why people continue to say his players are young. This is the last year for that excuse but there are still deficiencies on the roster that are/were out of Hoke and Co.'s control.
Raymon Taylor and Matt Wile, who were recruited by Hoke, are Seniors.
You mean the class he had to put together in about a month between his hire and NSD? Yeah, ok, they're technically "his" recruits. We have just 9 seniors, and only 2 on offense. That's absurd and never happens in a stable program. His first full class are Juniors and RS Sophmores.
I mean guys in the hybrid class are Seniors. I was correcting an error in the previous post.
So Hoke should be held accountable because he has two seniors that he recruited from the 2011 class on his squad of 85+ players? The rest of those seniors were brought in by RR. That's not Hoke's class. That's from a hybrid class where Hoke was given something approximating 10 days to put together the rest of the recruiting class after "the process." Hoke's first class that was all his own is pretty much all juniors now. This is the first time that his guys are upper classmen.
Blame Dave Brandon, not me.
You incorrectly stated: "it means his first recruiting class (which was actually a hybrid of RR/Hoke) is hitting Junior year." Those guys are Seniors.
The point remains that he has a full class of Juniors. It's time to stop whining about youth in your fourth year.
I should have said RS junior/senior, but that doesn't make the rest of what I said irrelevant. The team and the talent that Hoke has brought in remains young. I'm not blaming anyone that's just the way it worked out with the transition.
Excellent writing Brian. More poetry than sportswriting but then again, that's usually the case with your best work.
Definitely captures how I felt about last year, this year and Hoke in general except I think I'm more bullish on our win/los projections for the year than you are. I still see us finishing up 10-3 or better.
You think 2008 was better than last year because of the novelty?!? That's beyond ridiculous. 2008 when we lost to Toledo, didn't come within two TDs of half of our conference opponents and were blown out by all three of our rivals? That 2008 offense was worse than 2013.
Look, I get that last year was tough because of all the close losses, and because we had some hope, which, as we learned from the Shawshenk Redemption, is a dangerous thing. But last year was basically 2005, lots of close, painful losses mixed in with a win against one of our rivals. But 2005 was followed by 2006, which despite the way it ended was a great year. 2005 was easy to recover from. It took us three years to get from 2008 to a record as good as 2013, and in some sense we're still trying to dig out from it.
Last year sucked and we're still smarting from it because it was the most recent kick in the nuts. But to say it was worse than 2008 is just recency bias. Heck "The Horror" was worse than anything in 2013 (oops, sorry to bring that up)
2008 was expected given the turmoil, and 2007 had The Horror but also had a bowl win and a decent conference record. 2008 had promise and the potential for the future; 2013 was year 3 of another rebuilding process that somehow produced the worst rushing stats in the recent history of UM sports and, outside of a win against ND and a near-win against OSU, nothing resmbling a compelling victory. Hell, at least 2008 had the comeback over Wisconsin.
2013 was the worst because despite slamming UM's hand in the doorjam for 2 years with Borges and the prehistoric view of the way the game is played now, they just swung that door harder.
2008 was expected to be bad, but at the time bad meant 7-5. But 3-9 with all the manufactured controversy surrouding sanctions was not expected. In the space of one season we saw the program that had been rock solid for 40+ years devolve into chaos, infighting, and lunacy (both from the coaching staff and those who were desperately trying to get rid of him from the moment he stepped on campus)
Before 2008 you didn't see the kind of open bickering and infighting at Michigan you do now. Before 2008 if you wanted to negatively recruit Michigan you had to make shit up about graduation rates or the head coach having a terminal disease. Before 2008 you didn't see members of the local media engaging in a witch hunt to find "sanctions" in order to get a coach fired. The whole tenor of the program changed. I don't blame RR for all of that, but it still happened. To say you'd rather live through that again than a 7-6 season where we narrowly lost several games and beat one of our rivals handily in UTL II is just myopic.
It isn't myopic, because there was sniping about Carr and negative recruiting going on well before 2008 with Michigan. The Horror did as much to damage UM's "brand" as anything that happened with RR; many great teams have had down years, but UM will forever be remembered as the top-5 team that blew it to an FCS squad. THAT's was the image of UM took a major hit. The only thing the infighting did was break the fake bubble of specialness certain segments of the fanbase held about UM, like how ND thinks they are morally superior because they are Catholic and have "higher" recruiting standards that are all fluff.
We heard about the bickering in 2008 because places like this blog were taking shape and the local media was on a witchhunt. But that could have happened many times before, and if memory serves me right guys like Moeller were basically run out of town with a similar "look at how screwed up HE is" tenor. RR may have been the most recent example, but media-based infighting and bitching is a time-honored tradition, and it happend at UM before and it will happen again.
2008 was the worst year in modern Michigan football (i.e. since 1969). Period. Worst record, worst offense, worst off the field stuff, worst everything. We won three games, and weren't really close in any of the nine losses (other than maybe Toledo or Purdue). In fact, we easily could have lost two of the three we won (IIRC Miami outgained us).
You can argue all you want about how painful last year was, or how we are playing dumb football now, but 7 is still greater than 3. Always will be. A win over Notre Dame is better than a loss to Notre Dame. Close losses are better than blowout losses. A bowl game (even one in which we get depantsed) is better than no bowl game.
is precisely why I hate using win-loss record as the be-all, end-all metric that defines performance. Win-loss record is a blanket that covers up the process through which that win-loss record was obtained. For it to be useful as a metric, it needs to be weighed against expectation given what we know about how good this team is and how good the opponents are.
2008 was expected to be bad and they were terrible due to horrible offensive personnel and only okay defense; 2013 was expected to be good and they ended up bad due to bad OLine play and horrible adjustments made by Borges.
Brian thinks the dropoff in 2013 was worse than the dropoff in 2008; I tend to agree. If you don't that's fine too. But don't insist that 2008 HAS to be worse just because of the win-loss record.
A few things:
We're not talking about a game or two. As terrible as last season was, they had more than twice the amount of wins that the 2008 team had. And all of the losses outside of MSU were tight.
2008 was absolutely, in all ways, a worse season for Michigan than 2013. I'm sure even Brian agrees. What the discussion is about is why 2013 FELT worse than 2008. That's a strictly subjective feelingsball deal. Can't really fault anyone for feeling how they feel.
But as far as which season was worse, in the real world, detached from our feelings, 2008 is the world champion of bad football seasons.
I don't think many people expected us to be as bad as we ended up being. Brian in his preview predicted we would have a top 20 defense, and a better rushing offense than we had in 2007. By any statistical metric you use (wins and loses, YPP, FEI, etc) we were horrible in 2008, far worse than anything in the prior 50 years of Michigan history. If you think anyone saw that coming you engaging in revisionist history.
Last year was bad, I get it, and if you feel worse about it than 2008, that's a personal choice i guess. As for me, I'd rather be mediocre (last year) than awful (2008).
It's true that few people knew exactly what it meant to lose as many starters on offense that Michigan did; after all, they're good enough to play at Michigan right? However, it took about a half of watching the Utah game to figure out the team was going to be bad, and 6-6 would be essentially their ceiling. The fact they couldn't even reach that metric was definitely bad, but it wasn't surprising.
Meanwhile, last year's team appeared to contend for the division on paper; my prediction was 9-3 with 10-2 very likely. After the Notre Dame game, I thought Michigan was contending with OSU for the Big Ten title. Falling from there to 7-5 due to offense felt like a huge plunge. At the time, I felt like the OSU game was the worst of two worlds, where we lose to them while granting Borges and Funk job security.
In the end, I think most people that take exception with Brian's "2013 was worse to experience than 2008" do so with Big Ten titles in mind; 2008 Michigan was no doubt farther away from winning a Big Ten title than 2013. Those that nod in agreement are doing so with team expectations in mind. We expected semi-adequate offense in more than 5 games this year with this roster, and didn't get it.
2008 was a horrible year; nobody is arguing that. But looking at the record alone doesn't paint the whole picture, and at this point it is clear we are going to be arguing about different metrics. I'm fine with how I view the seasons, and you are apparently happy with how you do. That's great, and it's what makes fandom great. Personally, 2008 gave me hope; 2013 just sucked and nothing makes me think this year will be immensely better. And for all the talk about the bowl streak, Carr's 2007 team was a couple of plays away from not making a bowl either, at which point 2008's streak breaker wouldn't have mattered.
My point is that looking at 7 wins with a shitty team and no hope of getting much better is less encouraging to me than 3 wins but a new system that had potential. But again, you don't see it that way, and frankly I'm not going to win this argument with you.
I guess I don't understand that. Yes there was some hope that it would get better after 2008, but I think most of us walked into 2009 hoping, praying (i.e. not expecting) we'd get to a bowl game. Were there some of us who were really expecting a jump to 10-2?
I suppose if you view there as being no hope we will get much better than last year's seven wins, i suppose I could understand the pessimism, but given the track record of our defensive and new offensive coordinators, given the continued recruiting success, given the fact that we have just about every important piece from last year's team back and have increased depth at just about every position, I guess I see lots of hope for this year to be better than last year.
I think the team will win 8-9 games, which would be an improvement. I'm not "down" in the sense that I think the team will crater, but this is a unit with talent at key positions but also an offensive line that could very well be worse than last year and a running game that is reliant on everyone just getting better because UM has a new OC. I do think they'll be better, but I felt that once RR had Tate on the roster and another year under his belt with these offensive starters, he'd have a solid team. I also figured the defense wouldn't crater nearly as bad as it did.
I'm never meant for anyone to think I looked at 2008 and thought the world was righting itself, but it was fun to finally watch a UM team not drag ass with the direction of college football. At the end of 2013, all I could see was another year of "toughness" buzzwords followed up by Braxton Miller running past LBs and Green and Smith being stopped behind the line for 2 yards. I have guarded optimism that Nussmeier will be better and that the overall team will improve, but there are many scenarios under which last year's team wins 9-10 games, and them limping to 7-6 didn't inspire me much. All of the positives came from the offseason and guys being fired and recruits somewhat inexpecliably sticking around.
You cannot have a hole as large as Michigan did on OL and expect great results. No, it doesn't excuse the historical ineptitude, but come on. I barely watched games in 2008, it was that bad. 2009 wasn't much better...there was that one ND win, and thats it. And folks were willing to overlook historically inept defense in RR's third year...but nobody seems to be pointing to that year on this list. It was 2013 compared to 2008 somehow, which is a bitchslap to Hoke in my mind.
I mean, do people remember 2010? Close wins, blowout losses. Embarrasingly, historically inept defense. And that year is somehow better than 2013? What, because of Denard?
2008 had promise, 2009 felt like progress despite the team basically starting freshmen at key positions, and man was that offense fun to watch. 2010 was depressing in some respects, but it was still a bowl game and an offense that everyone hoped would be better. And like 2013, you knew that one part of the team wasn't working (the defense) is part because of the coordinator, and had RR been kept around perhaps they would have made a change and we'd have optimism. I mean, basically that same defense turned into a very solid unit in 2011.
And yeah, Denard gave people a great deal of hope, as did the offensive fireworks.
2009 felt like progress despite the team basically starting freshmen at key positions, and man was that offense fun to watch.
This also smacks of revisionism. The 2009 team was actually worse in B1G play (1-7) than 2008 (2-6). And whereas 2008 beat two bowl teams in Wisconsin and Minnesota, 2009 only scraped past Indiana. The 2009 offense was basically fun to watch against Notre Dame. Otherwise, it was not that different from 2008's.
nd like 2013, you knew that one part of the team wasn't working (the defense) is part because of the coordinator, and had RR been kept around perhaps they would have made a change and we'd have optimism. I mean, basically that same defense turned into a very solid unit in 2011.
This has been rehashed a bunch of times, but what we know about RichRod is that he wants to run the 3-3-5 come hell or high water, and there aren't many DCs who favor it. If we keep him he may fire Gerg, but there is no guarantee he hires a better DC, or even if he does, allows that DC to run his own defense. (Shafer was decent enough, but RichRod undermined him.)
I get that you're a big RichRod guy and that's OK - I don't think everything was his fault, to be sure - but let's be clear-eyed about what went on those years.
2009 felt like progress because it was progress. RR finally had a starting QB and the offense improved dramatically. It was less progress than we would have liked because the defensive personnel left by LC (other than Graham and RVB) didn't measure up to UM's usual standards.
It also felt like progress in 2010 and in 2011 when 3 freshman defensive players filled in gaps on defense. Since that time we've had painful regression.
It just comes down to personal opinion I guess. And my opinion is that at worst, 2013 compares more closely to 2010 than any other year. I think (part) of the reason why others may disagree is because bad offense and good defense is not nearly as visually appealing as good offense and bad defense. I mean, 2013 still had a bowl game. In fact, it's kind of funny how similar (and anti-similar) 2013 was to 2010. Good-to-great offense, historically inept defense, some close victories, a lot of blowouts, horrible bowl game (2010). Good-to-great defense, historically inept and inconsistent offense (because of OL problems), someclose victories (and close defeats), and a horrible bowl game blowout to end the year (2013). The reason I think 2013 is better is because except for the MSU game and the bowl game, Michigan was competetive with everyone. But the reason this makes 2010 look better is because in 2010 Michigan clearly outplayed inferior opponents, while in 2013 we have Akron and Uconn...and others. But that's why I dislike the insinuation that it felt worse than 2008, because to me 2008 and 2009 are a different level of bad.
"And like 2013, you knew that one part of the team wasn't working (the defense) is part because of the coordinator, and had RR been kept around perhaps they would have made a change and we'd have optimism. I mean, basically that same defense turned into a very solid unit in 2011"
I could say the same thing about the offense last year, and Hoke has thankfully made a change in OC, hopefully for the better. The offense could very well be very solid this year with a 5th year QB, and all it would take is the OL to merely approach "serviceable" or "mediocre" so that the running game can actually be a small threat rather than gigantic liability.
If 2008 and 2013 were somewhat expected, then shouldn't we similarly expect to have another abysmal year rushing in 2014? I fear the answer is yes
But am I expecting something other than abysmal? YES. But maybe we're talking about upgrading to "below average".
We knew there were going to be some painful bumps in the road, but to say that we expected a 3-9 disaster is engaging in revisionism. We were actually ranked in the top 25 of the coaches' poll (#24) going into 2008. That may have been overly optimistic, but even in retrospect, we could have easily done better than 3-9. We lost to Utah by 2, Toledo by 3, Purdue by 6 and Northwestern by 7 points, while the only close win we had was over Wisconsin (2 points).
It's kind of scary to think Michigan could have just as easily been 2-10 as it could have been anything better than 3-9. Doesn't 2-10 look so much worse somehow? That Wisconsin game was a sort of miracle.
Of course, I think it's also easy to envision the year ending up much differently had they pulled off that Utah game. Damnit.