Dis-claimer: I wrote this as a reponse to all the pessimism that was coming out in the last week or so and finally decided to post it. Well, I also had to wait until I had enough points to post as well. We'll see if I still do later.
Is it possible that we, not all of us, but some of us, are so consumed with what has passed that we cannot see the forest for the trees? Could the incredible, unimaginable, almost unthinkable things that happened last season, in the fading shadows of the beginning of the 2007 season, scar the landscape that is Michigan Football, so much so that we can no longer see what “can be” and only see what is otherwise referred to as “the worst-case scenario”?
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Before the Appalachian State disaster and the Oregon shellacking, to the fanbase, Michigan was a perennial top-5-10 team. After that season, a little hope still flickered as Lloyd Carr’s swan song was a gigantic victory over the mighty SEC. But then came the retirement, coaching search that seemingly went awry. And with it, another thunderous stone fell from the foundation of the greatest program in the country.
A new coach, a new philosophy and a new direction tried to brighten the landscape as they tried to burn off the haze left over from what had gone on for decades. There was hope, enthusiasm and an age-old trust in what had always been there, a defense that could be counted to keep the team in the game, give the offense a chance to learn, grow and hopefully by the end of the season regain some if not all of the respect tarnished by the opening of the previous season.
But, as we all know, football is a game of four quarters, and offense, defense and special teams. In 2008, our Wolverines never gained control over any one of those pieces, much less all of them together. As the season went on, more stones from the foundation seemed to crumble, if not the first quarter, the second quarter was the downfall. If not the first half, it was the second half. If the offense played well, the defense struggled or the defense kept us in the game and the offense couldn’t get out of its own way. And in some cases, the offense shined through the murky waters of repeated special teams disasters only to come up short because the defense never seemed to get off the field.
The cupboard was bare. Make no mistake, it was. Not because no one recruited. Not because “everyone” left. Not because the …………………
In 2007 the unbelievable happened and in 2008 the unthinkable happened. Now as the 2009 season is coming around the corner, we are trying to find reasons to be optimistic, but the damage done over the last two seasons has almost everyone believing that Michigan will have to be lucky to win, rather than making its own luck and controlling its destiny, by doing what Michigan has always done…playing Michigan Football. Yes, we will have a true freshman quarterback playing this season regardless of the name and number he will be a freshman. And yes, the DC is new for the second season in a row. And the defense is not chock full of household names that make you tingle with excitement or salivate over the number of sacks or INTs that they would undoubtedly rack up.
Despite what has happened in the past, and it IS the past, the 2009 version of the Michigan Wolverines has the same opportunity as so many other Michigan squads, to play with the passion, heart and strength that every other great Michigan team had. There will be some disappointments this season I’m sure, but the potential and the possibilities for this season are maybe greater than any in recent memory.
Don’t let the slow, methodical ways of the past cloud your vision. Our coach is the father of the modern spread. If there is anyone who can get these young men ready to execute and unleash the power of this offense on the Big11Ten conference it’s Rich Rodriguez.
Consider these factors in a bubble for just a moment; the entire offensive line is coming back, the running backs are healthy and in their second year under the new system The defense is young, but very hungry led by a proven leader. The defense WILL be faster! We have the greatest punter on the planet, the defensive coordinator actually has many years of experience building championship defenses. And possibly the best news of all, the QB knows how to run the spread AND he can throw. On top of all that, the offense is built and run by the guys who know it better than anyone else and have made it work EVERYWHERE they go.
Now if you take those factors and insert them into the history, tradition and bigger-than-life spectacle that is Michigan Football. Combine that with the largest crowd anywhere that will be MUCH LOUDER than every before, thanks to the new additions and more enthusiasm, with eight home games, three of them against huge rivals, and leave out what has happened in the past, that has no real bearing on the future, and this could be a great season.
Now, I know this all sounds like I have stolen all the kool-aid and downed it like a freshman who has never seen a beer-bong before, but in my 44 years on this planet and season ticket holder, I have seen many incredible things happen inside the hole “that Yost dug, Schembechler filled and Canham paid for”. There is promise, opportunity and an awful lot of desire being crafted by RichRod and company. I for one, think great things will happen and many of us will be very, very surprised this season.
As a footnote, I understand the concern, and even pessimism going into this season, but I just can’t believe that this program will struggle the way Nebraska, Notre Dame and others have.
The offseason is too long and Sept. 5 is too far away.