AP: Everybody Panic! Internet: Eh, Not So Much, Probably Comment Count

Brian August 24th, 2009 at 3:05 PM

Tate&Shoelace2 Don't panic. Probably. Fake SI cover courtesy Don Hammond.

In the unorganized morass that is my non-Thunderbird inbox there is one email labeled “URGENT!” by its sender and it points to this article, specifically the headline:

Wolverines plan to play 3 QBs in opener, coach Rich Rodriguez says

Though this has since been changed to "Michigan Eyes Quarterback Shuffle" without any mention of the previous 50-point bowel-destroyer—as is the wont of media organizations whose OMG HITS editors go too far with their provocative headlines, see "Win at All Costs" and Detroit Free Press—you can see the remnants of the original in the title tag. (Unless this, too, has been altered without notice by the time you read this.)


Though Rodriguez dismisses the "if you've got two, you've got none" axiom about binary quarterbacks—ie, the only valid digits are 0 and 1—surely if you've got three you've got none. And that goes double when one of the three completed 16 of 49 in the last two games of last season and looks like Billy Bob Thornton just got done cutting his hair in The Man Who Wasn't There.

Doctor Saturday, however, points out that the headline does not match the quote in the article:

beware the extreeeeemely misleading headline hitting all the wires Sunday that suggests Rich Rodriguez may rotate three quarterbacks in the Wolverines' opener against Western Michigan. That header is based on a teasing throwaway line -- "Maybe we’ll have three starting quarterbacks," Rodriguez said. "That would be neat." -- from the bottom of an obligatory media day story whose first 23 paragraphs focus exclusively on freshman's Denard Robinson's totally quirky habit of playing with his shoelaces untied.

Rodriguez's statements, in fact, have a distinct air of noncommittal football coachspeak (which obviously):

"Until we play a game and see how they perform under game conditions we won’t know for sure if anybody solidifies the starting role," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez declined to identify a frontrunner. Asked if he's seen separation from the three candidates, he said, "Some days, and some days I don't."

And the most recent post on this blog contains a full-fledged debunk from Tim Sullivan on the matter:

The "all 3 QBs will take snaps" AP article floating around is really disingenuous. The only time Rodriguez mentioned such a thing was a joke that all 3 would play at the same time. While it wouldn't surprise me if all three guys took some snaps against Western, this current talk is really much ado about nothing.

Okay, panic averted, especially given the AP guy's previous unreliability* and the half-retracted headline above.

But here's my most mournful HOWEVA eva: Rittenberg interpreted that the same way and Greg Dooley of MVictors, who was also there, has a quote that states flat-out the retracted headline was accurate:

When asked if for the opener, there’s a good chance each of the three quarterbacks (Sheridan, Forcier, Robinson) will take snaps, Rodriguez’s answer was, “Yes.  Yeah.  In what order and how many (snaps) I couldn’t tell you.  Right now all three of them look like they’ll play in the opener.” I gasped.

I pinged Tim again and he recalled that quote as referring to the entire season, but he didn't want to call Greg a liar and neither do I. The totally reliable Angelique Chengelis also has the same quote but adds a disclaimer Greg left out: "Again, it's two weeks out. There is a lot that's going to happen in the next two weeks."

So what we have here is both an object lesson on the multifaceted nature of perception and awareness—yea, verily our lives are not that different from those of the common housefly even if we've evolved away from the compound eye—and what appears to be an admission by Rich Rodriguez that the freshmen are not clearly superior to a guy who was Not Good a year ago.

I still think this is complete horsecrap coachspeak and Nick Sheridan's time as a starter has expired, by the way, but the quote is the quote, unless it's not. Here's another quote, with the bold mine:

"We've gotten it out of some of the young quarterbacks, Denard and Tate (Forcier) and even Nick (Sheridan). Nick has improved his play, and some of the new guys (and) the new freshmen have come on."

"Even our redshirt junior." Compound eyes and all that. Could the official site please start posting full transcripts?

*(Assumption: unnamed AP reporter is Larry Lage since he's the local AP guy who covers Michigan stuff. 1) Lage got on the radio a couple weeks ago and claimed he "did not buy" Michigan's home-and-home with UConn was a real thing because it had only been reported by the UConn Rivals site. At that point it had made it into originally-sourced pieces in Connecticut newspapers, IIRC, and anyway anyone with their ear to the ground couldn't help but have heard from someone who it was. 2) Remember the "Get a life" kerfuffle towards the tail end of last year? It was Lage who sliced a detailed answer from Rodriguez on how he deals with fans into the most unflattering two sentences he could and thereby ignited Yet Another Dumb Media Firestorm. Moral: take AP stuff on Michigan with a grain of salt.)

Meanwhile in Denard Robinson. I am somewhat less certain that Tate Forcier is the once and forever starter than I was on Wednesday when I told a bar full of people "there are no people not named Tate Forcier" but it's not Sheridan that's caused the wobble. It's Denard Robinson, the real focus of the story that started the above hubbub and this year's "you may remember me from such Mountaineers as" target.

QB coach Rod Smith:

Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said Robinson is bigger than Pat White was when he came to West Virginia as a freshman, and quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said Robinson's speed compares favorably to White's.

“I don’t want to blow him up, but he’s fast," Smith said. "He’s fast. It’s fun to watch because when he breaks through - and I love Pat to death, but I’m not so sure this kid - he’s fast. They’re close."

Indeed, the official site's "Letters from Camp" has a lot of stuff like this:

• Robinson scored on a 58-yard run around the left side of the offensive line.

• Quarterback Denard Robinson had a pair of plays over 40 yards, including a 45-yard TD pass to receiver Greg Mathews in the two minute drill.

• Quarterback Denard Robinson accounted for four touchdowns at practice, scoring a pair of rushing scores and tossing two TD strikes.

• During a third down drill, Robinson escaped from the pocket and had a long 72-yard touchdown run down the right sideline.

• The practice session ended as Robinson tossed a 78-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Moore down the right hash mark.

And Fred Jackson's gotten all McGuffie on him, with bonus sad type of program under Carr quote:

"I promise you this, there ain't nobody in the country who can catch him," Jackson said. "In my 18 years here, I've never seen a kid that fast. Nowhere. And I've seen some fast kids on other teams, (but) I've never seen anybody that fast.

"I mean, it's scary. Every time you miss him in practice, strike the band up, it's a touchdown. He's going to shock a lot of people."

This time last year that hype was going to a kid now at Rice. Jackson might not have been totally wrong—since McGuffie had his moments and if he hadn't gotten his face crushed could have been a change-of-pace back or a slot receiver—but the "I've never seen a kid like this!" gambit doesn't work if you use it every year.

At the very least, Robinson will get a snap or a drive or a package from game one and will be given an opportunity to show whether or not "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium" translates to games.


S FL Wolverine

August 24th, 2009 at 3:56 PM ^

I would +10 you if I could. Laughed my ass off.

That diclemeg "diary" was probably the most obnoxious post ever. Instead of being excited that the QB competition is a huge bonus for Michigan, he takes the opportunity to make this about HIM. He seems to be more of a fan of himself than Michigan.

You would think since we all root for the same team he'd want to - oh I don't know - make friends with the other fans, but he's obsessed with being "right". If you can't even make friends with fans of your team, how much of an asshole must he be with fans of other teams? Seriously.


August 24th, 2009 at 4:02 PM ^

yep, the most self-serving post I've seen on here. I thought diaries were filtered more than that, maybe they should be.

Reminds me of how many "fans" seem to worry more about winning the purely subjective recruiting battle as opposed to those on the field.


August 24th, 2009 at 4:05 PM ^

I know far too many people like that though. That same guy is the guy that is calling Matthew Stafford a bust because he had a bad game on Saturday. He'd rather be right and have Stafford suck than the Lions be good.

S FL Wolverine

August 24th, 2009 at 4:25 PM ^

I worked with this guy once who was the world's biggest front runner. He didn't do it because he actually liked the teams he rooted for, he did it because he was rooting AGAINST the local teams; he also did it to show that he was somehow "better" for rooting for a better team. For example, he was a "HUGE" Penn State fan back in 1999 when they went 9-0 and were #1 before losing three straight, including to Michigan. When they started losing, however, he just switched to another team and became a "HUGE" fan of them. Real psychological case. People who do this seriously just want attention. They don't get that there are good types of attention (like love and friendship) and bad types of attention (like being a guest on Jerry Springer).


August 24th, 2009 at 3:26 PM ^

Smartest move IS to play sheridan the first 1-2 series. Perhaps the ND game also, the first 1-2 series anyway. That is a huge Div one opponent with a rivalry at stake....that is an immense (thanks Lloyd) amount of pressure for anyone that green.

Sheridan has game experience, has played in front of a large crowd/TV audience, and will have a greater variety of playbook options under his belt....in game and practice. Plus, if he fails you are really not that much worse off.

To be clear, I'm not saying Nick is a better QB, he is not, but he could get the offense established and create a situation where a freshman QB could come in up a TD or FG with less pressure on them and having had a few minutes to acclimate to a full stadium.

Playing a Freshman QB is very rare for a reason and is really only something you do out of necessity. We don't 'need' to do that.

If you start Tate on play 1, the D can focuas on him, fluster him and take advantage of the situation. If Tate walks into his first game and tosses an INT his first time out, that can be a very large mental hole to put him in.

I say, 'not wise'.

If Sheridan can establish that there are a lot of offensive weapons to cover in a first series or two, then Tate (or Denard) could come in with a D that would have to be at least a little more honest in covering the field.

Please don't read too much into who takes the first snaps at WM. Be concerned with who they are preparing to assume the job over the first 2-3 games and how they are peparing to make that happen successfully.


August 24th, 2009 at 3:25 PM ^

The SI "cover" looks fake. It doesn't seem to fit the typical proportions (or maybe it has been distorted...but I don't know). I might buy it if everything below the blue box was deleted. I didn't measure or anything, but I smell a rat.

Where have I seen that picture before? mgoblue.com ?


August 24th, 2009 at 9:44 PM ^

I haz a coluge dugre to!

Doh! Hats off to the spelling and grammar police!


I went to college to get a good job so I could afford a spell checker. And you know, I kept looking at it all day thinking to myself that something did not look right. Everyone has theit strengths: since grade school, spelling has not been one of mine.



August 24th, 2009 at 10:32 PM ^

And this from someone who writes a sentence without a subject.


I was a philosophy major with a double minor in classics and history. Top that off with a Masters in theology. I can read three classical languages but still cannot spell my way out of a wet paper bag. Grammar was lost on me until I had to translate Greek and Latin. I use all of this education to sell real estate...go figure.


August 24th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

Eh... I still think it's going to be Forcier. This kid has been coached to be a QB his whole life and probably has the fundamentals of the position down better than Robinson ever will. If Forcier ends up locking down the starting job, Robinson can just be moved to WR (where his explosive speed will be equally useful) and all will live happily ever after. If Robinson ends up starting, Forcier's talent will be wasted and he'll probably end up transferring.


August 24th, 2009 at 6:30 PM ^

Okay, apologies for the 'asshole' remark (BTW, I've been registered here for over a here and have been a reader of this blog for longer; I just haven't posted much). But I do think your comment was needlessly sarcastic and that you came off as a jerk. I don't think my comment simply repeated any sentiments that have already been expressed on this particular thread, so I'm not quite sure what you mean when you say that the issue has been "hashed, re-hashed and talked about so damn much". It's unreasonable to expect a commenter to comb all sections of the blog to see if his opinion has already been expressed before commenting.

You seem to have appointed yourself as some kind of moderator of opinions expressed by readers on this site, which is fine, but I think you need to take it easy and not snipe at every commenter whose post you deem to be of insufficient worth in contributing to the discussion.

david from wyoming

August 24th, 2009 at 6:51 PM ^

If you have been reading mgoblog for a long time....wait, even if you just started today, Tate vs Denard has been talked about. A lot. A whole lot. In your first post, nothing you said was a lie and I happen to agree with your opinions, BUT it's nothing but truisms that don't add much to the conversation. Tate is more coached, Denard is faster, Tate might transfer, Denard might switch positions and you think Tate will start. Nothing here is bullshit, but nothing here is news either.

And I know I can be a dick sometimes. It's just one of those days for me. I'm sorry. I really do NOT want to moderate opinions on the forum. Having a wide array of thoughts/opinions is a wonderful thing. I do however try to bring the quality of posting up. (Again, sorry for going to far) I do love me some mgoblog and I have nightmares of mgoboard falling into Mlive like stasis where isn't so useless that 14 year old populate the board and no-one else.


August 24th, 2009 at 4:19 PM ^

Maybe if Sullivan was actually paying attention to these press conferences rather than stuffing his face at the free buffet and flashing his credential while telling all the ladies he is the new MGoBlog, we would not be confused today over which quote was more accurate.

Lay off the roast beef, stop oggling the girls (besides they are just press box hot anyway) and note take better.

Do we have to Boo you first?


August 24th, 2009 at 4:25 PM ^

fwiw, this is the relevant portion of Scout's transcript:

Question: Coach would you say that in the opener that each of the three quarterbacks will take some snaps?

Coach Rodriguez: “Yes. In what order and how many, I couldn’t tell you. Right now, all three of them look like they are going to play in the opener. Again, it is projected two weeks out; there is a lot that is going to happen in the next two weeks.”


August 24th, 2009 at 4:26 PM ^

Just heard a report from an "inside source" that the entire coaching staff today had untied shoelaces. Fred Jackson actually had taken his shoes off. Is this a sign about who the first string QB will be?


August 24th, 2009 at 4:26 PM ^

Anyone listen to Jim Rome's radio show today? He must have mentioned the "3 QBs at Mich" headline about 4-5 times...followed each time by "guess they don't have a qb, this season is lost, RR doesnt have a qb for his system...etc". It was like listening to some high schooler gossip about something he has no first hand knowledge of. As such...ENJOY!!!!


Bando Calrissian

August 24th, 2009 at 5:26 PM ^

Very surprising to see Larry Lage thrown out there as unreliable. His pieces have always struck me as insightful and knowledgeable, and having met the guy, it's clear he's one of the most well-connected guys in the AP right now. The guy is a walking rolodex. Larry Lage has been around Michigan football enough to know what's what. After all, he was the reporter Lloyd Carr let go behind the scenes of the Capital One Bowl, letting him into the locker room for pregame and halftime. Which never, ever happens. I'm pretty sure he's gotten the same level of access from Tom Izzo and Rich Rodriguez, too. This guy isn't a slouch.

Is what he comes up with sometimes against the grain? Yeah, it is. But I don't see how the media has an obligation to automatically eat out of Rich Rodriguez's hand.


August 24th, 2009 at 5:30 PM ^

I heard him on WTKA last year after the "get a life" debacle and he flat out said that he had nothing to do with the extraction of that quote and the headline etc. He stated that he wrote the article but the rest of it was done by others at the AP and subsequently splashed all over the world by the lazy sports info gathers and pimps that currently define the word "sports journalist".

Thats what he said anyway...