Dear Diary Is Cooler Than Me

Submitted by Seth on November 28th, 2010 at 4:05 PM

 coolerthanme Vinopal

Left: snapshot from Please Don't Go music video:  Right:

Dear Diary,

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[1] 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[2]. 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[3], 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!"[4]

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[5]. You will never say to yourself "gee, that is a really brilliant Creed lyric"[6] the same way you'll never say "that play that Tressell came up with was absolutely genius."4127668465_b6e0dc2905_o

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[7] 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:

7., who is basically my Brian for music, says Mayer's just a marketing creation too.


What We Need is a Miracle

Do you know the penalty for a head coach who loses a 7th game in a row to Ohio State?

Death by torture!



Wrong. You?

They shove a living snake up your ass!

No, but that's very creative.

People start making up irrational reasons for axing you!

The lead singer of Oblivion summed up his feelings on our head coach's job in this text from last night:

Two totally irrational reasons to get rid of Richrod: 1.) "Miracles" never happen when he's coaching, and 2.) he's the unluckiest son of a bitch on the planet.

I have no rational reasons to not see another year with dilithium, only irrational ones.

The miracles thing was echoed in the comments yesterday in a TWIS bid by longtime MGoBoarder Tim Waymen:

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 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:

  • Dr. Rodbaugh, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pimp, by Undefeated dream season of 1992 has the user tags Antietam, drang, and sturm, and basically says the fans deserve a new coach because this is a world where math is boring and (as once pointed out by Stephen Maturin) the verdict of the masses is seldom wrong.
  • 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

Utah Michigan Football

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.

Best-case scenario: 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.
Worst-case scenario: 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.

Heavy Metal

bass-hanewinckel-title Kibbie_72

Oblivion's lead guitarist now publishes an MGoBlog-sized site in music called 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.

Concerning Michigan:

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:

Table 3 - Michigan's situational drive scoring outcomes (count and row percentages shown)

  No points Field goal Touchdown   PPD
Ahead 34 (81%) 1 (2%) 7 (17%) 1.21
Tied 10 (44%) 2 (9%) 11 (48%) 3.61
Behind 22 (51%) 2 (5%) 19 (44%) 3.23
Calculated with data from boxscores at

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.

LetsGoBlue1 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 Football wins 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:

Oklahoma: 6-6, 5-5-1, 3-8, 4-8, 5-6, 7-5, 13-0 (NC)

Miami (The one that wins championships): 5-6, 9-3, 9-4, 11-1, 12-0 (NC)

Ohio State: 6-6, 8-4, 7-5, 14-0 (NC)

USC: 6-6, 6-5, 8-5, 6-6, 5-7, 6-6, 11-2, 12-1 (NC)

LSU: 4-7, 3-8, 8-4, 10-3, 8-5, 13-1 (NC), 9-3, 11-2, 11-2, 12-2 (NC)

Texas: 11-2, 11-2, 10-3, 11-1, 13-0 (NC)

Florida: 8-5, 8-5, 7-5, 9-3, 13-1 (NC), 9-4, 13-1 (NC)

Alabama: 10-3, 4-7, 7-5, 10-3, 3-8, 7-5, 10-3, 4-9, 6-6, 10-2, 6-7, 8-5, 12-2, 14-0 (NC)

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.

Also: a very short Grid of Expectation this week:

Diary Author Method Prediction Cool Chart
Post Week 12: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor tpilews YPC/Scoring OSU, 40-20 ish fea6700f
Week #12 National Rankings and Predictions for osu Enjoy Life Ignoring Sagarin/ Fremeau and going with CAPS-ed guts It'll be Michigan!
Preview: Ohio State Brian Thigh diameter OSU, 35-20

It's Just Entertainment

x610 shoegazer

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

2010 Game 12 Wallpaper Preview

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.

NoNon: Marched us to Columbus to the Julian panegyric of Marcus Lucanus, though Lucanus didn't have such pretty photos. These are our readers.



That's a snippet from jajaja23's latest Google Wave break-in on our coaching staff. Relive 7-4 in all its glory.

As usual, stubob has the Ugly Games.

And Blazefire gives us a noir account of the Rich Rodriguez era via…Cube?




November 28th, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

You didn't just resort to the "Can't beat our rival, so let's call them Creed" argument, did you?

What's so creative about an offense that scores 7,10 and 7 points against Ohio State?


November 28th, 2010 at 4:33 PM ^

Yeah. Though my friends can attest I was calling Ohio State the Creed of College Football since at least 2002. So if I'm a sore loser, I've been one a good long time.

As to your rhetorical question, I should have mentioned it helps if the guitarists are hitting the notes.


November 28th, 2010 at 4:37 PM ^

 "he's the unluckiest son of a bitch on the planet."

There must be something we at MGoBlog can collectively do about this...Incense & Budhas?  Chicken Blood on his doorstep?


November 28th, 2010 at 4:40 PM ^

Harbaugh is difficult, probably impossible, to argue against.

But, there are other guys that can take over immediately or going into 2012 if things should turn out that way. Charles Strong is my favorite candidate as his defensive credentials are impeccable and he's been exposed to the Tao of the Spread Option which encourages schematic stability on offense. He's only been a head coach 1 year though, so he's a better candidate in 2011 than he is in 2010. Still, I'd give him a look no matter what.

Mike Stoops is another guy I'd like to nominate.

Ah well, what ever happens, happens.


November 28th, 2010 at 4:42 PM ^

The table of fire/keep RR is pretty good overall but this statement:

we really have zero evidence that the defense can get better since it has regressed every year

is either totally wrong or just really poorly worded.

You can obviously look beyond 2 years of trend to make a projection.  The correletion between experience/age for personnel and defenseive performance is extremly strong.  10 returning starters on defense is enough "evidence" to expect a defensive improvement, let alone allowing for the possibility that it "can".


November 28th, 2010 at 4:53 PM ^

That's a very good point. Plussed.

We know that for most teams, player progression over a year is a pretty sure thing, especially from freshman to sophomore.

However, actual progression for Michigan players has been sparse. Martin is the biggest improvement, until he got injured (not RR's fault). Roh is better. RVB isn't any different really than he was last year. Mouton has made a stride, Ezeh maybe stepped backwards. Kovacs has taken a step back as well, though his ceiling has probably already been reached. The freshmen and new starters have been too erratic to chart any line of progress.

I'm not 100 percent confident that this staff can have a better defense next year, even though I predicted they will a few weeks ago and keep to that. There have been so many disappointments with regard to progression with the defensive players.

So I was a bit harsh there. Then again, expecting league average improvement from the freshmen is perhaps on the high side.


November 28th, 2010 at 5:03 PM ^

You're more than harsh in claiming that Kovacs "has taken a step back" and has already reached his ceiling. Based on what evidence - this, I suppose ---> #

Let's see - he kept the vaunted Marvin Robinson off the field this year. He's the quarterback of the secondary. Did I eyes deceive me yesterday, or did he make an INT?

And I know stats are manna from heaven for the Internet, so I'd like to mention this one:


That's the number of tackles Kovacs had this year. You'll note that led the team, after he was second on the team in 2009. 8.5 tackles for loss (led team), 1 sack, and 2 INTs.

So, no chance to get better these last two years? Even if you're right, I find him to be a GREAT player for MICH.


November 28th, 2010 at 6:23 PM ^

The case for the defensive staff:

DL:  Roh, Martin and Graham clearly improved under RR's coaching staff.  I'd argue RVB also improved dramatically this year if for no other reason than last year he had little to no offensive attention while BG absorbed/destroyed double teams.  The guy switched positions and lost BG beside him, yet, at the very least, maintained his productivity.  He's no 1st rounder, but its clear he's a quality player.

LB:   Stevie Brown made a huge leap from '07 to '09.  Thomas and Cam Gordon looked pretty good for RS Freshman starters.  Cam handled a transition from FS to OLB very well.

DB:  Woolfolk looked improved from '07 to end of '09, especially when you consider he was moving between CB and FS.  Floyd seemed to be not completely awful in '10. Kovacs seems to know what he is doing, despite physical limitations - that's probably coaching unless he's just freelancing (seems doubtful).

The freshman DBs were, as you said, erratic, but they showed flashes.  Vinopal went from being tiny and completely not ready to being tiny and only a moderate level of disaster. The level of attrition gives us nothing to measure against.  When everyone's a freshman its impossible to judge coaches.

The case against:

DL:  Sagesse, Patterson, Banks had talent but never seemed to get much better.  Has Martin really improved much since he backed up Taylor/Johnson?

LB: Mouton and Ezeh didn't improve much, if at all, None of the backups (e.g. Fitzgerald, Herron) passed them by.

DB: Chambers, Williams, Emilien, etc.  Wide open deep middle again and again.


In balance I'd argue the coaches HAVE shown that they can improve players, but the inconsistency makes it a legitimate question.  With RR recruits dominating the depth chart next year I'd say its reasonable to expect improvement.  Furthermore, even with NO coaching, people are going to improve just due to physical development and on-field experience.  The case of Ezeh, a young starter who seemed to regress is pretty rare.

Bobby Boucher

November 28th, 2010 at 4:43 PM ^

Well, I guess we all know the answer to The Game question, No Defense + Really Good Offense =  ??  Actually, when I watched the game it seemed like the hype of "The Game" has died down significantly.  At what point is this no longer a rivalry?  7 straight losses hurt.  8 will be like a funeral around here and seems to be very likely with either a new HC or DC and a decimated defense.  Now we have to start considering what it's going to take to prevent 9 and 10, plus, knocking down Sparty a peg or two.  I mean, Jesus, is that even possible at this point no matter what decision is made?


November 28th, 2010 at 5:02 PM ^

Harbaugh is a relatively untested head coach at the FBS level; Rodriguez, in comparison, has shown ample high level success. Harbaugh has never won a bowl at this level; Rodriguez has done it repeatedly and one one win away from competing for the national championship.

In all reality, Harbaugh's resume as a head coach in Division one is made up of exactly four seasons of football, the first three of which had him at two wins more than Rodriguez and a lost bowl game.

People talk about Harbaugh like he's a guaranteed successful coach. He's not. He could be, but right now we don't have enough information. Next year we might.


November 28th, 2010 at 5:37 PM ^

"Rodriguez has done it repeatedly and one win away from competing for the national championship."

By using your logic, isn't Harbaugh one win away from playing for the MNC?  If Stanford had beaten Oregon (# 1 in the country, on the road), they'd be playing in the BCS Championship game.  Conversely, RR lost to a pretty bad Pittsburgh team at home.  Which season looks more impressive?

Harbaugh has been competing against USC and Oregon.  RR was competing against Louisville and Rutgers.


November 28th, 2010 at 5:59 PM ^

I'm just trying to ask folks to be realistic about an unknown quantity. The Pac 10 this year is the weakest it's been in a decade (anyone see the Notre Dame/USC game? Blech), and we have fewer data points with him.

People are acting like it will be automatic with Harbaugh, and for reasons that don't make a lot of sense to me. At least with Rodriguez we can argue about SOMETHING. Harbaugh could get creamed by Big Ten competition with poor talent/true freshmen just like we're experiencing now.

Rodriguez deserves another year. He blows next year and I'll be the first to show him the door. Michigan is too good a place not to get top tier coaching talent if a coaching search begins. We don't have to roll the dice with a young, inexperienced coach with a short resume who has never won a FBS bowl game.

If Harbaugh really cares about the Michigan position, he can build up his resume, wait another year, and come in 2012.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:13 PM ^

Harbaugh's Resume is as good as we'll find, plus his history with the university will finally give a huge swath of the fan-base one less thing to bitch about; sign me up for that... the less bitching, that is. I'm in favor of almost anything that results in less bitching, depending on the circumstances.

The list of guys who both 1) would come to Michigan and 2) have "actually done something" is short, especially when you consider the tacit requirement the he be a "Michigan Man" (pardon me while I choke back some vomit). If you say that Harbaugh hasn't really done anything, then the one guy on the list is Les Miles. Maybe there are others but I'm not versed well enough to name them.

Anyway, Harbaugh is a name high on the list of guys who pass the eye test, that's good enough for me.


November 28th, 2010 at 9:45 PM ^

Just look at the talent Harbaugh had v. Miles when he took over a machine at LSU. Harbaugh is the most impressive young coach in the country.  He might even be the most impressive coach in the country period. His strong Michigan background is our in and we are fools if we don't explore it.

Rich's era has never really gotten a foothold. Until this year I steadfastly backed him claiming that it was unfair off the field torpedoing that was causing the weak results.  

Reality is he created this whole Harbaugh talk by taking us nowhere in meaningful games.   I couldn't even watch Saturday without being ill. These kids are trying so hard and Rich is a man of character in my book.  But we were outclassed, outsized, outplayed and continue to be by programs that used to fear us.

Meanwhile Stanford is 4 in the BCS, Michigan State is 7 and the time marches on with a coach that I am pretty well convinced is over his head at this point. 

With all that, I'd still bring him back if we blow the Harbaugh gift that is about to be laid at the doorstep of Schembechler Hall.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:29 AM ^

If I'm underselling, you're overselling by a mile:

"He might even be the most impressive coach in the country period."

I'll chalk that up to an egregiously poor choice of words on your part.

Moving on, the point about Miles was that he's actually accomplished something, whereas Harbaugh currently has exactly 1 impressive season to his name. Before this year, the most impressive thing Harbaugh did as a coach was beat USC. Besides that he has done nothing impressive except lose to a 7-5 Oklahoma team in the Sun Bowl. 

The 2010 PAC 10 is limp even by PAC 10 standards. Stanford lost to the only legitimately good team in the conference (Oregon), a game in which they blew a 21-3 lead and were shutout in the 2nd half. After Stanford, the next best team in the PAC 10 is Arizona (7-4) then USC (7-5).

So, Stanford has beat USC a few times and been the second best team in a weak conference. That's Harbaugh's resume. No Bowl wins, no FBS conference championships. Mark Dantonio has done more ('scuse me while I choke back some more vomit).  And I *still* concede that he's a really good candidate for the job should Michigan be on the prowl for one. Re-read what I wrote; in a nutshell I said that JH is a good candidate and most likely candidate #1

That stuff about RR, is in response to nothing I've said so, I'll just say I hope you feel better having said that and end my reply.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:10 PM ^

 that might have Uconn as champion?  The last time Rich Rod coached there was 2007.  This is 2010.  If you don't think 3 years can change a conference entirely, I give you exhibit A:  The Big Ten in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
  So no, it is not the "same Big East".


And I'm really, really tired of the "This isn't the Big East" garbage.  From a coaching standpoint, winning your conference is as impressive in the Big East as it is anywhere.  "Oh, but you're playing against Big East teams", you say?  You're also beating them with a Big East team.  It's not like he was allowed to take USC in there and compete against the rest of the Big East.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:21 PM ^

" I give you exhibit A:  The Big Ten in 2007, 2008, and 2009."

I'm not sure that I understand this comment.  The only thing that's really changed over those years is that Michigan fell off the pace.  Ohio State still wins Big Ten Championships (six in a row), the Big Ten still sends two teams to the BCS,  Wisconsin and Iowa are still good, Purdue and Minnesota are still bad.  What is Exhibit A? 


November 28th, 2010 at 7:47 PM ^

thankyouverymuch, they were mediocre: as was the case most seasons under Tiller, they beat the bad teams, lost to the good teams, and were a coin flip against similar teams. 8-5 including a bowl win (against CMU, but whatever) is significantly better than the current state of affairs in West Lafayette.

Hell, even Indiana made it to a bowl in 2007. But both are minor details: I think in all cases, there were teams at the top that threatened to contend for a MNC but didn't really, teams in the middle who could beat a lot of other teams, and teams at the bottom that might surprise on occasion but weren't that good.

Undefeated dre…

November 28th, 2010 at 5:18 PM ^

Dr. Rodbaugh, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pimp, by Undefeated dream season of 1992 has the user tags Antietam, drang, and sturm, and basically says the fans deserve a new coach because this is a world where math is boring and (as once pointed out by Stephen Maturin) the verdict of the masses is seldom wrong.


Uhh, if that's what you thought I said/meant, I guess that's fine... except that's not what I said (or meant). It was more of a "stop arguing, no one's going to convince anybody of anything at this point" kind of thing.


November 28th, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

Basically, after all is said and done....this is a coin flip.  That is what most of the rational people discussing this come down to. 

So it comes down to:  In  Brandon We Trust.

Just a couple scenarios:

1.  If Oregon wins out, plays Auburn for the National Championship...and gets blown out ala Ohio State circa Jan 2007; and Stanford loses against, say, Oklahoma in a BCS bowl, how great would you feel about Harbaugh then?

2. If RRod somehow gets a Casteel, etc...does it change the equation?

3. If RRod closes out recruiting strong, what does that say?

Of course, everything about could be reversed...and the same questions remain.

I don't know the answer.  I know I have waivered from 'All In' to 'Fire RRod' week after week, and this week, I am so confused I simply don't know what the right choice is.  Firing RRod guarantees us 2-3 years of pain; Harbaugh proved it takes about that long when he resurrected Stanford.  However, none of us see light at the end of the tunnel with RRod.  

So it all ends with:  In Brandon We Trust.  Man, I hope he is better with football than pizza. 


November 28th, 2010 at 7:18 PM ^

Does everyone think that by getting Casteel as DC our problems will be immediately solved. If I am not mistaken we have 2 coaches on our defensive staff who were assistants under him. Typically those assistants will learn the system and be able to teach it at their next job especially when the head coach brings them with him. I am sure that Casteel would be an improvement but I don't think his mere presence on the staff guarantees our defense to become one that can stop good Big Ten teams.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:46 PM ^

But I have a different feeling.  I'm still all-in on RR and keeping the faith for PB&J Time.  I don't have a great feel for Brandon's track record in making personnel decisions and feel we need to stick to our contract at a minimum.  RR has a track record that says "good coach" and UM isn't a nervous, star-chasing institution.  When Martin inked the contract with RR, it said "we give you four years and then we'll each see if we want to renew."  There are reasons that contracts have penalties and buy-outs in order to see through the original plan and give the process it's due. 

If we fire a Michigan coach who, while not yet performing at what we all agree are expectations of championship caliber levels, nevertheless is making tangible improvements each year, then I'll not have faith in our commitment to any coach. 

I think Brandon has a plain choice - keep Rodriguez or throw Michigan football into likely turmoil.  I expect a strong show of support for Rich after our bowl game.

For whatever it's worth, I'm less committed to our defensive coordinator, but that's sort of the Michigan way, too, it seems. 


November 28th, 2010 at 5:36 PM ^

I just really wanna see the RR tour round out with at least 4 years, and see a class of his guys graduate.  Although his first class that will be seniors next year is pretty small.


I would be nice to see what the D can do when they are upper classmen, and not a bunch of 18 year old kids sprinkled in with a senior here and there.


November 29th, 2010 at 7:09 PM ^

I know we hear every week how young our defense is and i agree in the secondary we are young and some people could argue that they are not as talented as we would like to see at michigan.  But we are not a defense that is all 18 year old kids with a senior sprinkled here and there.  The defensive line is made up of mostly 3rd year players and higher, outside of Craig Roh and Jibreel Black.  Same with the linebackers,  we have two guys who have started since Rich Rod has started Coaching. Kovacs is three years out of highschool and rodgers is a senior.  I feel the youth argument is just flat out wrong.  Auburn the number one team in the country is relying on six freshman making major contributions on their defense and they are not great, but they do ok.   I feel what killed us was the 3-3-5.  It is a good defense to run against spread teams because you get more speed on the field, but trying to stop pulling guards and tackles by rolling Kovacs,Gordan, and Carvin up to the LOS is not how to win ballgames against power run teams.


November 28th, 2010 at 6:28 PM ^

Those of us who are waiting for an "elite" DC to jump on board shouldn't hold their breath.  An elite DC will have options, and Michigan's will not be attractive--you would be coming into a situation in which the head coach is on the hot seat and could be swept out within a year (and your job with it), not to mention trying to turn something around that two of your immediate predecessors have failed at and been scapegoated for. 

The only way to make the DC job attractive is to give Rich an extension, thus guaranteeing time to turn things around.  Short of this, we are more likely to end up with another Greg Robinson situation--someone that has been cut loose somewhere else.  Might as well ride it out with Gerg in that case. 


November 28th, 2010 at 7:12 PM ^

College coaching is often about stepping stones, not situational stability.  A DC at a high performing non-BCS school would probably jump at the chance to coach at Michigan. Money talks.  Furthermore, any savvy coach would look at how awful the D was this year, see that 90% of talent returns along with a solid recruiting class, and figure it'll be pretty easy to imprve the defense and then parlay that gig into another, even if RR gets canned.

Yeah, we're probably not going to get a DC who would essentially be making a lateral move, but its still an attractive situation for many ambitious young assistants, despite the uncertainty.


November 28th, 2010 at 6:37 PM ^

Sure, Ohio State seems more boring than Michigan under Coach Rodriguez. And it's better to have style when it comes to offense.

At least that seems to be a popular belief.

I disagree. I don't give a rat's ass about style when it comes to offense. If we move the ball, score and win with Bo's style, or Lloyd's style, great. If we do it with Rodriguez' style, great. Just do it: Score and win.

One thing you can say about recent national champions (Bama, Florida, LSU, Texas, USC, Ohio State, Miami in the past 10 years) is that they ALL had good defenses. And that's, I think, where your analysis of Ohio State and other strong defensive teams falls short. Good "D" and special teams aren't some Creed-like or boy-band formula. It's strong recruiting, superior coaching, tough attitude and great play.

if you're going to evaluate teams on style, defensive style counts for a lot. And so does special teams' style. And just like offense, where the ability to score points is what matters, on defense it's the ability to prevent scoring that matters.

In music an artist can be great without achieving commercial success. In football, there's no such thing. A great team wins, period. There are no points for "pretty." I am happy to win with whatever offense, defense and special teams play that allows my team to maximize its chances for victory.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:06 PM ^

...but to think that this defense won't improve you need to be the most hardened RR hater oblivious to everything.  I could coach this defense next year and it will be better.  How do you return every relevant guy save Jonas Mouton on your 2 deep who the majority are Frosh and Soph and not get better.    Complete fail of logic to think there is no evidence this defense won't get better.


November 29th, 2010 at 12:06 PM ^

I think we have seen evidence that the defense will improve. The defense is weak mostly because the secondary doesn't have anyone who would start for an average team. The freshmen have been beaten repeatedly, but they've also looked like they'll be passable starters once they bulk up (Vinopal, C Gordon) and/or get more experience (Avery, C Gordon, Johnson). We're losing because we have freshmen playing like freshmen.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:16 PM ^

the blog hoping I'll find something to make me believe one outcome is better than the other, but I just don't see it. I really don't know what we should do at this point.

One thing I do know is that I feel really bad for Coach Rod. He's gotten nothing but crap thrown at him from every which way from the very second he was hired. I really think some people will never support him, regardless of his performance. Even if he gets his fourth year, people will still be talking about his job security. It's tiring enough as a fan, but it must be worse as the actual man at the brunt of the criticism. You've gotta wonder if he's ever thought to himself, "man, this job sucks".

Having said that, I don't think it's out of the question for us to have a fantastic season next year (9+ wins). I've been waffling each week on what I think should happen, but I'm inclined to think we give him his fourth season unless he gets embarrassed in the bowl game. My reasoning is purely stats based: 3-9, 5-7, 8-5/7-6. As much as it seems like there is no progression some games...there is.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:15 PM ^

need to address is the impact on recruiting of another year like the one we just experienced; i.e, a rumor a week, or of late a day, that has RR gone.  I've said this elsewhere, if RR is kept, it should be with a contract extension.  Otherwise, by April we will all be discussing whether eight wins are enough -- and if so whether those eight wins have to include a win over OSU and/or MSU. 


November 28th, 2010 at 7:45 PM ^

People commit to OSU to play for Tressel. Why? Because he wins. The man has won 5 national championships. Look at OSUs record with him at coach. They are winners and, right now, in a completely different class than Michigan.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:58 PM ^

needs to pay a visit to the Monday presser and say while looking that fat bastard Wojo right in the eye, "'Rich Rod will complete his contract as head coach of the University of Michigan.  As a matter of fact, I am far more inclined to extend his tenure here than I am to fire him."  

We will review the performance of our defensive unit and special teams this year and make some decisions based on that review, but I repeat Rich Rod will coach out his contract, and I am more inclined to extend him than not.

We are not interested in Jim Harbaugh, or any other coach at this time and are unlikely to have any interest in Jim Harbaugh or any other coach for at least two years, if ever."

Recruits all around the country will hear it.

I wish Brandon would go off a little on Rosenberg et al at the Freep, as I believe that would help.

It would at least help me feel better.

My opinion is that he's too professional to go there.



November 28th, 2010 at 9:34 PM ^

Wonderful work.  The breakdown for each side of the RR divide speaks the truth.  I doubt Brandon would consult MGoBlog, but I definitely think that section should be required reading for anybody involved in the coaching decision.

I still think RR deserves at least 1 more year, but with a mandate to improve the defense and hire a coordinator with the proper pedigree and control.  I don't see MSU becoming a Wiscy-level B10 team considering how they recruit and the relative luckiness of this season, but any switch at this point probably dooms the team to another couple of years of losing against OSU and the bunch.  Of course, I'm not sure that the streak will end next year regardless of who is at the helm.


November 28th, 2010 at 10:46 PM ^

I'm out here in the Pac NW, and maybe I get some additional immersion in the whole Pac 10 thing as a result. Is Jim Harbaugh the next Lloyd Carr? Yup, at the very least. Pro-style offense, physical defense, wins almost all of the games he's supposed to, snarls at the press appropriately.

Also, gets his ass pulped to applesauce by the very best teams he plays - not least, Michigan's wannabe Oregon. Can Rodriguez and M ever match Oregon? Dunno - but I'm almost certain Harbaugh and M never would. The necessary innovation and imagination just doesn't seem to be there. JMHO, of course :)


November 28th, 2010 at 11:19 PM ^

Keep Rich Rod arguments:

In the "keep Rich Rod" category.  I think that if he stays, he should fire every defensive coach that is there, replacing them immediately.  (I'd say keep GERG and let him bring in guys who run what he runs, but that is only because I don't know who else to get, and that is a lousy reason to keep GERG.)  I don't know who the new DC should be, but he should come in and be free to pick his own guys.  Casteel makes no sense to me.  First of all, the defensive decline has been a complete and utter debacle overseen by the defensive position coaches (who haven't really changed).  Anybody keeping these guys doesn't see the complete problem.*  Secondly, I think that the 3-3-5 has more problems than the DC not knowing how to line up his LBs, and...well...freshmen.  They need to bring in a big name guy, even if he has designs on head coaching jobs.  I'd rather have a Will Muschamp type and lose him in 2 years (or so) than some unproven guy, because he is probably going to bring some good position coaches in, one of whom will be an excellent replacement, hopefully for the long term.  [Plus, the reality is that DC or OC at Michigan is a launching board to a HC position or an NFL position.  So if the DC is worth his salt, he's probably leaving anyway.] 

* In my opinion, the "complete problem" directly involves the coaches.  Yes, yes, I know all about the decimation of the defense (1, 2, and 3), but I think the problem is deeper than that.  These coaches are seemingly unable to motivate players (even some of the players that THEY RECRUIT) to put in the work that is needed, and to develop them into Big 10 level talent that isn't...well...freshmen.  Without getting into my "Why do coaches need 'their guys'?" rant, coaches should be able to teach the players that are put in front of them.  Thousands of teachers do this every (school) day, and would get fired if they didn't.  Running everyone you don't like off of your team is an ineffective strategy for building talent.  Granted, some attrition is expected, but not at the levels that we have seen.  (I'd love to see someone do a study on attrition and coaching "Alvarez to Bielema" transitions to "Carr to Rodriguez" transitions.)  And when you are as thin on the Defense as Michigan is, losing your own recruits is a recipe for disaster.

Fire Rich Rod arguments:

First, a mini-fisking...

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.

This is an incredibly deep and talented offensive team.  Yes, transfers will probably happen.  But as long as they aren't immense, this will be able to work.  And to quote Brian, "Taylor Lewan will still hate donkeys [in another offensive system]."  Especially if the new coach is smart enough to install a "Spread HD" kind of offense, or at least a zone blocking running scheme, the OLine players that are here will work quite well in the next season.  Sure the offense will look different (perhaps with Tate as QB and Denard as a defensive problem wherever he lines up a la Percy Harvin at UF), but the transition shouldn't be rough.  I mean, this offense should still be in (at least) the top 20-30 in the country.

2. He's been building the program with integrity and keeping to his bedrock principles.

So will the next guy.  This isn't our problem with Rodriguez.  Our problem is that the defense has been a complete and utter debacle under his coaching tenure, and the fault for that, ultimately, lands at the feet of the head coach.  If Dave Brandon decides to fire Rodriguez, this is the reason. 

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. [Emphasis mine.]

Debateable.  The Big East isn't the Big 10, and especially if you are being unkind to him (a position that I am taking only for the sake of argument), it would be easy to write his success off as the product of a weak conference and too many tomato cans on the schedule.  Sure there are some BCS bowl game wins, but even Boise St. and Utah can win a BCS game.  The question is can it work in the Big 10, the SEC...

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.


To me, the key to any coaching change is knowing who the replacement will be before the decision to fire is made, or, at least, having a very short list of applicants lined up, all of whom are (1) established and (2) willing to leave where they are.  "Les Miles is he isn't," absolutely cannot happen.  Also, a quick note about hiring in academia.  While "junior professor" applications are generally open (seeing 200 or so applicants per position) "senior professor" applications are generally limited in that someone on the hiring committee will call up various professors saying, "there is a job opening at XYZ U, and you should apply" to a few qualified candidates.  In my opinion, a week between the hypothetical firing and hiring is about right, 2 weeks is too long.  And if this is going to happen, the time to act is soon, and not after the bowl games.