The Death of Dual Threet, And The Fallout

Submitted by Brian on February 18th, 2009 at 4:01 PM

(caption) Michigan quarterback Steven Threet (10) outruns Wisconsin linebacker Jonathan Casillas for a 58-yard gain that set up the game winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Casillas caught Threet at the end of the run. *** Michigan rallies back from a 19-0 deficit to stun the ninth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers 27-25, giving new head coach Rich Rodriguez a victory in his first Big Ten game. *** The Michigan Wolverines (1-2) host the 9th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in U-M head coach Rich Rodriguez' first Big Ten game. Photos taken on Saturday, September 27, 2008.  ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )




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Last year I attempted to coin a clever nickname for the Feagin-Threet quarterback pairing: "Dual Threet." Dual is now a slot receiver and Threet is moseying on out of town, possibly to North Dakota State if you believe random guys on a message board. (Do not believe random guys on a message board. Believe specific guys on a message board.) So it goes for Michigan in the past couple years.

I've been a stalwart supporter of Rich Rodriguez since his arrival. I didn't think Ryan Mallett's departure was his fault, nor did he have much of an opportunity to land a dual-threat guy in the month or so he had to finish off Michigan's 2008 recruiting class. The one guy it seemed he did have a chance with, BJ Daniels, ended up at South Florida amidst a flurry of payoff rumors that even The Wolverine—normally a place that shies away from incendiary allegations like that—lent credence to. The hand he was dealt was an exceptionally poor one. I can find no better way to sum it up than this: how many walk-on quarterbacks can you remember at power (or even decent) programs, and how did they do?

I've got exactly two:

  • Notre Dame's Matt Lovecchio, AKA A Major Reason Ty Willingham Was Fired.
  • UCLA's McLeod Bethel-Thompson, AKA The Only Reason Notre Dame Beat A BCS Opponent In 2007.

There's almost no precedent for a quarterback situation like the one Michigan faced in 2008, and almost no way to claw yourself out of a hole that vast at the most important position on the field. Once that hand was dealt, Rodriguez was dead meat.

So the reasonable criticism of Rodriguez are mostly confined to his role in setting up his hand: "running off" Mallett, the Boren defection, the fruitless chase of Pryor, and so on and so forth. I didn't find any of these arguments compelling, since I knew Mallett had a foot and a half out the door even when Carr was running the team and that the Borens had major daddy issues and the options outside of Pryor were about nil. The decision to hire Shafer was a poor one, and that seemed like it should be held against Rodriguez. Other than that, it was Angry Michigan Whatever Hating God all the way.

You can tell there's a but coming, so: but. But the Threet transfer bothers me. Even with the recruitment of Forcier and Robinson, Threet is the most experienced quarterback on the roster by two years and has some decent starting experience. He will find no better situation wherever he transfers unless it's to some podunk I-AA school. The transfer makes little sense for him personally or professionally unless there's something behind the scenes we don't know about.

Meanwhile, Michigan now finds itself down to two true freshmen before they have to drag out another walkon, be it Nick Sheridan or Nader Furrha or whoever. Even if Threet was mostly poor a year ago, he was obviously far superior to the alternative, and at worst he would be the backup next year. With Denard Robinson something of a project, every one of Michigan's egg is now in Tate Forcier's basket. Threet leaving the program is an obvious negative.

So it doesn't make sense on anyone's part. Why did it happen? I go back to a quote from Calvin Magee in the aftermath of the Michigan State game. Dan Feldman's Daily article on the transfer highlights it:

By staying and giving Michigan another feasible option besides Sheridan, Threet opened himself to public criticism from the Wolverines’ coaches. Offensive coordinator Calvin Magee described Threet’s three-interception performance against Michigan State on Oct. 25 as “inconsistent, like it always is.”

Man, that's pretty rough. Behind-the-scenes reports from insiders always said Threet had major confidence issues and didn't respond well to this staff's high pressure style. Maybe they tried to adapt. That evidently didn't last, so Threet decided he'd be better off elsewhere.

It's obvious neither side had much faith in the other. That's not unexpected given the rickety nature of the pairing, but I can't help but think that Bo or Lloyd would have found a way to finesse it better. I don't know. Maybe I've been talking to John U. Bacon too much.

(caption) Michigan QBs Steven Threet (10) and Nick Sheridan (far right) walk off the field after the loss. *** Notre Dame takes advantage of six U-M turnovers to beat the Wolverines 35-17 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  Photos taken on Saturday, September 13, 2008.  ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )




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Elsewhere

  • Pretty sure Matt Hayes has no idea that Nick Sheridan is a walk-on. Asked "what does the Threet transfer mean for M" he responded "It means Nick Sheridan, who shared time with Threet last fall, is next out the door." This is unlikely unless Sheridan wants to go to UM-Dearborn or something.
  • Maize 'n' Brew blows up a pretty dumb Blade article on the transfer. HT to them for the NDSU link, too.
  • The Ann Arbor News thinks there's "no heir apparent," which, could not be more wrong since there is one obvious guy who is obviously the starter now.
  • But, hey, Forcier seems slightly more confident than Threet (link ibid): "In this offense, there's always somebody open. You should never throw an incompletion.'' Forcier's cockiness should serve him well.
  • Chengelis says you shouldn't anoint either freshman your lord and savior yet.
  • DocSat has a take as well.

Comments

HailHailToMichigan

February 18th, 2009 at 4:23 PM ^

I'm OK with the coaches putting a lot of - and maybe nearing too much - pressure on the QBs. This is Michigan and fan's expectations of the position are enough to make the QB feel like shit after a solid performance. Getting it from the coaches earlier can only toughen them up.

However, that pressure should never hit the public media. I bet Carr put a lot of pressure on them too, but he was a very good P.R. guy and his coaches would always have the QBs back in public.

bluebloodedfan

February 18th, 2009 at 4:19 PM ^

I think you make an important point about Threet. If he had confidence issues it doesn't help that Forcier has been annoited the saviour of the program without throwing so much as throwing a bubble screen. But as it is, he knew that he wasn't the right fit for RR's program. Anyone watching the games could see that. But I loved Threet for his heart. He had MUCH heart. I would have loved to see him give it one more go. Just to see if he could correct his throwing problem and to watch him help make the transition to true RR ball smooth. But as life is...So now it is baptism by fire. Lets do it.

Go BLUE!

nymumich

February 18th, 2009 at 4:39 PM ^

First, I would agree that losing Threet does hurt. There's no way to argue against it. Two true frosh and Nick Sheridan (gasp) as our possible starters is not an ideal situation.

Getting to Threet as a player though, it's not as if he was killing it out there. His numbers were certainly better than Sheridan, and he would provide more competition with the current batch, but let's not forget that he looked abysmal for the better part of a year. I respected him for his heart, and he gave a lot for us, but I don't see him being substantially better than Sheridan (best offensive game of the year was Minnesota, with Sheridan as a starter). And let's not forget, we return everyone on offense and do have some degree of experience in Nick Sheridan.

And as far as RR possibly urging him to leave, give me a break. What are you basing this on? A gut instinct? Last time I checked, Threet transferred once already (mind you, with Gailey as coach and no ideas of being inserted into the option offense of Paul Johnson). The only concrete evidence in this argument is Threet having a tendency to bolt under a sign of competition. So what, RR praised our recruits in the press? He was hard on our Threet and Sheridan all year in practice? Please don't put any more blame on RR for baseless assumptions. Leave that to Drew Sharp.

BrnAWlrne

February 19th, 2009 at 12:15 PM ^

We forget that Sheridan beat Threet for the job and started against Utah. Threet looked bad in practice according to most beat writers before the first game.

I will not become the mop (on those commercials) singing "Baby Come Back" on Threet's porch. I don't have amnesia...I remember seeing the obvious disgust in RR's body language with the QB's, which was confirmed by Magee's statment. The difference between Sheridan and Threet was pounds and height. An NFL ref told me after hearing about my semi-pro career that the difference between "them" and me is a couple inches in height and the fact that they run a 4.3 and I run a 4.5 (Darn Gene-Hating God)!

RR was just honest with the kid and Threet isn't ignorant. I believe it was a combination of the Tate fest on campus and what young Tate showed in drills that prompted Threet to go to coach to ask some tough questions.

He's gone, now let's move on.

turbo cool

February 18th, 2009 at 4:42 PM ^

Brian--- Regarding Bacon. I know him real well. Have known him for about 9 years now. Keep in mind that although he's a great guy, you can't get through 1 conversation without him name dropping at least 5-7 notable michigan alumnus and some obscure story about them. in 20 years i guarantee he will be telling similar stories about how RR cleaned up this program, getting rid of all the dead weight and then destroyed the buckeyes for years on end.

uofmUT

February 18th, 2009 at 4:45 PM ^

couldn't there be a small chance that threet saw what forcier was really capable of and, knowing that forcier is catching on quickly and has plenty of time to learn the offense, he knows he doesn't stand a chance at beating him out??

MGoObes

February 18th, 2009 at 5:16 PM ^

not to say that threet left because he was scared of forcier, but tate's a better fit for this offense and he's already begun to show that. it's not a laughable assertion to think that tate had something to do with threet leaving. not everything obviously, but something.

ColoradoBlue

February 18th, 2009 at 5:33 PM ^

The timing of all of this would support that. I wonder why this issue hasn't had more focus: why now, so late into winter semester? If this was about his relationship with the staff, I would guess that he would have pulled the trigger sooner.

My guess is that he had serious thoughts about leaving months ago, but wanted to wait until after LOI day. Once he surveyed the competition, he probably surmised that he had two choices:

a) stay, help the team through the transition; transfer next year

b) stay for the long haul, help the team in the short term and essentially end up a martyr for the program

c) rip the band-aid off now; hurt the team in the short term but maximize his long-term potential by preserving 2-3 years of eligibility somewhere else.

So this decision was all about his best interest. Given the way that (it appears) he's been treated, I can't blame him. This staff wasn't particularly loyal to him. Lloyd seemed to engender the type of loyalty from players that might have led to option b. That's one of the reasons I'll always miss him.

WolvinLA

February 18th, 2009 at 5:48 PM ^

What's wrong with wishful thinking? I don't know about you, but I like to be happy. You can spend the whole offseason saying we're gonna suck again and mope, or you can be hopeful. I like that guys thinking. Maybe Forcier is already better than Threet. Is that likely? Maybe not, but is it possible? Absolutely!

Placentasaurus

February 18th, 2009 at 6:45 PM ^

Last year RR was willing to start Sheridan over Threet to start the season based on a little more mobility and a quicker release, Threet knows this, enter TForce w/ much more mobility and much quicker release, and the QB attitude to boot. Its hard to get demoted in anything you do in life. Threet got demoted. Not officially, but i guarantee that within a couple "practices" Tate was making the throws, and running around in ways that Threet never has.

Six Zero

February 18th, 2009 at 6:16 PM ^

BUT... who honestly believed Threet was going to keep the job over either of these two kids by the OSU game next year????

I still maintain my beliefs that Forcier would have won the job by game 4... if only because he can do the small, little things NOT that the game needs, but the offense needs.

Wheel routes, bubble screens, etc.

Threet couldn't get the ball to the playmakers, and that's why he's gone. End of story. If Forcier can't either, we're screwed. But I'm with WolvinLA... let's get behind this kid, because he's our man now.

Brick

February 18th, 2009 at 4:48 PM ^

that maybe Threet just didn't want to get broken in half? As more of a drop back QB, he might not have wanted to keep the ball and get run over by linebackers next year. I really wouldn't blame him. There is a reason QBs are allowed to slide. Most of them aren't running backs.

I'm glad Threet gave it shot for a year but I bet he was hoping we would run a little more 5 wide with lots of short passes and less of him getting driven into the ground.

slblue

February 18th, 2009 at 4:54 PM ^

I genuinely feel sorry for Threet. I've now read the story of how he grew up idolizing the Wolverines, his parents went to Michigan, etc., etc. Then he gets his shot, and it's a thud rather than a bang. But quite frankly, competition is tough. Michigan games are grueling. Ohio State linebackers don't feel sorry for you.

If Steve and his parents got their feelings hurt because Coach was too busy to meet, or the press coverage was hurtful, or the freshmen were being prematurely annointed, you do have to wonder about whether this is the right place for Steve. Don't get me wrong - I am not critical of Steve being crestfallen, and I probably would have been, too. But I am not, nor will I ever be, a leader of a Michigan football team. It takes a rare breed.

Best of luck, Steve. Change your mind and stay. But only if you are willing to run the gauntlet.

number63

February 18th, 2009 at 4:56 PM ^

You wrote: "Notre Dame's Matt Lovecchio, AKA A Major Reason Ty Willingham Was Fired."

I'm confused by this. Wasn't Lovecchio gone before the start of Ty's first season at ND in 2002? Yes, I know that part of his decision to leave was because Willingham refused to name him the starter after spring practice, but that 2002 Irish team started 8-0 (including a 2-point win over Michigan) with Carlyle Holiday at quarterback. Holiday was also the starter at the end of the 2001 season, which happened to be Bob Davie's last year as Irish coach. So my question is, how was Lovecchio a major reason Willingham was fired? In 2003, Holiday was benched in favor of Brady Quinn who never relinquished the starting spot thereafter. Do you think Lovecchio, had he stayed, would've been an upgrade over Fr./So. Quinn and orchestrated a few more wins?

nybluefan

February 18th, 2009 at 4:56 PM ^

First time poster, long time reader.

I didn't see anything promising about Threet's performances or leadership skills last year. Forcier seems to have a better QB attitude and he is helping recruit guys which may indicate good leadership skills.

We're still hitting bottom. We have to. The Bill Martin/Lloyd Carr show lost Les, so we were guaranteed some very lean times. Having Threet around would have meant we might have leaned on him for some poor performances early this season.

Let's throw Tate in there and hope for the best. At least he has potential and Threet did not.

I am thinking its three years before we are "back." But the faster we flush out the dead wood the quicker the journey.

wolverine1987

February 18th, 2009 at 4:58 PM ^

I agree with Brian's analysis and feeling on this. As others have said, I don't know if Bo would have adjusted to meet Threet's personality, but Carr would certainly have. Pressure is one thing, but there is simply no excuse for a coach knocking a college player in the press like Magee did. Threet not being taken to the OSU game is the second thing (and RR's cavalier comment afterward) that on its face may not mean much, but combined with Magee's comment and the rumor from Go Blue Wolverine, starts to smell suspicious.

I'm not anti-RR, but I do think that if he didn't do everything possible to retain Threet, it shows very poor judgement.

wolverinewest

February 18th, 2009 at 5:11 PM ^

While you never like to see transfers, this certainly doesn't worry me so much as it offends me. You would like to see kids staying regardless of playing time, especially someone who's already sort of a journeymen. However, I had no confidence in Threet's ability, and he showed zero improvement throughout the season. The interceptions were pretty bad, but the fact that he repeatedly dropped the ball for no reason killed me. Any time he took a snap and didn't hand off immediately, I cringed and watched the play with one eye closed. Again, it stinks that he doesn't want to stay on the practice squad, but we can't do much worse with either Forcier or Robinson - and both will likely be much better.

caup

February 18th, 2009 at 5:11 PM ^

Losing Threet is definitely BAD. BAD. BAD.
Forcier is a smallish, skinny 18 year-old. He's going to get hurt, and probably in the first 3 or 4 games.
Denard is a project.
Sheridan = loss.

RR needed to figure out a better way to keep Threet around.

Having said all that, Brian must remember that Threet was a 4-star Elite 11 QB. In all likelihood, Steven thinks that if he can be a starter for a couple of years in a PRO STYLE offense then he might be able to make it into the NFL.
And before anyone laughs, remember 2 things:

1) He was a goddamn FRESHMAN last year in a totally new offense (and one not suited to his skill set), with a totally new coaching staff. OF COURSE he struggled! 2008 does not mean Steven Threet sucks.

2) Jim Sorgi has been in the NFL for several years.

MGoObes

February 18th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

is size which was the main reason he worked so hard to enroll early. by the time the season rolls around he'll have added 10-15 lbs at least. i mean of course there's that whole "experience" thing as well, but nick sheridan is still there for tate and denard to lean on. it'll be ok.

Six Zero

February 18th, 2009 at 6:29 PM ^

"Dude doesn't talk shit."

Translation: The fine gentleman knows of what he speaks.

I don't know what Obes' connection is to the team, and I've tried to press him before and he casually (and smartly) plays it off... but I've read enough threads to know he's got some sort of source of inside info, and if he says OMT (Our Man Tate) is a good fit, then I'll buy it.

Yes, that probably has alot to do with the fact that I want to believe it, and it's in line with all the other stuff we've heard... but you get the idea.

Durham Blue

February 18th, 2009 at 9:07 PM ^

I saw Tate play in some high school games this season. He does lack size but has all the ability in the world as far as throwing and running with the football. Depth chart is thin but this is why the staff needs to really work hard with Robinson as soon as he hits campus.

If RR tried to convince Threet to stay, I would definitely think lesser of him.

wolverinewest

February 18th, 2009 at 5:22 PM ^

but really, he was a 20 year old who was a first time starter. There's a big difference between the two. The bottom line is, Threet was never going to win a game for us. Maybe we got lucky three times last year when he didn't lose the game for us, but he was never going to be a go to guy. At least Forcier and Robinson still have that opportunity. I'd rather go with an unknown then proven failure - no offense Steve.

Yinka Double Dare

February 18th, 2009 at 5:35 PM ^

Jim Sorgi has a sweet gig if you can get it. I think he took over "sweetest gig in the NFL" status last year, as "backup to Peyton Manning" supplanted "backup to Brett Favre" as the current champ. Sorgi's making about a million a year to practice, work out, and only get hit in the preseason games, and then games once the Colts have clinched playoff position or in blowouts, which probably totals about 4 to 6 quarters of actual NFL regular season game action a year.

Blue Durham

February 18th, 2009 at 6:25 PM ^

on several occasions. This coming season is going to depend on Forcier's health first and foremost, and his ability to implement the offense secondly.

With Threet around (and healthy), at least we knew where the bottom level of QB play was. Forcier may or may not be an improvement this coming season. With two freshmen, neither of which have taken a game snap, who knows?

But my greatest fear is that this staff may very well be hanging on a thread by the name of Tate Forcier. A repeat of last season is now not out of the question, and that could very well spell the end of RR's career at Michigan, and be a huge-set back for the program.

Strange as it sounds, losing Threet could have much broader consequences than who starts when the season kicks off.

DoubleB

February 18th, 2009 at 7:56 PM ^

With Threet's departure, how many projected starters are returning that ran the same offense or defense as last year?

In other words, 2008 is no longer the transition year (and probably wasn't before the transfer) but now a virtual waste. 2009 becomes that transition year (teaching new QBs the offense, and an entirely new defense) and it all hangs on two freshman QBs.

If this team goes 4-8 is Rodriguez the coach in 2010? Probably more importantly, how many wins must Rodriguez have in 2010 to stave off the firing squad?

M-Dog

February 18th, 2009 at 11:03 PM ^

At worst Threet buys RR some time on the long hard journey to get to six wins and keep the vultures at bay.

At best he becomes a pleasent surprise and holds off the freshmen on the long hard journey to etc, etc.

How can losing him not be a severe setback?

El Jeffe

February 18th, 2009 at 5:38 PM ^

or not. I can't tell anymore. But, I am not wringing my hands over this. I've been reading these posts and articles and trying to suss this out, and it strikes me that there are only three main explanations for what happened, or perhaps some sort of hybrid:

1. Threet is a Boren-like pussy prima donna whose feelings were hurt and was afraid of competition;

2. Threet loves to play football and recognized that he wouldn't get the kind of chance he would have wanted in RR's offense;

3. RR is a colossal dick who "ran off" Threet needlessly and rudely.

Let's assume for a minute that either 1 or 2 is true. If 1 is true, we say good riddance. If 2 is, we tip our cap to ST and wish him the best. By the way, I don't believe for a second that 1 is true--ST came to UM to compete against 5* Mallett, and busted his ass when he was on the field last year. As Chitown put it awhile back (paraphrasing), ST is not what is wrong with today's college athlete. So, of those two, 2 seems more likely.

Now, the only possibly troubling explanation is 3. This seems to be Brian's concern. I think I think that this is probably partially true, in the sense that RR seems to be a no-nonsense badass about most things. However, I disagree respectfully with Brian's musing that maybe Bo or LC would have handled it differently. Bo? Laughable, based on what we know about him. LC liked to handle things privately more than RR, but he was a badass as well. Many players had transfer papers thrown at them, one hears.

The difference, I think, is that RR is more public and overtly fiery than LC. Chalk it up to their regional heritage, age, or whatever, I don't know. But, and here's what I personally care about, I don't get incompetence or petulance from RR. Badassedness, yes; petulance, no.

At the end of the day, though, I bet the answer is a combination of 2 and 3. ST wanted to play at UM, but he was probably told in somewhat certain terms that his days were numbered. Being a football player, he decided to transfer somewhere where he could play football. I will miss his contributions, but I have a hard time getting too upset about it.

wolverine1987

February 18th, 2009 at 6:10 PM ^

it doesn't lessen my concern. Because if your thesis is true it shows, as I mentioned earlier, colossal bad judgement IMO on RR's part. You should not as a coach make decisions that will hurt your team (other than on principle, for disciplinary reasons, etc) and I don't know how anyone can argue, whatever your opinion of Threet's play last year, that we are better off as a team without him.

Durham Blue

February 18th, 2009 at 8:59 PM ^

honest to a kid? I don't see much benefit to Michigan in convincing the kid to stay. You really think he's going to be head and shoulders better than Forcier or Robinson? Steve Threet will likely end up being a starter for a half-season total, sharing duties with one or both freshmen. After that it's clipboard time. In the process he burns one year of his precious collegiate eligibility struggling within an offensive system that's not suited to his strengths.