The Golden Age Of Tin

Submitted by Brian on October 15th, 2008 at 3:03 PM

UFR coming tomorrow; I tried downloading a big file that didn't get down in timely fashion.

It's grim. You know it's grim. The "Michigan 2008 = Notre Dame 2007" equation that Michigan fans—and this blog—scoffed at in the offseason appears to be nearing QED MFer status. A smart person just emailed me something that suggests death would be a more pleasurable alternative than the six games that loom over the next month and a half. The sky hangs low and ominous, all slate-gray clouds and distant rumbles and the sweaty prickle of unnatural humidity.

So, obviously, blame must be assigned! Assign blame, media! ASSIGN BLAME

Think West Virginia would return the buyout and take back Rich Rodriguez?

No. Of course, this guy's big idea…

Clearly, before this debacle reached a 2-4 boiling point, with the rugged part of the schedule yet unplayed, Rodriguez and his staff should have installed a second offense.

…worked out great last year when Charlie Weis installed the spread option for a single game against Georgia Tech instead of indicating that his offensive linemen might want to block someone. He says "Saturday's game almost isn't worth reviewing," and it's clear he didn't: Michigan did sort of install a second offense, deploying a Moundros-fronted I on several occasions and running isos up the gut. Unless he thinks a new offense is magically going to make Steven Threet a junior or Nick Sheridan physically capable of running a Division I offense, this is complaining just to complain.

Meanwhile, Mike Rosenberg continues proving that he's lost his mind over Rich Rodriguez. After doing the usual disclaimer bit ("Rich Rodriguez may yet restore Michigan to Big Ten supremacy") in an attempt to ward off the obvious riposte—SIX GAMES—he goes into the usual array of misrepresentations designed to cast Rodriguez in as unflattering a light as possible.

Here's one of many:

“We’ll adapt. I like winning too much not to adapt a little bit to our personnel.”

Has there been any sign that he will adapt?

Rodriguez says that every spread offense is different, but his scheme looks exactly like the one he ran at West Virginia, even though his players don’t fit the scheme.

Yes, exactly like the West Virginia spread:

  • WVU, 2007: 26% pass, 74% run.
  • Michigan, 2008: 46% pass, 54% run.

This only looks "exactly like the West Virginia" spread if you have literally no memory for play proportions and sequencing.

I won't belabor you further with the column; it's a pastiche of the usual unrealistic complaints like "Rodriguez ran off Mallett!" that remain as wrong as they were when Rosenberg brought them up earlier this year and I fisked it. I only bring it up to highlight the weirdest criticism leveled at Rodriguez this season: leaving a semblance of Lloyd Carr and Mike Debord's pro-style offense would have been an improvement.

This is preposterous in the following ways:

Last year the Michigan offense was bad. Injuries had something to do with it, sure, but Mallett played less than half the year, and the other half of the year they had a senior Chad Henne. Mike Hart played about nine games. The #1 pick in the NFL draft was the left tackle, and Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington were standout wide receivers.

With all these advantages, Michigan finished 68th in total offense, 10th in the Big Ten. Can you imagine what the offense would look like with freshmen everywhere and nothing resembling a competent quarterback? Yes, you can, it looks like last year's Wisconsin game minus the 97-yard Manningham touchdown. Or last year's Ohio State game. This isn't exactly the Greatest Show On Turf we're ditching.

You cannot make a good offense out of these parts. The best quarterback was a freshman so shaky in camp that a guy who would look out of place on most I-AA teams got the starting nod; he has been wildly inaccurate downfield and is charting horribly in UFR. This would not improve in a different offense. Different offenses do not make it easier to throw accurate passes, especially when the screens have been problematic.

There is one returning OL starter and six plausible starters, one of whom (Schilling) seemed destined for a career as anything other than a backup before massive attrition forced them into the starting lineup. The tailbacks are freshmen, injured, or fumblers. The wideouts are probably the worst crop since… uh… Michigan started throwing?

Meanwhile, Cory Zirbel, Carlos Brown, Mark Huyge, Mark Ortmann, Carson Butler, Martavious Odoms, Junior Hemingway, Steven Threet and Greg Mathews have all missed time with injury or stupidity (Butler's punch; whoever decided Sheridan was a plausible starter). A walk-on saw time at left tackle.

Nobody on the team even knows the Carr offense. Your skill position starters are five freshmen (Odoms, McGuffie, Threet, Koger, Stonum) and a junior.

…except the linemen, who are pretty much doing the same thing anyway. There are slight differences between Michigan's zone stretch this year and its zone stretch a year ago; their main problem is not being unable to understand the scheme but being unable to execute it because they are bad at football.

To be fair, you wouldn't know this if you watched the game on Saturday and then spat out a 600-word column about it without putting in the time review the tape or learn about football.

Rodriguez hasn't run a pro-style offense in two decades. How is he supposed to teach something he doesn't know very well? How is he supposed to run an offense completely divorced from his own? What is the point of hiring Rich Rodriguez?

-----

So you've got one of two options here:

  1. Decide to run an offense you have zero experience with that finished just above 70th with an enormous slate of NFL talent in the vague hope you make a crappy December bowl game if it's even an improvement, which it probably won't be, or…
  2. Get on with the process of building your program.

Here's door #1: Auburn decided to bring in a spread guru, implement half his offense, and force him to call a lot of dumb plays he didn't want to. The result? Fired offensive coordinator with sad box and sad beard:

tony-franklin-fired

Meanwhile, Auburn blogs are considering whether or not Tuberville should get a sad box, too. This is the Great Solution proposed by Michigan newspaper columnists.

I pick door #2, as should everyone except evangelicals who think the world is ending before next fall.

With Vandy no longer undefeated, that seems a small risk.

(HT to Ron Cook at the PPG)

Comments

anUMal

October 15th, 2008 at 5:28 PM ^

Some of the quotes from Coach Rod made me sad though, like the one where he mentioned 110,000 fans booing him.  I hope that the comment was made off-the-cuff and that he doesn't really think all the fans are aginst him. 

Maybe we should all chip in and send Coach Rod a puppy wearing an "In Rod We Trust" shirt.

Chrisgocomment

October 15th, 2008 at 3:23 PM ^

Funny, I just got through reading that Rosenberg article and I was getting angrier and angrier the more I read.  Thanks for bringing some logic to his asinine assertions.

Rosenberg says:

  • Rodriguez said he wanted Mallett to stay. I’m still not convinced that he did.

What, does he just make this shit up?  You're right, Rodriguez would rather not have the #2 recruit in the nation who has game experience.

And:

  • Rodriguez also made minimal attempts to keep Justin Boren and Alex
    Mitchell. Neither Boren nor Mitchell was perfect, but both would have
    started on the offensive line this season.

Again, making shit up rather than writing an actual article.  How does he know this?  Mother F'er you're right Rosey, Rodriguez was happy about losing 2 experienced starters  on the oline.   

ARRRRRRRRRRR I'm done reading the sports section.  It's just too stupid.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 15th, 2008 at 3:24 PM ^

Up until halftime against Illinois, I didn't feel too bad about this team and I felt great about the hiring decision.  The last six quarters have obviously changed my feelings about this team, but they haven't changed my opinion on the hiring. 

Anyone who suggests that this team with the current OL can be much better under a different coach or a different system obviously needs to reassess their objectivity (and get fired if he/she is a reporter).  

I'm still pumped about the next game.  I think this team has enough playmakers to shock the world.  Now, if only the OL and the DC will cooperate ...

Doctor Sardonicus

October 15th, 2008 at 3:27 PM ^

 . . . is why is a respectable journalist like Rosenberg now channeling Rob Parker?

 Total speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that, while doing his Bo/Woody book, Rosenberg spent a lot of time around players from that era--many of whom presumably were pro-Miles.  That's better than hanging around people who were pro-DeBord, I guess.  Rosenberg's writings on Rodriguez read like writings from someone who's been living in a cocoon of anti-RichRod groupthink for the past few months.

Kevin Holtsberry

October 15th, 2008 at 4:14 PM ^

I think Rosenberg, and many others, simple can't accept the fact that something had to change and it wasn't going to be pretty at first.  They insist that Michigan could have hired Miles (and kept all those players, etc.) and the program could just keep on humming along; maybe not great but not this bad.  They are in denial about what was likely to happen no matter who coached the team.

Sometimes it takes an ugly season to regroup and jump start a program or team.  I am willing to deal with this because I have faith the the program is going to be better in the long run.  The aim is not mediocrity but greatness and sometimes that risk means an ugly season.

UMaD

October 15th, 2008 at 3:29 PM ^

Awesome. I was starting to worry the happy Million Dollar Man had replaced the seething machete-swinging blogger I had come to know and love.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 15th, 2008 at 3:42 PM ^

Brian - thank you for being a voice of reason during this recent unpleasant stretch. This year's offense was going to be pretty bad even if Mallett and Boren stayed. The only hope was that Manningham and Arrington stay, which they wisely did not.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 15th, 2008 at 3:47 PM ^

Given all the facts about how bad our our offense is this year, we still should have beaten Toledo by 14. In this instance RRod didn't get the job done. He still gets a pass this year, but there should be NO excuses for losing the last game.

jamiemac

October 15th, 2008 at 4:08 PM ^

What gets lost in all of this is just how average to bad the UM offense has been the last couple of years, even with all those "all time program greats."

O-Line play has been absymal for several years running. We're avergaing 3.7 yards per rush right now, which is not a whole lot worse than the UM norm in recent years.....its been, iirc, 4.3 and 4.0, the last couple of years, largely because of Hart and Long, otherwise we have been a  sub 3.9 per carry team.

If we can get over the hyperbole, teeth gnashing, drowning of sorrows and the resigned acceptance of our sucktitude this year, we can see an offense that is slowly, but surely getting better.

Does anyone else see that our last 10 Q's of offense has been a lot better than the first 14 Q's of offense this year? Keep plugging away boys, and wins will still come this year.

We probably wont win enough to get into a bowl, but while other temas are getting ready for their bowl, our entire coaching staff will be sprinkling snake oil all over the land to haul recruits in to fill in our needs.

Engin77

October 15th, 2008 at 6:03 PM ^

is a lazy, misinformed scoundrel.

I see he's going to be "signing his book at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave".

I have half a mind to hop a plane, go over there, and throw a water bottle at him.

</sarcasm> 

U of M in TX

October 15th, 2008 at 4:16 PM ^

I hope all of the trolls out there and all of the Michigan "fans" will read this blog and realize that they need to shut up.  I have always been and will always be(for the forseeable future) a supporter of the decisions that Rich Rodriguez makes.  He knows what he is doing, he sees the players on a daily basis and puts together game plans to win football games.  It is not, I repeat, NOT, his fault that his players are not executing on simple football plays. Give him a break and give it time and just relax. Remember, It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine!

The Squid

October 15th, 2008 at 4:19 PM ^

Bring back Lloyd-ball! Michigan will win the rest of its games, beat USC & Oregon simultaneously in the Rose Bowl, there will be a titanium elavator to the moon, and no puppies will ever die again!

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 15th, 2008 at 4:20 PM ^

Can you address Mike Valenti in some form?

Call in to 97.1 fm Detroit or adress him and his remarks in a post.

jamiemac

October 15th, 2008 at 4:36 PM ^

....if anyone really is paying close attention, our offense is not at all like WVA's. Brian pointed out the run to pass ratio, but if you want to take a look at what UM is doing right now and compare it to a "local" team, take a look at Minnesota.

Every formation, virtually the same. Finally got around to watching the Minny-Illini game, and it struck me how similar UM and Minny's formations were.....and remember, Minny, with the same cast of terbile players from last year, have taken major steps forward in Brewster's spread offense.

Brewster was a laughingstock last year.....now, not so much.

Expcet a similar improvement in Year 2 for the Maize and Blue.

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 15th, 2008 at 4:44 PM ^

"Rodriguez hasn't run a pro-style offense in two decades. How is he supposed to teach something he doesn't know very well? How is he supposed to run an offense completely divorced from his own? What is the point of hiring Rich Rodriguez?"

 You see, I think this misses the point. Rich told us that he could adapt his system to the players he has. He has made no attempt to do so. If he had said, coming in, "there are many different spread offenses (which, of course, there are), but I can only run one, because I've don it for xx years, and the players will have to adapt to me", I don't think so many people would be so concerned. Nobody is expecting him to run a pro-style offense. But if he meant when he said that he could adapt his system to the players he hasn't shown it yet. 

And how many times did you, or did you hear others, complain that Lloyd and Debord were too predictiable? (Listen to what Cowherd has to say about that subject.) Why are those people not livid right now. I've never been able to pedict the next play before this year with any degree of certainty, bacause there are often times several different variations of the same play. But this year I can. This offense is far more prediciable than the past. But then, so are most offenses. Most offenses expect to execute the play, to impose their will on the defense. If Rich says he does not have the players to run his offense, why isn't he doing something about that. A coach who has all the players he needs, and wins, might be a good coach, and might not be. But a coach who can take players not fit for his system, and make winners out of them, WE KNOW is a good coach. Bo did that his first few years. To a lesser extent, Mo and Lloyd did the same. Each had different offenses than their predecessor. Rich has not done that. And that does not mean he is not a really good coach. He just has not done what others before him have done. In spite of what he says, he has given up this year for his system. And that means the jury is still out, which it should be.

jsimms

October 15th, 2008 at 4:46 PM ^

First of all, I have no interest in seeing Coach Rodriguez fired, or in seeing him go elsewhere.  It may be that nothing can be done/could be done, that this team just does not have the talent.  (Are you really saying that Toledo had better players, and that the better team won?)  In any event, is it really true that Coach Rodriguez is getting what he can from this group?  For example, linebackers.  I think it is fair to say that our linebackers have played very poorly.  Would not our defense be less-error-prone if they went to two lb sets, or even one lb sets much more frequently, if not all the time? (Or, at least junk the 3-3-5 and use 4-2-5 instead---it appears the formula to beat us is to go max protect, anyway.)  If it is true that a lifelong football coach knows zero about anything other than the spread----should we run it in such a quick, no-huddle fashion?  Why not bleed the clock, shorten the game, since we're only going to get around two successful drives per game, whether we get ten possessions, or fifteen. or whatever.  It could be a legitimate coaching choice to decide that this season is a lost cause, and that the remainder of the games are just glorified practices----but if this is so, just tell us 

Watts Club Moz…

October 15th, 2008 at 5:08 PM ^

Would not our defense be less-error-prone if they went to two lb sets, or even one lb sets much more frequently

Doubtful. Outside of BooBoo, we don't seem to have much in the way of secondary depth. You'd just have different players making different mistakes with the same result.

should we run it in such a quick, no-huddle fashion?  Why not bleed the clock, shorten the game, since we're only going to get around two successful drives per game

We're trying to build a program here, not get into the Motor City Bowl at the expense of installing and teaching the system that will (hopefully) be here for several years.

It could be a legitimate coaching choice to decide that this season is a lost cause, and that the remainder of the games are just glorified practices----but if this is so, just tell us

No coach on earth would make that announcement. "Hey seniors, sorry, but screw you." You do the best you can to compete this year whilst preparing for next year. And let's not forget, we were a missed 2-pointer away from OT vs. Utah and a missed chip-shot FG from OT against Toledo. Those games could easily be wins and it would be all "4-2! In a rebuilding year! Go Blue!" Everyone just needs to f-ing relax.

jsimms

October 16th, 2008 at 8:04 AM ^

Was our talent superior or inferior to Toledo's?  If our players are worse than Toledo's, then we lost fair and square to a better opponent, and it's time to move on.  But if our talent is better, then that is something else.  Again I am NOT saying get rid of Rodriguez. 

chitownblue (not verified)

October 16th, 2008 at 9:39 AM ^

jsimms, you're ignoring the rebuttal to this very point:

No one has made a claim that our talent is worse than Toledo's. We were not "supposed" to lose this game. But, guess what? What's supposed to happen doesn't always happen. USC loses to Stanford. Alabama loses to Louisiana-Lafayette. Giants lose to the Browns. That's why they bother, you know, playing.

We had better talent, but not so much better that we can overcome our QB single-handedly turning a touchdown for us into a touchdown for them, our backup-QB handing them a field goal by giving them the ball on our 31 yard-line, and our kicker flubbing a 23-yard chip-shot.

WolvinLA

October 15th, 2008 at 4:50 PM ^

IMO, 2 defining plays in the Toledo game.  TD pass picked off and returned for a TD.  That might not have been a touchdown, but should have at least been a FG possession.  10-14 point swing.  Missed FG at the end of the game, which is very makeable for an above-avergage HS kicker.  3 point swing.  Neither of those have the slightest bit to do with coaching, and had those two plays gone the other way, it would have been a comfortable victory.

It's not the coach's job to with the game, it's his job to put his team in a position to win.  I think he did that, and they blew it.

goody

October 16th, 2008 at 7:40 AM ^

Has RR done a great job coaching this year?    Not Really.

But what he has done ..... is putting players in positions to succed and they have just fell short most times.  We have seen the deep routes that were wide open but the QB just over threw them, or the running play that could have been huge gain if that one lineman just held his block,  and etc.   The plays are there ...... the PLAYERS!!!!!! just have to make them. 

travelingblue

October 15th, 2008 at 4:50 PM ^

Totally agree with everything said, but I don't have near the excitement for 2009 as everyone else has. I have no faith that Threet is anything but a bandaid QB (worst bandaid EVER), which means we have to start from scratch again next year with a new QB (Forcer or The Beav). Sure everyone else will be more experienced so we can only improve, but if people are dreaming of a Saban-Meyer-Tressel type turnaround, I just can't see it.

Now I still think we win 3 nat'l championships every 2 years, while also having 150% of players graduate and Rodriguez is the first coach to win the Heisman, starting in 2010...but it's going to take some time.

MGOBlueDC

October 15th, 2008 at 6:30 PM ^

Agreed!  Get it done Brian!  "RichRod for Heisman!"  Just use the "snake oil salesman" pic and make it appear he is accepting the Heisman Trophy.  Tell Rich Robots to warm up the presses.  get a website all set up!  Just do it!  Oh, wait, UM doesn't wear Nike anymore...even better!  "Impossible is Nothing!" 

goody

October 16th, 2008 at 7:47 AM ^

Both Forcier and Beaver run a similar style of offense ans have been doing so for a couple of years.  They will be learning terminology and plays more than technique and how to run a spread offense.  Both should be able to pick up the offense a lot quicker than Threet and Sheridan have.  Also, both are enrolling early and that will give them an extra 6 months of practice.

So the outlook for next year seems a lot brigher with two spread QBs coming in and a sophomore QB with 1 1/2 yrs in the system. 

Damn I hate having to say "Just wait till next year"

brown

October 15th, 2008 at 4:53 PM ^

This is a great article - sometimes I wish Brian wrote for the MSM so he could spend his time metaphorically pimp slapping sports journalism stupidity.  Then maybe some of them would get the hint that they actually have to know what they are talking about before they write things.

S.G. Rice

October 15th, 2008 at 5:03 PM ^

I would love to know why Rosenberg has gone off the deep end. 

 I read his book recently and enjoyed it.  After reading that column, I'm glad I just checked it out of the library.

Yostal

October 15th, 2008 at 5:26 PM ^

Remember, every time someone reads a Free Press comments page, they generate page views, which generates ad revenues.  So you have a story which is going to generate 300-400 comments (which made me want to stab my eyes out, repeatedly), and people coming back to read the comments, then he's doing his job to support his employer.

My friend read the same article and he wasn't nearly as upset, which seemed odd, because I am usually the rational level headed one when it comes to Michigan football.  Then he told me he read it in the actual paper, and it made perfect sense.  The comments below it made it worse than it was on the surface.

We like to think we would praise an article making arguments for patience (to our credit, we have, see the Wetzel piece)  but really, we also kind of like wringing our hands over this kind of thing as well.

Durham Blue

October 15th, 2008 at 11:12 PM ^

Freep comment sections on Michigan football articles are now officially owned by every empty-headed troll and his illegitimate sister.  Just about every comment revolves around how evil a person Rich Rod is and how he has no character and integrity.  It has become an absolute joke.  Mlive is quickly heading in that direction too.

NBlue

October 15th, 2008 at 5:14 PM ^

How could anyone who actually watches the games or who knows anything about CFB disagree with this?

Granted, RR is not above criticism for some of his play calling and strategizing, but to suggest that we should run a completely different system?  Its laughable and completely unrealistic.

And for those who keep bashing Threet - wake up.  He is a freshman QB.  Henne was horrific at times in his freshman year, and he was a 5 star recruit who will be starting for the Dolphins next year.  What do you expect out of a 4-star guy?  The Sam Bradfords and Colt McCoys are the exception, not the rule.  The learning curve is tremendous.

Perhaps Threet would be better is a passing spread as opposed to a read option spread, but to suggest that he is just a terrible QB who will never amount to anything is going a bit far.

 

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 15th, 2008 at 5:33 PM ^

Brian I have always enjoyed your site and respected your work, but it seems that you have become an unashamed and uncritical apologist for Rich Rod.  There is a good argument that can be made that Rich Rod is not doing a good job with the team. It's simply this.  A good coach gets the most of out the players he has. That's why a good coach can sometimes get a less talented team to beat a more talented team. Now, this may be one of the least talented Michigan teams in  a long time but almost no one on Toledo's team would have been offered a scholarship on this team.  So  Rich Rod lost with superior players to an inferior Toledo team.  It raises a legitimate question.  As Bill Parcells says "you are what your record says you are".  Now another poster says the coaching staff is not responsible for the team not executing.  I disagree.  Bo's whole coaching approach was based on having his team out-execute the opposition and he generally did.  Execution is coachable.  Now, Rich Rod has a habit for whatever reason of not doing very well in the first year at a new coaching job.  So, it may be that there will be a significant improvement next year.  But if there isn't I think it's legitimate to question if he was the right man for the job.  Certainly not all coaches (see i.e. Urban Meyer) make their programs won loss records worse in their first year.  My point is simply that I don't think you can dismiss all those who have serious reservations about Rodriguez as ill-informed trolls. 

ColoradoBlue

October 15th, 2008 at 5:52 PM ^

...that MSM of the sports variety is all about web hits these days.  And few writers can muster the type of level-headed insight like Angelique.  But they have to pay the rent, so they resort to Drew Sharp / Woody Paige type tricks to push buttons and get cheap hits.  They'll take all the vitirol that comes their way because, well, they're too washed up to try anything else.

Enjoy Life

October 15th, 2008 at 6:26 PM ^

Earlier Post indicated about Mike Rosenberg:

I see he's going to be "signing his book at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave".

No one should go over there and tell him what you think of his article!

I repeat, 

No one should go over there and tell him what you think of his article!

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

October 15th, 2008 at 8:47 PM ^

Pure, unadultered genius.  Somehow you can always make me feel better about the most dire Michigan situation.  Can you do the same thing for the rest of everything in life?  How about starting with the economy?  please?