How Good Is The Offense? Are We Really Asking This?

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2010 at 4:24 PM

Emotionally, this is an odd week for me. I find that I don't care about Ohio State at all. They're a very good team that's going to win in a not-that-competitive game on Saturday, like they always do. I get irritated at the hurr hurr coming from the Ohio State blogosphere but mostly because Michigan's so far from their level that it seems like a waste of time.

My hate still exists but it's focused internally, as the emails pile up and message boards pile on because I have the audacity to say if it was my decision I'd keep Rich Rodriguez on the condition he reshapes the defensive staff in such a way that we can expect them to do one boring thing reasonably well. I've explained why. In a sentence, the offense is excellent and should maintain that level over the next two years as the defense digs itself out from a massive hole.

This has caused the wing of the Michigan fanbase that thinks keeping Rodriguez is absolutely insane to search high and low for various metrics in which Michigan doesn't rate well. They can't take any of the basic stats...

Category National
Actual National
Actual Conf
Big Ten
Conference Leader
Rushing Offense 10 257.36 Georgia Tech 319.36 1 Michigan 257.36
Passing Offense 30 257.18 Hawaii 391.18 2 Indiana 283.27
Total Offense 5 514.55 Oklahoma St. 552 1 Michigan 514.55
Scoring Offense 15 36.82 Oregon 50.7 3 Wisconsin 40.91
Sacks Allowed T-11 0.91 Stanford 0.36 1 Penn St. 0.91

…and they certainly can't take any of the advanced metrics that rank Michigan second* and fifth nationally, so they resort to things like in-conference points per drive. Michigan is tied for third in the league in that metric.

If you are using this stat, you have decided that Rich Rodriguez should go and are backfilling reasons. If you're trying to downplay Michigan's second-half points against Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin, you're doing the same thing. Michigan got back in those games by scoring often and quickly, by bombing away. Michigan scoring drives against Wisconsin lasted 3:57, 0:22, 2:19, and 2:57. They could do this because defenses were aligned to stop Michigan's powerful ground game even with big second-half leads, which is why Denard Robinson racked up a bunch of deep completions against single-covered WRs in the second half. Prevent defenses do not give up sixty yard touchdowns to tight ends, as Penn State did.

The whole reason the FO stats exist is to smooth out differences in opportunities and schedule strength as best they can and they indicate that whatever problems  Michigan has don't include being the nation's #15 scoring offense against a schedule with two real nonconference opponents and without Northwestern (82nd in FEI D) and Minnesota (98th).

David Brandon's got a tough decision ahead of him—something it only seems that people who are still in favor of Rodriguez returning acknowledge—because the offense is elegantly constructed and deadly. Michigan's quarterback couldn't throw a pass straight in the first half and the receivers couldn't catch it when he did, but they still ended the day with more points than any Michigan team had scored against Wisconsin since 1990. The 31 they put up on Penn State were the most since 2000. They're solidly in the top five of the best metrics available with two seniors and a sophomore quarterback. They're going to obliterate the best rushing YPC mark Carr put up since the turn of the century by over a yard and finish in the top 20 in passing efficiency.

Anyone seriously arguing that Michigan's offense is not a reason to keep Rodriguez around is a raving lunatic. Period. I'm tired of being vilified for using numbers in non-abusive ways, but that's what we've come to. My hate week is about other Michigan fans.

*(FEI ranks Michigan second but has not been updated for last Week's games. Since Michigan put up a touchdown better than Wisconsin's scoring average any drop from Michigan will be minimal.)



November 23rd, 2010 at 5:38 PM ^

where they went zone left, zone left then incomplete pass.  Complete the process after they get the ball back.  They weren't terrible, but were underutilized.  They had a #1 overall pick player, 2nd round QB, 2 All-American type WR and 1 All-American type RB on one team, yet they post subpar stats.  Seeing the Captial One is incredible and maddening at the same time.  Michigan should've been like this all year long yet they didn't unleash the offense until the last game of the season.  No way that they lost 4 games, probably 2 games(Oregon and OSU game).

Bando Calrissian

November 23rd, 2010 at 5:43 PM ^

You're forgetting the fact that Chad Henne was hurt early in the ASU game, tried to play through it, and couldn't make it the whole year, Hart was hurt a good portion of the season...  Saying the '07 offense led by Ryan "I can't not fumble the snap" Mallett during the regular season should have been more explosive is simply revisionist history.  

I think it just underscores the fact that we can't make it 5 minutes in an argument about Rich Rodriguez without throwing something else at Lloyd Carr.  


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:46 PM ^

Well, not really. That offense was held together with bailing wire and spit after the injuries they sustained. Everyone was playing hurt, Henne and Hart were the walking wounded, and even Manningham and Arrington missed significant playing time. It wasn't until the bowl that they finally had a unit playing healthy.

That doesn't, of course, excuse the monumental suck that was The Horror, followed by the next week, when we got pantsed by Oregon.


November 23rd, 2010 at 9:22 PM ^

I'm reluctant to trash DeBord because of the injuries in 2007, but the 2006 defense gave the offense plenty of opportunities and plenty of margin of error.  I was never very impressed with the 2006 offense.

Competent? Yes. Good? At times.  Explosive, chart-busting, exciting/electric/etc.? No, absolutely not.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:46 PM ^

You know that things are getting bad when Brian has been driven to talking about the coaching issues during OSU week. 

At the end of the day, after some cool, detatched analysis, I think that Brian is probably at the place that a lot of us are at with RR.  The offense - first half stalls and execution errors - is improving, and looks to be really good next year.  It does.  Getting rid of RR will set the offense back.  It will NOT bring on another Sheridamnit year, but it will definitely set us back from where we would otherwise be next year.

The true question that DB needs to ask is whether RR can right the ship on defense and special teams.  I don't know the answer to this question, and I suspect that right now, nobody does.  I do know that in the three years since he has been here, he has done nothing right on the defensive side of the ball, from recruiting, to coaching hires to schemes (to the extent that he has allowed his assistants to undermine GERG).  But, maybe this has just been a confluence of negative shit hitting our program all at the same time. 

I don't know.  I have gone from flipping back and forth weekly, to daily to almost hourly now on the issue.  Man, I hope that we beat OSU, since I believe that a win would just about put the coaching controversy to bed, no?


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:51 PM ^

This offense is good, and it isn't going to get worse anytime soon.  Think if DG makes the type of leap DR made from year 1 to year 2.... Think if DR continues to improve this off season.  There is no way this offense gets worse in the next few years, especially with the talent we have coming in for this recruiting class.  This offense could go from scary to, I dunno, extremely super duper scary for opposing teams.  I will continue to support The Team The Team The Team..... and the head coach, Rich Rodriguez, is a part of The Team.  I have hope the D will improve as they age.  I'm with Brian... I'm getting really sick of arguing against the nay-sayers.   Sure, I want things to be better.  At this point in time, keeping RR seems like the thing to do.  I don't want to have to watch another system switch and another two more years of transition.  For now, I retain my hope and high expectations for the future.  Ok, back to work, I've said my piece.  


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:52 PM ^

Well, I'm one of those who pointed out that after 4 Big 10 games, the UM offense had only been impressive (a) when playing Indiana or (b) when trailing and desperately trying to get back in the game.  I was hopeful the Illinois game signaled an end to those observations, but then Wisconsin came along and had me wondering why our stellar offense put up 0 points and 100 yards in the first half.

For the record, I'm not in favor of canning Rodriguez.  I think the offense can be spectactular next year.  I just suffer cognitive dissonance when other people refer to our offense as a juggernaut THIS YEAR.  I penned a meager first diary trying to quantify and explain this, and BlueBlooded recently did a much better job.

Some people sarcastically respond with things like "yeah, our offense with 1 senior and a true sophomore dinged up QB sucks and should be way better than a top 5 offense," and they miss the point.  I, and I think others, understand the offense is young and will get better.  We understand there'll be some bumps and bruises and frustration along the way.  I, personally, struggle to understand why, Illinois excepted, our offense has looked somewhat feeble except when trailing when we've played respectable Big 10 opponents.  I've never said it's because of any changes the defense makes, and I think that might be the least likely explanation.  I have the data but haven't had time to determine if it's a difference in playcalling or if it's simply that, for whatever reason, certain players execute much more effectively when we're behind.  Maybe it's all just an anomaly.  Whatever the cause, if any, it can't be denied that our offense has found the end zone much more frequently once we were in major comeback mode in our 4 Big 10 losses.  It is that -- what I've seen with my eyes and feel in my gut -- that compels me to push aside "advanced metrics" that assert the 2010 Michigan offense is dominant. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:43 PM ^


I think the offense, while good, is not as good as the stats say it is.  At this point, it can't just be coincidence/bad luck/whatever that the offense struggled when the game was close and in doubt.


November 23rd, 2010 at 6:09 PM ^

Against Iowa, our offense dominated all day. The only thing that stopped them was Taylor Lewann Penalties and turnovers. We out gained them easily though whether we were up or down. Against MSU we had at least two (maybe three) first half drives that should have ended in scores but did not - two picks and a missed field goal. Again, not exactly evidence that our offense struggled. Finally, against Wisconsin, Denard over threw an otherwise certain 65+ yard first half touchdown, but not because Wisconsin was too good defensively. I would say that we move the ball fine against any team any time, regardless of game score or clock. However, as a young team, we have displayed a remarkable affinity for drive-ending mistakes. The only team that stops Michigan's offense is Michigan's offense.

myantoniobass …

November 23rd, 2010 at 8:23 PM ^

For a blog that asks that content include more than "ditto, I agree..." what is the objective proof that we are the most annoying?  We are the largest alumni base, yes.  Opinionated, sure.  Passionate, no doubt.  But "most annoying"?  

I suppose if we were to peruse the blogs of powerhouse teams that over three years had 3, 5, and 7 wins, you would expect to see some annoying posts and dissension in the fanbase, right?  

I guess this is the trendy thing to say about us given the past three years, but I don't buy it.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:53 PM ^

It bums me out that it's Ohio State week and we're defending our offense and coach and saying things like "I find that I don't care about Ohio State at all."  Maybe that's the most telling statement of all. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:53 PM ^

it's ohio state week dammit.  I'll still find my pacing ramping up throughout the week.  I'll still find myself drinking too much booze and eating too many nachos on gameday.  it's likely the tv and any other inanimate objects will be cursed at during the game.  but I also understand we're up against it.  in a big way.  I'm tired of this streak.

we're going to have to conjure up some magic in the shoe.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:55 PM ^

Sorry, Brian.  Anyone who's watched Michigan's offense in the first half against good teams knows that it is not -- STANDING ALONE, AS IT DOES -- reason to bring back Rod.

It is very, very good.  It is not elite.  It did not play a full game against every top-half Big Ten opponent.  Period.  If you think that's a fluke, you'll come out one way.  If you think it's a flaw -- and the weight of the evidence strongly favors flaw -- you'll come out another.  It's not remotely an obvious case.

Every other facet of the program -- which Rod leads and is responsible for, though a lot of people seem to overlook that -- from defense, defensive recruiting, coaching defensive coaches, special teams, compliance,etc. has been a disaster.

To repeat, again, so it sinks in, because it's sinking in very slowly:  Rich Rodriguez is responsible for the Michigan defense and the Michigan special teams.  He is responsible for who the defensive coaches are, and how they coach.

Why and how literate and devoted swaths of the great Michigan fanbase have lost sight of these simple, fundamental facts remains a mystery.

I know Zook had defensive coaches foisted upon him, but he's the best recruiter Illinois can ever hope to have, so that's a different situation.  For my taste, a suit telling a coach he can stay but only if he picks defensive coaches the suit wants/approves is a pro (or pro-ish) concept.  It doesn't really ... fit ... at a college like Michigan, IMHO.

dr eng1ish

November 23rd, 2010 at 5:06 PM ^

About RR supporters not understanding whose responsibility the defense and ST are: no one is satisfied with those parts of the team.  No one is absolving RR from all blame.  But the fact is, progress is being made by the team as a whole, the defense is is young and has potential to improve, and we owe it to the players, the coaches, AND OURSELVES to give him a chance at succeeding, not pull the rug out just as the corner is turning.


Strawman argument make Hulk angry...


November 23rd, 2010 at 8:16 PM ^

You are absolutely right and I'm afraid that if RR is fired the next coach will come in and reap the benefits of his recruits and will be painted us the Michigan savior. Let's not forget Notre Dame. It happened to them twice. All he needs is one more year. After that we can be 100% sure if he is or he's not the man for the job. Just have a little patience.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:55 PM ^

It's that the offense isn't dominating enough to account for the fact that our head coach has stated he doesn't focus on the defense and because of that our team isn't that good.   Of his two top defensive recruits one now plays guard and the other didn't get in. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:00 PM ^

Letting RR go would be foolish at this point, it really would.  DB has referenced in an interview how it's not always the answer to just fire your coach.  He reference Detroit pro teams and rhetorically asked how that has worked out for them. 

I've been saying this - in '07 most Michigan fans wanted change really bad, really, bad.  You have to give change a chance to materialize, even if the timeline has been pushed back by 1 or 2 years. 


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

Do you find this more depressing than the in-fighting regarding whether or not Carr should be fired his last few (several?) seasons?  Personally, it's about equal for me, although this may be a little less frustrating since I'm less passionate about the current situation (I think Rodriguez deserves another year but won't weep if he gets canned) than I was in the prior (forcing Carr out before he was ready to go would have been a travesty of epic proportions in my book).

Crime Reporter

November 23rd, 2010 at 7:37 PM ^

I was not really aware of the in-fighting regarding Carr, as I was merely lurking this site in 2007, and had since moved to Florida, away from local coverage. In my eyes, he earned the right to leave whenever he wanted.

Personally, it's depressing because we come off sounding like spoiled brats, like we are entitled to everything because we're Michigan. Parity in college football has never been greater. Any team can win on any given day.

As far as RR, I think our fanbase (especially the local media) have judged him right from the get-go. I would like him to come back, because I would hate like hell to think these last three years were for nothing. If he can't get it done next year, fine.

But I'm not ready to give up.

might and main

November 23rd, 2010 at 5:11 PM ^

I'm a RR supporter.  Used to be really optimistic, now I'm just concerned.  I've spent the last couple years making pro-RR arguments to family members and friends who are either actively anti-RR or who are basically uninformed but drank the freep-aid.  Given the recent roller coaster of emotions, I've realized that I can just ignore all the hate.  It's made me a much happier and less stressed compadre. 

I actually thought the other day about poor Brian, whose job really doesn't let him just tune out the haterz.  Brian - for your own mental health - I hope you can find some other coping mechanism. 

(p.s. this isn't to say everyone who wants RR gone is a hater ... there are some reasonable arguments on that side, but overall, I just find the anti-RR side seems to be dominated by the UNACCEPTABLE crowd.)


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:16 PM ^

Just want to throw an amen out there brother Brian.

I don't envy DB and the decision he has to make. I do believe he's going about it the right way. I believe he's made up his mind already, but a) if he's going to let RR go, he should wait until after The Game b) if he's going to extend him, he needs to molify the lynch mob by proving he's thinking it through.

Either way, I will trust his decision. I believe RR wil succeed given more experience and a COMPLETE overhaul of his D-staff. But DB knows way more about the situation and has way more at stake than any of us. He's the right man for the job.

Let's just let it happen and support the team either way. And let's enjoy the fun this O has given us this year while hoping we'll see more of it in the future...


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:32 PM ^

Brandon would even consider for a minute firing a coach in the middle of Ohio State week?  And I don't think he has to either fire him or give him an extension.  I'm fairly confident he won't do either this year or this offseason.


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:49 PM ^

Sorry if that's how you read it, my intent was to say that he would indeed wait until after the game to make his decision.

If he ends up neither firing nor extending him this year, that would be a major mistake IMO. He needs to send the signal that he's committed to moving forward either way.


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:59 PM ^

I will bet you one dollar that the "tough decision" that brian is referring to is whether or not to force RR to overhaul his defensive staff, presumably against RR's wishes. THAT is the tough decision.

Brandon has already decided to retain RR for next year. That one is done and done.  No debate necessary.

Hardware Sushi

November 23rd, 2010 at 6:28 PM ^

Isn't his contract for six years? He would have three years left entering the season and DB can evaluate the season as it progresses. I don't see any reason to extend the contract; doing so would only take those that haven't ever given RichRod a chance in the first place and turn them against DB for the foreseeable future.

I'm 100% in favor of retaining RichRod and letting next season play out. I believe we'll make marked strides in all facets of our game. At the end of next season, with two years left on the contract, would be the time to support or dump him. I guess I don't see the rationale for an extension at this point even though I believe Rich Rodriguez is going to take this program to great places.