Postmortem: How Much Did They Actually Improve?

Submitted by Brian on December 2nd, 2009 at 2:24 PM

After Michigan's 4-0 start the offense skidded downwards into mediocrity and inconsistency, gradually erasing the early giddiness around these parts. Early in the year, I said "the question is not whether this will be Michigan's best rushing offense of the decade, but by how much," which… well… Alan Greenspan has something to say about that.

Still, for anyone who actually watched the team this year and last, the idea that things didn't improve is laughable. The favorite tool of folks who like to claim this is Michigan's scoring offense in the Big Ten. Check this pre-OSU Michigan Monday for an example. Okay, actual scoring—despite being the point of everything—is is kind of a wildly unreliable metric, especially when your quarterbacks are freshmen and very, very turnover-happy. But when a tempo-free aerial says basically the same thing when it comes to yards per attempt…

b10_ypa_2009

…the offense has not exactly reached juggernaut status.

Still, it did improve significantly. All of this focus on conference play ignores that last year Michigan was 1-3 outside the conference and lost to a 3-9 MAC team because it scored 10 points. Against Notre Dame the net offensive output was probably negative because of five horrendous turnovers. This year the MAC snacks were swatted away and Michigan was one of many teams to scorch TAH-NOO-TAH's blitz-mad ways. They were in the ballpark of crappy, and this represents a step forward from last year, when Michigan football was the Indiana basketball of the Big Ten: too terrible to even fit on the scatterplot. To repeat a theme of late, this is progress of a not-very-fun variety.

There is noise yet in the scatterplot, though, as it makes Northwestern's dink-mad offense look worse than Michigan's when it wasn't. Let's take away all the noise caused  by varying numbers of drives, varying average drive start, and opposition offenses, and just look at how efficient Michigan was on a drive-by-drive basis.

Brian Fremeau maintains a rating that does this called the Fremeau Efficiency Index. It's similar in concept to the numbers the Mathlete has posted here over the last year or so: find the average success rate in Situation X and measure teams by how far above or below that break-even line they are. Fremeau has many numbers; we'll look at a few. OE is "offensive efficiency" and is just a measure of how much you score relative to the D-I average. It's a tempo-free stat roughly equivalent to Points Per Possession in basketball. The second, FEI, is this in the words of its author:

College football rating system based on drive-based Game Efficiency data that rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams.

I couldn't find a more specific definition of what exactly this means; IMO, this is less interesting as a performance measure than it is an attempt to make the ratings more plausible to human eyes looking for a ranking system. So the focus should be on the raw numbers.

100% Awesome Mediocrity

Raw and adjusted, your results:

Year OE OE Rk Off FEI OFEI Rk
2008 -0.29 98 -0.15 80
2009 -0.05 65 -0.01 61

(This rating excludes I-AA games, as all serious attempts to quantify college football do.)

So there you go: from one of the worst teams in D-1 to totally mediocre. Totally mediocre seems acceptable, or better, when you're graduating four starters, have a freshman quarterback, play most of the year without your best offensive lineman, don't get to use your senior tailbacks all that much, and suffer from another epic turnover plague.

The Unfortunate Flipside

The other side of the ball is sort of horrifying:

Year DE DE Rk Def FEI DFEI Rk
2008 -0.14 44 -0.13 45
2009 0.12 75 0.04 63

…but a little less horrifying than i expected. Michigan's defense under Scott Shafer was actually sort of good-ish, but submarined by terrible field position and a ton of drives faced because of the offense. FWIW, I don't think this reflects poorly on Robinson yet; one year doesn't tell you much of anything. Also, Michigan's two best defensive performances of the year (relative to the opposition) were against Minnesota and Northwestern, after Shafer was basically fired. (And, yes, after Michigan's disastrous attempt to switch to the 3-3-5 cost them the Purdue game.)

The Net

Improvement + implosion = ?

Your net numbers in efficiency: Michigan went from 85th last year to 62nd this year. In FEI terms, Michigan went from 71st to 56th. That is almost exactly in line with what I believe is a reasonable take on the team: it was terrible last year and significantly better this year, but the amount of progress was disappointing not just relative to expectations after 4-0 but relative to those in the preseason.

Attempting to downplay the real improvement that was obvious to anyone watching the offense in something other than the fetal position is silly, and a sign they're about to bring up the Braylon Edwards #1 jersey "controversy" as further evidence that Rodriguez should be fired.

Comments

me

December 2nd, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

One of the stats that stood out to me about last year's offense, was the one that said about 50% of the plays went for 0 or negative yards. Or something along those lines.

Was that stat compiled for this year? I have to imagine it was significantly better, even though there were many plays for 0 and less yards. And there just seemed to be a lot less three and outs as well.

Point being, this would be another sign of improvement in the offense that wouldn't be reflected on the scoreboard necessarily. Like you said, it probably means the offense is just now mediocre instead of horrible, but it's progress nonetheless.

michgoblue

December 2nd, 2009 at 2:42 PM ^

While I agree that we are not yet where we want to be on offense, the improvement exists. And, that improvement comes with a true freshman QB who was playing banged up and with a back-up QB that would have red-shirted on just about any other team. Also, for much of the second half of the season, we were without both Brown and Minor. Given the youth of this team, I am somewhat encouraged by where we are offensively and I have high hopes for the offense next year. I think that with 1 more year of development for many of his players, RR may be able to expand the playbook into some of what we all expected when he came over from WVa. I do not think that it is unreasonable to expect that we will be amongst the 2-3 best offenses in the B10 and that we will be far more consistent.

HOWEVA,

As for the defense, I am sort of at a loss as to what to expect. We were an unmitigated defensive disaster, but how much of that was a result of having a new DC for the second straight year, losing Booboo (who wasn't exactly lighting it up) and starting 2 walk-ons? I have to imagine that even though much of our secondary will be young next year, just having athletes will be huge improvement. On the other hand, the loss of Graham is obviously massive. How much worse would our pass defense have been if not for QBs having to hurry or scramble (often unsuccessfully) for fear of having ther heads eaten by BG? Without the double and triple teams that he drew and the pressure that he created, we may be in some real trouble.

Don

December 2nd, 2009 at 2:43 PM ^

before the season started was "Rodriguez always shows significant improvement in his second year" and then extrapolated that to a 9-3 season. What was ridiculous was the constant use of the word "always" in connection with exactly one data point at the D1A level, on top of completely disregarding the factors of yet again starting a rookie QB and breaking in a new DC. The season should not have been a surprise to people paying attention to the actual situation going into the season.

Given how young we're still going to be next year, there will be only incremental improvement in 2010 as well. Going 7-5 will make for a tough decision by the new AD unless it includes victories against MSU and OSU.

michgoblue

December 2nd, 2009 at 2:57 PM ^

I agree with these points, but I do not think that it is unreasonable to expect that the team will make a real leap forward this coming season? A non-frosh QB, a somewhat more seasoned back-up QB and a line that has played together for much of 2 seasons and which is no longer composed of younger players may make a world of difference on offense. As for defense, just another year under GERG and the athletic depth that we will now have in the secondary should help a lot. Is it unreasonable to think that we could have 8 or 9 wins in a weak conference? I don't think so.

UMaD

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

I think its unreasonable to EXPECT 8 or 9 wins, at least if Warren leaves. The "athletic depth" will mean freshman playing in the secondary. No Graham or Warren or Brown leaves some huge holes to fill in a defense that already had far too many. The logic for defensive improvement in 2010 sounds as suspect as the logic for defensive improvement in 2009. When you replace experienced talent with "athletic depth" you're taking a big risk.

More importantly, the schedule is a lot tougher with UConn replacing Western, Bowling Green replacing Eastern and PSU, OSU, and ND on the road. Not saying 9 wins CAN'T happen...just that it shouldn't be expected, just as 7-9 wins shouldn't have been expected this season.

Sethgoblue

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:43 PM ^

In addition to the much tougher schedule, have we learned nothing about how bad our defense is? If one thing has become clear to me from following this blog during the season it is that the defense lacks talent AND depth. That's not something that usually gets solved after one recruiting class, not to mention losing your best player. Yes, it was nice to get Cullen Christian, but that doesn't immediately shore up the secondary, and from what we've heard, Michigan is going to have to make an amazing finish with this recruiting class if it is to have any impact on the linebacking corps, which we all know was awful. I don't think the defense returns to even a decent level until 2011, which is the biggest reason expecting 8 or 9 wins in 2010 is ludicrous. I may be hoping for 8 wins, but I have a feeling it's going to be an up-and-down battle all season to get to 7.

wolverine1987

December 2nd, 2009 at 5:21 PM ^

I agree with most of your post and even the 8 and 9 win portion of this sentence, but 7 wins was a reasonable expectation for this year, and indeed many on this site predicted that. Losses against Illinois and Purdue need not have happened, even with our defense.

robpollard

December 2nd, 2009 at 5:31 PM ^

I'm completely with this. I'm down with all the decimated defense, freshman QB struggles, etc. Those are valid reasons why we are currently not close to the (pre-2008) "typical" 9 wins or more Michigan team.

However, winning seven (or at least six) games this year was completely reasonable and expected, based on our schedule and talent. I back RR and think it's a no-brainer to keep him next year, but losing to both Illinois and Purdue and not making a bowl this past year was extremely disappointing, i.e., below (reduced) expectations. We need to win at least seven games next year or we are in ND-land.

UMaD

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:42 PM ^

I agree that 7-5 is a realistic expectation for the team next year. I don't really think it will be a tough decision for the AD if it occurs. The coach is in year 3, and took you to a bowl while improving over the last two seasons...that seems easy to defend to anyone being rational. Barring off-field issues, the 4th season would be the first realistic season to fire RR based on performance. Even then, if he had 2 straight 7-5 seasons, it would be pretty premature.

los barcos

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:51 PM ^

the amaker precedent but i dont see it. the basketball team was coming out of sanctions (or still in them, i dont recall) when amaker was hired. its also the basketball team, and will naturally take a second seat to football.

people were patient with amaker because of the sport he coached. rich wont get the same patience and rightfully so.

besides, whats the argument with giving rich more time by citing amaker? amaker had all the time in the world and he couldnt get it done. why are people using that to say rich rod should stay beyond a bad-to-mediocre year 3?

Kilgore Trout

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:00 PM ^

I think there are some decent parallels with the Amaker situation.

Amaker was in a rough spot to begin with, and showed good initial incremental progress. Most people around here at least are acknowledging that Rodriguez is in a tougher spot that we imagined roster wise, and have shown reasonable patience. He has shown incremental progress so far, so that is going on the right trajectory.

The next step with Amaker is where the comparison will get hard. Amaker was hit with a stunning / crippling injury and suspension blow (Abram, Brown, Horton) right when it seemed like he was going to take off. That basically bought him an extra year or two in my mind. Once he had his entire cast in order and wasn't able to make the tournament in either his two big class' senior years (Horton, Hunter, Brown then Abram, Harris, Sims, Petway) it became obvious to most people following closely that he just didn't quite have it.

So bringing it back to Rodgriguez, I'd say he's at the step where we want to see him really start to take off in the next 1-2 years. If he gets nailed by some crippling injuries (maybe he already has with Molk) that might give him a similar extension to what Amaker has, but without a similar blow, I think he can be fairly evaluated on his on field results in years 3-5 (heavy emphasis on 4 and 5). If the results don't stack up then, it may be time to call it for what it is.

dahblue

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:49 PM ^

If the mock turtlenecks weren't bad enough, the big problem with TA was his failure to make his players better. Look at the talent he coached...and how are they doing as professionals? He had some highly touted recruits but they never grew as players. They started on one level and stayed there.

On the other hand, we have Beilein who has created monsters out of DeShawn and Manny. The work with DeShawn is most telling...here's a kid who had a terrible freshman year as he tried to cope with the death of his brother and high expectations. JB has worked him into a strong player. Manny was a scoring machine, but he wasn't expected to be the star that he is. That is the work of JB and his crew.

I don't know if RR is making players better...but if he doesn't win 8 next year, he doesn't deserve any more time. He certainly doesn't deserve TA time.

clarkiefromcanada

December 2nd, 2009 at 8:27 PM ^

Common sense tells you that you need to give a coach 4 years to have his seniors in place and completely install his program. Certainly, if by that point there is not success ie big ten titles, bcs, bowls etc. then removal is warranted. The idea that you run off a coach with a proven record (BCS wins, conference championships) implementing a completely new system at M with a completely different talent pool needed in 2 years is remarkably narrow in focus and, plainly, remarkably limited.

No coach of Rodriguez' pedigree or with a matching level of career success would ever consider a school that runs off the coaches every 2 years. Then again, I guess we could become the new Arkansas...that would be great.

I doubt I make much of a case to you since you've been posting this same topic/same take for about a month. But I thought I'd at least offer the alternative rationale.

Best wishes

Simi Maquoketa

December 3rd, 2009 at 12:40 AM ^

I disagree with the idea that it's "common sense" to give a coach four years to see his players graduate. First, you inherit a certan amount of talent and at the college level, there is usually a staggered class distribution, i.e. a certain amount of seniors, juniors, etc. And what if you bring in a bad class that first year?

If you look at Carr, he won with the freshman Henne and the freshman Hart mixed in with older players. The best year out of those guys was 2006--when they were juniors along with most of the contributors on the team with the notable exceptions on defense of Harris, Woodley, and one or both of either Burgess and Crable.

I find it laughable that a coach has to have seniors to win or be judged by because if you can't get your guys ready to play by their third year, you aren't good at developing your talent. All the more so for a guy who is being granted some sort of license to recruit players so specific to his system. Does he really know who, what and where he needs them? Well then he'd better be able to go out and get them, develop them, or he fails.

On another note, I may be alone in this, but I find the comparisons to last year to be unfair, or at least not a good metric for a couple of reasons. Last year Michigan started quarterbacks who had never taken a college snap before, and neither was in any way not only not a spread type guy, but not talented at all. The offensive line was a patchwork assembly featuring only one guy who had previously started any games. That line had lost games due to injuries as well. Saying the offense this year was better in comparison to last year is to me an indescribably skewed view because so much of what led to last year being last year is disregarded.

And to also disregard this year's Big Ten performance is akin to being a propagandist. It is significant that the team was an embarrassment for much of the Big Ten season, especially because the freshmen quarterbacks were so much more in the mould of Rodriguez's guys than last year's tandem of Threet and Sheridan, and definitely more talented.

Sethgoblue

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:31 PM ^

Nice points, especially about the tough spot the next AD could be in if the next step in improvement is only of the "baby" variety. Also, hindsight being 20-20 it's easier to see which information fans chose to cherry-pick with their rosy-colored glasses before the season. However, even for those who did foresee a 6-6 or 7-5 season because of offensive improvement, tempered by mistake-prone freshman quarterbacks, have a right to be disappointed with RR's performance this season. Because I don't think it would be unfair to say that two or even three of those games (definitely Purdue and Illinois) can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff. It was sickening to see RR outcoached in the second half by DANNY HOPE (I don't want to even talk about Illinois). And for me, that's been one of the most disappointing aspects for me about RR, that he doesn't seem to be a great game day coach or game-managing coach. I understand and accept most if not all of the other aspects of his coaching style, but don't have much reason to be hopeful that he'll improve much in that aspect.
And I'm clearly not talking about, nor do I belong to, the pitch-fork wielding crowd, FWIW. So at this point, I might accept 7-5 next year IF it includes a win over MSU and a much better Big Ten performance, but would be HOPING for 8-4 and a decent bowl.

cfaller96

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:03 PM ^

This is all good info and somewhat enlightening, but this isn't going to change anyone's minds. The core disagreement remains- if you thought there was talent on the roster (on both sides) when RichRod came in, then you want RichRod gone yesterday.

Everything spawns from that initial article of faith. Any "progress" shown so far is simply a lackluster return to where M should have been to begin with (because again, M had enough talent to win a lot more games).

There is, IME, no spanning this gap. No amount of retrospective recruiting analyses will sway the irrational critics because, remember, it's an article of faith that's driving their thinking to begin with. Faith-based reasoning cannot be dislodged with facts, evidence, and logic, and so this post (while enjoyable and informative) will do nothing to shut the haters up.

Elno Lewis

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:11 PM ^

ipso facto predicting improvement for 2010. If the team progresses at the same rate as it did from 08 to 09 then the team will probably not win the big ten, but should go to a bowl. If it makes a leap, maybe a better bowl game. Either way, be fun to watch. Can't wait for the spring game.

Rational people realize the improvement made--may or may not be exactly satisfied with it.

Irrational people realize nothing and gather steadfastly with torches and pitchforks.

The more you know.

colin

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:17 PM ^

should be taken with a few grains of salt since it doesn't adjust for defense quality. Not playing Iowa, OSU or PSU would significantly change your place on the map, likewise if you were one of the unlucky teams to play all three.

Which is what's nice about the FEI. But that doesn't take luck from turnovers into account, which should probably be adjusted for. Michigan was, iirc, one of the worst teams in the league (and presumably nation) fumble-wise. Fumbles just so happen to be the most damaging of all means of turnover. I think we were about 40th in offense, 80th in defense. Coincidentally, check out College Football By The Numbers team profile:

http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~sbrick/Profiles/p55.html

Kilgore Trout

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:46 PM ^

A year ago, I think I would have agreed with your statement about "luck" from turnovers. After seeing this season and the turnover fest it became on occasion, it doesn't seem like turnovers being driven by "luck" or being random really followed through. Michigan lost the turnover battle (on the whole) because they had a few people who were consistently careless with the ball and didn't have good enough quality on defense to cause enough turnovers to offset it. I think it was indicative of the game results, not coincidental.

Togaroga

December 2nd, 2009 at 5:08 PM ^

...turnovers are simply an over-emphasized stat. In a very broad sense, they can tell us something powerful, if inspecific. Looking at one game or a few games and assuming that the turnovers can accurately tell us what went on is the problem.

I absolutely agree with your analysis. When you look at the entire season, 4CA was careless with the ball way too often, and that tells us something important. The defense did not cause enough turnovers, and that tells us something important.

It becomes a problem when someone assumes a QBs three interception day was terrible regardless of the fact that one ball was tipped at the line and one was a hail mary pass. It is also a problem when TOs are used as the basis for ranking quarterbacks or defenses.

Hannibal.

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:32 PM ^

I'm not following your numbers here. In 2008, the two FEI values added up to 125 and this year they added up to 124. If I'm interpreting the numbers properly, that's essentially zero improvement. The improvement in the offense was offset by terrible defense and a lot of the stastical improvement on offense was due to playing numerous defensive bottom feeders like Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, and Purdue. This conclusion seems to be supported by the numbers.

BraveWolverine730

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:42 PM ^

The defense got worst because this year we were starting/playing significant;y two walk-ons and we had one non-freshman safety on the roster. The offense absolutely got better and we actually scored less against Purdue and Illinois than we did last year so that's not a statistical reason. As far as the Big Ten is concerned, we scored more against Iowa and Indiana this year(28 % 33) than we did against NW and Minn last yr(14 & 29). If you watched this offense against good defenses(PSU, Iowa, Ohio St), they played fairly well against Iowas and OSU minus the freshmen QB turnovers which I think indicates improvement.

Hannibal.

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

"The offense absolutely got better"

I won't argue against that, but "how much better?" is the question. In retrospect, after looking at all of our games played and the caliber of competition, I don't think that the improvement by the offense was more than the un-improvement by the defense. I also believe that all of the improvement in our offense was basically due to the addition of two players:

1. Forcier
2. Roundtree

and not due to the older ones getting better or any development.

The X-factors being injuries to Molk and Minor, both of whom played extensively during the Big Ten last year and who hardly got to play this year. I hope to God that the Molk injury was a big factor in our mediocre running game against Big Ten competition.

The great first impression we got from our 4-0 start was really us not knowing yet how horrible the competition was. Notre Dame fell far short of expectations, WMU ended up being terrible (most people thought they would contend for the MAC championship) and EMU was so horrible they are probably middling I-AA quality (they ended up 0-12).

Togaroga

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:58 PM ^

The two players you mentioned made major contributions, and as you stated the injuries to arguably our two most significant returning starters (Molk and Minor) played a role in the offensive struggles, comparatively minor as they were.

Do we have any reason to assume that the addition of two players on the defensive side of the ball will not lead to similar improvement?

It is not right to downplay the overall talent/experience deficit we had on the defensive side of the ball in 2009. We will miss Graham next year, but Roh, VanBergen, and Campbell will likely improve going into next year, and that will help. The strength of next year's defense will again be the D-Line. The Linebackers and D-backs will improve with an influx of talent and another year of experience.

1. good talent + experience = best

2. good talent + no experience = ???

3. little talent + experience = ???

4. little talent + no experience = worst

UM's entire team will move closer to #1 next year. The defense in 2009 was made up almost entirely 2, 3, and 4 type players. Michigan should never ever have to play #4 type players, and they did this year. I am not foolish enough to think that will become the norm.

zlionsfan

December 2nd, 2009 at 6:10 PM ^

if I understand correctly, to have a precise numeric comparison from year to year. If this is like FO's DVOA for NFL teams, then the actual values (rather than the ranks) don't necessarily compare well from year to year. -.055 might be 66th one year, 63rd another, and 69th another. (Maybe a value farther from zero would be a better example.)

Comparing ranks is probably better in terms of relative position (because, well, that's what it is), except it doesn't tell you much about what put them in that position. Is the next-worst offense .01 below them? .10 below them? .50 below them?

In either case, considering just offense and defense, yeah, Michigan hasn't really shifted much in the composite sense. With respect to field position, though, there was a significant difference between 2008 and 2009: from 95th to 38th in FPA, which if I am reading this correctly means that Michigan went from getting screwed in field position to having a decent edge in field position on the whole (as compared to other teams).

So I think I agree with you in terms of what the numbers show.

Also, a more detailed explanation of FEI can be found on Brian F.'s blog:
http://bcftoys.blogspot.com/2006/10/efficiency-in-college-football.html

tjyoung

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:39 PM ^

Penn State rocked that chart. heads and shoulders above everyone for both PYA and RYA. i love crazy statistics. that's what's great about mgoblog: run by an engineer = reason behind the conclusions

Nothsa

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:48 PM ^

so be sure to thank us non-engineering types too... though I am sort of an applied statistician as well.

Glad you liked it. As Brian says, this chart is not the end-all of offensive comparisons, but interpreting it does seem to provide some insight into the season that goes well beyond the 'Michigan has the top scoring offense in the league' line I heard from the announcer at the beginning of the OSU game.

Kilgore Trout

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:41 PM ^

"So there you go: from one of the worst teams in D-1 to totally mediocre. Totally mediocre seems acceptable, or better"

I obviously joined around here too late to figure out what the huge deal was with "unacceptable" being used to describe last season. In fact, questioning this whole mantra got me banned from a live blog by Paul (who seems to be a dick on a relatively consistent basis, in my opinion). Anyway, I looked up the definition of acceptable on dictionary.com (obviously unacceptable is the opposite) and got this...

–adjective 1. capable or worthy of being accepted.
2. pleasing to the receiver; satisfactory; agreeable; welcome.
3. meeting only minimum requirements; barely adequate: an acceptable performance.
4. capable of being endured; tolerable; bearable: acceptable levels of radiation.

I find it hard to argue that last season met any of these criteria, so how wouldn't it be unacceptable? My guess is that the context that it was being used was whiny and annoying and it just kind of became one of those things, but it's a weird sticking point to me. Anyway, point being, if it's not ok to describe the bad as unacceptable, shouldn't it also not be ok to describe the good as acceptable?

UMaD

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

When someone says "This is unacceptable!" its easy to hear "I do not accept this." The response is then: "Then don't." Feel free to not accept. Turn off the TV or go home and don't accept it on your own. Going to root for someone else because you don't "accept" Michigan football as it is? See ya.

I think people just got tired of other people saying "unacceptable!" because its meaningless complaining. Basically people saying "no REALLY. I REALLY REALLY don't like what I see", except more annoying.

Togaroga

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:40 PM ^

I think last season was "acceptable, or better" as Brian put it. I think your dictionary.com research actually proved Brian's point to some extent.

Let's start with your definitions:
1-maybe it could work
2-probably not an accurate description
3-yes, almost definitely applies
4-yes, applies quite nicely

We have to take all things into consideration and look at the big picture. I am aware the big picture is not a universally agreed upon idea. For this Wolverine, the big picture is the future. I appreciate where we've been, but I do not believe we can get back to the pinnacle of college football doing what we used to do the way we used to do it.

I believe RR is improving the team, and that the lofty goals of this program will not be quickly realized. The best and most enduring things must be constructed very carefully. So, yes this season was acceptable, because regardless of their record they improved. It was visibly evident for all to see. They had some glaring weaknesses on defense (Middle Linebacker and Safety) and one glaring weakness on offense (a 19 year-old kid played like a very talented, confident, and occasionally foolish 19 year-old kid). Those are correctable problems, and continued improvement in those areas, should it come to pass, will prove exactly why this season was "acceptable, or better."

Because my "big picture" is focused squarely on the future, I see this season as generally less critical than next season, and so on. However, when we reach a point where significant improvement can no longer be expected or requested, that will change. As for now, we can improve greatly, we have every reason to believe we will improve greatly, and next year will tell us more about the coach we have and the program he's building than this year did.

matty blue

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:54 PM ^

...it FELT like the offense was greatly improved. i never, not for one moment, thought that we had a chance to come back from any kind of deficit last season. ever. not once (did i mention that?).

on the other hand, i ALWAYS thought we could get something going at any time this season. even down 11, i felt like we were this close to getting something going. and we did, on a couple of occasions.

put another way, i don't think we ever scared anyone last season. i would guess that every defense we faced this season was at least a little nervous.

jsquigg

December 2nd, 2009 at 3:58 PM ^

I actually think we will be alright and will continue to improve, but I also think this comes with the expectation that the coaches will continue to adapt. It just seemed like once the conference season started that Rodriguez was in over his head at certain points (insert limitless non-coaching related excuses here).
As far as our defense, I think we will actually keep getting better if we take care of some personnel weaknesses. Hopson has to go and maybe Gibson IMO, but as far as who we put on the field we will at least have secondary depth and the linebacker position isn't as horrible as I thought before but still has to be a priority in recruiting.
If we continue to improve offensively (no reason to think otherwise) it will take pressure off the defense and I think we can have decent success with even a mediocre defense if our offense becomes the machine it has the potential to.

dahblue

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:07 PM ^

At the risk of running my negative back into the oh-fuck range, I feel compelled to point out that it is not "laughable" to suggest that this team...the entire team...did not improve.

Yes, the offense was better than last year. It doesn't take a genius to see that our offense was indeed improved. We scored points. That is only ONE part of the game. Our defense was terrible. Our defense got worse as the games went on. Maybe that is due to young players, walk-on's, etc...but this isn't about the reason for the decline? A decline is not an improvement.

I prefer to look at how the team progresses as a season wears on. It would have given us all more hope if the team started 0-4 and then won a bunch of games. It would appear that the coaches were correcting problems. Instead, we (and unless you're the most blind of loyalists you have to admit this) lost almost every game not against Delaware St. That is not overall team improvement to me.

So yes, the offense is better. The entire team - compared to last year - I think an argument can be made either way. The entire team from beginning of season to end - worse.