Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-26-13: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on November 27th, 2013 at 1:09 PM


Opening remarks:

“Another week. How are we doing?”


What was the biggest takeaway after reviewing the film?

“Well, individual breakdowns. We had a lot of individual breakdowns that caused a lot of three-and-outs, you know? Too much 10-man football. It’s the same story. When we don’t play well, we don’t get in sync, and a lot of individual breakdowns that caused that to happen. At this point in the season, there’s just way too much of it. We’ve got to go back to work and see if we can get something fixed because we’ve got the biggest game of the season coming up.”

Brady implied that it’s a different guy every time?

“Yeah. It is. It’s a lot of – it’s different guys. When you go through the play kill list, a lot of guys are popping up. We’re just not playing in sync, and that’s my responsibility. We’ve got to find a way in this football game and whatever games are left to get back in sync. There’s a good offense in there. There’s a darned good offense that hasn’t shown up in a while.”

Is confidence gone in a lot of guys?

“I don’t know that the confidence is gone. If you’ve gone the whole season and you’ve never done anything to believe that you can do something, then that type of stuff can happen. But this team believes they can move the ball. As long as that’s intact, you’ve always got a chance.”

Devin was extremely emotional after the game. Do you have to rework his thinking?

“Oh yeah. We talked a lot today. So much of what you do goes on the quarterback, goes on the play calling, and goes on everything. That goes for the job. You sign up for that, you know what I mean? So you have to be strong and be able to deal with that, but it’s certainly not all Devin Gardner’s issue. We’ve got a lot of individual breakdowns that are keeping up from being the type of team we can be offensively.”

Have you seen a common reason for why the offense is out of sync? Any underlying issues?

“No. I wish. If there was, you could address it right away, but it’s a lot of individual breakdowns, and it’s coming from different areas. A guy goes left when he should go right, dropped passes, I mean everything you could imagine. We found a way to mess up a lot of things. That’s usually it. No, there is no common deal. And believe me, as coaches, we tear it up one side down the other to find out what it is because you can directly address that by pulling out a player or completely changing a scheme. Bottom line with us right now is we’re just not in sync. We’re not converting third downs. We played half the season, we were 49%, one of the top in the country a year ago. We could score in the red zone. We were one of the top 10, top six or seven a year ago, and we were doing that type of – and somewhere we lost it. It’s my job to figure out where and get it fixed. We have the biggest game of the season coming up.”

Do the individual breakdowns that happen in games happen in practice?

“Some do, some don’t. Some are game-specific. In general, it’s just a lot of inexperienced players. They’ll do it right in practice, but they get in a game and panic or do something that you never would have thought would have happened. As guys become more experienced, those things tend to go away. But some of them are happening in practice, yeah. But some of them aren’t. As a football coach, that’s very difficult to deal with because you want to believe you can correct the errors before they can happen, but then sometime in a game you have to – you see something that you never guessed would have happened. That happened several times last game. You go, ‘Oh my god, where did that come from?’ I hope I answered that question.”

With Devin, you said earlier this season that he rarely makes the same mistake twice. At this point in the season, is he starting to repeat his mistakes?

“Some of it has been trying to make a play. As a play-making quarterback, which he is, and I’ve said this before, you just need to be able to use good judgment. Give the play a chance, know when to check the ball down, know when to not take a hit that you may not have to take. And he’s still kind of learning that. Every quarterback is always a work in progress. But he’s not making a lot of the same mistakes. It’s just every week it’s a different scenario, it’s a different game, and different people are attacking you differently. There’s a lot of on-the-job learning, and he’s had to deal with that quite a bit. At times, when the protection hasn’t been as good, that has an effect on him, too. I think it would on any quarterback.”

Is he a better quarterback now than he was at the beginning of the year?

“In some ways, but in other ways, no. His understanding of the game has improved, but we’re not getting the performance that he would want or anybody or want. He’s understanding the offense better than he ever has, but you know, we just need from his position and every position a more consistent performance. That’s keeping us from being what we can be. It’s really an interesting thing. So many of the things that we had done well we’re just not doing well. You know, you have to give the other team a little credit, too, but some of this stuff is not being defended as much as it’s us being inefficient at times. We just have to keep plugging away and do what we know is the best thing to do. We work our butt off and correct each mistake and keep our head up and know that there’s more games to be played.”

Have there been other seasons when your offense has regressed like this?

“Never four games in a row. I don’t remember exactly. I’d have to look back. But no. I don’t ever remember us going like this. You have better offensive years than other years, because never do you have exactly the same amount of talent every single year. But we’ve sputtered so badly in the last four games that I don’t ever remember it being like this.”

Greg was saying that he tunes out what fans say about the coaching staff. How do you approach that?

“Some of the same way. If I internalized everything fans said, I’d slit my wrists. You can’t do that. This job is about being thick-skinned. We win games and people still complain. That’s the nature of the job. That’s why they pay us, and that’s why we do what we do. We have to be beyond all that. We have to be stronger than all that, you know? I just know – and with experience, and Greg’s done this a long time and I’ve done this a long time, I promise you that other places I have been that my first name’s been a cuss word, this isn’t the first place where that’s been like that. That’s just what goes along with the job. You’re never going to make everybody happy, but you do your best to help your team win. That’s all.”

During the Northwestern game, it seemed like the offense was taking a step forward. What happened this week?

“Well we did not do as good a job in this game. It’s just that simple.”

You changed the lineup a bit …

“I don’t think that was it. I just don’t think we were very efficient. I don’t think we were always technique-sound. I just think we had some problems up front and in a lot of different places. It wasn’t just them. It was a lot of different things. That’s pretty much it.”

Is the negativity too much to avoid?

“I just don’t read the paper. I’m sorry. I don’t. I haven’t since 1993 when I was at Boise State. I used to read the paper all the time, and then in 1992 we weren’t very good. I had been a coordinator for about seven years, and it had gone pretty well. I didn’t mind reading the paper. But when we were there and weren’t very good, I remember my papers piling up in my pantry, and I wouldn’t even look at them after a while. I haven’t had one since 1993. I don’t listen to talk shows. Off-season I will, because I like baseball, but during football season I don’t listen to that stuff. If you want to be miserable … People are passionate. That’s what makes it great, though. I did an interview for a book about coaching and the guy asked me, ‘Why do you think people are the way they are?’ Because it’s important to them! They care! That’s why Michigan’s great. People care, and they’re always going to care. That’s what you want. You want them to care. But with the caring, comes the passion, and with the passion comes the criticism, and that’s just part of the job. That’s the way it goes. You sign up for that.”

Devin has taken a lot of physical hits throughout the last month. Has his confidence taken a hit?

“You know? I don’t think so. I don’t really think so. I watched him last week. He’s battling until the end, now. If his confidence is gone or lost or anything, it sure isn’t showing up when he plays. He’s still aggressive and competing and doing all those things. I mean, ask him, but I don’t – if I thought his confidence was gone, I’d put another quarterback in.

Disconnect between practice and game performance?

“Things are moving so fast. Things move so much faster in a game than in practice, and all of a sudden that scout team wasn’t moving quite as quick as the guys you’re playing against, and something you’re supposed to do, you don’t respond. And again, it happens more to players who haven’t played as much. Players who have played a lot, they just respond better. It’s natural with experience. But with players who haven’t played much, it tends to be, ‘Oh god, you did something and I didn’t expect you to do it that fast.’ Something happens, and that’s usually it.”

This late in the season when you don’t have a championship to play for, are you focusing more on player development?

“Not this game. We’re going hell bent for leather to win.”

Has there been in the past few weeks?

“No. Not really. We don’t play for the future. We’ve always got our eye on the ball. Whoever the opponent is, we’re going to put in the best players to help us win. That’s it. If it develops guys, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll develop them later. That’s our number one goal, and everything we do is toward that end.”

Is the offensive line developing?

“Yeah. Again, it’s a work in progress. Just like so much of it. There’s been so many guys in there. It’s an unusual season. And that’s reflective of our performance. It’s an unusual season. I just don’t remember being this late in the season and still playing different guys on the offensive line. Why don’t we just put five guys in? Because five haven’t established themselves yet, or goodness gracious we would. We have every other year we’ve been in here. And everywhere else I’ve been. We certainly don’t like playing this shuffling game at any position really, but least of all the offensive line. But that’s been part of our problem. It’s been a big part of our inability to run the ball.”

You obviously don’t know how a season will play out, but what did you envision for this season?

“Well you’re always cautiously optimistic. We’ve had reason to be, because we had games where we had one hell of an offensive team in there. But our inconsistency just killed us. As we’ve gotten into November, it showed up more, and during the games you really need to play well, we just have not played well. We put too much pressure on our defense. At the beginning of the season, we were very optimistic, for very good reasons. Still optimistic, believe it or not. You can call me the eternal optimist. I believe we can come out the last couple games and play great offensively because I believe that’s what we’re capable of. It’s not like we’ve been terrible in every football game. In fact, at times, we’ve been prolific. It’s there, we just have to get it back. It’s that simple.”

Does the situation on Saturday lend itself to more risk taking?

“Whatever it takes to win. We take risks, we don’t take risks. Whatever it takes to win. At this time you’re just trying to find a way to put a plan together that we can execute and beat the opponent.”

Has Brady become more involved in the offense as the year has gone on?

“Brady is always involved in the offense.”

Has he been more involved? Has it changed?

“Not really. No. He monitors. We sit down every week and we go through the plan, we go through personnel. Brady’s involved more on the defensive side of the ball because that’s his background, but Brady touches every player on this team in some way, shape or form with regard to motivation and understanding what it takes to get the job done. He’s very very on top of what we do offensively, personnel-wise, scheme-wise, because we’re constantly communicating. To say if he’s doing more now than before? I don’t know. It’s pretty much the same.”

You simplified your schemes for Northwestern. Have you scaled down the number of calls?

“Oh yeah. When you’re not executing, to get more flamboyant is probably not a very good idea. You don’t want to be so doggone simple that it’s simple for the other team, and that’s where the delicate balance comes. But you have to be able to play fast. And if we’re not playing fast, we’ve got to find a way to play fast. The only way I really know to play fast is try to keep it as simple as you can make it so the kids will come off the ball and do the things you want them to do.”

Why does Michigan have a chance to win this game?

“Because anybody can win this game. That’s been proven. And we’re not a bad team. We’ve played poorly at times. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. But if this team wants to show up and go, I think we can play with anybody. We’re playing at home in front of our crowd, our kids are fired up to play this game, and if we do what we’re capable of doing, we can win this game. I don’t think we have to talk ourselves into it. I don’t think we need any of that. We just need to go out and do what we’re capable of doing.”



November 27th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

don't account for trying to block 8 men with 7, or running two super surprising reverses in a row. His complete lack of personal accountability is sickening. Never once have I seen him say: I could have called a better game. 


November 27th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

“Yeah. It is. It’s a lot of – it’s different guys. When you go through the play kill list, a lot of guys are popping up." 

Execution continues to be the rallying cry. Running 7 step drop play action on 2nd and 14 from the opponent's 30 is never called into question. If there really is "a good offense in there", isn't it more likely that the things the players are being asked to do is a much bigger problem than the amount of talent they have to do them with? 


November 27th, 2013 at 1:47 PM ^

"somewhere we lost it. It’s my job to figure out where and get it fixed"


No one is going to give him any credit for doing the opposite of what Hoke got excoriated for on the front page; saying it's a good things fans are up in arms and passionate, even if it means they're calling for his head.  And the whole brouhaha over him saying this team can play well on offense is obvious part of many sentences answering a question on if they can beat OSU and building up the confidence of what must be a pretty down group of players before the biggest game of the year.

Get on him for not  doing his job very well, sure, but everyone need not turn everything he says into some personal affront. 


November 27th, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

I'm certainly not personally injured by Borges' lack of self awareness. It just boggles my mind that he can continue to put the issues only on execution when that is clearly only half (maybe) of the problem. I was at the Nebraska game when 100,000 people booed because Borges ran some absurd plays on 2nd and 3rd and long in one of our many, many 3 and out series. 100k people, most with very little actual football knowledge, knew how asinine those calls were. How could he not?

Go Blue in MN

November 27th, 2013 at 3:13 PM ^

Everybody knows a play was asinine after it doesn't work.  You really think the 100,000 people in the stands, most of them with "very little actual football knowledge," would be able to call better plays in real time than Borges?  I've been joining the consensus that he's not the man for the job, but let's not resort to vacuousness here.


November 27th, 2013 at 3:39 PM ^

but I have never heard Michigan Stadium sound the way it did that day. And the point is, if one play doesn't work, sure, two, ok, three, fine. If 80% of your plays aren't working against a pretty bad defense? The fans had the right of it there. 


November 27th, 2013 at 7:15 PM ^

If execution is 50% of the problem then execution is 100% of the problem.  It doesn't matter what play book he's calling from if there is a lack of the big E.  Picking up blitzers is not executing and not creating holes and getting to the second level on blocks falls in there as well. Not putting this on the players by any stretch but their collective youth is an issue.


November 28th, 2013 at 2:54 AM ^

Putting the players in no-win situations isn't an issue of execution on their part. That's a failing of the coach(ing). I don't care how good you are, or how capable of "executing" you are, up to 7 guys are not blocking 8 or more. Calling a long developing play action pass (one in whic the QB has to turn his back to the defense) on 2nd or 3rd and long when we have negative rushing yards is a recipe for disaster.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 27th, 2013 at 1:37 PM ^

Not only did he take respnsibility in this presser, but as SC enlightened me in a previous thread, he didn't run back-to-back reverses. One was a Jet Sweep and the other was a reverse. 

I know people are frustrated with what has transpired this season and I am too. I even think this team needs to go in another direction offensively at the ned of the year as well. But can't we at least be honest in our complaining. There's enough there to complain about without making things up.


November 27th, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

Functionally they are very similar plays. They are meant to catch the defense off guard on the edges and keep them honest on shooting interior gaps. They are high variance plays, which is why you don't see offenses based on jet sweeps and reverses. Once you successfully remind the defense that they should gaurd against it (and therefore keep them honest), the next play is the worst possible time to check and see if they remembered. If he had faked jet sweep and run an inside zone on the next play for exa.... aw f it man.

I gave Borges a lot of slack through this year because he definetly didn't have a lot of pieces in place. But the (logical) people who are complaining on this board aren't complaining that any 1 play call is bad, it's that there is no sequencing in the play calling and that allignments tip defenses as to exactly what the O is going to do. That isn't an execution issue, it's a philosophy issue, and that's something that Borges has never once admitted to being a problem. Unless someone can show me otherwise? 

Blue in Yarmouth

November 27th, 2013 at 2:53 PM ^

Since he said what I was going to say about the jet sweep/reverse thing I'll go to the rest of your post. Like I said in my post above, there's lots of things that people can complain about without making things up. Those other points are much better than the ones you posted about above which were: 1) he doesn't take responsibility and 2) he ran two reverses in a row. 

Again, I'm in agreement that the guy should probably get the boot after this year, but I just wanted to point out that a lot of hte bitching we are hearing isn't based in reality. There is enough to complain about without 1) making things up and 2) hurling personal attacks and insults at the guy (not that you were doing the later). 


November 27th, 2013 at 2:07 PM ^

will be expecting back to back reverses?  Or, because they will be expecting the offense to repeat a play that they never would they don't need to expect it, therefore the offense should repeat the play?  I don't think this is a Catch 22...probably a Catch 21 but, at the end of the day repeating a successful play has as much merit as not.


November 27th, 2013 at 2:13 PM ^

I think what got people was that the two plays were similar enough (and unique) compared to the rest of the offensive playcalling that it was jarring, as if Borges was trying to "shake things up" one drive instead of using these different playcalls throughout the game.  Plus, it didn't help the second one was sniffed out almost immediately for a loss.


November 27th, 2013 at 2:17 PM ^

if you are trying to get a defense to commit to it so that you can put them in a bad position for your counter. If you don't have a counter to that play (or it is your counter), then you are just using potentially successful plays at a time when the defense is most likely to react to them. 


November 27th, 2013 at 2:20 PM ^

with the play calling. Getting into the nuts and bolts of a play, knowing the nuts and bolts of a play real well, does not necessarily make it good play calling. In this example two lateral motion plays were called back to back and this should not be done. It's fresh in the defenses mind for crying out loud; the chance of a lateral play working is much higher if it isn't following a lateral play.


November 27th, 2013 at 4:20 PM ^

the reverse is the 'trick' play; as someone stated the sweep is about getting to the edge faster. It would have been better to run the sweep first as this is the play that is going to get the defense to 'bite'; playing the reverse first and planning to sweep second doesn't make good football sense to me, some guy with a frustrated attitude. What would make even better sense is to run a sweep, then later run a sweep, then run a reverse if the sweeps were effective. The way Coach Borgess played it probably would have worked as well had he mixed in some other plays in between to take the defenses mind off the lateral plays.

Of course are we even having this conversation had Iowa been flumoxed by the second play?


Blue Mike

November 27th, 2013 at 3:22 PM ^

Didn't they run the plays in opposite directions?  I remember thinking that Al was just trying to outsmart the defense by running the jet sweep after the reverse; like he was trying to catch them waiting for the reverse look.

I still think the playcall was a terrible call, since the defense is on high-alert for the reverse and anything that uses a reverse look after that play.  He probably would have been better off running the reverse a second time.

Nobody Likes a…

November 27th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

I guess it wasn’t realistic for me to expect him to deliver a soliloquy on his failures in play calling and leadership as well as a personal apology to me. But he kept running the play fake into the third quarter against state, so stranger things have happened.


November 27th, 2013 at 1:22 PM ^

to know is if they took away audibles from devin or if he just doesn't know what audibles to call when he see 8 or 9 guys in the box or an obvious blitzer coming off the edge... I saw him make changes at the line a couple of times against iowa but they ended up being running plays right into the blitz...

steve sharik

November 27th, 2013 at 3:08 PM ^

...that's a "check with me" call in the huddle.  A certain play is called, but Devin will read the defense and then audible which direction to go, right or left.

For the life of me, I don't know why we don't have a simple check to a 3-step route.  When you huddle, though, it makes it harder to read the defense and then change to a different play b/c of the play clock.  Agree with Brian (and others) on this one--unless you're trying to kill clock, huddling is not necessary.


November 27th, 2013 at 1:26 PM ^

"Has Brady become more involved in the offense as the year has gone on?

“Brady is always involved in the offense.”

Has he been more involved? Has it changed?

“Not really. No. He monitors. We sit down every week and we go through the plan, we go through personnel"


But but but Hoke is a CEO-type and doesn't deserve any blame for the offense!  You can't blame him!



November 27th, 2013 at 2:15 PM ^

Nobody thought Hoke was completely hands-off with the offense; he's the head coach fergodsakes.  But I highly doubt he has intimate knowledge of the playcalling and really dives deep into it on a weekly basis.  That's the bigger point people are making; the defense is Hoke's background and it has steadily improved while the offense has struggled.  It is acceptable to question whether or not Hoke should be more involved in that part of the team, but it doesn't sound like he really is beyond the general overview.


November 27th, 2013 at 3:41 PM ^

Here is more of the response "Brady’s involved more on the defensive side of the ball because that’s his background, but Brady touches every player on this team in some way, shape or form with regard to motivation and understanding what it takes to get the job done. He’s very very on top of what we do offensively, personnel-wise, scheme-wise, because we’re constantly communicating."

The phrases "constantly communicating" and "very very on top of what we do offensively" are not how one would describe who only has a "general overview".

In fact "constantly communicating" suggests that Brady's input or interaction with Borges is at a minimum daily. This makes sense when you consider that Brady directly involves himself with the motivation of the individual offensive players. To do so effectively he has to have intimate knowledge of where they are and the issues on which they've been focused. 

Love the offensive game plan or hate it, but it's pretty clear that the plan gets blessed by Brady. He gets a fair share of the credit or blame along with Al.

This is Brady's team. He owns it all. He owns the offense, the defense, and special teams. It's easy to make Borges the goat in all this, but Brady is equally responsible. If Brady wanted a different offensive philosophy or game plan, Al would give him one. and that more than any other reason is why I expect Al to be back for 2014. 


November 27th, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

I'm sure most of us have used, or know about, playing golf, hitting balls using the various clubs, into a projected image.  Many systems allowing the player to choose among the several hundered tournament courses around the world.  So here's the question, has the same type of system been adapted for use in football practice for the QB?


November 27th, 2013 at 1:59 PM ^

While this is probably very do-able, it would be much more difficult than the golf ball setup you brought up.  The golf ball always leaves from the same (or a very similar) spot.  If you've ever used one of those simulators, you'd know you have to position the ball just right to light up the light that tells you it detects the ball.

Think of how much more complex a throwing motion is, even a different sized QB or a different throwing motion could completely change what needs to be detected.  It would probably require a lot more cameras/whatever is used to detect the golf ball than the golf ball machine uses.

I think it's also less representative of real football since it's rare that a QB gets to sit in the pocket all comfortably, especially for Michigan this season.  Additionally, it would have to simulate receivers running routes, which would add to the complexity.

The idea is feasible, but I don't think it would as useful as you would initially think.


November 27th, 2013 at 2:22 PM ^

really concerned with the QB throwing to specific targets as much as practicing real time defensive reads and reading route coverage.  The same idea could work with the O line and for the entire defense.  If teams aren't utilizing some type of simulator training, they truly are living in the dark ages.

Now that I think about it, they could do the training wearing helmets which have the scene projected in front of their eyes.  Which means the players could physically react to play, including the QB throwing passes.


November 27th, 2013 at 4:58 PM ^

more can be done from the mental aspect utilizing simulation than by suiting up from 14-22 players.  That isn't to say scrimmages aren't needed, they certainly are.  But far more can be done in a given amount of time if you don't have to constantly arrange stand-ins for a given scenario.  

I'm not addressing this from a theoretical POV, I do have more than 10 years of applying simulation training for small and intermediate sized teams to the real world.  Both as a trainer and as a practicioner.

I'm really surpised at the resistance to the idea.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 27th, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

I really do like Al Borges the person. He seems like a really good guy and his answer to the question about reading the papers was a very good one. In fact I would have liked to see Hoke's answer about the fans be more in-line with Al said than his response. 

Anyway, this is what makes it hard for me to want him gone (I do think we should go in another direction, but I feel bad for wanting that), he just seems like a really likeable guy. Regardless what happens I hope people can keep their remarks focused on his abilities and leave the personal attacks out of it because he just doesn't deserve that. 


November 27th, 2013 at 2:30 PM ^

I appreciate what Borges said about the passion of the fans and understanding that criticism comes along with the job, and I've always thought he seemed like a good guy. (Heck, he even sat down for an interview with Heiko during the offseason -- can you imagine anybody on Carr's staff taking the time to sit down for a one-on-one interview with a BLOGGER?) Now, I still think he's not the right guy to be the offensive coordinator at U-M going forward -- the whole offensive staff probably needs overhauling -- but as you said, we should always be careful to keep our criticism focused on the coaches' performances and not go after them as people. They work hard and they care about the kids, and they're certainly trying as hard as they can to get things right.