John Navarre-Why He Makes Me Want to Fight the Internet

Submitted by Ziff72 on January 20th, 2011 at 3:55 PM

While my spirits have been lifted the last couple of days since Michigan is finally receiving some good news, I am still troubled by a meme that I have seen everywhere, from ESPN to Dr. Saturday. I've been sucked into internet fights time after time over this and as my anger grew I thought of a perfect illustration to display my argument: John Navarre.

Recruiting wasn't as hot an issue as it was back in the late 90's when John Navarre came to Michigan so when I saw him thrust into action when D. Henson broke his foot I cringed. I watched him debut against some scrub team and throw td after td and thought to myself we are lucky this is tomato can university because this guy sucks. 

The next week we went to UCLA and I was proven right (I should be Todd Mcshay!!) He was brutal in a loss to UCLA. He was slow, stared at his receivers and made Tacopants an All-American. Soon Henson returned against Illinois and all was right with the world (Ed-M: actually Henson was rushed back and we should have lost to Illinois but for some friendly refs).

When Henson shocked us by leaving after that season Navarre was thrust back into the limelight and I hated him.  Many fans agreed with me at the time and I'm glad MGOBLOG wasn't around because he would have been torched game after game causing more site shutdowns. He was very Pryor like in that he would put up decent stats against teams we overmatched talent wise, but in the big game he would kill us. I wanted him benched. (Ed-M: For whom?!?)

When he melted down against OSU in Tressel's 1st win when OSU came up and beat us with a shitty OSU team I was done. The 1st recruit I really knew anything about before they came to Michigan was M. Guttierez. I was pumped when we got him. He was Joe Montana from all accounts, unreal leader with good mobility and good accuarcy to go with a solid arm. Lloyd would come on each week and defend Navarre and I would scream to put Gutz in. He made me hate Navarre even more, because I thought Gutz should be in but Lloyd held firm as Lloyd does.

Eventually something happened that I did not want to admit because I'm Todd Mcshay!!!   John Navarre became a pretty good quarterback for Michigan. He carved up Tressel and OSU in our last win over them and won the Big Ten title because of him and not despite him.

So you are probably saying "Hey Bill Simmons Jr. What's your fucking point I've already wasted too much time reading this crap when I should be working?".

My point is this: Everyone needs to calm down about our defense and special teams and lack of Big Ten talent blah blah blah and how it is going to take 3 years to build it back up etc. etc. The reason I hated Navarre is the same reason people think our defense is infixable, RR never practiced special teams and Greg Robinson had a lobotomy.  They shouldn't have been on the field. If Henson had stayed and I didn't have to suffer through Navarre's growing pains I might have been able to enjoy more of his games.

Everyone experiences growing pains as a freshmen, but some guys show talent right away and your expectations soar even though they struggle at times. Woodson, M. Jackson Mike Martin etc., but the vast majority of kids that get thrown out there before they are ready struggle....badly. Often times I see the argument "well  look at this team they play 2 freshmen, that's no excuse." The key point in making that argument is did those kids win the job or were they given the job? If you have a kid like Woodson come in and beat out 2 or 3 guys in front of him that have been in an established system for a couple of years you don't cringe because the kid must have special talent to win the job, but if you have a guy like Avery, Kovacs, Roh etc. the list goes on forever who really Rodriguez just basically said ok you have a jersey and you can still walk you are on our 2 deep it is much different.  

We should have never seen Avery play this year or Vinopal etc. If this was 1985 you would have no idea these guys were even on the team. They would not have been seen until their 3rd year at earliest. Imagine back to when you were a freshmen at Michigan and imagine someone came to you around Oct 1st and shoved you into a Junior level course and said ok you are in this class you are a couple of weeks behind, you need to get an A.   GO!

Many of the people on this board and around the country don't give the proper amount of respect to the returning starters, getting the freshmen experience, having strong senior leadership (Martin, Molk, RVB etc...) and having scholarship bodies to compete at every position. Our defense is loaded with players.  Who is going to start for us this year on defense? I'm not sure save maybe 4 or 5 spots, but I am sure they will be greatly improved. They have multiple scholarship players at every position that will have had at least a year of strength training and in many cases playing experience behind them.   I don't think I can emphasize enough how much this is going to improve our special teams with our coverage and return units now that we have bodies equipped to handle it.

I will cringe when the MSM and its followers point to how Michigan is back to playing defense and getting tougher on that side of the ball when in reality the majority of the improvement will come from the players themselves and not some made up mantra about toughness. 

So please stop with the defense sucks our only hope is Yoda Mattison. Mattison is an experienced guy that has seen it all he is going to field a strong defense this year once he figures out what he has. You see it happen so often I'm shocked people have so little faith. MSU was in much the same spot as we were last year and they improved greatly on defense, Ironically SDSU almost mirrored MSU's defensive stats from 09 to 10. Think back to guys like Stonum and Odoms when they were freshmen and now look at what they have become. There are so many examples of guys like John Navarre, because it is more the rule than the exception. 

Lastly I want to leave you with Nick Fairley who is currently the odds on favorite to be the #1 pick in the NFL draft now that Luck has gone back to school. He steamrolled his way through defenses this year. Last year he started 2 games and was pretty much a bust coming from the JUCO ranks. You never know so give it some time. I feel like Ben Crenshaw at The 99 Ryder Cup. I got a good feeling about this. It is going to get me ill hearing the stories, but I think Greg Mattison is going to be the next flavor of the month for what he does with this defense and be labeled a genius by the end of next November.



January 20th, 2011 at 4:05 PM ^

Not much else to say other than I hope you feel a little better after writing this Diary entry.  Its not good to keep the anger inside.  I've been angry for a while but was finally able to turn the corner.  I'm now okay with thinking highly of the incoming coaches, if only because it feels better to be positive than negative/skeptical.

Fuzzy Dunlop

January 20th, 2011 at 4:14 PM ^

Here's where your analogy falls apart completely.

As you said, Navarre looked good against the tomato cans, but was overmatched against real competition.  He wasn't ready, needed seasoning.

Our defense, on the other hand, got killed against the tomato cans.  Our defensive performance last year made Navarre on his worst day look like Tom Brady.

So there are two possibilities:  either (1) our defensive players are simply terrible and will never, ever be good, or (2) they are young players who, while they should never have been expected to be a "good" defensive team last year, would have looked far less inept against the tomato-can opponents with better coaching.

I'm betting, and hoping, that number 2 is the explanation.  Otherwise, I'll be a very sad panda.


January 20th, 2011 at 4:26 PM ^

Navarre was surrounded by much better talent and they had better or equal talent spot for spot against our opponent.  We had 5 to 7 guys that had no business playing last year.  1 or 2 guys can be hidden a little bit by coaching.  You can't hide 7 guys on a defense.

Better coaching + Infusion of talent/experience= minimum 50 place improvement in defense.  

Fuzzy Dunlop

January 20th, 2011 at 4:45 PM ^

Please name the 5-7 guys that had no business playing.  Our front seven consisted mainly of upperclassmen plus Demens and Roh.  The youth was in the secondary, but that doesn't explain our feebleness against the run.

Zone Left

January 20th, 2011 at 5:03 PM ^

Honestly, it's probably easier to name the people who should have been playing.  Roh, Martin, Van Bergen, Demens, and Mouton seem like the only players that would have been two deep or better on most Michigan defenses in my lifetime.  That leaves whatever six players you want to choose.  They sucked against the run was because the scheme sucked, the players weren't that good, and because the secondary's woes wouldn't allow the staff to crowd the line of scrimmage.

Basically, they sucked at football.


January 20th, 2011 at 6:02 PM ^

Kovacs was the 2nd leading tackler on the defense last season, right behind Mouton.

Mind you I'm not advocating that Kovacs should've been playing and if our depth at linebacker was better, he probably wouldn't have been.  But relative to the rest of the squad, he was a productive player.


January 20th, 2011 at 7:37 PM ^

On a top 50 defense....Vinopal, Avery, Black, Gordon, Gordon, Floyd, Johnson, Talbott, Christian.  That's 9.  You could make a case for Demens and Roh not being starters on a classic Mich defense last year.  Roh would have been redshirted his 1st year and playing spot duty last year.

Last year you had Martin for 6 games, RVB and Roh playing out of position, and Mouton as Big Ten caliber players.  Banks,  Saguesse and Patterson should not have been on the field. Kovacs was solid but again he should have been solid on special teams.

Next year you got Martin, RVB, Roh and Q Wash with 3 years of weight training minimum.

At LB you have Demens, Fitz, Jones, Bell with 3 years minimum

DB is still in flux but a lot of kids got their feet wet and Woolfolk returns so their learning curve could accelerate.


January 20th, 2011 at 11:38 PM ^

Football is a team game. If you have an inexperienced secondary and a stout front seven, your opponents will pick apart your secondary if you do nothing to protect them. How do you protect them? Add another DB, or play your LBs off  the line so they can drop in coverage better. What do you think that does to your run defense? I'm pretty tired of, pardon the expression, the meme that our inexperienced secondary was no excuse for the run defense. It's not like a team walks up to the line of scrimmage and says, "we're going to run the ball this play so don't worry about your DBs."

Blue Bill

January 20th, 2011 at 5:37 PM ^

Well, that offensive unit was certainly more talented/experienced than this year's defense, but overall it really was a relatively poor squad by Michigan standards.  They couldn't run the ball that well (wasn't B.J. Askew our leading rusher that year?), and they couldn't really pass the ball.  Basically Marquise Walker was our entire offense.  The defense was pretty solid, if I remember correctly, though the secondary was pretty underwhelming aside from a Freshman Marlin Jackson (remember "The Suspects"?).  To this day I don't know how Lloyd Carr squeezed eight wins out of that team (even if it was a down year for the Big 10), and I've long maintained that 2001 was his finest coaching job, even if it was a season we all wanted to forget.  Despite all their woes that team only lost three regular season games, all by less than a touchdown (and one of those due to a cheating clock worker in East Lansing).  Of course, they went on to get curb stomped by Tennessee in the bowl game.... but I think that only accents what an amazing job Carr and his staff did that season.

Anyway, I appreciate the point made by the OP.  I think it's one that Brian has touched on in the past as well.  With as many freshmen and reshirt freshmen forced into starting roles as there were on our defense, there was simply no way it was ever going to be a good unit.  That said, though, I think GERG did very little to help; the picture on the front page of Roh at NT on first and goal pretty much sums up that point.  If, as a defensive coordinator, one's primary job is to put one's players in the best position to have success, then Greg Robinson failed spectacularly (though RR deserves some responsibility for asking him to run a defense he didn't know well).  For that reason, I think excitement over replacing a horrible defensive coordinator with a very good defensive coordinator is entirely understandable.


January 20th, 2011 at 5:58 PM ^

"Meme" is terribly overused and is sooooooo yesterday.  You know what other word is really overused?  "Michigan."  It seems like someone uses it in almost every post here.  Those "overused words" are just terrible.  And another thing....


January 20th, 2011 at 5:51 PM ^

certainly entitled to your opinion about the defense, however, I think you're wrong. The defense was inept. Look at Mouton and Ezeh (not knocking them), for instance. Were they young? No. They certainly didn't live up to what we had all hoped for them. I think we have to face the facts at some point. Yes, we were inexperienced, but come on, everyone on that defense looked completely lost most of the time. That is poor coaching and player development.

Whether it's true or not, rumor has it that D. Warren took his chances in the draft due to the fact that he wasn't being coached at all under the last regime. I mean, look at the 3 data points we had on defense. Not good, at all.


January 20th, 2011 at 6:44 PM ^

He was a part of a program with our school and UM athletes that came to mentor students and speak to kids about challenges they've faced, etc. I was so impressed with his demeanor with the kids and his professionalism. He was coming to a music classroom, of all places, but the kids were really engrossed in talking to him. It was after his senior year and I remember talking to him about what his plans were and him responding 'getting ready for the NFL draft'. I thought - really? - but lo, and behold, he played in the NFL and beat the Lions. Not bad......he was a great kid who was crucified mercilessly.


January 20th, 2011 at 7:02 PM ^

I'm glad this went in the supportive direction. There is a video (youtube- post OSU victory and rosebowl bound). They show post game interviews and Navarre's really shows how absurd it was that we treated him like crap. I'd link it but im on my phone. It's wolverinehistorians channel.


January 20th, 2011 at 9:57 PM ^

Great post.  I liked it and I would love everything you wrote to be spot on correct.  good Coaching and talented focused players in synergy will get it done. Or not. 

A lot of people are fired up where this could go. That is a great thing after so much hopelessness for so much of the last few years.


January 21st, 2011 at 4:35 PM ^

It'll be interesting to look back in three years and see how all the young guys who played this year pan out.

If three years from now they're all seniors and 5th year seniors and still starting, that lends some credence to the 'not enough time' argument in favor of keeping Rodriguez.

If they're behind younger, more talented guys, it lends some credence to the argument that Rodriguez wasn't recruiting B10 level talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Either way, I hope it results in an improved Michigan team going forward.