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.