Litmus Paper

Submitted by Meeechigan Dan on August 23rd, 2010 at 3:11 PM

I have been on the MGoSidelines for an extended while, too shellshocked by the current state of Michigan football to participate much or even complete my McBean Rating System. Yet, I return on the eve of the season because I think a point need be made. Assuredly, it’s been made before, but perhaps not with this emphasis.

I am somewhat hesitant to post this, and some will say I was not hesitant enough. I am going to the UConn game overflowing with optimism, but the optimism comes with a catch, which, because it is cathartic, will now pollute MGoBlog.

Absolutely nothing, in my opinion, now stands or can stand between the results we see on the field and a verdict on this coaching staff.  We are at a moment of refreshing purity where a simple answer to a simple question now awaits the spiritually hungry:

  • Can the current staff of football coaches actually recruit and coach?

In previous Rodriguez campaigns, muddy waters divided the Michigan faithful; one side, with justification, pointed at coordinator changes, mismatched personnel, attrition, distractions, and injuries, while the other side declared that, despite all these high-quality excuses, no serviceable coaching staff could ever lead a Michigan team to 3-13 against Big 10 teams over two years. (Can this actually be true? Pinch me. A 3-13 record against the Big 10? Hit me.)

The debate is thankfully over. Almost like the nauseating propaganda that precedes an election, this confusion now ends in Election Day: eleven votes are to be cast that will answer many questions, but one in particular:

  • Can the current staff of football coaches actually recruit and coach?

Reading scrimmage notes prompted me to post this; in particular, I detected a faint odor of excuse wafting from comments about the secondary and the marginal tackling performance.

No more excuses, no matter how tempting. If our entire team transferrs tomorrow, no excuses. If we’ve had the bad fortune to overrate every linebacker on the planet since David Harris, no excuses.

Last year after the Indiana game, I posted on how other coaches are doing more with less. Allow me to quote myself:

The Iowa defense is younger than ours overall and features a less-experienced secondary that averages 5.3 for a Rivals Rating, or a middle range two-star. Brian says about Michigan, “There is exactly one junior and no seniors at both safety and cornerback.” Iowa has less experience. Yet my gut tells me – with absolute certainty – Darryl Clark will have a far better day against our secondary. Who wants to take me up on that bet?

In general, their players are more lowly rated at every position (possible exception of one LB), often significantly so, with players converted from the offensive side of the ball (a TE turned DL) and one playing out of position.


Occam’s Razor makes it difficult to accept that our stud HS talent was pretty much collectively overrated, and Iowa’s meh HS talent was pretty much vastly underrated. Ferentz would have given a kidney to have Cissoko or Warren or Graham or Brown or Mouton or Martin. He doesn’t have enough organs to bargain with the devil to get those types of players with mega-hype coming out of HS, yet he easily is fielding a better defense that probably would have consumed Indiana whole without any sauce.

As for the “new system” argument – that switching from Shafer to Robinson has resulted in our guys being at the start of a new learning curve – I accept some of that, but not all. Now, I will defer to Sharik or gsimms to tell me whether a new system can transform studs into non-studs, but it would seem to me that stopping Eastern in the first half or stopping Indiana at all would frequently be possible with raw stud talent playing by instinct.

I backed down last year. New DC I was told. New system, fool. Well, it’s not new anymore. No one in today’s game gets a decade to establish a system. If Appalachian State can manage Mannigham, Arrington, Matthews and Butler with walk-ons, we can manage better than last year with our secondary. If Michigan State can dominate most of a football game with putrid DBs, so can we. If Iowa can mold nasty defensive lineman out of corn oil, tight-ends and spare body parts, then our row of premium four-stars is ready to be twice as nasty…if the coaches are competent.

  • Bad tackling will be on them.
  • Bad coverage schemes will be on them.
  • Safeties futilely chasing TD runs from behind will be on them.
  • Turnovers will be on them.
  • Weather will be on them.
  • Injuries will be on them (speaking of which, whatever happened to the Barwis dividend? If being turned into supermen doesn't help you tackle and stay healthy, then he’s more overrated than Heaven’s Gate).

I look at the Michigan football team, and I don’t see players, I see red litmus paper hovering over a solution know as UConn, that, if basic Michigan coaching is present, will turn that paper Blue.

(FWIW, I feel the paper will turn Blue. I think we shall catch a glimpse of WVU-style offensive firepower against Oklahoma come September 4th en route to an 8-4 season.)



August 24th, 2010 at 11:14 AM ^

Look at the reply you supposedly quoted me from. You took an interrogative sentence, stripped the punctuation, then assigned the altered statement to me as if I had made a declarative sentence. I had thought you were just being cute, but your subsequent responses indicate that you actaully mis-read the question.Aren't you 40-something? Do I really need to teach you grammer?

My reference to Willingham wasn't to show that he was a good coach, it was to show that Notre Dame didn't not achieve the results they hoped to achieve when they replaced him. English, do you read it?

You didn't respond to my question,and still haven't. You responded to your bastardized interrpretation of my question. Then you devolve into name-calling by saying that I'm retarded and desusional and on and on. Then you take objection you being called a child.

I have no problem with people having a different opinion, I'm geniuinely curious as to why you think your way will work but you can't articulate that in a reasonable convincing manner. I've asked for an example, and you've failed to provide one.

The entertainment value you were providing has been exhuasted; this thread is now worthless. Feel free to carry on without me.

Kilgore Trout

August 24th, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

I'm trying to understand what you're trying to say with Willingham.  You said...

"My reference to Willingham wasn't to show that he was a good coach, it was to show that Notre Dame didn't not achieve the results they hoped to achieve when they replaced him. "

I don't really see how this backs up the idea that they shouldn't have fired him.  If he was a bad coach not capable of succeeding at this level, firing him wasn't ND's mistake.  Their mistake was making another bad hire.  If you're trying to say they should have given him a fourth year because Weis didn't work out, I think that's too big of a jump of logic.  In my mind, the decision to fire Willingham and the decision to hire Weis are completely separate events.  Just because they screwed up the second one doesn't mean the first one was wrong.  

Anyway, I guess the Pitt example is better in my mind if it shows that someone that could have been fired after year three stayed and turned things around.  I'm not sold on Pitt, but that's another matter.  Asserting that Weis' failure reflects poorly on Willingham's dismissal is flawed logic, to me at least.


August 24th, 2010 at 3:12 PM ^

So, no comment to your false statements about ALL CAPS and the like, eh?  No surprise.  Anyway, focus your eyes upon a direct quote from you:

The question remains, find me an example where success has been achieved after getting rid of an disappointing coach after three year as you, dahblue, suggest. Let's hear it. One example.

I gave you the example of Ty Willingham at UW.  I repeated it.  I posted it again.  One more time?  Ok.  They fired Ty after, not just 3, but 4 years.   UW saw immediate improvement afterward.  Had they fired him after 3 years, they would not have gone 0-12 in year 4.  

Just because  you don't like the answer doesn't mean it wasn't given repeatedly.  Thanks for being such a prick though.  It's been lovely.


August 24th, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

What's funny is that I don't even consider myself a "defender" of Rodriguez.  I love the program and want it to succeed.  That's it.  I think firing him may do more harm to the program than good.  You were never able to understand that original point and instead, as you did with others, twisted my words into something you felt more comfortable arguing and ranting against.  If there's anyone here for which this is personal, meaning, their position is informed by hysterical like/dislike of the man, it's clearly you.


August 24th, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

I wasn't even talking about you, but I did re-read your post.  You made a point that firing the current coach would be a bad idea because it would setback the program.  I called that an "excuse" for RR's failure.  In retrospect, that isn't 100% accurate and I apologize.  It's an "excuse" to keep the coach, but not an "excuse" for RR's poor performance.  In any event, we all love the program and want it to succeed.  We just see different routes to the same point.  I worry that keeping RR (should he not turn it around this year) will set us back far more than firing him.

p.s.  I was a supporter of RR until Illinois.  I don't dislike him.  I don't know him.  I do dislike his performance thus far.

Kilgore Trout

August 24th, 2010 at 9:14 AM ^

I appreciate the view point, and I pretty much agree with your overall premise.  Rodriguez had some bad luck with attrition initially, but that tide hasn't slowed down, and that is on him, one way or the other.  

The biggest issue is the defense though.  If it turns out that the combination of Rodriguez's 2.5 classes of recruiting and Robinson's coaching can't show  significant improvement this year, then you really have to consider going a new direction.  It's on Rodriguez to hire someone that can manage the defense and if he's 0 for 2, I'm not sure he should get a third shot.  I don't expect a '97 or '06 defense, but measurably better is a realistic expectation.


August 24th, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

who just walked up to a gang hanging out at the playground, to find a couple of kids fighting in the middle of them.  I don't know how the fight got started, and I am not sure who is winning.  But I just find myself yelling "Kick his ass" alot to both of them and oohing and ahhing alot when either one of them gets a good shot in.....


August 24th, 2010 at 2:58 AM ^

I understand the point that players should be able to tackle. And players should be able to catch punts, and "HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL!" But, how do you coach at a major D-1 level and not know how to coach these simple fundementals? I don't understand how GERG doesn't know how to coach tackling? I think some players just, to a point, can't hack the pressure of the D-1 level. I think coaches know how to coach these things at this level. Just my two cents on that.

I see us improving to a much better record. I think it's a little weird to this or you're fired. You're just constantly looking for fuck-ups by coaches. I am looking for positive things, if a bad thing happens I'll blame it on the player unless it's strictly a coaching decision (going for it on 4th down in a ridiculious situation[own 12]).


August 24th, 2010 at 5:21 PM ^

I really like that you look at things beyond wins and losses in your litmus test post. And, I tend to agree with you. While we can talk about the future, realizing that next year bears even more hope than this year, we ought to be able to expect basic competency this year - without apology. We've had enough apology, and it's not really about wins and losses ... it's about being able to do the things that good football teams do.

My question, though, hopefully looks at the other side of the litmus issue. Whereas you raise (non-loss) concerns that would be a litmus test of a negative answer to your question. What would be some (non-win) successes that would provide a positive answer to your litmus test?

Meeechigan Dan

August 24th, 2010 at 11:53 PM ^

Sorry for the delay in responding...was traveling.

I can honestly say I don't have much in the way of non-win litmus tests in my lab. I guess if we were intensely competitive even though just devastated by more injuries, I would not be so idiotic to ignore excellent fundamentals, flashes of brilliance, a victory over OSU.

But it would have to be really apparent that, when the parts were in place, we were a good-looking team.

Tough one.

Blue boy johnson

August 24th, 2010 at 6:28 PM ^

Michigan has  sucked the last 2 years, we can all agree on that. If some of you can just admit going 8-16 at Michigan is unacceptable, common ground can be found. RR has been sub par as a coach his first 2 seasons, embrace that truth and you won't feel the need to do mental gymnastics to defend him. 8-16 is shit at Michigan.


August 25th, 2010 at 2:05 AM ^

No matter who was the coach the defense needed to be rebuilt, especially depth of talent.  We had a long winning streak since '68 and we were over due to have a few down years.  Hopefully this season will end the two year drought and we will start our winning ways again.  But even if we do finish with 5 or 6 wins this season we should give RR one more season to prove himself. His first recruiting class will be upper class-men and there will be no excuse for not being in the hunt for the b10 championship and have greater than 8 wins after the 2011 season.  If RR fails in 2011, then he should get canned.  I'm optimistic that we will see at least 7 wins this season. If we only have 5 or 6 winds, and the team improves its play through the course of the season, then RR should get one more year IMO.