Persistent Underachievement, Part I

Submitted by Ron Utah on October 23rd, 2017 at 7:06 PM

This is a two-part diary.  Part I explore the problem.  Part II explores solutions, because my college professor taught me that it's okay to complain if you offer ideas and effort to improve the situation.  There is a TL;DR at the bottom.

We live in a world that seems to be dominated by absolutists.  Many folks out there brand you a traitor if you criticize the person/group you supposedly support, and others believe that once something goes wrong, it's okay to abandon your alliances.  Any mistake is worthy of permanent banishment and disassociation.  Any constructive commentary is tantamount to an attempted coup.  To all these people I say:

This next part is important, because I'm going to be attacked by both sides of the ridiculous spectrum.  So please, read this even if you ignore the rest: I support Jim Harbaugh as our Head Coach.  I support the University of Michigan and its football team.  I am a fan, and I am not abandoning my team, my coaches, or my players.  I am fully aware of the challenges and limitations our roster presents, and don't expect this year's version to be Michigan's most successful team.

I'm also a rational human being.  There are deep, systemic problems with our offense that go way beyond youth and inexperience.  For those of you saying, "just wait until we have experienced players in our offense, we'll be fine," you are ignoring the data, the eye test, and the reality that if we are not careful, medicore is going to start to look pretty damn good.  Here's your picture:

Misery Comparison

When things are bad, perspective is important.  Are we really the bowler-hat-dog sitting in hell, or are we just irrational fans?  To this end, hard data helps us uncover bias.  Data is never perfect, but it is a good place to start to see if we can trust our eyes.

Michigan's offense is currently ranked #85 in S&P+.  For comparison's sake, Buffalo is one spot ahead of us.  Nebraska is #73.  Purdue #69.  And here's my favorite: Flordia is #81.  Our offense is worse than Florida's.  Please let that sink in.

Don't like fancystats?  I can sympathize.  Those damn things never seem to predict accurately.  So how about this statistic: our yards per play (5.17) is Michigan's worst performance since 2008.  Yep, the 2014 sludgefart mustered 5.32.  Borges cranked out 5.44 YPP in his final season.  And we have yet to face the #6 (Wisconsin), #7 (Ohio State) S&P+ defenses.  Granted, we've already done battle with #3 (Michigan Staee) and Penn State was #9, but we also had the pleasure of facing #93 (Cincinnati) and #109 (Air Force) defenses--the lowest ranked future opponent is Maryland at #77, and everyone else is #33 or higher.  It's not going to get easier.

Our rushing game is bad.  The current 4.08 YPC is our lowest since 2013--the 27 for 27 year (which wasn't even our worst rushing performance).  We are ranked #41 in S&P+ in rushing.

Our passing game is much, much worse.  We are #74 (which feels high) in S&P+ and convert only 32.4% of our third downs.  Guess when we last had a lower conversion rate?  Yep.  2008.

But what about the youth argument?  Well, we are ranked 99th in returning offensive production.  Let's give ourselves even more handicap since we lost our starting QB, and let's compare with our peers.  West Virginia is ranked #123 in returning production.  Their offense is #5 in S&P+.  Ohio State was ranked #122 last year, their offense finished the season at #23.  Clemson is #121 this year.  Heck, even Nebraska is ranked #127 in returning production, and is out-performing our offense.  Getting the picture?

It's impossible to argue that Michigan performing up to the level of their talent, and that is what is troubling.  It's not that our offense is "not great," we are horrible.  And no, saying that does not mean I'm not a Michigan fan.

If we want to build a strong, successful program, we need to make some radical changes on offense.

Specific Objections

Hopefully, the previous section has at least convinced you that there is a problem that goes beyond the simple and lazy explanation of youth.  But what about other quips from the lemmings that say our problems are all the result of inexperience?

  1. Harbaugh has a proven track record.  This is 100% true, and it's why I still want him to be Michigan's coach.  That said, he's never been this bad.  His third year at Stanford--with considerably less talent--his offense was #6 in S&P+.  Did he get lucky with some recruiting hits?  Yes.  But it's a long, long, long way from #6 to #85. In fact, he was even better in his first year at Stanford--#83.  That was with a roster that only compares to this year's Michigan roster in that they had the same number of players.  At the 49ers he led the #18 most efficient offense his first season, #5 his second season, and #8 his third.  Even the year that got him fired, 2014 (LOL 49ers), his offense was #16.  Middle-of-the-pack.  And that's with the parity of the NFL--he has huge advantages over most competitors at Michigan.  It's also worth pointing out that his offenses have looked very different as his OCs have changed--the argument that it's "his offense" is only very partially true.  Stanford played the same brand of manball they're currently playing, and the 49ers ran a different version and adapted to their QB.  Michigan's offense that past two years was very different from this season's version.
  2. We are a pro-style team.  This is simply false.  If you mean that we operate largely from under center and use TEs and FBs, I guess that's true.  But there is not one team in the NFL running an offense that even remotely resembles Michigan's constipated turd.  If you're making this claim, do you even watch the NFL?  It's largely a spread league now, and even the more manbally teams use more misdirection, more spread/match-up concepts, and more quick passes than Michigan does.  No, we are not a pro-style offense, unless your definition stopped keeping up with the league in 1997.
  3. There is nothing we can do with this roster.  This is another absurd assertion.  No one was expecting Michigan to win the CFP this year (well, almost no one) but everyone should expect a competitive offense, no matter how young we are.  We are making basic strategic blunders.  Our pass protection is bad.  It is known.  And yet, we persist with 7-step drop passing plays with deep and slow-developing routes as our only options.  We leave RBs that can't block in the backfield to block, instead of turning them into hot reads and safety valves.  We max protect with our TEs--our best match-ups in the passing game.  We hardly ever run slants.  We don't isolate our athletes in space.  Our version of misdirection is 1980's play action--we don't use motion, deception, or gadgetry even as much as we did the past two seasons.  Yes, the roster is limited.  No, it's not nearly as bad as its #85 ranking.  And let's remember that last year's loaded roster only produced the #40 offense.  And it's scheme was miles ahead of this year's version.  Which brings me to...
  4. Our scheme is fine.  First question: what scheme?  Try to tell me this team's identity.  Try to identify the carryover plays from the previous two years.  College football is a vastly different game than the NFL.  The hash marks allow offenses to create mismatches in an entirely different manner, and misdirection and trickery are far more effective.  Our offense seems to ignore those principles, opting for plays that require 11-man execution instead of match-up plays.  Penn State did not run an innovative offense on Saturday--they ran their offense with minor tweaks.  They ran the same plays over and over and over again, with repeated success.  And their plays created mismatches, allowed the QB to get rid of the ball quickly (even the fade routes were thrown early), and maximized their talent.  This year's Michigan team has no scheme.  We run zone and power in the ground game, and neither looks polished.  The passing game makes no sense.  Our constraint plays are 20-year-old play action fakes.  There is no imagination, and there is nothing to hang our hat on.  


This offense is dramatically underachieving.  Having better players would help, but being a year better will not take us from inept to elite, and that's the jump we need to make.  Part II will explore ways out of this mess.



October 24th, 2017 at 2:22 PM ^

I came to check this out after everyone was praising it on the board. I am sorry but I don't see how he broke it down other than poining out it's bad and comparing stats to other teams stts. You all made it sound like he had actual insight with what is wrong with the scheme or something. All I see it a bunch of  paragraphs of look how bad we are but nothing about why we are so bad.


October 25th, 2017 at 1:54 PM ^

i have a question that means nothing and adds nothing to the discussion:

Does no one else see the irony in making an absolute statement about people who deal in absolutes?  Does this mean that Obi-Wan is secretly a Sith?  Just curious if it's just me...


October 23rd, 2017 at 7:29 PM ^

It comes down to lack of quarterbacks and offensive linemen and the gap in the 2014/2015 recruiting classes. Wilton Speight and John O Korn are not high level quarterbacks and we have no other qbs and the only quality offensive linemen are 1st and 2nd year players besides Cole. The blame comes on recruiting in the 2016 recruiting class with Devry Hamilton. 


October 23rd, 2017 at 7:54 PM ^

Agreed, agreed, agreed.

QB recruiting between 2007 and 2016: abysmal. 

OL recruiting between 2013 and 2016: abysmal. 

Here we are. I don't pretend to think that Drevno is an offensive innovator - I think a better OC could help a great deal. However, the biggest impedement to our offensive success to this point is talent at the two most important position groups. With the exception of Cole, who is not a real LT, our OL is either young or untalented. Our QBs with any modicom of talent are 18 and 19 years old, a Redshirt Freshman and a true Freshman who is redshirting. I do think it's worth pursuing better minds on offense, but we currently have a ceiling on offense due to our personnel.


October 23rd, 2017 at 8:01 PM ^

One of the major points is this problem goes way beyond personnel. Even if Michigan is starting 11 true freshman, they should still probably be better than Buffalo. How are we still behind Nebraska when they're #127 in terms of experience? I mean give me a break, they are averaging fewer ypp than 2014??? How is that even possible?

I remember people around here blaming Rich Rod's OL recruiting in 2013 when Hoke's OL started going to shit... little did we know, it was not a matter of youth. OSU had the youngest OL in the league in 2014 and was starting 2 true freshman, 2 sophmores, and a junior. Yet they won the Playoff.


October 23rd, 2017 at 7:35 PM ^

I think it's an OC issue. PSU brought in Moorhead to save Franklin's job. Tom Herman was excellent at OSU and their offense has struggled since he left. UCLA's offense has improved a lot with Jed Fisch.

Drevno doesn't strike me as a fresh creative mind.


October 24th, 2017 at 8:42 AM ^

Drevno has enough of a track record to show he is a very good O-line coach when he is coaching only the O-line and doesn't have other responsibilities. So do we think Frey is better than Drevno as a line coach (or a push) and would Drevno take a demotion to just O-line coach if we went and hired a new OC? 

Michigan Arrogance

October 23rd, 2017 at 7:47 PM ^

I think the biggest part of the offensive issues stem from

1) QB & Receiver youth/inexp/talent. Do we have young talent? sure but as everyone knows, WR & QBs are the toughest to get up to a passable level as FR. The non-FR aren't all that talented. Black & Speight are out for the year. Hell, the TEs lost Asiasi and Butt from last year. QB is clearly an issue. Of course, this all goes back to Hoke recruiting in '13-14-15 (the last being the transition class, of course). Hard to put this on development, IMO b/c the upperclass guys just aren't NFL talents and the young guys are too young to judge quite yet.

2) OL Development. Not so much youth (that's part of it tho). Clearly Hoke recuriting is an issue, but I think Harbaugh could have taken another OT in '16 (this has been discussed before, and I forget the name of the player specficially that got "processed" IIRC) and maybe even scrounged for another in the '15 transition class. But the bigger issue is development: specifically teaching a consistent scheme for OLs to run, recruiting players for that scheme that can excel and developing those players. When Harbaugh got here, I liked the change to Power, the old counter trey/pulling OLs as lead blockers. I thought the zone schemes that developed over the last 10-15 years going for speedy, undersized lines were saturating the game and moving toward power now was akin to going spread or zone back in 2002. We could ID recruits that could do this and be taught to do it well and maybe have less competiton recuriting to get those guys. Hell, I thought Hoke was going to transition to it, but I think he realized his guys were better at zone and went with it back in 2011. Then the round peg in a square hole '12 and '13 offenses that just didn't do as well as '10-11 running zone: not too surprizing as this is a big change.

So Harbaugh goes to power in '15, struggles a bit (understandable), and we see progress last year. But now we're running fucking zone, AGAIN? These guys have to master power plays, footwork, targeting the right blocker, etc, they have to master pass blocking and IDing line shifts AND NOW how to block a zone run scheme? Fucking hell, let's let them have 2 things to get great at instead of 3 things to get kind-of-OK-some-of-the-time at. you spent your 1st 2 full years getting the line to run POWER and seeing progress and you decide going to a bit of both was a good idea? JFC, man.


October 24th, 2017 at 8:23 AM ^

this was a good article and certainly i agree with a lot of it

i will say this most teams run zone and gap schemes 

my problem with all of this is obviously they had a lot of success offensivley last year so what changed? why did they go from averaging 40 points a game to where we are now. Terrible OL play is the main culprit, recruiting misses on the OL is catching up to us. Devery Hamilton decommitting late and Newsomes injury along with Tulley Tuman getting kicked off this team has severely limited the OL 

On top of that piss poort qb play

My biggest complaint so far with this staff has to be the lack of getting Peters ready


October 25th, 2017 at 8:32 AM ^

But wouldn't the QB play at least look better if he were throwing quick outs, slants, hitting the RBs out of the backfield, etc.?  There are known shortcomings with Speight and O'Korn but we haven't played to either's strengths.  Speight stood in the pocket, ran down his reads, and found the open guy for much of last season.  After being hurt at Iowa, he changed.  He was a bit gun shy, understandably so, but his footwork changed considerably.  JOK has never had great footwork and after consistently being trained to trust the pocket and stay put, he now finds it hard to putll it down and get out of Dodge.  In terms of instincts, hopefully Peters and/or McCaffrey can bring us back.  It's time to get one or both ready for next season.  This season is far from over.


October 23rd, 2017 at 7:50 PM ^

This is a great breakdown that combines what a lot of us have been saying. This offense is not designed to take advantage of matchups. It is run like an old-school NFL offense that doesn't have the personnel to do so.

A college team that doesn't take advantage of trickery is not setting itself up for success. Aggressive college players are notoriously known for over-pursuit and young inexperienced players are often out of position. Packing 11 guys into a box and being predictable is not a recipe for success no matter how tough you are.

The numbers don't lie. As I said earlier, there are two teams with fewer passing TDs this season at this point. They are Georgia Southern and Army. Those teams run triple option!

This is at the very least an OC problem as anyone who runs a play action pass from I formation on 4th and 11 cannot be trusted to call plays. WIth that kind of selection, we would be better off paying whoever is the Madden champ to be our OC or picking plays out of a hat.


October 23rd, 2017 at 8:18 PM ^

Among other things, we need a modern college football offense.  The college rules give  offenses certain advantages not present in the NFL, and we largely ignore them.  Even Saban adapted to the changes in the college game after unsuccessfully complaining (remember his rants about player safety when tempo was being used successfully against his defense?).  Harbaugh is hyper-competitive.  Laser tag awards you a point for each hit, so keep shooting the 10 year old if you want to win.  You don't need to ask the best player in the laser tag arena to do a Civil War-era duel.  

Hopefully Harbaugh's competitiveness will allow him to do on offense what he did on defense when he hired Don Brown: go bring in someone who is great at coaching college offenses.  Looking around a little, one name I found was Eric Morris.  He's the OC and WR coach at Texas Tech, he coached WR under Leach at Washington State, and played under Leach.  Texas Tech's offenses have been ranked in the top 5 in S&P+ in 2015, 2016, and 2017 (his tenure as OC).  He makes $550,000, so moving to our passing game coordinator/OC/WR/etc. would involve nearly a doubling of his salary and be a nice stepping stone (if he wants to be a head coach in a few years).  (Lincoln Riley similarly was a player under Leach, and then a WR coach for Leach.  He went on to be Oklahoma's OC for a couple years, and replaced Stoops this off-season.)  I'm sure there are plenty of other good candidates.  But Harbaugh needs the light bulb to go off in his head regarding the college game.  


October 23rd, 2017 at 8:25 PM ^

Aren't hurt, do we lose to MSU? Is the run game better since we'd have a decent passing game?

Keep in mind that Harbaugh's third year at Stanford he was 8-4 (!) in a much worse division than the big ten east. And (!) that team had Toby Gerhart, who should've won the heisman, and a RS fr Andrew Luck, the future 1st overall pick.

When will this fan base acknowledge the shit luck (no pun intended) that we've had with offensive injuries/departures? The wideouts can't catch? Harbaugh gets Tarik Black (who is immediately the best wr on the team). The RT is bad? Grant Newsome almost had his leg amputated, they lose Hamilton on signing day, and they bring in 7ish olinemen in the next class. And remember that Asiasi was a savant at run blocking.

We're relying on all second year players and the fan base flips a shit when they're not a great team. Notre Dame was 4-8 last year and they're really good this year. Chill out.


October 23rd, 2017 at 9:09 PM ^

Ehh, we probably beat Sparty with Black and Speight. And maybe we add a couple FGs to our total against PSU.

But we still wouldn't be a good offense. Probably not even an average Power 5 offense. We were, as the OP notes, a middling offense last year, and that featured a lot more talent. A good offense, not merely middling, probably makes us undefeated B1G champs last year (considering how close we came with a mediocre offense...)


October 25th, 2017 at 12:37 AM ^

Yes statistically it was mediocre but that was with a line that graduated three undrafted seniors. If you graduate three NFL caliber players last year you likely were playing for a national championship with a top five offense.

Predictable playcalling is like playing in a monsoon and we know how that goes. It makes walk on players like Willike look All Big Ten.

Give me last years scheme and team with a line including Hutchinson, Backus, Jansen, and Adami.

Harbaugh has shown an ability to make smart and calculated personnel moves. Brown. I liked last years offense. It had plenty of misdirection and creativity. It was missing a great line.

This years offense is stale and predictable. Talent won’t fix it. But Harbaugh will.


October 25th, 2017 at 1:43 AM ^

Harbuagh coaching era. He's mid way through year 3, still putting pieces together despite having a damn good start to the second year with a first year(yeah, first time he took shaps as starter) at qb.  Won ten in a row and looked like we were on our way to being undefeated going into OSU game when that qb was hurt. It's obvious the injury lingered on, even if psychologically this season. He had a entire new receiving corp placed around him, after losing three players, each of which made some type of AA team. And yes, they were all developed and became household names under Harbaubh. Hell many of us weren't even aware they were on the team until the arrival of this staff.

I might label it persistent, or even consistent if it occurs after he completes his unpacking. 


October 23rd, 2017 at 9:11 PM ^

Not sure why anyone would neg this. 

Also, elsewhere in underperforming expectations: Florida State was supposed to make the playoffs this year. They lose their starting QB and are 2-4. We were expected to go 9-3 this year. We lose our starting QB and are 5-2, probably heading for 8-4. Acting like the sky is falling is ludicrous. Doesn't mean changes wouldn't help, but folks are acting as though we are way off course here. 

Ghost of Fritz…

October 24th, 2017 at 6:44 AM ^

as the OP demonstrates, the sky really is falling on the offensive side of things. 

The youth and injuries are valid reasons to have a mediocre offense.  But you have to add in a large dose of OC dysfunction to have an offense this bad.

Main point of the OP, which seems correct, is that this is not all, or even predominanty, about youth/injuries.  A competent playbook and situational play calling would do much better with this group of players. 


October 23rd, 2017 at 9:43 PM ^

There are a shit ton of "ifs" one could apply.  If we don't muff the punt in 2015 we beat MSU.  That is really easy to change and not unreasonably to think it and we win.  If we get that 4th down call at OSU in 2016 we win.  That is also not unreasonable at all.  If Newsome doesn't get injured and LTT doesn't get kicked off the team our o-line goes Newsome, Bredeson, Cole, Onwenu, LTT.  If that's the case Speight probably doesn't get injured either, I'd guess our running game and passing game looks a lot better this year, and we probably beat MSU a few weeks ago.  Also, it probably wouldn't be unreasonable to think that if Peppers and Newsome were healthy against FSU last year we win that game.  So, we sweep MSU 3 years in a row, go 1-1 against OSU, beat FSU in last year's bowl, Speight is healthy, and Newsome and LTT are our tackles.  That would make our currently state of affairs look a LOT different.


That is a shit ton of ifs, but all fairly reasonable.  However, none of that takes away the point the poster is making that our offense stills sucks considering our talent, our coaching, etc.  It is dysfunctional and not taking advantage of basic shit other people do, and for no good reason.


October 23rd, 2017 at 10:49 PM ^

but you suggest we should not account youth into our arguments, however, you then go on to point out how many teams have improved with an extra year of growth. I think, paticulary, its easy to see what that maturation has done for OSU and PSU.  It does not help to lose the only receiver who came in ready for prime time and the only qb, despite his troubles this year, would have either figured it out or conceded the position to O'korn by now, so yes youth does matter and it will show up big next season. 

And what else is new?  The line coaches, of course, but that's as it should be. He will, eventually, take over the entire duties on the OL because the OC should be just that. Now here is where you have the problem and I think, if the big guy thinks about it, he'll come to the realization as well. He's been speaking in cliches, ane actually he has well forever. 'Too many cooks definitely spoil the broth." or whatever the product is but the addition of yet another "offensive mind" is one too many in my book. I don't like the idea of a passing game coordinator and offensive coordinator both. The OC should be responsible for both. You can see how we'll get something going this season and then for what is usually inexplicable we'll stop a perfectly good rhythm and put on a song that no one wants to dance to. This has happened quite frequently and has been a big problem in the red zone.  The poor qbs and rbs both could not find that groove, that confidence that is so necessary.  This is really peculiar to me for a Harbaugh run offense and I think he should take over again. Not necessarily the play to play calls but he should definitely not allow what anyone with reasonably sound football knowledge knows to be against one of the cardinal rules of the game.

On his worst day he can coach better than anyone contributing here, but on this one topic I would like him to give consideration to. 


October 23rd, 2017 at 11:06 PM ^

Re: Notre Dame. Kelly overhauled his staff, firing his longtime OC as well as DC. He brought in new coordinators and to his credit they are lighting it up. I think one of the quiet stories this season is how good ND is. They could have very well beaten Georgia and they have beaten everyone else easily. You flip that Georgia result and all we are hearing about is the "wake up the echoes" talk...

That said, I'm not calling for a staff shakeup and I do think people need to calm down although I admit that these numbers are eye opening and cause for concern.

One factor I don't see discussed too often around here is that many fail to recognize how strong the B1G has become the past 3-4 years. I listen to the Ace and Brian podcast, and I'm struck by how much their knowledge/perception (and it turn a large contingent of MGoBlog's knowledge/perception) of the league is shaped by the B1G of a decade ago. I mean it is funny to read the weekly Opponent Watch series, but it's not really an accurate take on the league and it tends to warp people's expectations.

Per average S&P rating, the B1G is the best conference in the country. Sagarin has the B1G East as the #2 division in college football, just behind the SEC West. You have to go back to 2002 to find a time when the B1G was as close to topping the SEC as the premier league.

Give the above, consider the following:

-Michigan loses 16 players to the NFL via draft or free agency from Michigan's best team since winning that national the in 1997

-They return almost no key players from that team

-They have very few talented upperclassmen on the roster due to a glaring hole in recruiting because of Hoke's flame out.

-They are forced to rely on talented but completely inexperienced freshmen who have never played in college, redshirt freshmen who didn't play last year, or sophomores who played sparingly last year

-They face a difficult schedule (14th toughest per Sagarin) including better than expected Purdue and Indiana teams, a good and better than expected MSU team in a heated rivalry game, as well as a legit, playoff contending PSU (and franklly better than expected) team on the road

Is it really that surprising that Michigan is sitting at 5-2?

I'd like to see what transpires during the next three games. If Michigan continues to struggle offensively as the schedule eases up the next three weeks, then I reserve the right to change my stance on the coaching staff. I sense that we will see improvement. I saw it in spurts against PSU, but PSU was far too good for Michigan to be only effective in spurts. 

Ghost of Fritz…

October 24th, 2017 at 6:52 AM ^

evading the main point of the OP.

Given, youth/injuries/strenght of Big Ten East: "Is it really that surprising that Michigan is sitting at 5-2?"

No.  Not that surprising.

But that it beside the point.  The thing that IS very surprising is that the offense is far worse than youth/injuries merit.  The problems go beyond youth/injuries to the coaching staff.   Changes need to be made in the staff.



October 23rd, 2017 at 8:28 PM ^

Depressing as hell but accurate none-the less.

While i had us at 8-4 this year for the reasons you state in your post I am more optimistic than many about the future.  I dont think Harbaugh is liking the results one bit this year and I believe he will make the necessary changes in his staff when the season ends.

FWIW look for Greg Roman to be brought in as the OC for next year and Drevno moved to full-time OL coach.  And I'll bet Jay gets a new assaignment as well.  He knows this isnt working as currently constructed and I believe he'll change it.


October 23rd, 2017 at 8:45 PM ^

This is obviously a setup for part 2: bring in new offensive assistants.

Appreciate the hustle but if you can't recognize that the scheme is largely the same, most recognizably in the run game, you lose credibility in making suggestions on which coaches can or cannot help this team.


October 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 PM ^

Caps don't make it true, just as using a billion words to say nothing doesn't make your point. I wasn't going to go into detail but you all capsed me, so here we go:

Run game has basically just added more IZ (which they still ran, albeit terribly/rarely) but fundamentally still very Harbaugh with iso, duo, power and various sweeps and counters. Passing game has switched up with more 4 wide, mesh and different personnel to try and scheme seperation because the WRs aren't getting it on their own. 

Yes, this team has underachieved on offense, but your numbered arguments amount to 1) common truth: Harbaugh is good, 2) debate over an arbitraty irrelevent announcer term ("spread" is also a meaningless term), 3) anti-nihilism, and 4) inability to recognize offensive intent.

You also dismiss out of hand that having a combination of poor backup QB play, baby WRs and an otherwise-middling OL with a turnstile at RT can be the root cause of what is wrong. Whether the personnel can be coached up to be good enough to contend next year is an interesting debate, saying "it can't be personnel because it's real bad" is not. 

Glad to hear I'm off on the part 2 suggestions at least. 

Ron Utah

October 24th, 2017 at 12:32 AM ^

The scheme is dramatically different. Do we still run duo, ISO, counters, sweeps, power...basically every gap scheme run play? Yes. But we are, as you pointed out, running far more IZ. Also, to say the scheme is the same in that we are still running tons of running plays with no clear identity is basically agreeing with the idea that we lack a coherent scheme. Last year's run game had similar issues, and is not a paradigm of success.

But the passing game is where the big changes have been. Even before the QB change we saw fewer hot routes and a greater focus on the intermediate and deep passing game. We are now incorporating more screens, but it's clear that these are additions and changes and not the offense we trained in camp. It now looks like panic mode (which is valid) and even less like what we planned. Are we surprised that RT is bad? That our RBs aren't great protectors? Surely these issues appeared in camp. The WR youth issue surely isn't a shock. Slow developing drag and mesh concepts have replaced quick outs, hitches, slants, and where in the world are the RBs in the passing game? Khalid Hill and D Smith had 16 catches each last season. An argument could be made that FB is our strongest position group on offense, and yet we are using them less.

But what is missing the most, as other posters have pointed out, is the misdirection. Where are the throwbacks, middle screens, angle routes, rub routes, etc? These plays had guys open in acres of space. And even then our offense wasn't a juggernaut, but we could at least move the ball against bad teams.

Finally, your assertion that I dismissed the youth or roster limitations is a clear indication you either didn't read the whole post or have a selective memory. I was not expecting a world-beating offense. But QB wasn't much better with Speight in there and none of the other shortcomings are a surprise. With our talent we should at least be competent on offense.


October 23rd, 2017 at 9:07 PM ^

Good diary. It's more than just inexperience and a bad to mediocre QB. There is something just fundamentally derp about how the offense is coached and plays are called where it's like the coaches are actively trying to put players in the positions where they'll have the smallest chance of success


October 23rd, 2017 at 9:10 PM ^

One thing to keep in mind too is that Scott Turner (Norv's son) is an analyst on our staff. Next year when the 10th assistant coach is allowed, he will take over as QB coach and possibly WRs as well depending on what happens. He worked wonders with Teddy Bridgewater on the Vikings before he got hurt. Not to mention that Norv is retired and will be available for consulting.

As much as it pains me to say, I'm not going to form an opinion on the coaching staff until the season is over. If nothing changes, there needs to be shake ups. But if things show decent improvement, I think continuity is important. Devin Gardner was put in the impossible position of having to learn a new offense every year and it showed. Speight and our offense as a whole took huge leaps from 2015 to 2016 because for the first time in awhile they were running the same offense for two years in a row. I didn't realize how big of a difference there was going to be going from Jedd to Pep.