Quarterback Preferences, and the like

Submitted by chitownblue2 on August 24th, 2009 at 11:40 AM

For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty vocal about my rooting interest in seeing Denard Robinson become Michigan’s starting quarterback, and have often gotten asked why. Scanning MGoBoard this morning, it appears as if the masses are suddenly all a-twitter about Mr. Robinson as well. Before the inevitable Denard-backlash strikes, I’d like to briefly explain my enthusiasm for the young man:

1. I enjoy rooting for the underdog. Unlike Tate, Denard wasn’t bred to be a quarterback, and hasn’t had the benefit of private lessons from the time he was weaned from breast-feeding. Tate was immediately tabbed the presumptive starter by many people on the internet – from commenters on this blog to Brian himself (check the tagline on the site). Obviously, I felt this was somewhat premature, given that Robinson had yet to set foot on campus. Tate has the benefit of years of additional training, and months of additional practice time in the offense – I think it’s a cool story that Denard is able to push him, and it says a lot about Denard’s competitiveness and overall talent-level that he’s able to do so.

2. Many here know me to be a contrarian. Would I derive a healthy amount of satisfaction seeing the legion of amateur-quarterback coaches on this site who write authoritative scouting reports based on 90 second highlight films to be proven wrong? I absolutely would. The gap between Robinson and Forcier, clearly, was oversold by these people from the jump, or the “competition” as it exists, wouldn’t be as intense as it apparently is.

3. Shoelace = Awesome.

4. By far, the most important factor, for me, is that Robinson is exciting. From the little we’ve seen, and the bit more we’ve heard, Robinson’s game is, for lack of a better word, sexy – he’s a touchdown waiting to happen. Forcier’s highest praise, really, is that he’s extremely fundamentally sound. To me, I know which one of those sounds more fun to watch – I’d prefer to watch a dynamic game-breaker than an effective game-manager. I was excited when Michigan hired Rodriguez, because, FINALLY, we had a coach that would find us a quarterback who would inflict as much running-QB trauma on the opposition as we’ve suffered at the hands of Dennis Dixon, Vince Young, Troy Smith, Donovan McNabb, Armanti Edwards, and even such luminaries as Jarious Jackson. Well – we’ve GOT one of those – Denard Robinson.

I want to be clear, however: I’m not a football coach. I know nothing about throwing mechanics. My opinion, really, is useless. What I’m laying out here is not “why Denard Robinson is better” – because I am thoroughly unqualified to say such a thing. What I’m saying is why I prefer Robinson.



August 24th, 2009 at 1:55 PM ^

From the beginning I have always thought that Forcier would start and that Robinson would get his snaps just because he is that athletic. I wouldn't mind Robinson being the starter but I just don't like that he isn't that accurate. If the guy was accurate I would for sure say that he should be our starting quarterback. Again though we can sit here and debate about who might be better but it's ultimately not up to us to pick the starter. Either way our quarterback play will be better than last year, we should all be happy about that.


August 24th, 2009 at 2:00 PM ^

Chitown, I get your reasoning. But if we're comparing best-case scenarios for either QB's development (I default to the official MGoBlog line concerning my disclusion of any former walk-on juniors), I think Tate's the better option.

If either QB is equal, i.e., if the best possible Denard Robinson and the best possible Tate Forcier result in the same amount of wins for the program, I think Tate is better for long-term success. Here's why:

1. NFL Success = Recruiting Boon
One major bonus of the Lloyd system, particularly the impression that he ran a "Pro-Style" offense, was that it brought in recruits who thought they had a very good shot at an NFL career. This specifically includes tall, fast receivers, very large offensive linemen, and cannon-armed quarterbacks. The NFL look, combined with Michigan's national cachet, was itself a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Regardless of whether there's any correlation at all between NFL success and a playing in an NFL-like offense in college (I won't attempt to prove or disprove it here), RR has effectively lost that big recruiting selling point by bringing his spread-n-shred to Ann Arbor.

Forcier has a better shot of reclaiming it.

Best-Possible-Tate has a much better chance of pro success. In recruiting high school superstar athletes to play quarterback for Michigan in the future, a successful NFL QB from that system is gold. When Henson, Henne and Mallett signed with Michigan, M was already getting a reputation for breeding NFL QBs. The latter two I have to imagine were helped by the success of Tom Brady. Tate, i.e., Best-Possible-Tate, would in my mind be a mix of incredible moxie, accuracy and decision-making that seems to be the key to NFL success, with a more-than-healthy helping of escapability and downfield running ability thrown in. Think Drew Brees, Steve Young, or Donovan McNabb.

Best-possible-Denard is a serviceably accurate quarterback with unbelievable running skills, cunning, football intelligence, shiftiness, and leadership, a la Pat White or Woody Danzler, or for a non-RR comparison, Eric Crouch or Antwaan Randle-El. Those guys don't generally become the type of pro that can generate future recruiting windfalls.

Plus, RR has more than enough record to go on when telling a prospective young Wolverine that he can turn a kid with quicks and okay throwing mechanics into a college star, but for whatever reason, the general sentiment outside of Ann Arbor now sees Michigan a poor fit for the normally coveted (and still valuable to M) traditional quarterback skills. In other words, if Forcier is an All-American by the end of his career here, word gets out that high-accuracy guys will thrive at Michigan.

General perceptions matter in recruiting, and in college football, only prima facie evidence is compelling enough to chance perception.

2. Don't waste the receivers.
Over the winter I put together a now-slightly-outdated look at all the talent that RR was stockpiling at the flanker position, called Whence All the Receivers. I postulated then that RR was looking to incorporate more of a vertical passing game into his offense. It seemed to me the most logical use for an endless supply of big, fresh receivers was to have them jet downfield every play until man-on-man DBs passed out from exhaustion or dropped back into zone (opening up the running game). There has been plenty of discussion on this these boards since then of the surprising accumulation of receiver-like objects. Best-Possible-Tate maximizes the value of these receivers, and makes possible this Rich Rodriguez-Meets-Urban Meyer-Meets-Wayne Fontes* offense.

On the other hand, if Denard becomes Pat White reincarnate, it will be very tough to find enough projectilic footballs to fill all of those hands. Transfers and grumblings from the receiver ranks follow. And recruiting takes a positional hit too; at WVU, RR's receiver ranks were filled with HS QBs who didn't make it under center, and 2-star slot ninjas.

3. Why Waste a QB?
Would you rather have a Steve Breaston-who-can-kinda-throw under center, or Chad Henne at QB and ALSO Steve Breaston receiving and returning kicks? The next four years of Michigan football are better off if we can use the talents of both these freshman quarterbacks. If Denard wins out, that's a big waste of Forcier. It's not like Tate was developed, engineered, spit out, and programmed to play defensive tackle. Mr. Robinson, on the other hand, has, to use a Carr-ism, 'tremendous upside' at defensive back, a position of need. The best-case scenario for Michigan, then, is for Forcier to become a fantastic quarterback, and for Denard to eventually become a fantastic cornerback and kick/punt returner (or at least someone who can catch a friggin' punt [capitalized onomatopoeia for frustration followed by multiple punctuation marks denoting high volume]).

Diminishing Returns

I could be way off base here, so this should just be a sidebar (and I had it highlighted for deletion twice so skip if you are on the fence) but my personal perception is that guys with Tate's consensus skill set are less susceptible than guys with Denard's skill set to drops in production with declining conditions and temperatures. In other words, Michigan plays its games against Candyland College on brand new field turf in 75-degree clear days in early September; while the contests for which my heart's functionality rests on the outcome are played in early or late November on ripped up, frozen-solid, snow/rain/sleet/whatever-the-fuck-was-coming-down-during-that-fucking-Northwestern-game-drenched fields. If it's between the guy who can get you 400 yards per game in September but Wrap-Up
Obvs, this year we need Denard at QB. And I'm not going to exactly be upset if Robinson ends up a star quarterback for us.** And though this is a-whole-nother can of social-do-good worms here, personally I really like the idea of a stand-up African American man such as Denard Robinson being elevated to as high-profile a position as the Quarterback of NCAA football's most prestigious program. But all things being equal, as long as we're only talking about success of Michigan football, I'd take Tate.

* Meets Radiohead, Meets Tool...

** I think Tate Frenzy has clouded this fact a bit much -- my feeling, and I think this is the MGoBlogosphere's consensus, is that Denard is a very important part of Michigan's team, now and for the next four years, and I/we am/are stoked that he's here. Praise for the power of the Forcier should in no way suggest that the Shoelace Falcon and his ability to make .5 past light speed is in any way less awesome.


August 24th, 2009 at 8:55 PM ^

When Brady was senior. Henson was an all-world recruit, and Brady had struggled a bit the previous year. For instance, in a four game stretch, Michigan snuck by 3-8 Iowa 12-9, 3-9 Northwestern 12-6, 4-7 Indiana 21-10, and 5-6 Minnesota 15-10.

Henson actually got a lot of non-garbage playing time that year through the Michigan State game, which added to whatever quarterback controversy there was. Against MSU, Henson threw a critical interception, and Brady was 30 of 41 for 285 yards with no interceptions. After that, Brady got most or all of the non-garbage playing time.

Blue Durham

August 24th, 2009 at 7:28 PM ^

...the legion of amateur-quarterback coaches on this site who write authoritative scouting reports based on 90 second highlight films...

You mean to tell me you have doubts regarding the voracity of the ultra-amplified bullshit echo chamber we call the board?

Well not me. If it wasn't for baseless speculation, there would be no board.

Regarding the QB situation, I figure Rodriguez knows what he is doing and the best guy will start (big assumption there, huh?). But it would be good to see both Tate and D. Robinson get playing time since:

  • Personally, I would like to see what each can do and what the difference in the offense would be under each
  • Sheridan won the job last year, yet for the most part Threet performed better in the games. It would be good, regardless of the chosen starter, that both get playing time as that ultimately will be the true determinant of who the starter will be.

However, what I would really like to see is Sheridan totally vindicate himself, win the job, the Big Ten and the Heisman Trophy (oh yeah, and I want to win the lottery during the season as well - why not, this is my fantasy).

Well, the Big Ten this year may be pushing it, but it would be a great story. Think about it, one of the most popular sports stories/movies is Rudy. And wasn't that essentially about a guy who walks on at Notre Dame and has a career that consists of 1 tackle?

Sheridan's story would be (with a successful season) so much more compelling (and it really would be the stuff of Hollywood), and Tate and D. Robinson still have 3 or 4 more years to play. But not gonna happen


August 25th, 2009 at 12:08 AM ^

If one looked strictly at bare stats and measurables of the two freshman QBs out of high school with no names attached, one would be more psyched about Tate at this point, since that is really all that we have to go on (besides spring and fall practice). Tate has plenty of speed for the spread, and if the comments about Denard's come-and-go accuracy are true, it would only take one bad passing game against a mediocre opponent to convince you that decision making at game speed > sexy race speed on a broken pocket play. The plays that they have been busting thus far in practice are fun to hear about, but they aren't letting the defense pin their ears back and pop people, either. I think that RR said they will start to really hit this week. The whole intensity and complexity of things will go up 300% in a game. Then, you want offensive composure handling and distributing the ball. Yes, Denard is a terrific athlete. He might be a good QB. But, it seems like Tate has shown overall skill that probably opens up the RR playbook more.

RR will definitely make the right call either way.

Blue Durham

August 25th, 2009 at 12:14 AM ^

it does seem that Michigan has several viable options at QB this year.

And given that both Forcier and Robinson are both true freshmen (and thus physically less mature than the juniors and seniors of opposing defenses that will be hitting them during the course of the season), the added depth may be huge this coming season.


August 25th, 2009 at 2:23 AM ^

throughout the year because they bring different strengths to the field. The problem is the QB time share rarely seems to work worth a damn.

A Tate or a Denard playing all the time is going to be better than a Tate or Denard playing ~ half the time.

That said, I'd expect to see these 2 and Sheridan all playing a bit early on until Sheridan drops out of the picture and we wind up with some sort of 80/20 split by years end.

That's my prediction, barring injury.


August 25th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

Do you remember a guy named Antonio Bass? He sure would have been the perfect fit for our offense. On to who we do have, i expect Sheridan to be done in the 1st half against W.Mich, and Tate and Denard will split time 60-40 until one emerges as the better QB (hopefully). Either way, we will be fine.


August 26th, 2009 at 8:03 AM ^

I believe Antonio Bass's knee/leg had its own personal Angry Michigan [x] Hating God.

He is still at school, on scholarship, and will graduate this year.

Antonio might have been a 5th year senior this year, but he played as a true freshman in 2005 so if we're talking about a zero-injury scenario, he would have been a senior last year.

Still, QB was definitively a weak spot for Michigan last year. I imagine when RR came on board, Antonio would have been moved back to quarterback, and probably would have beaten out Sheridan and Threet, either in the spring or in summer practices. Devin Gardner reminds me of him a lot (bad throwing mechanics, downfield speed, very tough to bring down).