Are Certain Teams Really "Tougher"?

Submitted by Ziff72 on October 21st, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Since Hoke has been hired, check that since RR was hired, wait since football was invented,  there has been a lot of talk about toughness.  Coaches preach it,  the fans eat it up, and the media keeps stirring the pot.   I recognize that each player has certain toughness level to him, but do certain teams and coaches really teach toughness so much that their specific  team is so much  tougher than other teams?  

I think to make it to the high college and pro level most of the players have to have a certain amount of toughness to stay in the game.   I would contend that at that point the levels of toughness are pretty small.

My contention is that when teams win they are usually considered tough and when teams lose the fans and press question their toughness.   I think talent and strength  is mistaken for toughness.   

What got me going on this was some of the talking heads and fans lathering up over Dantonio and Narduzzi.  Are they coaching toughness this year and not teaching toughness 2 years ago when they were getting torched by CMU and Minnesota?   Or is J . Worthy playing now with competent secondary?

I know it has happened before but I can't think of any off the top of my head.  Find me a game that people thought the tougher team lost.  I know it has happened but I would guess the media stories and fan reaction is about 98% winning team and 2% losing team on who was tougher.

I love doing what ifs.  So let's suppose everything that happened Saturday  was the exact same except the ref did not blow the play dead on the backward pass.   We probably pick it up and score for a 14PT turnaround(they scored on that possession) and for the sake of argument the rest of the game played out pretty much as is and Michigan pulls out a tough win.

Is Michigan being lauded for their  toughness?

Does Kovacs come to the podium and say yeah we won but they were the tougher team?

I think a lot of it is BS what do you think?

Edit-I struggled with the title so I changed it to try and cut down on the snark/lack of understanding of my point. 






October 21st, 2011 at 11:45 AM ^

My stepdad cuts trees for a living. His climbing spike slipped and stabbed an inch and a half deep into his thigh. He poured superglue into the hole in his leg, climbed back up the tree, and finished the job. Tough exists.


October 21st, 2011 at 12:39 PM ^

for decades. In fact, it was tested in Vietnam in '66. It isn't magic, I am not sure about medicinal qualities, but there are people alive simply because superglue kept all of the red stuff from leaking out.


October 21st, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

When I was 11 or so, I was playing football and ran into a fence. I cut my eyebrow open pretty good, and when I got the urgent care place, they decided to patch it up with superglue instead of a few stitches. I don't know if they had some special medical glue or if they just used some regular ol' Elmer's, but it did the trick. Except when the stuff started peeling off, it basically took my whole eyebrow with it.


October 21st, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

I can think of two things off of the top of my head that separate some players from others:  the willingness to play through pain and a taste for violence, for lack of a better way to put it.  It's somewhere between hard and impossible to know how much pain someone is in, so it's hard to say how tough a player is being in the face of pain.  As for a taste for violence (maybe "enthusiasm for physical violence" would be a better way to say it), you can see that more in some players than others.  I'm particularly excited about 2012 recruit James Ross because he's a kid who initiates a lot of very violent contact.  He could be contrasted with other players who do not. 


October 21st, 2011 at 11:54 AM ^

Kovacs is an example of someone playing tough. Sometimes the "tougher" team loses because of a lack of technique, athletic ability, etc. But for a team to achieve it's highest possible level, each player has to be willing to face his own fears, overcome adversity, and play each play as though it were his last. In the end, I don't know which team was tougher last weekend--it's impossible to know without being in each player's head. I think the pundits, however, sometimes mistake dirty play with toughness. Toughness is letting the open receiver run by you because you know the safety has him, and you trust the system. Toughness is not responding when your adversary cheats and tries to injure you. Toughness is putting the team ahead of yourself. I see toughness in UM this year, and no, it doesn't always show up on the scoreboard, but it's why I could never root for any team but ours.


October 21st, 2011 at 12:02 PM ^

I think it's mostly a way for analysts and commentators to speak to the lowest common denominator. I.e. most people watching the ESPN talking heads or reading their local sports columnist would have their eyes glaze over if told that Michigan's problem against MSU was the constant A gap blitzing of the linebackers and Michigan's inability to adjust to it. Instead we get 'tougher' or 'wanting it more' because that helps feed the passion for fans.

We don't want to hear that our team won because they were bigger or stronger or faster or out-executed the other team. We want to believe that our team won because they wanted it more.


October 21st, 2011 at 12:13 PM ^

On the one hand,

I recall Rueben Riley playing with two broken thumbs in the '05 season.  So that's toughness right there. 

I think most people would define toughness as being able to push yourself physically, at the cost of aggravating your injuries.  On another level it's something of a state of mind. I'm going to accomplish X no matter what - that sort of thing.

On the other hand,

I don't think "toughness" had much to do at all with the MSU loss.  Go watch the snap count post Brian put up:

and ask yourself if Dave Molk having to block 2 guys at once has anything to do with toughness.

Not blocking the corner blitz on a 4th and 1 doesn't have anything to do with toughness.

Vincent Smith running a hitch instead of a slant that led to the pick six doesn't have anything to do with toughness.

Those were mistakes, plain and simple, on the coaches and the players.  When Hoke said he was outcoached... he was right.



October 21st, 2011 at 12:15 PM ^

always manifest itself on the field every game but instead occurs when a team faces adversity.

For example, I would say the last few years Michigan didn't have that mental toughness as evidenced by their late season collapses, whether that was a coaching or player thing is yet to be determined because the same thing could very well happen this season also.


October 21st, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

Nickel has it right.  Talking heads and ignorant people make shit up to explain what they don't understand.  "UM" was getting blown off the ball ----> MSU is Tougher"  No, MSU brought the house every other play..  More guys pushing on less guys = blown off the ball.

Slow linbacker picture pages example.

MSU 12 yard run.  They must be tougher? Nope, UM got push by 2 guys singled, 1 walkon who was doubled held his own, 2 LB made poor/slow reads, one small CB missed a tackle, Onle LB missed a tackle.  Bad Tech, not low toughness. 

When we marched down the field early was state not tough then? 

All BS.  We need to learn sound D, not toughness.  Although a LB or two willing to knife a couple dudes at a nightclub (but not get convicted) might help??


Red is Blue

October 21st, 2011 at 12:31 PM ^

"I love doing what ifs."

 Here's a few for you:

  • What if the javascript was working so I could have block quoted you?
  • What if water wasn't wet?
  • What if fire was cold?
  • What if, when asked, Profit actually answered?


October 21st, 2011 at 12:35 PM ^

sadism, and a lot of sadists are secret chickenhearts. Being tough is being able to TAKE difficulty en route to some higher goal. Certainly, Hoke has shown more insight about this distinction since last Saturday than Mr. Dantonio.

Dantonio's crybaby demeanor when his team gets whistled is anything but tough. 


Enjoy Life

October 21st, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^

Well, Hoke and the team believe it is!

I have to admit I was shocked when M players were openly stating that MSU was the tougher team. Then Hoke said the same thing.

That was no accident. Hoke believes the team is not tough enough and IMHO he told the seniors and leaders to make these statements to motivate the rest of the guys.

When Hoke and the players talk about "playing Michigan football" they are not talking about merely winning the game -- they are talking about being the tougher team.

Hoke has also stated that a main reason he does not like the spread is because it does not allow the D to practice against tough offenses.

I can imagine the practices for this week and next are pretty intense (and will continue to be).


October 21st, 2011 at 8:35 PM ^

I'm confused though. I thought Lloyd Carr had too much of a country club atmosphere and that is why his teams were soft? I am confused as to when we can blame coaching/schemes and when the players are pussies.

Toughness will only take you so far. Calling something to neutralize a blitz would have been a million times better than being a tougher team last Saturday.


October 21st, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

Tiger Woods for example.  That dude grinds like no one else, makes more putts with it all on the line and and has won more than anyone else.

Is he statistically far and away better than everyone else? No, but he has won far and away mroe than anyone else.  Why?? He is far and away mentally tougher than anyone else and its only a matter of time before he gets back to old form.

I think Hoke is preaching mental toughness just as much or more than physical toughness.  he has turned 2 programs around by preaching this way, so yeah, I think its real.



October 21st, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

All right I'll go with your example.

So after year 5 when Hoke was at Ball St and they still sucked are you saying that he was able to properly make his team tougher than the rest of the MAC, but they still sucked because had tough but terrible football players?

Tiger Woods is not a valid example, because I understand that certain football players(Ray Lewis) can be much tougher than other football players(Justin Boren).

What I am saying is that when you get to a certain level toughness is not the determining factor that the media and fans like to bring up.

Here's my example.  There are 100-120 starting linebackers in the NFL.   These guys for the most part have played and excelled at LB for at least 5-10 years to reach that point.  Do you think toughness seperates the best ones at this point or does speed, intelligence, technique and instincts seperate them?

I would content that almost everyone of those LB's is one tough sob.   What seperates them is talent.



October 21st, 2011 at 3:40 PM ^

I think by toughness, Hoke is talking more about mental toughness - which is more about attitude, believing in yourself and your team, confidence, and and undying "no-quit" attitude 

I am not talking about talent, although the LB examples you mentioned are valid because talent is certainly a factor in winning.  But you also have to note that veteren starting LBs in the NFL are at the top of the food chain, they dont get their unless they are tough and talented.

But we are talking about 18-22 year old kids in college football.  Teaching an attitude of winning to these kids is just as important as the physical aspects of the game - getting faster, stronger, technically sound, etc.


October 21st, 2011 at 8:45 PM ^

I think you missed the point. Was Hoke not teaching mental toughness, confidence, and a "no-quit" attitude the first 5 years at Ball State when they hadn't recorded a winning season, or do you think his two winning seasons out of 6 years there was a little influenced by the QB who was drafted after his junior year and set passing records at Ball State?