Devin Gardner: A Love/Hate Story

Submitted by MDot on September 21st, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Devin Gardner has been a great face for this program over the past couple years, and I believe he'll be successful in whatever he does going forward in life off-the-field. His rise in HS happened during the time I was most invested in HS recruiting, especially locally, so him ending up at Michigan was a big deal at the time. Over the years, I've come to very much admire his story what he's come to represent, especially being from Detroit.


...Football wise, however, if it wasn't obvious before, it is now. Whatever potential this team has, it will fail to reach it with the lack of consistency DG has from play-to-play, let alone game to game. Regardless of what he's said in the media in the off-season, it's clear he struggles with confidence. When he has it rolling, he has shown the ability to be a big-time playmaker. When a few things go wrong, everything seems to go south in a hurry.


I would hate seeing DG benched in his redshirt-senior year...but it's not like he wasn't given every opportunity. He just didn't capitalize. That's life. Wanted to see him succeed, but unless he can successfully convert to WR, football isn't in his future. Overall though, as hard as Michigan has been to watch over the past year, I'll still miss seeing Gardner under center, whenever that time comes, mostly for the reasons stated above.



September 21st, 2014 at 11:19 AM ^

guy, but I think most people had valid concerns at the beginning of last year - at times against sub-par opponents.  Flashes of brilliance and then just valleys of complete inconsistency and bad decisions.  I think we've always questioned his QB intellgence and unfortunately now it's reared it's ugly head.  How much the Oline is to blame here over the last two years is of course subject to debate, but the turnovers are just becoming too much to overcome these days.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:20 AM ^

Love the kid, hate his play on the field (for the most part). But see, that's the thing -- he can be SO good one game, and then in the next, look like a redshirt freshman making his first start. Why this is? Who knows. It seems to me, though, that the first mistake tends to spiral him downward from there. There's little-to-no "recovery" ability. He seems to have a tough time forgetting the last play, or the last series, and moving on.

Anyway, I have no doubt that Mr. Gardner will be a very successful person in his post-college life, wherever that happens to be.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:21 AM ^

Whatever potential this team has, it will fail to reach it with the lack of consistency DG has from play-to-play, let alone game to game.

What have you seen from Shane Morris in actual gameplay that suggests that he will help this team reach "whatever potential" that it has?  It's one thing if you think we should throw in the towel on the season and start playing Shane in order to get him ready for next year.  But the notion that replacing Gardner with Morris is going to result in the team's improvement this season runs completely contrary to anything we've seen.  Morris' stats yesterday were worse than Gardner's were.  

I desperately hope that Morris turns into the QB we all want him to be and turns this team around in the next two years.  But he's not the answer this year.  


September 21st, 2014 at 11:43 AM ^

Never said Shane was, simply saying Gardner isn't. I actually said in another thread yesterday:


"MSU's offense looked similarly horrible last year until they found their QB, then they took off. Their offensive staff didn't magically get better, it just turned out they had the wrong QB under center. Shane may not be ready to take the offense any further, but for where this team is, we need to see what he has....but here's the conundrum: We have coach who is under "win now" pressure, but his team's most talented players (on both sides of the ball) simply aren't ready to help the team do so. So unless Gardner magically improves, we're fucked either way."


September 21st, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

I'm not saying Morris is better, I'm saying you have to take that chance. You know what you have now with Devin and what you have is untenable and not likely to get better. In addition to the mental issues, Devin now looks physically unable to push the ball down field and defenses are starting to key in on that fact. 

Morris has not looked great so far but there's a big difference between getting told mid game to strap on your helmet and having a week of preparation as The Guy and a gameplan created around your skills and weaknesses. A couple of starts may get him settled in. It might not, but like I said, you have to take that chance. 


September 21st, 2014 at 12:46 PM ^

Morris didn't just come in mid-game, he came in down three scores with 10 minutes left in the 4th Q.  His mission, to put together two TD drives and a FG drive in the last 10 minutes of the game.  No pressure dude, get it done.

Gardner's first start was against Minnesota in 2012, we play Minnesota this Saturday, maybe serious consideration should be given to seeing what Morris can do against Minnesota.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:21 AM ^

I claim no expertise in judging QB play, and television doesn't show the entire field, so my apologies if this is off base.  But, how often has Gardner even thought about / looked in the direction of a secondary receiver?  Funchess is a great athlete, no doubt about it, but if Funchess has 2-3 defenders focused on him, doesn't that mean somebody else is likely running free? And, didn't he do the same thing with Gallon last year?


September 21st, 2014 at 1:22 PM ^

I think the best example of this was a couple of games ago when Funchess was out and Darboh had about 8 catches. Did Amara just have a random great game, or did he just replace Funchess & DG locked in to his primary target? Feels like the latter, right?


...Which also makes me think, maybe our skill positions are more talented than we think (these recruiting services couldn't have been wrong on ALL of these guys), we just don't have the QB and/or system to utilize them.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:26 AM ^

I feel awful for Gardner. Three offensive coordinators, the position change, a shaky oline, the poor guy seems like he never had the chance to really develop or learn the way most QBs do. I'd bet that if he had gone to a program with more stability he would have turned out to be a hell of a college QB, but unfortunately that just hasn't been the case here. 


September 21st, 2014 at 11:31 AM ^

For someone who seems so personable and well adjusted as Devin Gardner, it's very sad to think of him being disappointed by his current career prospects.

Things might change for the better. It would be great if he could bounce back and finish this season well; but after one-third of Michigan's 2014 football season, Devin Gardner is the 64th ranked FBS quarterback in the nation in passing efficiency.

He’ll always have the 2013 Notre Dame, Indiana and Ohio State games to use for his highlight reel; but if he wants to delay his career as a social worker by trying to pursue a professional football career, then at this point in the 2014 season, it’s hard to imagine him getting much more than a courtesy invitation to an NFL team’s tryout camp.

There are only 20 senior quarterbacks ranked ahead of him in passing efficiency, so, unless he loses his starting job, he still could be invited to one of the post-season all-star games. But barring a dramatic, positive turnaround in his on-field performance, I wouldn't expect him to be invited to the NFL Combine.

Some NFL team might take a shot at putting him on a practice squad and converting him into a wide receiver while also allowing him to work as a scout team quarterback in order to save a practice squad spot for another player who'd be needed more at a position other than quarterback.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:30 AM ^

DG is OBVIOUSLY gifted with some AMAZING physical talents.

And, man, I can't remember watching a kid who wants to win SO bad that he throws his body on the grenade regularly. Last year's performance at The Game was heroic by DG.

It's just too painful to watch him feel like he's in a position where he HAS to throw himself on the grenade/take the hit/force the throw, when he actually ISN'T in that position.

It's that drive to succeed at all costs, that need for competitiveness, that can be so inspirational...
... but also so infuriating, when the right answer is often, "Just throw the f#%^€ ball out-of-bounds!"

And you have to feel for the kid: one second, he's supposed to be Denard Robinson, THEN Tom Brady, THEN McCarron.. Behind a variable and inconsistent OL no less.

But that's football at this level. And pro football, even more so.

Entirely plausible DG is a great fit for a stable NFL program that runs a pro-set, spread-lite, offense with stable OL, stanle OC, that needs a mobilish QB.

But here in Michigan? Now? Bad for everyone involved, including DG.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:33 AM ^

I've always been of the notion that Devin Gardner has what it takes to be a truly elite Michigan QB. Hell if you look at his numbers you'll see that in the grand scheme of things, he's not terrible. But at the same time he's not elite. He just hasn't taken that last step where he can transition from "star" to "superstar." And unfortunatley it appears he's run out of time.

Like everyone has said here I think Devin is a really great guy, and I happen to believe he's suffered enough in terms of all the criticism he gets.

But at the same time, you're wearing the number 98 for a reason. 

At the end of the day, you got a right to expect more. I understand he can't look like an elite QB all season, but are we supposed to believe that we're not at a point where he can have moments where he looks elite? Like every other game?

I'm not sold on him as WR because I remember that experiment with Denard. Then again Shane can throw the ball and Denard...well, can't. So maybe Nuss could see something there? I dunno. I'd prefer a 2 QB system but I don't think either of the guys are ready for it.

So yeah, I do feel for DG. Even if football isn't in his future I hope he succeeds in whatever future endeavours he has. Considering there's a chance this'll be his last year playing football anywhere, I can only hope he decides to leave it all on the gridiron and go out with a bang.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:38 AM ^

"Then again Shane can throw the ball and Denard...well, can't."

Good fucking grief.  Shane's turnover rate is much worse than Denard's ever was.  Given that Denard was easily the best QB since this program has had since Chad Henne, the last Michigan QB since John Navarre to beat Ohio State, and the last Michigan QB since Tom Brady to win a BCS bowl game, let's not bring him up just to suggest that he was deficient as a QB.  He's pretty much the only thing that kept this program afloat for any time during the last 7 years.  


September 21st, 2014 at 12:14 PM ^

Not because of his throwing ability alone, but Denard's throwing ability more than sufficiently complemented his running ability when the coaches gave him a proper gameplan for both (see, e.g., ND 2010, OSU 2011).  His passing issues became most apparent when the new regime stubbornly tried to turn him into a pocket passer, run lots of play-action, and repeatedly throw the ball over the top.  He couldn't do that, nor should he have been asked to.  But the notion that he just "couldn't throw," is ridiculous.   


September 21st, 2014 at 11:33 AM ^

Good thing we have a backup that doesn't make bad decisions and turn the ball over too.... oh wait.


Really though, I was totally against rolling with Shane like many others, but at this point DG seems so rattled and just out of it, I would be fine going with either QB.


September 21st, 2014 at 1:35 PM ^

in the KSU game is about right.  6 points with an ultra-conservative passing game in first half; once forced to throw downfield in second half--nada.  While he has largely been on the field at odd times, Morris has no good moments to date and many bad ones.  Again, 7 personal TOs and zero TDs.

And we need more than a game manager--as we have very few offensive weapons, save Funchess.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:35 AM ^

Like Brandy and Dierdorf were saying yesterday:

He is a great overall human being. He goes to Mott frequently, reads to elementary school kids, and is pursuring his master's degree as well as being a freak of an athlete overall. 

He just does not have a future at the QB position. 


September 21st, 2014 at 4:06 PM ^

Yeah, an ironic charge, as Gardner has been very much a victim of the coaching changes, and other struggles, of the last five years.  He has had three different OCs and systems.  The reality, I think, is that the problems at Michigan run deeper than one player, or even one coach, or perhaps even one head coach.  What has transpired here is something like instutional arrogance, or a spiritual malaise, and I think the responsiblitity lies ultimately with the program itself.  That is not to say that actual persons should not be held accountable, or won't be held responsible, but all I am saying is that Devin Gardner is not that person.


September 21st, 2014 at 11:48 AM ^

I hate the whole situation.

Devin could've been one of the greatest quarterbacks Michigan's ever seen.  He's got the tools and the athleticism.  But god DAMN.  At some point the hits caught up to him.  I can't count the number of times I've seen him drop back, begin to throw, and then inexplicably pull the ball back down and start looking around frantically.

I mean the dude came here as a 5-star recruit knowing he'd be riding the bench for the next few years behind Tate and Denard, burned his redshirt for a few snaps against Bowling Green, stayed through the coaching change, switched to WR for the team and watched the Nebraska debacle unfold without him, switched back to QB on a dime, and then got his ribs turned into paste. 

The guy deserves the best of everything.  The whole situation just stinks.


September 21st, 2014 at 12:37 PM ^

This is undoubtedly true but his play still has been a big part of the problem. It also happens to be the problem with the simplest potential solution. With OL, RB, and WR we're basically out of options. Various coaching issues are off-season fixes. QB is an easy one to try now.  It might not work, in fact it probably won't, but we're at a point where we need to try. 


September 21st, 2014 at 12:06 PM ^

I think Devin's struggles are largely attributable to the coaches trying to make him a pocket passer. He's more effective in a free-wheeling run/pass offense.

So, a decision needs to be made. Do we return to Denardball to win as many games as we can this year with Devin or do we look to the future and hand the pocket-passer reigns to Shane?

You Only Live Twice

September 21st, 2014 at 12:08 PM ^

People look for magic bullets.... one of the (very few) advantages of getting older is acquiring a more patient mindset.  Putting in Morris last night seemed so wrong on so many levels - unless Gardner was hurt. 


September 21st, 2014 at 12:20 PM ^

I'll let the staff make the decision, as long as the guy who gives us the best chance to win plays, I'm fine (don't care if it's a true fresh or 5th year Senior).

That said, I really DG as a person (and I really hope he can pull it together in his final season). No matter what happens, he deserves respect for giving this program his all.



September 21st, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

are able to look at someone, accurately gauge their strengths and weaknesses (we all have both) and put them in situations where their strengths are emphasized and capitalized on. Devon Gardner deserves our support not condemnation. Don't tell me about reading defenses and mechanics and all that stuff that very few of us have any real understanding of. You want to give up? Go root for sparty

Perkis-Size Me

September 21st, 2014 at 12:32 PM ^

I will never question Gardner's heart or his desire to win. His performance against OSU last year, while on a broken foot, was nothing short of legendary.

But at the end of the day, he's not getting results on a consistent basis. And if you can't get results, you need to be replaced for someone that can. I appreciate everything he's done, and he's put on some heroic performances, but he's just not getting the job done.

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Windy City Blue

September 21st, 2014 at 12:40 PM ^

I think he's still messed up from last season. This year the pass pro seems worlds better, but his numbers aren't. I understand it's a new system, but it feels like he's holding onto the ball for too long. I also don't see him stepping into throws and delivering the ball confidently. This has been mentioned ad nasuem but he does stare down his target the whole time and rarely goes to a check down. He's just not a good QB. IMO, 5 picks in 4 games mean you don't get to start anymore.


September 21st, 2014 at 1:13 PM ^

Everybody acknowledges his athletic ability. Yea the offense has other problems. But if you simply evaluate DG on performance he comes up short and he hasn't improved since last year. What you see is what you are going to get. Not so with Morris. You don't know yet what you'll get because you only find that out over time and after sustained experience. If you had a coach convinced in his long term security he would change QB's immediately.


September 21st, 2014 at 1:22 PM ^

A topflight quarterback has the ability to scan the field, see three things at once, make the right decision, then act on it in a microsecond.  There's a reason that Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings are so rare.

Devin Gardner has a lot of heart, and is a gifted athlete.  He just doesn't have that critical ability.  Had he been well coached from the beginning, he could have been a decent, though perhaps not great, quarterback.  That didn't happen, and now this is where we're at.

Hold your head up, Devin.  Godspeed.  You will make the world a better place. 


September 21st, 2014 at 1:53 PM ^

Jermaine Gonzales, only issue is Devin didn't have John Navarre or Lloyd Carr to keep him at WR. Only issue is Shane Morris is Spencer Brinton, cannon for an arm but either not ready or not a good QB. Your QB will get you fired or a raise, the greatest NFL QBs didn't win titles in college, it's hit and miss but Brady has missed but should've realized it sooner rather then been the nice guy.


September 21st, 2014 at 2:11 PM ^

Thank you Devin, you are a Michigan man, an incredible athlete. Now is the time to love to WR, that corp needs some help anyway. Let Shane take over, at least that might make our passing game an honest threat and open up a few more holes. I actually think the oline has given Devin time, he's just too rattled.

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September 21st, 2014 at 2:13 PM ^

It is true that Devin has not performed this year.
But can you think of a situation that is less conducive to producing success than what he has been through?
- He was the number one dual-threat QB out of high school.  
- He rides the bench behind Denard early on.
- His whole coaching staff and offensive system changes under his feet.  
- Then he is switched to wide receiver.  
- Then he is switched back to QB in a rush when Denard gets hurt.  
- Then his OC changes and puts him under center as a pocket passer and ignores his one consistent strength . . . his running threat.
DG got a raw deal.  There is nobody who can say that he was given every opportunity to succeed.  He was pretty much given every opportunity to fail.
Do you think for a moment that if he was at Clemson or Oregon or even Ohio State that he would not be a completely different QB?
Can you understand why recruits crave coaching stability?
It's a shame to think that after all he went through, his memories of his senior fifth year would be of misery and pain.
Morris is not the magic answer just yet.  What I would like to see for Devin is that he gets one more chance, but in a offensive scheme the plays to his strengths.  Let Devin run!  Let's put him back in an offensive structure like OSU 2013 or ND 2013.  Devin under center is not the answer.   


September 21st, 2014 at 3:00 PM ^

I'm sad that this conversation has come up.  I've really pulled for the guy and he's certainly gone through a lot in his time here.  But he doesn't look like a guy with 20-some starts under his belt.   He's struggling to make pretty basic throws and his footwork and throwing motion are all over the place.  I don't know how much of that you can pin on the OC/QB coach change; there aren't that many different ways to teach a guy how to throw a football.  I've got to believe it's a mental thing, but it's odd to see from such an experienced player.

As a runner, too, something seems wrong.  He looks a step slower than before, and getting to the corner seems a lot tougher for him.  I don't know if that's him being tentative or having some kind of injury, but he doesn't seem like the same runner as before.

Finally, I wonder about him as a leader of the huddle.  Does he inspire the same kind of confidence Denard did?  Can he rally his teammates to lay it all on the line?  The QB has to be able to do that.  It seems like this offense gets into funks and then can't snap out of it.  The D still seems to play with a lot of fire, but I'm not seeing this from the O.  

Does this mean he should be benched?  I don't know.  Morris looks talented but very, very raw - though he's got that gunslinger's confidence that Gardner once had.  If Gardner can find that back, he's the guy, but I don't know if he can.



September 21st, 2014 at 3:54 PM ^

I see him as a metaphor for this team: he is very talented, appears to be a good leader on the field, has a good attitude, and is one of the few Michigan QBs in Michigan history who has four years of experience.  Yet his performance has been less than the sum of those impressive parts.



September 21st, 2014 at 4:37 PM ^

It is easier for me, since this isn't my team. But after last season I sincerely gained a lot of respect for Devin Gardner. The fact he kept getting up and kept going during the MSU game when I was almost screaming at the TV just stay down really sold me on him. That he almost beat us with a broken foot just cemented it.

Given those feats, along with switching positions a couple times to do what is best for the team, plus all the positive off field stuff, as a human being I want a good person who has done all the right things, even if he went to Michigan, to succeed except one game a year.

Yet, I understand his limitations and the desire for some kind of sustained success. I'm not sure if benching him will help. Your o-line is a bit better this season but if you put Morris in there are you going to fix your offense or break another QB?


September 21st, 2014 at 4:55 PM ^

I think Gardner is a great kid. I think he is immensely talented. I think he has been everything you hope a student athlete will become as far as being a man is concerned. I'm not sure what happened, but I hope he can find something to salvage this year. He has given so much to the program. When I think of him, I'll always remember 2013 ND game and OSU, flat  on his back after the two point conversion attempt. He gave it his all, and thats the way he always plays.

I don't know what the answer is for him, but I do know that I don't like the "love/hate" in the thread title. He may be having a rough year, but he has earned more respect than that.