Losing versus blaming

Submitted by bronxblue on October 16th, 2011 at 9:56 PM

So after reading the board the past couple of days, I have a faint sense that people are unhappy with the loss to State and believe that something (in this case, Denard's passing arm and/or illicit love triangle with both Tacopants and Taquittoshorts) should be blamed.  And while I understand the sense of anger with losing to the Spartans for the 4th straight time, I don't understand this patholigical desire to blame a TEAM's failure to win on a single player and, even worse, propose some half-cocked remedies like replacing Denard with Devin Gardner.

I get that it sucks to lose to a rival, especially one as mind-boggling annoying as MSU, and the way the team lost (with all of the personal fouls and rough tactics by the MSU defense) certainly didn't help.  But sometimes teams just lose because the other team beat them, because players struggled or failed to perform, and it isn't because one player "cost" them the game.  Yes, Denard struggled throwing the ball, but the whole offense failed to perform up to task.  The offensive line was unable to open up consistent running lanes or provide a suitable pocket for Denard to work out of, and the RBs were never able to generate consistent positive yardage (a problem we have seen all year).  The WRs, while certainly open at times, also dropped a couple of very catchable balls that would have extended drives (the Roundtree one jumps to mind, and I believe Koger also dropped a close one, amongst others).  The defensive line was unable to create much of a pass rush against a mediocre State line, and the LBs failed to stop up cutback lanes and tackle MSU's running backs before they could get going.  The defensive backfield, while solid at times, were also guilty of poor tackling that allowed MSU WRs to score near the goalline as well as extend drives.  And the coaches made a number of questionable decisions on both sides of the ball, sometimes leaving players in positions where they could not succeed.

My point here is that the TEAM lost that game, and that's okay.  It happens.  Denard is a part of that team, but to lump the blame on his shoulder after what he has done these past two years is offensive.  He had a bad game; so did Fitz, Smith, Hemingway, Martin, Demens, Borges, Hoke, etc.  The TEAM lost, and hopefully the rest of the year the TEAM will win.  But I don't hear people calling for Rawls to get more carries, for Schofield to replace Lewan, or for Campbell to replace Heininger full-time.  I want this TEAM to win because it is a fun bunch and they have been through so much these past 4 years.  But as a fanbase we need to accept that losses happen sometimes not because a single player "failed", but because the TEAM just didn't perform.  And that's okay as long as they get better.



October 16th, 2011 at 9:59 PM ^

Very Well put.....  Please take the loss and move on.  Denard is human and is magical and this team is miles better than anyone ever hoped for.  The defense played very well and held a good offensive State team to 21 points.  We are and will be a force to reckon with for years to come.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:01 PM ^

While I agree calling for the replacement of Denard with Devin after one loss is over reaction, I think you're defense of him may be over reaction in the other direction. The fact is, Denard's passing regressed during last season as well. As a fan base we seem to be waiting for the next melt down, and given past performances D-Rob's throwing is the target coming under fire.

I'm not ready to call for his replacement, but it needs to get better. We do also need more consistent rushing and line play and name any other number of things that need work. It's all along the lines of what Hoke has been saying all season: the team is not where it needs to be yet.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:08 PM ^

Going just by INT numbers is a definite effort in futility. Look at the pick six Saturday, which was a result of the receiver not looking for the ball. But I do see a trend in Denard sailing the ball when throwing off his back foot. I won't argue that the team as a whole has work to do, but for those who express concern over throwing mechanics aren't exactly making things up.


October 17th, 2011 at 8:50 AM ^

I don't think people objectively see Devin as a better QB prospect now or in the future, but just wonder if he could be better.  I'm fine if Devin beats Denard out for the position because of his play on the practice field, but I don't perceive that being the case.  People just want a change at QB because UM lost, and because Devin threw a couple of passes with some zip on them (even though he also made some bad passes).


October 16th, 2011 at 10:31 PM ^

The upper echelon BIG has not been great and frankly I'd prefer to watch a balanced offense. Keep him at QB or move him to flanker we will have the same average record but would be better next year if we play Gardner now. I believe he'll lose his job by the Iowa game and never get it back.


October 17th, 2011 at 8:55 AM ^

Outside of a couple of Fitz runs and Smith being a good pass catcher and blocker, it has been a rather un-inspiring group.  Some of that oes fall on the coaching staff, but I have to think that if Borges had faith the line and the RBs could generate a real running attack beyond having Denard take hits on designed runs, he would.  Even on that late 4th-down conversion where Denard kept the ball, Smith was hit in the backfield almost as soon as he had the ball.  That shouldn't happen, and might be indicative of some failings in the backfield. 

I think the running backs are fine, but there is nobody who has really taken over a game or move the chains without perfect blocking.

lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 8:41 AM ^

Funny how the last couple years, at least, it was always the coaches fault (for some, not all, posters)...

And then for the board to get melty about blaming O-line or Denard...when the previous staff would speak about the players not being ready to win, or not at the point where the coaching staff could get them in a position to read/make plays, it was a RichRod flambe-fest, because he "ripped on the poor kids." 

I think the coaches and coordinators deserve a TON of blame for the debacle on Saturday.  They are doing precisely what we were promised wouldn't happen earlier this year.  Forcing a pro-style offense onto these players, DRob in particular, is turning into a real mess.

Tie in the grudging admission that Spielman (hate listening to him much less than Herbie) was absolutely correct in putting the onus on the coaches for screwing around with schemes and play-calling...

But we have a countdown clock, so now the players realize playing MSU is serious business, right?


lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 9:14 AM ^

If only we had countdown clocks for Toledo.

If only we had 20+ players with starting experience return in 2008.

If only we had a previous coach who DIDN'T tell the entire team it was OK to quit, and he'd sign their transfer papers.

What we DO have is a coaching staff that DID put up countdown clocks to THIS GAME in particular, and got pantsed by the opposing coaches.



October 16th, 2011 at 10:11 PM ^



This is inSANE.  One loss in which we dont run block especially well, dont hold the edge on wide plays worth a damn, have zero pass rush against 5 dudes who barely know each other's name and can't give our QB's more than 2 seconds to make their reads and go through their progressions and not one, not two, but THREE FUCKING MORONS WHO CLAIM TO BE MICHIGAN FANS SUGGEST BENCHING DENARD.  Not to mention the mother of all stupid 4th and one playcalls which damn near got him decapitated.   I'll bet these idiots are the same "fans" who were jamming the ESPN polls making Denard the Heisman front-runner just last week.  The absolute lack of basic football knowledge is almost breath-taking in its completeness.  To create a thread where you suggest benching the single most electric and explosive player on the field at any time is to basically raise your hand and proudly exclaim "I'm a complete idiot who knows absolutely NOTHING about football.  Somebody listen to what I have to say".

I now know three MGoblogger's that if they told me it was dark out at midnight I'd have to open up a window and check.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:43 PM ^

I think many people have said to consider giving Devin more snaps at QB and having Denard on the field for all offensive snaps but in a different role. It's a small difference but I haven't seen many or any people suggest to bench Denard outright.

In the end the coaches should do what they think will make this team better and give it the best chance to win. I do agree with a lot of posters and announcers that it wasn't a good idea to alternate between Denard and Devin as frequently as was done yesterday.


October 16th, 2011 at 11:52 PM ^

to play both QB's, at least try to keep Denard on the field most of the time.  Maybe you bring him out if he needs a breather or you want to tell him something, but at least keep him out for a decoy.  Heck, his best runs yesterday when on the end arounds when Gardner was the QB.

Also, let Gardner play a few snaps in a row to get comfortable.  It can't be easy coming in for one play here or there.  He doesn't necessarily need to be out there for an entire drive, but maybe give him 3-4 snaps in a row to settle down a little bit.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:58 PM ^


I'm not ready to argue for Devin Gardner to be starting, but this response is way, way over the top. No player is bigger than the team. If it's OK to discuss whether or not Troy Woolfolk should be starting, it's OK to discuss the same about Denard.  I love the guy, but he's got to perform better, or this issue won't go away. 


October 17th, 2011 at 9:00 AM ^

I'm not going to start a war over this, but questioning whether a clearly-injured and ineffective Woolfolk should be starting is not the same as calling for the benching of the reigning B1G offensive player of the year who has accounted for over 2000 yards of offense so far and who has been instrumental in winning games the past couple of years. 

My point remains that talking about Denard's struggles is one thing, but the blanket "put in Gardner and bench Denard" because he had a bad game is myopic.  So what happens if Devin goes out there and craps the bed?  Do you call in Denard again?  I saw this with Brady and Henson years ago, and it drove me crazy then as well.  Denard is the starter unless he totally regresses (meaning 3-4 more games like Saturday), and then this offseason you have a real QB competition.  But yanking guys in and out has NEVER worked in the long term, and nothing about Devin or Denard speaks to this being a good move.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:15 PM ^

I blame Borges. I've been vocal about this game being on Borges. Devin will be good one day, right now he's too skittish to be the full time QB. 

lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 8:48 AM ^

Ya know what would have helped, not a total panacea, but helped?

Play Devin when Michigan was up 28 against one of the tomato cans earlier in the season.  Spielman RIPPED on having Devin in the game, trying to pass in those lousy conditions...a guy who comes in to do the DRob Jet Sweep hand-off is NOT the guy who can come in and take this team on his back (or arm) and lead down the field.

Doing the Lloyd, and keeping your starters in late, not only opens them up to more opportunities for getting dinged up, but reduces the quality touches that the back-ups could take.

How hard is THAT to understand?


October 16th, 2011 at 10:18 PM ^

Denard is the only replaceable player on that field.

Having your most valuable player on the field is what helps you win. Obviously these coaches think that Denard and Devin are two the the most valuable offensive players or we wouldnt be doubling up QB's out of position so frequently. Why not at least maximise that by putting our most valuable passer at the passer position (Devins accuracy over Denard was confirmed by Hoke) and put Denard in as a RB (by far his most valuable position). It's not like Devin isn't mobile enough to run the spread, he's athletic and was highly recruited for it.

Ideas that are full of valid merit are not "half-cocked" especially when the only rebuttal is "Denard is the most valuable player on that field". Yes that arguement is valid, so why not maximise it by having him only do his valued role and leave the passing to a more accurate player that isn't currently leading the nation in INT's?

The run game got shut down because they didn't even consider worrying about Denard throwing.

It's not a matter of singling out Denard because it's all his fault. It's just that.... well we dont have anyone else on the team that could feasibly be replaced short of putting our number one RB at RB and our moving a more accurate passer into the passing position.

On top of all of this there couldn't be a more perfect time to instill it short of next year. It's not like Denard can't just come back to QB if it doesnt work out.



October 16th, 2011 at 10:39 PM ^

involved with learning a new position? It's not just grab the ball and run. Denard would have to learn pass blocking, route running, what he's supposed to do on plays, etc. Not to mention he would get beat up every single game. That's simply not a feasible option.

lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 8:52 AM ^

I tell ya, I wanted to send a Mailbag to Brian about how little I like the "Fritz Formation" and the transition to a 10-against-11 play when that formation is out there.

The Jet Sweep is all fine and good, but Devin's not a blocker, he's not as speedy as Denard, and if Devin's going to pass out of this formation, then you've got Denard out there, who's not a blocker, not a receiver...

I don't see that as very much trickeration.  I think a pistol or wildcat with another RB would work better than having Devin take that snap...


October 17th, 2011 at 9:19 AM ^

I understand that Devin might be a little more accurate, but he is not the runner Denard is and honestly doesn't look that much better a passer as to offset Denard's experience and speed.  I also think that might have been a bit of coach-speak to (a) justify why he ran those types of plays in a close game, and (b) criticize Denard's bad game without pointing it out explicitly. 

And while people like to think of Denard as a RB, he isn't.  He's a smallish guy who would get injured rather quickly if you gave him the ball 15+ times a game and expected him to run a conventional RB role (including blocking, pass catching, etc.).  He's not a great QB, but putting him at RB would neuter his effectiveness on the football field.

My point remains that the team failed, and there are places where other individuals could step up and be more effective, not just at QB.   

lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 9:25 AM ^

and Position Coaches are supposed to do, put players in a place where they can make plays...and where Michigan fell distinctly short of the mark.

As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, Denard isn't an RB or a WR, so the "Fritz Formation," while amusing and entertaining, puts Michigan at a disadvantage, 10 players on O vs. 11 on D.

What was noticeable was Denard trying so hard to stay in the collapsing pocket and avoid blitzers, instead of having plays to roll away, or evade the oncoming rush...again, on the Coordinator.

And their genius halftime adjustments...


October 17th, 2011 at 9:42 AM ^

What was everyone on this blog, including Brian, saying about Rollout plays 3 days ago?

Oh right, they were death, and never worked.

In no way do I think the coaches are blameless, but I at least acknowledge that I don't know enough football to credibly point to what they specifically did wrong.

Of course, maybe if you told us what the record of the team you coach is, we may take your schematic suggestions with a bit more credibility.

lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 10:14 AM ^

But I wasn't brought in to coach this team, amid a torrent of hyperbole and Kool-Aid swilling, making all sorts of noise about THIS game, and emphasizing how I'd use the best characteristics of the players on-site.

Of course, neither did you.

If only coaching experience were a pre-requisite to post on this site...


October 17th, 2011 at 10:28 AM ^

Well, I think coaching experience is a pre-requisite to credibly say a word about what you schematically feel went wrong.

They lost to a better team. It happens. I don't see why you feel so aggrieved by this staff. You'd better accept that, at some point, they're going to lose another game. Are you going to whine this much then, too?

lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 10:45 AM ^

Not whining...just annoyed that opportunity was there, and it wasn't grasped.  And sure, losses happen to almost every team...that's known, too...

Losing to a better team...novel concept.  Not aimed at you, Blue2.

But that mantra has been bandied severely over the past 40 hours or so.  Looking over the past 6 years, losses to OSU and MSU come to mind, it can be argued those may have better teams (though maybe not the 2011 vintage MSU?)...losing to ND?  Minnesota?  We don't have to throw out Purdue, PSU or (ugh) Toledo...again, different team, far different personnel and capabilities, etc.

Kinda going off tangent, better left to another thread on a different day.

Thanks for your comments. 

lexus larry

October 17th, 2011 at 11:02 AM ^

Didn't make an absolute statement, but looking at 22 starters on each team, maybe MSU wasn't the superior team.  Their body of work after 7 games, are they the better team?  On that day, yeah, probably...but for the season?  Will we look back on an opportunity lost?

Yeah, watching the blitzkreig, our O-line looked pretty bad...and I think there were steps that could be taken to deflect or delay the impact of the continuous blitzes, or punish their over-aggressiveness.

What were your thoughts?  Prior to the game?  Afterwards?  Did you think our 22 starters were better than theirs, and could have/should have won?  Unit-vs-unit, what did you think?  Yeah, our O-line came out bad.  No question there.  What else? 


October 17th, 2011 at 11:08 AM ^

I thought the game was likely a toss-up, leaning slightly in their favor due to home-field advantage.

I was surprised they ran as effectively against us as they did, but on the flip-side, I was surprised our passing defense held up as well as it did. Overall, our D allowed 21 points - that's pretty much my expectation, and a performance I'd call "decent".

I've been down on our OL for most of the year, so I wasn't shocked they got beat - but the degree to which they got beaten surprised me. I take nothing from how poor Denard looked throwing the ball, merely because of the amount of pressure he was under. We all know he needs to be able to step in to his throws - he simply wasn't afforded the opportunity. In my opinion, we lost the game at the offensive LOS, and, at that point, it looked like we were just the worse team.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:25 PM ^

My fear:

Looking ahead to next season it's not any more likely that  we'll win vs. MSU. We lose Martin, Molk, Van Bergen, etc. with little depth coming in behind them for a couple of years, and face a much tougher schedule to boot. The tired idea that Denard was somehow going to drastically improve drew its last breath yesterday  in East Lansing. If all the Denard loyalists are correct and Gardner is no better, then we have no hope of beating them until 2013 at the earliest. This year was our best chance and we blew it.

Don't even get me started on Ohio State. Anyone who watched their game vs Illinois and came out believing we're going to win against them this year or the next is seriously delusional.


October 16th, 2011 at 10:28 PM ^

Yep, the blame game is a waste of time.  The team got beat.  A lot of emotional things happened.  Blah, blah, blah.

Watch the film.  Come up with a better game plan.  Practice the better game plan.  The players who learn the game plan and practice the best will play.  Keep improving as a team and win more than we lose the rest of the year.

The one question I ask myself after every loss is whether I am still just as much of a fan as I was before the game.  My streak is alive for 30 years with the same answer.  I get my football fix by loving this program.  I can love them whether they win or lose and that works for me.