Snowflakes re: our coaching staff

Submitted by michgoblue on November 25th, 2012 at 1:00 PM

I have not read all of the million threads criticizing our coaches, defending our coaches, analyzing our depth chart and generally offering thoughts on the state of this team, but I have skimmed at least a few.  I will try not to be too repetative, although I doubt I will succeed.  Some general thoughts on our coaches after 2 seasons:

1.   I still believe that Hoke is the right guy for us.  Most importantly, he seems to have instilled a sense of "we are Michigan" that seemed to be lacking.  Call it fit, whatever, he does seem to get it and I think that over time, this will help return us to our former glory.  He also seems to get that the game starts in the trenches, and is appropriately loading up with quality big bodies in both.

2.  Clock management - whomever is running our 2-minute drill needs to go back to coaching 101.  There have been numerous times this season that we looked lost or failed to even attempt a score.  This happened again in the first half, but DEnard's great run and OSU's crap tackling saved us.

3.  Borges - I am not yet ready to call for his head.  THat said, he has been terrible this year and last.  His game plan for big games is pathetic.  ALso, complete inability to adjust.  Why not call for his head?  Because these players do not fit the system that he knows well.  If he still has the same problem next year, he needs to go.  Next year, Devin will be able to run the pro=style with a group of Hoke-recruited OL. 

4.  REcruiting - we are doing great.  And loading up the lines.  But, I am concerned about hoke's inability to land premier skill position players (other than Morris).  We keep striking out at WR and RB and it is going to continue to hurt us.  What's the issue here?  Is Hoke's no-nonsense style less suited for coddling bigger ego guys?

5.  Mattison - he is amazing.  Nuff said.  We lack so much athleticism on his side of the ball, and his results are still great. 




November 25th, 2012 at 1:04 PM ^

But I think this didn't need to be a new thread. It might be better if you recast it as a Sunday afternoon discussion thread and just throw in your thoughts incidentally.


November 25th, 2012 at 1:08 PM ^

Agree re the overall assessment on Borges.  He kind of got the RichRod buzzwhip, in that he did not have the weapons he wanted to run the offense he is most comfortable with, due to the smaller, faster, quicker types RichRod recruited.  The offense probably overachieved most of last year, and perhaps underachieved most of this year.  That may marginally improve with Gardner the presumptive starter, but two things give me pause: Gardner not playing QB after Denard got hurt in the Nebraska game, and the Paleolithic playcalling in the second half of the Ohio game.  In the latter, he turned what could have been historically fun (Gardner and Denard in the same backfield!), into something all too predictable and dull. 


November 25th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

in the backfield. He can't throw and can't pass protect. That kinda limits what you can do with him. The Gardner-Robinson backfield is fun IF Denard is healthy enough to throw because then you have the threat of two guys burning you over the top. 

This is what pissed me off about Borges gameplan. He never adjusted once OSU realized Denard was not going to pass.(Fickell outthought himself here. Denard hadn't shown the ability to pass in the Iowa game. He should have stuck with treating Denard as a RB until he showed that he was able to throw.)



November 25th, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

I thought that they would leave Denard in as more of a distractor. Because when he's in the game, defenses will flock. 

Mattison and recruiting = best parts of the program right now.

Borges = I want to see what he's like next year before I call for his head.  But he's in a decidedly more uncomfortable place than Mattison and Hoke. Really depressing play calling yesterday.

Hoke = Probably needs to check up on the offense a little more.  RR wasn't given a pass by people for his horrific defense, Hoke shouldn't be given a pass either.  He needs to be able to make the tough decisions if it comes to that in terms of the other coaches. However, I do remember reading the anecdote from Ball State, where Hoke's DC wasn't getting it done (Mark Smith, the current LB coach at Michigan) and instead of firing the guy Hoke just stepped up and basically became co-DC.

That being said, there's something about Hoke that makes me really like him as HC. And he feels like the perfect fit for Michigan. It's not necessarily a statistic thing or even a reason thing, it's a feeling.  Maybe not the best way to judge this sort of thing, but it is what it is.


November 25th, 2012 at 1:15 PM ^

As far as time management, it seemed a willful decision to go into the half without scoring.  It was, in my view, poor judgment on the part of the coaches but not mismanagement of the type where they were trying to score and just screwed up with taking too long or not getting out of bounds.   

The timeout before going for the 4th and 3 was really stupid.  Catch the D off guard and it might work.  Calling timeout first was a mistake, as was the play call itself.


November 25th, 2012 at 8:48 PM ^

but he still produces Top 10 teams.  That's one aspect of the package that a coaching staff brings to the field.

An OC's ability to identify/create the weakness in the opponent and attack it is, however, one of the OC's core functions.  Borges left DRob on the bench for the last drive, fergodsakes.


November 25th, 2012 at 1:13 PM ^

1. I agree with your comments about Hoke, but my question is - is he sharp enough to make the hard decisions and lead us to glory, or will he always be outcoached by Meyer? I vote against another Carr era.

3. I don't like coaches that can only coach with "their" players. Why can't he coach smarter with the limitations he has to deal with in any given year, and why can't he coach less turnovers? Ohio went from crummy to 12-0 in one year!

4. Your comment about skill players is right-on. Is it a reflection on Borges?


November 25th, 2012 at 8:12 PM ^

I understand your point, but weren't we 10-2 int he regular season to Ohio's 12-0? Two games back?

We definitely played a harger schedule last year (and this year) than they did this year. In a 4-loss season, we ended up playing both teams that made the NCG, and the only other undefeated team outside ND. And, Brasky could be a 1-loss Rose Bowler when it's all said and done.


November 25th, 2012 at 2:11 PM ^

I agree wholeheartedly. The lack of success on offense, and our major struggles on the road on offense lay at the feet of stubbornness, and that's inexcusable. Our kids showed they can be successful, but the OCs preferred scheme yielded poor results with them. Borges, too, has demonstrated that he can run plays that suited their strengths, yet he chose to rely heavily on plays that consistantly didn't work, or had a low chance of success. That difference this year has been night and day. If Al only knew how to run one type of offense I'd say "wait and see, we'll be better once he gets his guys," but he's shown plainly he can run multiple looks, yet refuses to use what has been repeatedly proven to work in favor of doing things his way instead, regardless of how epically it fails. Never has that been more clearly demonstrated than in Columbus. 


November 25th, 2012 at 2:53 PM ^

The problem to me is that you can't do a little of everything and yet that is how Borges approached the marriage of his offense with Denard's skills.  Stanford and Wisconsin run power really well because they spend a ton of time running it in practice and then do it throughout games.  Then they are able to install wrinkles and counters to what the defense does without getting out of their comfort zone.  The same goes for Oregon with read plays.  The QB makes those kinds of decisions all the time in practice and can run that shit in his sleep.

The last two years we have tried to do a little of both.  We've seen the struggles in the power/conventional run game.  And in the read/option game we basically have one option (inverted veer) or simple designed runs for Denard.  We don't see the intricacies or counters and Denard hasn't gotten to where he knows instinctively exactly where to go with the ball because he isn't practicing those reads throughout every practice and running them throughout every game.  Then you also have the problem of grafting a passing game onto run-game principles that call for a different approach if they are going to work best.

In retrospect, we either should have gone all read-option or all under center WCO with Denard prompted to scramble.  Doing a little of both made us excel at neither. 

Going forward, this shouldn't be a problem.  Hopefully Kalis and Co. are running power in their sleep and that fixes everything.  With the defense we have coming back and the easier schedule, the offense really just has to approach competence and avoid turnovers for us to have a big season.


November 25th, 2012 at 4:20 PM ^

There's alot to be said for that. Also have to question the dogged reliance on the strength of our interior offensive line as the lynchpin of our offense. They've been famously bad this year, running right past guys in run blocking, and regularly getting blown off the ball, and letting free defenders in despite even numbers, yet we made them the focus of our running game, especially in critical downs. We had occasional luck with them, and flashes of good play, but they were consistantly overmatched all season long. So why make our offense hinge on them so regularly? You'd think Al could see they weren't able to do what he asked of them, and were even the weakest link on our offense, and work around them, but no. Smith in on every 3rd down, too. He's not a power back, and he's a poor blocker in the pocket. Too many times linebackers got in free to the qb for a sack or to hurry the throw, even though Smith was standing right there, yet from the 1st game through to the last game we lived and died by Smith up the middle or in protection, our interior offensive line, and our qb's deep ball accuracy. Basically the 3 weakspots on offense were focused on heavily by Al this year, and in big games.


November 25th, 2012 at 3:47 PM ^

I agree with your comments about Hoke, but my question is - is he sharp enough to make the hard decisions and lead us to glory, or will he always be outcoached by Meyer?

I really don't think Meyer made any remarkable strategic moves yesterday. It's possible for both coaching staffs to have a bad game. OSU started four (!) second-half drives in our territory and scored six points. That is some absolutely brutal redzone offense, and even more inexplicable given their big edge up front.  Despite an enormous edge in field position, they allowed an outmanned Michigan team to hang around all half until they finally converted a 3rd down (their only conversion of the half) at the end, on a Kirk Ferentz-esque inside handoff on 3rd and long.



November 25th, 2012 at 1:14 PM ^

Still in full support of Hoke, and I agree that Borges should be given more time, in large part because I do not want to see the coaching carousel that hampered the team under RR.


November 25th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

I don't think anyone is claiming that Borges should be given more time to get his players so much as we don't want to boot the guy and hire a spread zealot OC that won't know what to do with our shiny new monster OL recruites and bowling-ball RBs.  Gardner, Morris and Bellomy are all decently mobile, but are definitely pass first, scramble second; not "designed run" guys.  And we really don't want to end up with another DeBord or worse (GERG Davis).

Borges has huge glaring flaws in that his lizard brain screams for plays that don't make sense and usually don't work with our current roster (I-form on short yardage, bombs down the field, jump balls).  When we have the players for those plays it would be a disaster to switch to an OC that wants us to run the QB Oh-Noes without a racecar at QB or sweeps without mountain-goat blocking WRs.

1, 4 & 5:  Hellz yeah all around.  Mattison and recuiting especially.  Skill players are often highly sought after which can cause ego issues, but while we haven't (yet) pulled in the Treadwell and Greens of the world we're still raking in solid 4-stars even at WR and RB.  Once the lines become experienced NFL factories it doesn't take super-elite skill players to move the ball.  We have elite QBs (Gardner, Morris) and have been pretty good about developing other positions.  It's not like 4-starts are automatically "worse" than 5s either, they're just less likely to be elite players at the college level.  Hoke + Mattison = win!

2 & 3 are probably related, though I think it's Hoke that controls the time outs and the bigger meta-game decisions (going to it tooth and nail vs play it safe).  I felt like the 2-minute drill was less of a problem last year and that we've strangely collapsed this season.  I'm not sure who that's on, but they should feel their chair getting a little warmer.  The rest of my Borges rant is up top.  I'm only for replacing Borges if we can get someone top-notch, but most of those are probably pipe dreams (Paul Chryst for example).


November 25th, 2012 at 2:39 PM ^

Kliff Kingsbury took a unnanimous 3 star qb into the SEC West in his first year with A&M and is the frontrunner for the Heisman trophy, now. He almost ran the table with only losses to Florida and LSU by a combined 8 points, also beating Bama in Tuscaloosa, albeit after a very tough road win for them. He's only 33, and his last job was coaching an Air Raid type offense at Houston, plus he makes about half what Borges will next year. A&M could also stand to lose him, as their HC Sumlin is also a successful OC.


November 25th, 2012 at 3:50 PM ^

You have to think about the fit.  Do we want an OC with an Air Raid background to coach personnel (in the 2012 and '13 classes) probably better-suited for power football?  

Given how our defense is coming along, I don't think we need the offensive flavor of the month coaching us.  We need a guy who is adept at moving the chains and producing lengthy, soul-crushing drives.  



November 25th, 2012 at 4:36 PM ^

I just want an OC who can develop talent, and who can beat the best defenses in the country. He took an average RS freshman he just met and had great showings against Florida, and LSU, and beat Bama, and will likely win the Heisman, now. That's good enough for me. He is a versatile coach. At Houston he adapted to the gunslinger QB on the roster and aired the ball out, and at A&M he took what the SEC West gave him, and ran a more spread like offense with his mobile qb.


November 25th, 2012 at 5:01 PM ^

Houston and A&M are both spread-based teams; A&M uses the QB as more of a runner than Houston does, but philosophically they are not that far apart.  Whether that's what we want going forward, I don't know.

I want our OC and HC to be completely on the same page, so our offensive schemes fit the personnel we want to recruit.  I'm not certain if that's the case right now, and I'm not sure hiring a spread guy would help.

Blue Blue Blue

November 25th, 2012 at 2:03 PM ^

Lloyd Carr scared away what little talent RR had coming back.  Remember 3 walk ons starting on defense?  How about 15 players under the scholarship limit?   Hoke faced none of these obstacles.  

ALL THE CREDIT should go to Mattison.   Hoke is a wonderful "inspirational leader", but lets face it, he is not much of a game coach........and Borges has been a disaster.  75 yards of total offense in the second half against OSU?   How about 4 games with no touchdowns?  With one of the best players we have ever had, Borges produced one of our all time worst offenses.

Your average 14 year old with significant video game experience would manage timeouts better, would not forget to have a second QB ready to back up your injury plagued starter and would not have kept trying to run up the middle (and get stuffed)  on big plays.


snarling wolverine

November 25th, 2012 at 3:28 PM ^

I'm not the biggest Borges fan in the world, but why do you cite only his second-half performance?  In the first half we had 21 points and 200+ yards.  You have to factor those in the analysis, too.  Even in the second half, we consistently got into 3rd and short, which meant that we were doing pretty well on our first two downs.  We were catastrophically bad in short-yardage, though.  Borges's short-yardage calls were bad, but not everything else was.

I think a lot of people here are overrating the talent we actually have.  People are railing at a staff that has gone 19-6 despite having not too many elite pro prospects.  We certainly do not have the kind of talent on the OL and DL that we usually do.



November 25th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

The problem is he ran two very different looks on offense in that game. He finally ran the offense we've been dreaming about in the last game or two, and it worked very well, then instead of continuing down the path to victory, he abandoned it, and reverted back to the plan that regularly gave us such stellar offensive under-performances as 2011 MSU, 2011 Iowa, 2012 Bama, 2012 ND, 2012 MSU, and 2012 Nebraska, where the talent of our players alone busting plays wide open wasn't enough to overmatch our opponents defense.


November 25th, 2012 at 5:15 PM ^

Sorry to rehash, but this "statistical perspective" you expound seems a little overrated when looking at Al's play-calling throughout The Game and this past season (or two, even) as a whole, wouldn't you agree?

We had two big plays in the first half that I still deem were forseeable and more or less defensive flukes on Ohio's part. In the second half, we managed to only get to our own 48 yard line. It's honestly embarrassing and flat out unacceptable.

Your critique of our talent is somewhat accurate, however. And while I most definitely do not see our talent (even on the OL) as being god awful, I sure as hell don't want to use the excuse that "our OC would be significantly better with elite talent". This statement is just as transparent as Borges' playcalling, and IMO, is a weak cop out.

I like the overall record, but it is just simply not indicative of good coaching. On the offensive side of the ball. Too many close losses due to the underutilization of our personnel. Elite talent or not, coaching is the cornerstone to overall, preparative success.

Tha Quiet Storm

November 25th, 2012 at 1:24 PM ^

Pretty much agree with everything in the OP.

Part of me thinks it's unfair to judge Borges at this point because he doesn't have his players in place. On the other hand, having watched our offense for the past 2 years, there doesn't appear to be much of a plan in place. In RichRod's first 2 years, the offense blew, but you could see some signs of progress and what they were trying to do and by year 3 the offense was very good.

Similarly, you can definitely see the plan on defense under Mattison and you can even see players on defense tangibly improving from week to week. On offense, who has improved from last year to this? Gardner definitely, but everyone else has either stayed the same or appeared to regress.

I highly doubt Borges will be let go, I just wish we were seeing more improvement from the players on offense as well as some kind of visible plan/philosophy/method. By the end of the Carr era I was disheartened because I could tell what the offensive play was just from looking at the way they lined up (anybody else remember the fullback telegraphing the direction of a run by shuffling left or right pre-snap?). I've seen too much of the same thing this year to give me any great hope for the immediate future.


November 25th, 2012 at 1:57 PM ^

for his offense. If your QB doesn't fit your offense that impacts what you can do. (See: Sheridan/Threet)


That doesn't excuse the horrendous playcalling in the 2nd half yesterday, but it does explain in part some of the problems UM has had the past two years.


November 25th, 2012 at 4:45 PM ^

One of the biggest problems I have with Borges is his history.  His history does not suggest that the offense here will show progress.  His best success has been a first year in which he inherited senior first round RBs and a senior first round QB, all of whom someone else recruited and coached.  The longer he stays, the worse his offense becomes.  He cannot recruit or develop talent.  Even at SDSU, he was not the QB coach who developed Lindley (who didn't break a 60% completion rate in the MWC with Borges' "system").  Unfortunately, he is our new Greg Robinson.  The only arguments I seem to see being offered in his support could apply to all failing coordinators: (1) they are in the business, you are not, therefore your criticisms are invalid; (2) it is the lack of talent, not coaching (what Mattison continues to do with our shallow defensive corps put the lie to this); (3) give him multiple years to implement his system with his players (though he has apparently never been able to get in "his players" or "his system" anywhere except in the aforementioned first year at Auburn with senior first round picks Jason Campbell, Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown).  Using the logic of Borges' defenders, it would be equally prudent to re-hire Greg Robinson.  If anything, Greg Robinson has more bright spots on his long resume than Al Borges does. 


November 25th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

I'm not sure I could add anything after reading your wonderful, well thought out post, but I'll give it a try:

1) Hoke really loves Michigan.

2) Mattison is a pretty good DC.

3) We lost yesterday but if we would have scored more points we would have won.

4) We have a good field.

5) I like our stadium.

6) Ann Arbor is nice in the fall.

7) Santa Claus is coming to town

8) Somone left the cake out in the rain


November 25th, 2012 at 3:59 PM ^

What good does "public accountability" do?  Does it help you win games?  Fans get wrapped up around the weirdest things.  

I couldn't care less what Borges tells Heiko next press conference, as long as he is making the right changes behind closed doors.



November 25th, 2012 at 4:56 PM ^

Unfortunately, I don't think he does.  When he said that Bellomy was prepared for Nebraska, I think Borges might have believed it.  A good coach would have said, We didn't do enough to have our team ready -- that falls on us.  When asked about whether he'd save anything for Ohio, he could have said something clever (e.g., If I did, would I tell you?) and actually have something ready for the Game, instead of showing every new idea in a blowout against Iowa.  When asked if he would do anything different after the Alabama game, he might have recognized that his game plan did not work, and at least admit that.  Instead, he wouldn't change a thing.  Failure hasn't prevented him from being repeatedly hired, so there are no negative consequences in his mind.  It wasn't that he was wrong; it's that reality refused to accept the correctness of his vision.  I suppose the only comfort we can take is that he is employed in a field where stubborn refusal to adapt to reality only results in lost football games and secondary effects in terms of other people's professions.  If he were in the military or medicine, the immediate negative repercussions of his approach would be much more dire. 


November 25th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

I don't think anyone is debating that Hoke isn't a good coach for UM.  Mattison is a stud.  The issues are at OC and, to a far lesser extent, special teams.  I thought Borges was the weak link when he arrived because I remembered those mid-2000 Auburn teams being pretty meh on offense once Campbell left, and I didn't think his offensive philosophy was creative enough to out-class teams of similar talent.