Space Coyote: "Play calling put players in a position to succeed."

Submitted by stephenrjking on October 17th, 2013 at 1:22 PM…

Space Coyote brings a provocative play by play counter-assessment of Al's playcalls, and concludes with support of Al's overall game.

Personally, I think he's partially right: Al Borges used a lot more variety and counter work than people give him credit for, and given the weaknesses and strengths of the team, produced a gameplan that was good enough put Michigan up by ten in the fourth quarter.

When you have no OL and a QB that turns it over, your options are limited, and he worked with those options.

Where I hold Borges responsible? He's the offensive coordinator. He bears some responsibility for the line being bad in the first place. More significantly, he is the QB coach, and I don't have a lot of faith in him in that capacity. I wonder how much of Devin's TO trouble is coaching related.


Sten Carlson

October 17th, 2013 at 7:51 PM ^

I don't know, and we won't know for a few more seasons. However, what I can say with some certainty is that change isn't a magic pill. Sometimes change makes things worse. In this instance, maybe recruits decommit, or players transfer, or we find out that it wasn't him after all, and the new guys is just as bad or worse! We live in and instant gratification throw away society. I think patience, recruiting, and development are what Michigan needs, NOT MORE CHANGE!


October 17th, 2013 at 7:36 PM ^

I give up.  The apologists have won.  27 carries to produce 27 yards is apparently a GOOD thing and I need to learn to appreciate the nuanices that created that brilliance.   Scoring 6 points in 4 overtimes is apparently also a good thing and I need to learn to appreciate the excellence that brings as well.  Don't believe my lying our analysis.

Indiana will be a watershed game IMO.  If Borges does another Borgesian game plan where we tip plays, snap counts and come to the line with no chance of checking into better plays and we lose what will you all say then? 


October 17th, 2013 at 8:04 PM ^

Is the tone and name calling really necessary? You can disagree without being a prick, which frankly, you've been doing a pretty poor job of all week.

Space Coyote took a lot of time to analyze play by play his takes on the game. Brian went through all 27 plays and assigned blame (spoiler: it wasn't even 50% on Borges, and Brian is hardly an "apologist."). I myself picture paged a bunch of plays showing non-playcalling issues with the OL.

Which parts exactly do you disagree with other than it doesn't pass your "eye" test?

What have you contributed?


October 17th, 2013 at 8:41 PM ^

I have not said anything remotely personal other than "fire Borges". I guess we'll see on Saturday which opinion of Al is more accurate-those who believe he's responsible for 27 carries for 27 yards (like me) or those who feel he's absolved of responsibility for the results on the field and is due to produce excellence (like you).

Oddly enough I truly hope YOU are right. I have contributed too much financial and emotional investment over the years to desire otherwise.

Sten Carlson

October 17th, 2013 at 8:58 PM ^

I don't think anyone is absolving AB of responsibility for the rushing debacle. What the so-call "apologists" are saying is that there are valid reasons, mitigating circumstances if you will, for why he was calling those ill-fated plays. Further, as SC aptly pointed out, some of those plays could have gone for positive yards had they been executed better, and the continual running is was enabled DG to throw for some nice TD's.


October 17th, 2013 at 8:11 PM ^

Its not about winning an argument as much as it is quelling the panic.  Everyone wants improvement, nobody is satisfied with that game, but if Gibbons makes one of three kicks this meltdown is averted, and we're talking about how Mattison's defense couldn't make a stop at the end of the game against a freshman.  Remember who allowed the touchdown to lose the game?  Where are the calls for Mattison's head?  


October 17th, 2013 at 9:21 PM ^

about that one game, though. I agree the defense deserves blame for coughing up the lead, and I haven't been crazy about Mattison's vanilla playcalling at times this year. However, Mattison's track record speaks for itself, I can't say the same about Borges. Mattison's defenses in his time here have shown the ability to improve throughout the season.


October 17th, 2013 at 9:06 PM ^

Lol. That's funny-because I'm posting inside a "al is great because space says so thread?

Like I said -the apologists win. You're right-Al is great and isn't responsible for the play calls or the results.

I'll be there Saturday and as god is my witness I'm hoping you're correct about him.


October 17th, 2013 at 9:35 PM ^

Because you have absolutely lost your marbles and keep posting angry nonsense all over the board.

You can't respond to anyone logically. Instead, you've been opting to totally misconstrue the arguments of anyone who dares to respond to you, as well as creating straw men for you to knock down.

Take a break.

Fly a kite.

For your health and sanity.


October 17th, 2013 at 9:45 PM ^

Angry nonsense? Is your definition of angry nonsense anything that challenges your code assumptions because it sure seems that way to me.

I'm no more angry than our dear leader and his minions (who I frequently disagree with FWIW) so why does my anti-Borges opinions rile you so?

I'm 54, graduated from M in 1981 and have been watching Michigan football. since the late 60's when my brother was in Dental school. I've seen a LOT of OCs thru the years (some good....some bad) but I've never seen one who seemed to dislike "free" yards more than Al. Not sure why challenging that philosophy qualifies as "angry nonsense" but it doesn't change my opinion of Borges any.


October 17th, 2013 at 10:10 PM ^

You have in fact been posting a bunch of angry nonsense.

The problem is, you've positioned yourself so far to one side of the argument, that anyone standing in the middle ground is coming off as a super duper Borges apologist who sleeps with a framed autograph of their dear sweet Al Al.

Our dear leader doesn't know what he's talking about a lot of the time, same with his minions.

I don't rely on other people to tell me what my position should be, especially people who are claiming to be experts of a sport (or at the very least, claiming to know more than the experts) who have never played or coached said sport.

The only person riled here is you. Stop projecting.

I mean, seriously, this is my position:

We're 5-1. Yes, things haven't gone swimmingly, but the season is far from over, and anyone who tells you otherwise is being extremely reactionary. We've got 1 loss, we're not out of anything, and everything is still salvageable.

On Borges:

Don't fire him now. We can see how the rest of the season plays out and then make an evaluation at the end of the year. 

I'm uncomfortable firing a coordinator mid-season, especially with no clear replacement. It's not  likewe're in a position where our head coach is an offensive guy who could just step in and take over the offense.

The play calling has been bad at times, but it, in my opinion and the opinions of people more in line with me, is not the most pressing issue. The most pressing issue has been the complete and total ineptitude of our offensive line. That is where I hang most of the blame for our issues this season. That's still on the coaches, including Borges.

Play calling hasn't been great, but it's hard to be great at play calling when your offensive line can't execute simple blocking schemes and are consistently getting destroyed at the point of attack. You can't just call a different set of plays that will act as a panacea for those issues. They simply wont.

A lot of people are asking the offense to run more quick passes and timing routes, which are far and away our turnover prone QB's biggest weaknesses.

So let's mitigate one major weakness, our inability to run between the tackles, by playing right into another major weakness, having our QB throw a bunch of short routes predicated on his ability to read defenses, make correct decisions quickly, and then an accurate throw on time. 

Borges deserves a great deal of blame, but a lot of you are blaming him for the wrong things, and your assessments of how to fix the things that are going poorly are simply terrible.

If the offense doesn't improve and we tank the rest of the season, then fire him.

If the season is as lost as some of you are making it out to be, then it really doesn't matter who they bring in as OC. It's not like there are a plethora of great options half way through the season. This is of course aside from the fact that, as I said earlier, play calling is not the primary source of our offensive woes. A new OC is still going to be saddled with our OLine.

If you've read what I've just written and still decided that I'm a "Borges apologist" then you're lost beyond saving on this issue.


October 17th, 2013 at 11:29 PM ^

Yeah, apparently not throwing a temper tantrum or telling people, players, and coaches to go fuck themselves means I don't care about Michigan football.

As I have said numerous times before...

The man who says, "I love my girlfriend so much that if she left me I'd kill myself," doesn't love his girlfriend more than the guy who says, "I love my girlfriend so much, but if she left me I wouldn't kill myself." He has an emotional disorder.


October 17th, 2013 at 9:25 PM ^

firing Al right as this moment? Of course, you let the season playout to see if he can make some adjustments. Sitting there and trying to deflect any significant criticism of Al, is just as ridiculous as suggesting he be fired right now, though. I don't know how that doesn't constitute blindly trusting him.


October 17th, 2013 at 10:11 PM ^

There's plenty of "fire borges" in this thread and throughout the blog this week.  I am guilty of lumping you in with that contingent.  

My deflection of criticism, as you say, has nothing to do with blind trust.  It has to do with sanity.  I don't hold track records in some sacred regard.*  The conceit here that Mattison is beyond reproach and by contrast the time is ripe for discussing the fate of Borges is tiring and is only looking at half of the picture.   There's lots of blame to go around on for this loss.  Pinning it on Borges isn't intellectually honest.  

Emotionally, we want our team to go up and put the game away. Believe me, my initial reaction watching the game was frustration.  We want to blame the loss on someone, and Borges is the least charismatic of the coaches, its completely natural to go after him.

*GERG won two super bowls as an NFL DC.  Mattison won zero.  Borges OC'd an undefeated team, while Mattison has an NC under Meyer.   Maybe you consider this as cherry picking facts, but its technically correct.

Professor Prepuces

October 17th, 2013 at 9:19 PM ^

As Wittgenstein says "Words have meaning only in the stream of life".  I find it fascinating that the word "conservative" is being bandied about.  Space Coyote uses it 18 times in his deflection of Borges criticism.  But if you seach this site, you'll find the front page pandying of Al Borges does not contain the word conservative until you dig into the comments section:…

At this point I'm really confused as to what people are trying to argue regarding Al Borges' play calling.  Can someone help me what we mean when we say "conservative"?


October 17th, 2013 at 9:28 PM ^

In the context of this game, it refers to running the ball into a stacked box when its not producing desired outcomes (using net yardage as a metric).  The belief is the "conservative" play calling (playing for a midranged FG to win instead of the TD) is the cause of Saturday's loss.  


EDIT: I should add that this is a sore spot among long time Michigan football junkies due to Carr's ability to lose games by taking his boot off the throat of opposing teams and similarly, playing "conservative."


October 18th, 2013 at 9:18 AM ^


I know on the clock killing drive he was conservative, but it was within reason. After that, in OT2 and OT4, he was far from conservative. He called almost the exact same game plan as the one he called in teh 3rd quarter to put Michigan ahead.

He didn't go away from it except when killing clock or needing chip shot, make them 90% of the time FGs, and even then in OT3 he was relatively aggressive given the circumstances.

Professor Prepuces

October 18th, 2013 at 6:48 PM ^

Despite the quote above, Space Coyote provided several examples of Michigan running into a stacked box for no gain. Which is the definition of conservative you provided. So in a way, the article refutes itself with its own examples.

Personally I don't think the problem is "conservative" playcalling at all. But this is perhaps not the place for such a disquisition.