Toughness Today

Submitted by blueheron on May 24th, 2011 at 11:22 AM

Presenting for discussion ... *not* a Freep article:…


* To some degree, I believe in all this "toughness." I don't think it was lacking under the prior regime, but there are worse things to emphasize. I won't be surprised if it improves.
* Navarre (who, to be fair, has always seemed like a good guy) seems to be equating toughness with the pro-style offense here: "We're going to have a fullback in the game, the quarterback's going to be under center." I do not agree. John does not seem to believe that spread teams can be tough.
* More from Navarre: "I know they're doing a lot of mental toughness things they've been doing for years that we got away from a little bit." Where's the evidence for that?
* We've seen Griese's comments about "effort." I wonder if he watched the Oregon game in '07?

With all the obvious targets (defensive coordinator position, etc.) provided by the RichRod regime, why is it that we continue to hear about things like "toughness" and "understanding the rivalry?" To me it's evidence that a bunch of brains locked up when Rodriguez lost too many games. If Griese et al. would restrict themselves to GERG, academically shaky recruits, etc. they'd sound a lot more reasonable.



May 24th, 2011 at 12:22 PM ^

What makes Navarre such a great guy?  Maybe I've been living in a vacuum but, like someone else mentioned, I haven't heard anything about the guy for years.  All of a sudden he feels the need to weigh in?

IMO, great people make points that stand on their own rather than denegrating previous points/ideas.  In other words, its more powerful to speak about playing tough generally instead of going down the road of insinuating (or outright stating) that toughness was lacking previously.  All that does is denegrade the players in the previous system.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:29 PM ^

Are we reading the same article?

Navarre alluded to a shift in scheme, and then said that they're doing some "mental toughness exercises" they weren't doing previously.

I hardly see how this is denigrating anything. It seems like it's more saying "Hoke doesn't do things the same way Rodriguez does", which, I think, should be assumed.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:29 PM ^

Not replying to Profitgoblue particularly, but has anyone else noticed that the default MgoStance seems to be that our current and prospective players are just the salt of the earth, the best of fellows, while our former players are more likely than not total assholes.


May 24th, 2011 at 1:54 PM ^

few people making such knee-jerk assessments really care about what they're implying. It's more just a general cattle-call for all men, past and present, to climb on the new gravy train. 

While my own mental makeup--and that of lots of independent thinkers here--tends to make me mock this ritual behavior (wherein the new lion runs off the old lion and the pride falls into line), I've also got to admit that there's something healthy, necessary, in it after so much division. Among other things I think it will help Hoke get the extra year or so that he may need.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^

I wasn't keeping charts on it at the time. I'd guess you're right, the team heard boos no more or no less than any other team when they weren't performing up to the expectation of the fans, which is perfection.

But he was by far in talk radio, the limited internet, campus talk, and anywhere else you could hear a fan's "voice" the most criticized and knocked player I have ever seen in my years of Michigan Football viewing. People were brutal towards him, and only begrudgingly gave him some credit after beating OSU. Getting thrown in a year early because Henson left really clouded a lot of views on him.  If you take his last two years only, his record really isn't all that different than a poor man's Tom Brady. (Not to say they were the same...even just at Michigan, on the field, Brady had an air of confidence about him his last year; but in wins and loses, it's basically an Orange Bowl win over a Rose Bowl loss).


May 24th, 2011 at 2:03 PM ^

can remember fans saying he should change his panties after several tough losses. People were lambasting Darius Morris for much of this season--couch potatoes sitting in judgment, without the brains or eyes to appreciate what some 19-year-old kid is trying to do, let alone the ability to emulate it. The lack of empathy can be astonishing, but--just maybe--blogs like this give you more insight and connection, make you less likely to be that kind of dick, I dunno. 

And hell yeah Navarre was booed.


Bando Calrissian

May 24th, 2011 at 1:11 PM ^

How quickly we forget.

John Navarre was most definitely booed in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and to a lesser extent in 2003.  It was merciless, and totally egged on by the hate he got on sports talk radio, the media, etc. etc. in between.

And that's what made that OSU victory in '03 that much better.  Kid deserved far more than he got from this fanbase.  All he did was leave Michigan holding just about every QB record...


May 24th, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

Speaking of forgetfulness - he definitely wasn't booed in 2000, because he only made two home starts and they were the first two blowouts, when he briefly led the nation in passing efficiency.  People then were wondering if Henson would even get his job back.  Navarre then played poorly against UCLA and Illinois, but those were road games.  He didn't see significant action thereafter.

In 2001, too, he was generally well-received by the fanbase until the OSU game.  That was the turning point.  Up to then we were in position for the Big Ten title and hadn't lost at home.  That game colored a lot of fans' views on Navarre.  His awful first half overshadowed the fact that he actually played pretty well in the second.  If Marquise Walker could have held on to that ball he dropped in the endzone, we may have won and Navarre would have been a hero.  

OMG Shirtless

May 24th, 2011 at 1:33 PM ^

Navarre was most definitely booed.  There is also the urban legend about a night at Ricks after an OSU loss where he allegedly had multiple pitchers of beer dumped on him in the bathroom.  I doubt that person lived to tell about it, but Navarre was definitely treated like shit.


May 24th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

Exactly. Look, I agree that "mental toughness", that is, the willpower to play hard, aggressive football in spite of setbacks and physical pain, is critical to success. But why do so many people think pro-style is somehow "tougher" and more "manly" than spread? It's not like a touchdown scored behind a rumbling fullback from 2 yards out is somehow worth more points than a touchdown by a slot receiver. Spread teams can be tough. Pro-style teams can be sissies.

In the Carr years, "toughness", at least on offense, looked a lot like "stubborness": we're gonna run it right up the middle even though it didn't work the last 20 times and shows no indication of working the next 20 because dammit, that's how you play Big Ten football.

Besides, "toughness" wasn't our problem the past few years, not even on defense - there the problem was that the players were young and/or not that good, and were totally lost in the scheme because the coaches didn't know how to run it.


May 24th, 2011 at 11:56 AM ^

relies on having faster, quick (which usually translates into smaller) guys who go around/ juke defenders as opposed to running over a guy.

The FB is the stereotypical example of this. When I hear FB, I think Madden style 250lb, short truck of a man who bowls over defenders and is the epitome of "toughness".

I don't really agree with this, but it's the image that people think of when they hear toughness. Also, practicing against slot guys and speed guys, doesn't give the D an opportunity to hit as much, because it's a different practice style.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

I think it may be how much hitting is emphasized in practice, which increases the possibility of injury, but increases the team's, and individual players', overall toughness. I don't think the former players are speaking from a stereotype of that scheme, more from a knowledge of how the schemes structures (pitch and catch/evade, or gruel out, hit hard, and run over) are set up and their perception of the practice focus of the team.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

OK, so I have been wondering if running our spread offense in practice- OR - if our focus on fielding an effective spread offense over three years of QB transitions, made it harder to be an effective defense.

Florida ran a spread and had a good defense, so I am guessing it was either emphasis, or coaching, or inexperienced talent, or all three.

Also, it appeared to me that the only people you could live tackle were the running backs. Other than Denard, our running game has just been a funk since Mike Hart left (and even when Mike Hart was out while he was here). We've suffered from running backs of glass syndrome, and I wonder if it is because we haven't chosen a back, and not tackled that guy in addition to Denard, and so our backs are getting the crap kicked out of them as tackle dummies in the Michigan Drill.

Anyway, Hard Edge seems to smack of toughness doesn't it? I think our guys suffered more from mass confusion, and then low morale more than anything else. (Low morale at least can look like lack of toughness.)


May 25th, 2011 at 12:14 AM ^

Maizenbluenc. I'd agree that Florida indicates good defenses are possible with the spread. I'd have to wonder if it were application here, as well. Defenses often end up standing around a bit more when head coaches are very offense focused in my limited experience, but I really can't speak to that with us. Although I know RR made statements about being hit-shy except in the off-season last year.
Your idea about backs is an interesting one I'd like to consider more. Sorry if this response is too late and is just an echo into the blogosphere.


May 24th, 2011 at 11:33 AM ^

Is reasonable?  Wasn't the GPA at an all time high or something?

I'm not sure the academically shakey guys recruited (Dorsey, Jones, Kinard, Witty) that never set foot on campus really hurt the program.  Yeah, Forcier was a bummer, but it's hard to tell with home-schooled kids and he was a no-brainer to recruit.  Most of the attrition has been due to other reasons.

I've yet to see any evidence that the assertion that RR pursued academic risks at a greater rate than Carr is at all true.


Maize and Blue…

May 24th, 2011 at 12:09 PM ^

Technically, maybe.  If you're told the team GPA is an all time high, but not told they have only been keeping the team GPA recently is that really embarrassing? Is repeating information you have been told by someone with greater knowledge of the topic an error when that information is not readily available to you.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

The recruits who signed LOIs and did not qualify or get accepted by admissions. If those scholarships had been spent on players who could qualify, perhaps we'd have a more experienced team (albeit with less No Fly Zone talent).

I know Carr did have some no shows as well, and to be fair, Rich might have had to recruit this way from his perennial hot seat. It will be interesting to see how Hoke's recruits do as far as academically qualifying over the next few years, as well as if he appears to take a flier or two each class.


May 24th, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

it's another for 10, and still another for hunderds. Those former players know more about football and more about Michigan football than 99% of the MGo people out there, including Brian.

Now, when the same message is repeated, it's done so because it's

1) A conspiracy and everybody was fed a party line

2) It's just a cliche and mean's nothing

3) It's the truth.

I believe it's a little bit of #2 and mostly  #3.

You and I have no idea if RR's teams were "tough" and probably can't even agree on a definition of tough. But if all of these ex-players are saying the same thing, maybe it's true.


May 24th, 2011 at 11:59 AM ^

Dave Brandon called a bunch of players and said, "say points A, B, C..."? Do you think he's stupid enough to send a universal talking points memo to former players (God, I hope he isn't)?

I haven't even herd John Navarre's name for ages until it came up in the OP and yet he says it.

It's possible that Brandon is a puppetmaster, but more likely that the former players are correct.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

The average MGo poster is saying "what's with this toughness BS, RR was tough too". I don't know if Hoke has "tougher" teams than RR, all I know is that this is what many former players are saying, and that means more (and is more likely correct) than your or my opinion.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^

They had a hard edge going into games, but never seemed to be able to stay that way through a game. Once something went wrong, they sort of fell apart. To me this is more youth and inexperience, than a toughness question.

However, I started to think Rich was never going to turn the corner after we failed to score  from the one in the Illinois game in '09. I think Rich's biggest problem was his team really may have been all in, but with all the hot seat talk, and drama and controversy, they just couldn't translate into believing for four quarters. (As seen in spades in the back half of our schedule all three seasons, and in the bowl game.)

So maybe this is what the former Carr players mean by toughness. The mental toughness to believe and stick to it for a four quarters, game after game, in the Big Ten schedule.

In which case, a combination of team maturity, and (hopefully) reason to believe now there has been a coaching change, may get them over the hump.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

I didn't say a word about whether they're correct or not - I have no clue.

What I'm saying is that when I see 15 guy say the same things on the same subjects with nearly no variation in a cavalcade of arranged media appearances, I assume that they're getting fed some lines.

I don't consider this to be an insult of anyone - Rodriguez, Brandon, the players talking, the current players, or Fritz Crisler. Nor do I intend it as an evaluation of the veracity of anything anyone has said.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:20 PM ^

I love RVB and I am not going to criticize him for speaking his mind.  And to some extent it was a fair question.  But let's not go too far.

These former players put their bodies on the line for our beloved program for four years - countless hours in the gym, at practice and on Saturdays, they contributed to this team that we love.  They are allowed to express their opinions on what happened to our program during RR's three years here. 

To respond to RVB's question directly, perhaps during RR's tenure, there HUNDREDS of former players took a look at what was going on, and felt unhappy about the state of the program.  Maybe they honestly felt that RR didn't get the rivalry, hated defense, didn't like fundamentals or was secretly plotting to give the #1 jersey to a kicker.  Who knows, but for whatever reason, perhaps these players were turned off by what RR brought to Ann Arbor.  If this is true, then what these players were doing for the past 2-3 years was keeping their opinions of RR to themselves so as not to undermine the team.  They held their tongues and didn't offer opinions to further divide the fanbase while RR was here, despite the fact that they likely would have agreed with the "please fire this guy ASAP crowd."  If this is what they were doing, then I respect them for doing so, as it must have been hard for these guys - who love Michigan football to a level that we cannot understand - to sit by quietly.

Personally, I am sick of seeing the same group of posters (not directed at anyone in particular) on these boards trash every one of these former players - many of whom have done nothing more than express an opinion that the FORMER coach didn't do a good job.


May 24th, 2011 at 2:56 PM ^

Exactly. Unless former players have been around the program a lot, at practices etc., they probably don't know much more than any other particularly devoted fan or sportswriter with decent access. So I'm sure there's a lot of echoing (and amplification) of 2nd and 3rd party info going on, which is part of why all the "disgruntled" former players sound the same.

What former players ARE experts on is how things were run when they were there. SInce I'm sure they have a lot of pride in what they did (i.e. they think they were the best), it's easy to see why any change from that would be met with skepticism and would be the the first thing blamed if on-field performance is poor.


May 24th, 2011 at 12:11 PM ^

I see that jblaze is being negged for expressing a viewpoint that is "anti-RR"?  This is a valid point.  At some point, if enough people who know what they are talking about begin to have the same criticism, perhaps that criticism has some truth to it.

I get supporting RR and liking the guy, but it seems like some posters on this cite are willing to trash just about every player they rooted for for years in favor of defending RR. 


May 24th, 2011 at 12:14 PM ^

Meh, when I see 10 players use the same keywords - "family values", "toughness", etc., I assume they're getting some coaching on what to say, not that it's true.

I think RR was a failure, and I think he deserved to be fired. I have a harder time believing that he walled the program off from alums. I think they probably thought he was doing a shitty job, and didn't want to endorse it.


May 24th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

I'm sure a lot of them keep in touch and discuss the program with each other, so maybe it shouldn't be that surprising that they're saying the same things.  In any event, it seems clear that a large number of them are on the same page.

I don't think RR tried to keep the ex-players at arm's length, but they were simply strangers to each other.  The entire staff (save Jackson) was changed overnight.  If you're used to seeing a lot of familiar faces every time you come back and then suddenly they're all gone, that can bring culture shock.  And then when the new way of doing things isn't translating to wins on the field, it's not going to offer much encouragement to get to know the new guys.