Deace's Pieces: UM Still on Path to be Elite?

Michigan is no better or no worse than its record according to GoBlueWolverine Columnist Steve Deace, but what does that mean for the future? Will Michigan be elite once again?

All season long, the season of our discontent has been defined by the only two consistencies of Michigan football in year one under Rich Rodriguez—third down defense about as reliable as a promise from Nick Saban, and the inconvenient truth there's not a single quarterback on the roster who should be starting a game in the Big Ten for a team that actually expects to win that game.   

The first factor is the coaching staff's fault, the second one isn't.  Let's deal with the second one first.

Everybody wants to blame Rodriguez for the departure of Ryan Mallet, but everyone seems to forget we were dealing with Mallet transfer rumors from the moment he stepped foot on campus.  In fact, I seem to a recall a press conference with Mallet during his first spring that was intended to dispel the rumors about him transferring to Arkansas months before Bobby Petrino replaced Houston Nutt.  You can also say that Rodriguez spent too much time recruiting Terrelle Pryor and lost out on some other players in the process, but then I would challenge you to name one of them.

That's what I thought.

Once Mallet left, Michigan was at-best going to get a John Navarre 2001 season out of the leftovers, and we didn't even get anything close to that.  Heck, it's so bad that Navarre called and thinks our current quarterbacks need to work on their fundamentals and pocket presence. Okay, that might've been a cheap shot, but a little gallows humor goes a long way towards stopping you from slitting your wrists these days.

The bottom line is that Rodriguez got dealt a deuce-seven off suit at quarterback, and there aren't too many flops at the poker table that's going to make that hand look good.  At this point I would suggest two future courses of action to Rodriguez: look for a junior college quarterback that has the academics to get into Michigan and can physically compete for the job this winter, and give either Tate Forcier or Shavodrick Beaver every opportunity to win the job in the spring.

I suggest these two courses of action for the primary reason I simply don't believe Michigan has a quarterback on the roster that will ever develop into what Rodriguez needs for this system to work.  Nick Sheridan is a great story and a young man most dads would want their daughters to marry, but he has no business being the starting quarterback for any FBS program.  I like Steven Threet's toughness and think he has some talent, but he simply doesn't have the athleticism to thrive in this system and that lack of athleticism is why he keeps getting injured.  Since he's not the proto-type in terms of stature and quickness this system requires, and that's never going to change, he keeps opening himself up to injury. 

Maybe I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I'm thinking that having one quarterback who's not good and never will be, and another quarterback who's decent but can't stay healthy, really stymies the timing and effectiveness of an offense.

But what do I know? I'm a semi-professional video game player.

A junior college quarterback could provide some immediate competition and a transitional stop-gap between now and when the youngsters are ready.  I'd also suggest that if the competition between the youngsters and Threet/Sheridan is even somewhat close, I'd go with the youngsters.  At this point I'd rather go 5-7 next season with a freshman quarterback that we know will get better than go 7-5 without developing either of these two young quarterbacks.

That's why I've not criticized Rodriguez for not "adapting" his offense.  The guy was the biggest coaching name each offseason for a reason, and it wasn't because of Mike Barwis.  It's because the guy's offense has revolutionized college football, and in the long run I've always believed Michigan would be better off making this massive paradigm shift all at once and getting the growing pains over with.  You can't be a little bit pregnant.

Now to the defensive problems.

In my opinion the defensive problems are largely the fault of the coaching staff.  Yet again on Saturday Michigan's defense suffered multiple meltdowns on third down, and the result was Northwestern turning two third-and-longs in truncated space that normally have a low conversion rate into touchdowns.  We've seen this movie before, haven't we?   In fact, if a movie was made about the Wolverines' third down defense it would have to be rated NC-17 because it would feature more carnage than the latest Saw and Hostel combined. 

I think there are going to be changes on the defensive coaching staff this offseason.  Rodriguez has enough to worry about installing his offense without worrying about the other side of the ball becoming a sieve.  I don't know who gets fired/re-assigned, and I'm not informed enough to suggest any specifics.  Michigan never developed a cohesive defensive scheme this season, and the execution suffered because the players either never totally bought into what was being communicated, or the coaches weren't adequately able to communicate what they were trying to do because they didn't even know.

Regardless of the rationale behind it, there simply must be accountability for deploying the worst defense in school history.  And I think there will be.
So, then, is Rodriguez's first season a failure?  Could there be any other answer other than yes?

I'm amazed at my fellow fan's ability to rationalize utter failure under some misguided notion of loyalty.  This question was actually being debated on the premium forum after the game.  How could this even be debatable?  If the most losses and the worst defense in school history happening in the same season aren't enough to call a season a failure, then let's go Ivy League, get rid of scholarships, and charge $10 a ticket. 

You either have to share or currently be swapping DNA with a member of the coaching staff to not call this season a failure.  Heck, I'd be shocked if Rodriguez doesn't think it's a failure, and if he doesn't might I suggest that doesn't bode well for his tenure.

Clearly this season was an utter disaster.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  That said, I still believe the future is bright and that Rodriguez will win big here – perhaps as soon as 2010 – and that those who stay will be champions.

But those who try to recklessly overlook a 3-9 season in an effort to sound pious and enlightened, and throw their fellow fans that know better under the bus, are enabling losing—not championships.

As Knute Rockne once said, "Show me a gracious loser, and I'll show you a loser."

Dantonio a Target for Tennessee job?

So Tom Beaver says there are rumors from credible sources that the Michigan State coach is one of the targets of interest for Tennessee in its quest to fill its head coaching vacancy.  Dantonio is wound a little too tight for my tastes, but his toughness and discipline on and off the field is exactly what Tennessee needs.  But would he take the job?  Let's play "you make the call."

1) One school is in the top 10 all-time for wins.  The other isn't.

2) One school has played in 20 January bowl games in the last 40 years.  The other has played in three.

3) One school has won a national championship in the last decade.  The other hasn't won one since 1965.

4) One school is the alma mater of the most popular and commercially viable current NFL player.  The other isn't.

5) One school routinely ranks in the top 15 of recruiting rankings.  The other doesn't.

6) One school -- the Big House aside -- could very well play in the most beautiful college football stadium setting in America that comes with its own catchy fight song and 100,000+ for every game.  The other doesn't. 

7) One school has finished in the final AP Top 10 seven times in the last 25 years.  The other has finished in the final AP Top 10 twice over that same timespan. 

8) One school can pay a coach $3-4 million a season and spares no expense from a facilities and resources standpoint.  The other won't.

9) One school is perhaps the most successful collegiate sports program in the country right now when you combine all the revenue sports: football, men's basketball, and women's basketball.  The other isn't. 

10) One school has 38 former players currently in the NFL.  The other doesn't.

11) One school is annually in the top 10 of football revenue produced.  The other isn't.

12) One school is in the all-time top five for bowl appearances and bowl victories. The other isn't.

13) One school has finished in the final AP rankings 25 times in the last forty seasons.  The other has done it just six times over that same time span, including none this decade so far.

14) One school is the "University of _____" with no instate rival as a major competitor for recruits, revenue, media attention.   The other isn't.

Any idea who the other is in this equation?  I attended Michigan State (sad to say because I couldn't get into Michigan), and have no general animosity for them as a result.  I'm not playing the big brother card and disrespecting them.  But there are reasons they haven't been consistently successful as a football program except for the 1950s-mid 1960s, which just so happens to coincide with the worst era of Michigan football ever.  And that would be many of the reasons listed above.

And in terms of Dantonio's "power game" working in the SEC, last I checked Nick Saban is doing pretty well in the SEC with a power game at the moment.  In fact, the Crimson Tide is ranked #1 in the regular season for the first time since 1980.

Dantonio would be a good, solid hire for Tennessee.  And he would be a fool not to take the job.  He should do exactly what Nick Saban did.  Max out Sparty at the Capitol One Bowl and then bolt for the SEC.

Wake up the echoes?

With a win over Syracuse this weekend and likely another blowout loss at USC the following one, Notre Dame will continue its recent tradition of mediocrity by finishing 7-5.  If that record sounds familiar, it's because it should.

The Fighting Irish haven't been a factor in November since a late Boston College field goal upset #1 Notre Dame in South Bend back in 1993.  Over the last 14 seasons, the Irish have averaged just seven wins, haven't won a bowl game, and have had just one offensive skill position player (Brady Quinn) drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.    

Lee Corso would say "that deserves a yo."

So I don't know why Notre Dame would fire Charlie Weiss.  He's only delivering the results Notre Dame fans who aren't old enough to remember The Wonder Years are accustomed to.

Denny Green was right.  They are who we thought they were.


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