Relax Comrades: A Michigan Football Introspective

Okay, I've been away all weekend, and while I was gone...the inmates have taken over the prison.

Two great winning streaks have fallen in two agonizing weeks. First, it was 9 years straight against Penn State, and now it's the 6 year run against little brother.

But I have to caution you. If you're one of the Rodriguez haters, and you find fault in everything he's done at Michigan, you're not going to agree with me, or like what I have to say.

Look, there is a bigger picture here. There is a greater-good. For a changing of the guard of this magnitude, things are need to be bad for a year or two. I know I'm starting to sound like a Rodriguez apologist, but it's the simple truth.

Now, I liked Lloyd Carr. I liked him a lot. He was a good coach who ran a clean program. But there was a sense that Michigan was on auto-pilot for a while. For Lloyd's coaching tenure, his 97 team was his greatest achievement. Everything else paled in comparison. Sure he had great players and big wins, but nothing came close to the 97 season.

I think a large part of that was the idea that wins were just expected at Michigan, and teams would bow down to the winged helmet.

I'm not saying anything is wrong with that. That's what years and years of great success and tradition offer you.

But you could sense the end was near for that Michigan is holier than thou mentality. From the near loss against Ball State in 06 to the loss to Appy State in 07, the signs were there. Michigan needed to adapt.

And...we did. Lloyd bid farewell and we brought in one of the best up-and-coming coaches in college football in Rich Rodriguez. Say what you will about him now, but when he was hired...he might have been the 2nd, or 3rd pick for Michigan, but he was a great hire. And for only the 4th time in history, Michigan hired an outsider to run it's football program. And just like Fielding Yost in 1901 who also came from West Virginia, Rodriguez was given everything he would need to make Michigan a contender again.

With him, he brings his entire coaching staff (sans his defensive coordinator). The same staff that took a mediocre West Virginia football team, and turned them into a consistently winning program that went to two BCS bowl games.

What I'm trying to say here is, we have the pieces in place for great things to happen. It sucks big time that the 08 season is a wash. It sucks for the seniors who have given everything they have on the field, for maybe one of the worst teams, statistically speaking, that Michigan has seen in generations.

It sucks for the fans who pay for season tickets, or tune in on a Saturday afternoon to watch this team struggle.

But...when it comes to being a Michigan fan, you really have 3 options.

• Bitch and moan about how bad we are, throw things at the TV and boo the team at the stadium.

• Adopt a "wait and see" approach to this staff and the program as a whole, and hope that the best is yet to come., but still support the team.

• Bury your head in the sand and not pay one bit of attention until this team reaches the ridiculously high standards arbitrarily set by you.

That's really all you can do. Which one is it?

I just think there is a certain percentage of fans out there who find joy and pleasure in the first option. Unless they have something to complain about, what's the point really? We like to call that the "Detroit Lions Effect". You know who you are!

I find myself in the 2nd group. Why? Because it'll be more fun to say in 2 years that I was hopeful that this system works. That I didn't jump off the ship as it was sinking.

Which ever group you find yourself in really doesn't matter. This team is just not good. We said it on here after the disaster against Illinois 4 weeks ago, and it has held true since then. I really like Rodriguez, but I think this season has been even tougher than he thought it would be. If you look at this season and this team with a discerning eye, it's easy to see that it's really the perfect storm, in terms of why they are struggling.

I wish there was a magic bullet to cure the problems that Michigan has...but I think it really comes down to basic issues:

• New system does not work with these players
• QB is a disaster
• OL is inexperienced
• WRs are inexperienced
• Defense stays on the field way too long

Don't get me wrong, I actually think this defense is one of the best in the Big Ten. But when your offense ranks 116 out of 120 in the FBS in terms of time of possession, you'd need an all-star defense to save your team.

They spend WAY too much time on the field. And there are two reasons for that:

• Offense can't get first downs
• Turnovers

And that leads to the defense being too fatigued to cover well, tackle well, and contain good running backs who get into open space.

Fundamentally, that's all there is to it. And when you can't do the small things right, that's a sign of just not having the right players to run the spread/option. Pure and simple.

So should we just abandon this new system and try and retro-fit the pro-style offense that we're used to?


Because at this point, what do we have to gain? Why take 10 steps back so we can take 5 steps forward? We all know the spread works. Heck, even this Michigan team has shown flashes of brilliance with the spread...and that's with inferior players running we know it can work. Just look at the first half of the Penn State game...or the 2nd half of the Wisconsin game. It works people...IT WORKS!!!!

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

These coaches will get the personnel that they need to run this system. This is Michigan. We can get the recruits. They will come. It may take a year or two, but with all the things we have going for us right patient. I swear it will pay off.

So in the meantime, watch...don't watch. But the last thing we should do is question whether we got the right man for the job. Rodriguez is a seasoned head coach with a track record of success everywhere he's been. His first year records as head coach have all been bad.

• 1988 - Salem: 2-8 (2-5)
• 1989 - Glenville State: 1-7-1 (1-5)
• 2001 - West Virginia: 3-8 (1-6)
• 2008 - Michigan: 2-6 (1-3) and counting

So, there you go. And by the way, his 2002 season at WVU was 9-4 overall and 6-1 in the Big East.

Not trying to convince you of anything, but just some food for thought.

The moral of the story is, you can either cry about it, fold your arms and bear it, or throw your hands up in the air and storm out of the room and not come back until the water gets warmer.

No matter what, we have to play Purdue this week. And from where I see it, we have nowhere to go but up.

1 comment

  1. Anonymous4:27 PM

    Rodriguez hasn't ruined every streak. Why, he just became the fifth consecutive Michigan coach to lose to MSU his first year.