The Fall

Photo: Patrick Barron, MGoBlog
Sports can be a great escape from the stress of real life...until it's not anymore.

I don't remember at exactly which point last Saturday I decided enough was enough. I suspect it wasn't long after a Wisconsin player decided it would be fun to try and end Dylan McCaffrey's playing career with a shoulder pad to the side of the helmet. I think at that point...while Badger fans, up by 28 points, booed the refs for confirming the most confirmable targeting review anyone has ever seen...that I'd had endured enough.

Because of the noon eastern kickoff time, there was still plenty of usable daylight hours left on Saturday to feel like I could still get some things done. When you have a family and work 40+ hours a week at a workplace, weekends...especially fall weekends, are valuable.

My 5 year old iPhone 6 with it's cracked screen and spent battery was long overdue for a replacement and this consumer was in a particularly spendy mood. The new iPhone 11 had just been released, and I'd be damned if I was going to sit there and watch this Michigan team attempt to play the same sport Wisconsin was playing.

So off I went to Somerset Mall in Troy, with my wife and son. It was decently crowded, busy enough on a Saturday to feel like the wheels of commerce are still very much in motion. The Apple Store, however, was it's usual mass of humanity. The line of folks waiting outside of the store in a makeshift queue was about a dozen or so deep...but moved briskly enough to keep me from questioning whether this was worth it or not. After about 5-7 minutes I was in the store talking to a helpful girl in an Apple t-shirt. After a short bit, a guy in an Apple t-shirt came buzzing by, holding about 6 iPhone boxes...he handed the girl mine and swiftly made his way to the next person waiting for their new igadget.

All told, I spent about a half an hour in the store. When I walked out, new phone in tow and a little lighter in the wallet, I went next door to the Tesla store where my wife and wide-eye'd 9-year old were fiddling with the touch screen on a $80,000+ Model X. I may have been in the middle of a sports-frustration-induced retail therapy session, but I didn't buy one of those...although I wanted to!

It wasn't until I saw a teenage kid in a maize and blue block-M shirt that I realized I never knew the final score of the Michigan game, and until that point, I hadn't even thought about it. I was just doing everyday life things, with other everyday people, in an everyday shopping mall. And it was...nice.

I don't love shopping and I don't particularly enjoy shopping malls. But the Apple store and the Tesla store and everything in them were perfect and shiny and so were everyone's faces. Tesla is reinventing the car business whether anyone is noticing or not. Their cars are easily 5 years ahead of everything else on the market (seriously Elon...keep up the great work). And the Apple store is, well, it's the Apple store...they're like the Alabama or Clemson of consumer tech companies.

I'd been to these places before, but never during a Michigan football game. In my clouded sports mind, I just perceived these places not existing during an event like a Michigan football game which so consumes all of my attention and thought processes. It's a selfish notion to just assume everyone must care about what I care about...hence one of the reasons I started this blog. But to experience the world around you outside of your normal context is both weird and oddly refreshing. Its like driving around at 2PM on a Wednesday and thinking "why aren't all of these people at work like I usually am?"


Remember after the Middle Tennessee game when everyone freaked out at how bad Michigan's offense looked and they tried to reassure themselves that Harbaugh and Gattis had just dumbed down the playbook so as to not give anything away on tape? That seemed like a logical, strategic, sports-minded take at the time. But as we now know, it was just wishful thinking.

It's human nature to want to make sense of things by skewing real truth towards our own perceived expectations...especially if your default position is optimistic like mine. People like to be right, and they also want things they devote their time, energy and money to to be right, too. People will 100% always see things in a way that confirms their rightness until they can no longer justify it to themselves.

We're there now.

The Wisconsin game killed any perceived optimistic notion that Jim Harbaugh knows what he's doing here.

Michigan never dumbed down the playbook. They never held anything back. The real truth is that Michigan's offense isn't very good. In fact, they're pretty bad. They can't run, they can't pass, and to add insult to injury, they can't seem to stop the run all of the sudden either. Jim Harbaugh nuked his own offensive philosophy which made him such a valuable coaching commodity for years in favor of...a whole new system coordinated by a guy with zero full-time coordinating or play-calling experience whatsoever. And for what? To go from the 49th overall offense in 2018 to be the 97th overall offense 3 games into the 2019 season?

So...this is where we are now.

It's year five of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and everything is awful.

Sure, he's won some games...three 10-win seasons isn't nothing...but this year it feels like, for the first time, that this program is truly regressing (and quickly) under Harbaugh. And while he may be able to right the ship eventually, for most fans, I think they expected more by now.

If Michigan can't win big with Jim Harbaugh, who can they win big with?

I've said before I'm against endless coaching changes. Few schools can change coaches cleanly like Ohio State and Oklahoma. Michigan can't. They screw up hires better than anyone because when they hire the new guy, he ends up undoing everything the guy before him built. They can't hire the right coach because Michigan football has no real identity anymore. They never evolved from the Bo era when they could exert their will over other teams because their distinct advantage was far more obvious. They have tried stuff, like when they hired Rich Rod...but that never got off the ground because he wasn't Michigan enough.

Now, they have Jim Harbaugh...and you can't get any more Michigan than Jim Harbaugh...and yet some factions of the fan base are calling for his head now, too. For reasons passing understanding, there are just some fans out who will never be happy unless Michigan is 15-0 every year. And there's nothing that will ever change that.

So what is Michigan Football now?

If we're really being honest, Michigan is second class in their own conference. Its been 15 years since they've won the Big Ten. They've never been to a Big Ten title game. Recruits today only know Michigan as that team that seems like a powerhouse, looks and acts like a powerhouse, but isn't. They see losses to Ohio State and other good teams and then they come visit a football facility filled with trophies from before they were born.

We knew going into the Wisconsin game that one way or another, the real state of Michigan Football would be revealed. And what we all saw was brutal. Michigan looked lazy, they looked sad, they looked defeated, they looked lost. The presumed best and brightest parts of this Michigan team, the OL, QB and receivers seemed completely out of sync. DPJ, Nico Collins and Tarik Black are stellar wideouts...and yet they're completely absent from Michigan's offense. A starting Michigan receiver should never, ever get caught from behind by a Wisconsin defender. A Michigan offense should never be handing off to a converted defensive lineman out of the shotgun from the 7 yard line...especially when everyone in the stadium knows there's 0% chance Shea keeps the ball.

Nine turnovers in three games?

I mean...can anyone honestly believe what's going on here???

I don't know how you go from where Michigan is now to where everyone wants or expects them to be. There's no easy fix. I do think, for better or worse, Michigan has Harbaugh until he can figure it out...if that ever happens.

For almost 15 years now, everyone's asked "When will Michigan be back?"

It won't.

This is the new normal.
Maybe at some point we'll turn a game on and it'll be a nice time. If it's not, oh well. It's time to adapt to the temperature of the water. -MGoBlog
A mediocre program with flashes of greatness every once in a while is what Michigan is now. They'll win some games...probably 6-10 per year. They'll continue to lose big road games. They'll struggle mightily against better teams. And they'll get destroyed by Ohio State with persistent regularity. But hey, they should beat Rutgers this week so that's nice.

This is Michigan Football now.

Not terrible. Not great. Certainly not "back".

It just is what it is.

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