Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Preface: So yeah, obviously things have been silent here lately. Reasons for this are two, perhaps threefold. One, my DVR died, so I had no way of Run Charting. This issue is very close to being resolved, so I should be back up and running for the final game of the season. Two, I would've mentioned this much sooner, except until recently I was having password issues on Blogger. Three, for natural reasons, I didn't really have the will to go balls to the wall to fix the problems. Sue me.

So, since my last post, the Run Chart against Penn State, Michigan has wilted against Michigan State and Purdue, put up a shockingly great effort in the win at Minnesota, and petered out on senior day against Northwestern. The Michigan internet world continues to burn, and with each week, more logs are thrown into the fire, more people voice their opinions, the Michigan fanbase continues to fracture.

This tears at my heart. People who know me personally know that I am a cold, manipulative bastard with few true loves in this world. One of those is of course, Michigan. I hate to see people wearing the maize and blue at each other's throat, throwing around garbage terms like "koolaid drinkers" or "apologists" and the like. I'm guilty of it. And I hate it. I hate to see the team and program I love dearest in such disarray.

Nothing is going to fix this, either. In two years, if Rich Rodriguez has this thing humming and we're contending for the Big Ten title, all the chaos and hatred that has been spewed this year will be dredged up. And if in two years the Rodriguez experiment has failed and we're looking for a new coach with our tails not between our legs but cut off completely, then the chaos and hatred will be dredged up. It's either going to be the pro-Rodriguez fanbase saying "I told you so" to the doubters and going on witch hunts to see who shot their mouths off during this time of turmoil, or it's going to be the anti-Rodriguez fanbase saying "I told you so" and accusing the other side of standing by with their heads in the sand while Michigan football collapsed to the ground. Either way, there is a rupture in the fanbase, and I am unsure if it will ever be repaired.

Me? I'm still in the pro-Rodriguez camp. For the past three months I have rammed my head into the wall endlessly, preaching of patience and preaching of acceptance. I ran around telling everyone that would listen that he went 3-8 in his first year at West Virginia and 9-4 in his second. I ran around telling everyone that would listen that you don't fix everything wrong with this team when you have a shoddy offensive line with one returning starter and numerous freshmen at the skill positions. I've done this to death, and I can do it no more.

I have learned that trying to fight this fight is like arguing music, religion, or politics. You'll never be able to convince a Rolling Stones fan that the Beatles are better.* You'll never convince a Christian that God is an imaginary concept.* You'll never convince a dyed-in-the-wool Republican that Barack Obama isn't a marxist.* And you'll never convince the anti-Rodriguez faction that he IS a good coach and that he WILL win big here.

(* - Disclaimer: those are just examples, and are not intended to express any such opinions or beliefs endored by the author or this blog as a whole.)

I remain optimistic. You can say that I am accepting what has happened this year and I am a blind sheep. So be it. But I remain convinced that as Rodriguez brings in more of his players and the ones playing now get more time, things will get increasingly better.

But first, let us please dispel a couple of myths.

1. Michigan has made the same mistake Nebraska made. This is completely false. Nebraska hired someone who burned out in the NFL and had a Super Bowl team turn on him. He then stiff-armed everyone in Nebraska. He refused to reach out to alums and former players. Nebraska was willing to accept the end of option football, but Callahan said "Eff you" to everyone close to the program. So when things started to come apart, there was no one there to support him. This is not at all what is happening to Michigan. Rodriguez spent much of the offseason traveling the country, attending Michigan-related events. He met with the 1969 team. Just because Desmond Howard goes on ESPN and voices concerns, don't assume this is the status quo. Desmond Howard is bitter because he was on the search committee, and his guy Les Miles didn't get the gig. He is not objective, and frankly, he shouldn't be listened to when he discusses Michigan right now. I value his opinion as much as I value Kirk Herbstreit's right now. Furthermore, Rodriguez is not an NFL burnout like Callahan. He has coached at the college level for his entire career, and he has won everywhere. This is not a Nebraska situation.

2. Things would've been much better with Les Miles. This is perhaps a half-myth, but a myth nonetheless. Lets assume that Kirk Herbstreit's irresponsible reporting of Miles and Jon Tenuta to Michigan was true. We can perhaps safely assume that the defense would have been better under Tenuta, simply because it can't really be any worse than it is now. But on the other hand, lets look at Les Miles. Have you actually seen Les Miles and heard him speak? He is a powerful, assertive personality. One of the more common arguments against Rodriguez is that he ran off Ryan Mallett, Justin Boren and Alex Mitchell. Okay. Again, look at Les Miles. And now look at Ryan Mallett. Mallett was almost universally disliked while he was here. He had one foot out the door before 2007 began. At the time, we all blamed his sideline spout with Manningham during the Wisconsin game on Mario, because his track record of childish antics was more documented. Lloyd Carr himself told Mallett, "The only thing I like about you is your potential." So now, lets insert Les Miles. You know what a head coach does when he takes over a program? He takes over. He asserts himself. He makes it clear that it's his way or the highway. And if you've ever heard Miles talk for more than 10 seconds, you know he doesn't beat around the bush. And yet everyone is so quick to assume that Les Miles and Ryan Mallett would've suddenly gotten along? Mallett was a ghost either way, folks. And as for Boren and Mitchell? Don't even try to make that argument. You want to know why Michigan fans are so gaga over Mike Barwis? It's because Mike Gittleson's methods were significantly outdated. Barwis didn't propel Michigan into the future, he brought them up to the present. Les Miles would've brought along a similar S&C program. Mitchell would've immediately given up. The guy was a slob. I don't give a crap that he "played for Michigan." He was a slob, and I'm going to call a spade a spade. And Boren, come on. Aside from the fact that he was at best mediocre in 2007, it's obvious he was handled with kid gloves by Carr and co. Yeah yeah, I know. The old guard is coming to yell at me. Save it. If you can't admit that Carr and his staff were slipping in the last few years, then you shouldn't be reading this anyway, because any debate with you is pointless. Boren was coddled. Whether it's because he was a former player's kid or because Carr could sense he was mentally fragile or whatever, it's true. And the moment Rodriguez came in, used some salty language and actually demanded more from his players and didn't just hand out starting positions, Boren left. And he didn't just burn bridges on his way to Columbus. He nuked them. We learned all we needed to learn about Justin Boren's character when we saw his Halloween costume, so don't sit there and tell me these guys were run off and would've automatically stayed if Les Miles was here.

3. Rodriguez should've run the I-formation more this year. How is this an argument? This is irresponsible to suggest. Operating out of a different formation would not have magically made the offensive linemen better blockers. It would not have magically made Steven Threet or Nick Sheridan even remotely competent at throwing the football. All running out of the I would've done is retard the growing process for all these younger players. You can go balls to the wall in practice all you want. The only way to learn and get better in a new system is to run it in live game situations. The result is of course, horrifying to look at. It has caused liquor sales in the state of Michigan to increase dramatically. It sucks. I know. Believe me. But it's what Rodriguez knows, and if he deviated from that, if he robbed these players of the valuable game experience in the spread that they're getting, the growth process would be retarded, and all the agony we're going through would be simply put off for a later date.

This is awful, I know it is. I hate the fact that there are people who will read this and dismiss it as the ramblings of another Rodriguez slappy who is giving him a free pass and is accepting the fact that Rodriguez has produced the first eight-loss season in this program's history. And to those people, I say: piss off. Don't you dare question my status as a fan because I'm not screaming for the coach to be fired after one year. You don't think this is tough on me (and the rest of the pro-Rodriguez crowd) too? You think we ENJOY seeing our team 3-8? You think we like the fact that it's Ohio State Week and for the first time ever, there is not even a remote possibility of victory? We get angry just as you get angry. When Threet threw the inexplicable interception last week, we buried our heads in our hands just as you did. When we gave up the 20 yard touchdown on 3rd and 18, we yelled just as you yelled. If I could've, I would've been in those stands on Saturday, enduring the misery.

Ohio State is going to put us out of our misery on Saturday. They're going to win by whatever margin Jim Tressel wants them to win by. It sickens me to think like that. I hope it is the last time I ever have to. Believe me, there is no worse feeling than entering the game against the team you hate the most knowing that you're not going to win. But I'm not prepared to throw Rodriguez under the bus because of it. It's our reality. We're in a bad, bad place right now. I still believe in the man, and I still believe he's going to lead us out of this bad, bad place. For those of you who don't, so be it. I'm done fighting. Like my religious friends (tipped my hand there) and my politically polar opposite friends, this is an argument that nobody's going to win.

Go Blue, for better or for worse.

1 comment:

JLC said...

Hear hear! Thanks for putting that together, I couldn't agree more.