Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Hate Being a Michigan Fan

Iowa 30, Michigan 28; 4-2 (1-2)

Okay, not really. I don't really hate being a Michigan fan 90-95% of the time.

Tonight just happens to fall into the other 5-10% when I do.

Not because of what happened on the field. There have been worse losses than this, and there will be worse losses than this in the future. So why does this stand out? Because just like Michigan State fans being unable to handle prosperity, Michigan fans cannot handle adversity. One coaching decision, of which the average fan has almost zero real knowledge about, and the Michigan internet burns like it's 2008 all over again. I suppose in some way allowances should be made. Michigan has never been "bad" before. Essentially every fan, irregardless of age, is used to Michigan being a good team. So after 3-9, everyone's a little fucked up in the head, and every misstep from here on out is cause for alarm and cliff jumping and general insanity on the internet. Nobody wants to hear about the youth that still dominates this team, or about the patchwork defense that is still shuffling people around, trying to find a combination that works. Everyone who watches the game from the comfort of their couch with a beer in their hand is an elite head coach who has a 1.000 winning percentage, and to see something transpire on the television in front of them that they don't agree with is abominable and unacceptable.

The truth is this: Nobody - not you, not I - was on the sideline tonight in Iowa City. Not a single person passing judgment right now knows what went on when Rich Rodriguez talked to Tate Forcier on the sideline, what he saw in his body language, or what he saw when he looked him in the eye. I don't want to hear any of this crap about how Forcier led three game winning/tying drives to date. Coaches, in every sport, cannot base decisions on anything other than what is happening right in front of them. And what happened in front of them is this:

Passing         Cmp-Att-Int Yds TD Long Sack
--------------------------------------------
Forcier, Tate 8-19-1 94 0 35 0
He played terribly. He looked rattled, turned the ball over twice, did his usual thing of throwing into coverage, and above all, he looked like he was sulking on the sideline. Denard Robinson, on the other hand, went into the game for the first time and led a 59-yard touchdown drive. What's that cliche about "the meaning of the word 'insanity'"? Something like, insane is when you try to do something over and over and expect different results. Tate Forcier had shown nothing in this game to make the coaches believe he would suddenly snap out of it and lead a game winning drive. Using his performances against Notre Dame, Indiana and Michigan State as justification doesn't work. None of the above are Iowa. This was the best defense we've faced this year, and Forcier played like it. If Rodriguez had put Forcier back in and he threw an interception in double coverage, or yakety sax'd the snap, then everyone's getting their torches and pitchforks out about RR going away from the QB that just scored a touchdown for us and instead putting in the one who played badly all night long. It's a no-win situation.

Look, I understand. The basis of all this goes above and beyond Michigan Football. It's a sample of where we're at in society as a whole, really. We all demand immediate results immediately, and anyone who fails to deliver flawlessly must be ridiculed and berated to the point of humilation. I'm not saying coaches should be above reproach. Not at all. Hell, I criticized some of the playcalls last week. But there are people literally making complete fools of themselves tonight. Was no one versed on the 24 hour rule? In the wake of a disappointing loss, do yourself a favor and unplug your computer. Go for a walk. Go binge eat chocolate. Go sleep it off and then come back tomorrow. Posting stupid shit like "If Tate is not injured, I'm not sure how much longer I want RR", "RR lost this game for us" and "RR IS TRYING TO RUN TATE OFF" makes you look foolish. RR lost the game for us? Really? The team was poorly coached? Really? I saw a Michigan team control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for the majority of the game, stuff the run and score three rushing touchdowns on a team that hadn't allowed one in almost a year. I saw a secondary composed of a corner-turned-safety-turned-corner, two strong safeties - one of which being a walkon - and one superstar play about as well as it can.

This is a flawed team. People have been saying this for a long time now, and the masses still feel the urge to PANIC when the flaws are exposed. I saw Michigan finish -4 in turnover margin, suffer a couple total breakdowns on defense on the road at night against the #12 team in the country...and lose by two points. A year ago, Michigan loses this game by four touchdowns. I'm not big on moral victories at all, but if you're blinded by anger to the point where you can't see the progress this team has made because of one close loss, then I question your fortitude. I question your foresight and your ability to see the big picture, because every fan screaming about "that hillbilly Rodriguez" was screaming about John Beilein benching Manny Harris seven months ago at Iowa, leading to an overtime loss with Michigan's NCAA chances teetering on the brink of destruction.

One of the cornerstones of Rich Rodriguez's program is that your job is never safe. We've celebrated that philosophy for 22 months now. We embraced the thought that you better work your ass off and you better do your job correctly, because the guy behind you will never stop gunning for you. And then we see that very philosophy being practiced right in front of our eyes tonight, and everyone keels over and wretches. Tate Forcier didn't do his job, so he was replaced, and his replacement executed brilliantly.....and nobody's happy. I guess everyone subscribed to the thought of results-based employment in theory only? Me personally, I'd rather see the guy doing a better job in there. It didn't work tonight. Shit happens. Everyone involved is going to be better for it. If the price of teaching our freshman quarterbacks a lesson they need to learn is one isolated loss in their second road game ever, then I'm buying.

Of course, I don't expect this to ease anybody's pain. I just hope that when the alcohol wears off and the anger fades away, some people possess the capability to stand back and look at the bigger picture.

20 comments:

formerlyanonymous said...

Great post.

Bill Gallagher said...

Thank you. Wonderfully phrased. I needed to know someone else out there wasn't flipping out over a game like this.

dingessclan3 said...

Bingo! Good post Brian.

Sean said...

Well said. Looking back I would have preferred to see Forcier, but I completely understand why Rodriguez went with Robinson. Beside, had Forcier not made even one of those mistakes, Michigan wins this game. The same can be said for a lot of plays in this game. I'm actually encouraged by the fact that we were in position to win despite the -4 turnover ratio. Of course, I punched the wall when we lost, and it hurts considering how winnable of a game this was, but this is a type of game where we'd get destroyed in the second half last year. Instead we made a comeback attempt and came up short.

Crock said...

totally agree - I was not nearly as upset last night as on Tuesday night when Detroit lost.
I was really hoping for 5 or 6 wins this year - with Deleware State & Purdue - we'll be alright.
Tate is a true freshman for crying out loud. No one even had us in this game.
btw- Iowa fans rushing the field? really - kinda shows how nervous they were...

bouje said...

Tob,
we are one in the same.. You probably don't want to hear that but we are (you just don't have my complete mental lapses)

Thunder said...

No offense, but I disagree wholeheartedly.

I don't think RR is a bad coach. I don't want him run off. I don't think he's trying to sabotage Tate.

I think he made a bad decision. That comment about "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" is hogwash in this case. It's irrelevant. What has happened over and over is that Forcier has made plays in crunch time. What has happened over and over is that Denard Robinson has thrown interceptions when the defense expects him to pass (see: the EMU game and now the Iowa game).

Quarterbacks have bad games all the time. And, frankly, 8/19 with 1 interception, while certainly not good, just as certainly isn't the most horrible performance I've seen from a QB. That doesn't mean you pull the QB for his less-accomplished backup every time your starter has a bad game. He's the starter for a reason - he's more capable of playing well than your backup.

Papa Steve said...

Amen. Onward and upward

jj said...

When I saw the title of this article I was going to reach out and smack you in the head. Even your first line gives me pause. I am a Michigan fan 100% of the time. I support the team won or lose, good or bad. Otherwise a good post.

To those fans, pundits, lackeys and others of your ilk, there are orthopedic surgeons than can fix your knees, ankles or other broken bones from jumping on and off the Michigan bandwagon.

GO BLUE

Brian said...

I think you missed the point, jj. There is never a point where I don't support this TEAM, 100%. It's the fans that drive me insane. In the "bandwagoner vs. koolaid drinker" debate, I am very solidly in one camp and not the other, and it's pretty clear which side I'm on if you've read this blog before.

jj said...

Quite the contrary. I don't question your support for the team. It was the "90-95%" comment that threw me.

I know which side you are on, I've been reading this blog for a loooong time.

glen said...

Tate should have been in the game. He didn't play well at MSU until crunch time, but came thru when he needed to. Denard will be a good player, but right now he throws to the wrong team. RR is supposed to put the team in position to win, and he didn't do it at the end. This loss is the coach's fault.

uferfan1 said...

Well Said we have a top 5 coach

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for writing this. Your commentary on how annoying the combination of the internet and ignorant Michigan fans can be is dead on. I actually agreed with the decision and was happy when Denard was brought out for the last drive. It shows Rodriguez commitment to the "job is never safe", philosophy you mentioned. If anything it will help teach Tate to deal with adversity. It will be a learning experience for young players that will make mistakes, you just have to accept this. I had a similar feeling when we lost at Notre Dame back in 2004 with a young team. Once again thanks and keep up the good work.

tecknogyk said...

I understand the angst with the "crazy internet fan," I really do, but in my experience most fans aren't jumping to conclusions. In fact, I had a discussion about RichRod's decision to play Denard with one of my closest friends after the game and we both came down on the side of the coach's.

It's a good discussion to have as long as people are realistic. I don't know what the right decision is, but I do know that Tate hasn't really been showing a lot of improvement over 6 games. He continually scrambles around in/out of the pocket too soon and misses crucial reads. These are all things a true freshman is going to do, but at some point he needs to start improving. The fanbase and the media have basically anointed Tate as the Michigan golden boy and maybe, just maybe, sitting him at that point was the only way to get across to him that your starting position isn't a forgone conclusion. I don't believe sitting him for the Delaware State game would have the same effect.

Just my opinion and like I said, I have no idea what the right decision was, but I *do* trust the coach's to make the right choice. Coach's, by the way, that have been successful everywhere they've been. Your point was one that needed to be made though.

Farnn said...

Totally agree with the sentiment of this post. I liked RR's decision to stick with Robinson and really loved seeing the defensive players trying to giving DRob confidence as he was going out onto the field for the final drive.

However, after the interception I started to dread the week that lay ahead on Michigan forums. I knew that crap would arise and it takes all the joy out of Michigan football for me.

tbliggins said...

The thing I don't understand is that people who back the decision to play Robinson there do not do so from a logistical position. He had to go 50+ yards in 1:30 to get into fg range w/ no timeouts. Did people really expect him to have a chance to do this?

I hear the "if he would have hit Odoms on the interception we would have been past midfield w/ 40 seconds" defense and to me, that just proves the point. As much as I like Robinson, he is not ready to run the 2 minute offense. I was completely unsurprised at the outcome. I feel that Tate earned the right to have that drive w/ his performance vs ND/Ind/MSU more than Robinson did in a 60 yd td drive that took 4 minutes.

All that said, I am 100% behind RR. I think he made a mistake, but it did not lose the game. The 4 other turnovers did. I think he is a good coach and get annoyed when people think he should be fired. I also don't think he should be immune from criticism.

Greatness said...

I think criticism of the coaching decisions are fine. You can criticize the decision of putting Denard in for the final drive. What you (not you GS) cannot do is say that you "know" Tate should have been in there, or that it was "the wrong choice." Doubting that it was the right choice is fine, but acting like you know that the wrong choice was made makes you look like an idiot for many reasons. People can say that what they saw, especially in the earlier games in the season, showed them all they needed to see to justify why Tate should be in there, but they have to remember that Rodriguez sees them in practice every day too. Hell, it is possible that Tate and Denard have more similar late game capabilities than we all think, but this hasn't been displayed just due to small sample size. Even if, unequivocally, the wrong decision was made, any fan will be damn hard pressed to know that for a fact from their couch. This isn't some black and white coaching decision/mistake, like a coach forgetting to use a timeout at the end of a half or trying to use one when they don't have any left. A lot of different endings were possible from that time in the game.

You can't have this discussion without trying to say that you, from your living room, having seen only what The Fort wants you to see, are more informed and capable of judging who should be in at quarterback than Rodriguez is, with all his experience and talent and access. Doubt of the decision you are allowed to have, but certainty of it being incorrect you are not.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the intelligent thoughts...
re your comment that Michigan has never been "bad" before...well, it was 3 out of the 4 years I was there, in the mid-'60s before Bo arrived. (Of course I realize that counts as ancient history to you guys.) What I have discovered in my hundreds of years of supporting the Wolverines is that most of the people who are doing the bitching and moaning about the coach and the 18-19 year olds who are "ruining the team" are idiots who mainly watch games to have an excuse to get drunk and act like assholes. This is a tendency that has grown stronger over the years--so much so that it is sometimes hard for me to sit in the stadium among fellow "fans" and listen to their obscene catcalls of not only our opponents but also our own team. I try to convince myself that these creatures are neither my fellow alumni nor students but mainly suburban slobs with no lives who get their kicks from badmouthing a bunch of kids who are undeniably more talented than they are. Enough said...

Rasmus said...

I'm proud of Rich for not putting Tate in for the final drive. I'd like to think that he instinctively knew there was something wrong (or simply guessed from watching him or talking to him), although the concussion wasn't diagnosed until after the game. In retrospect, thank god, for the kid's health.

Anyone who thinks it was a bad decision to not put him back in is either not aware of the concussion or a complete moron.