Monday, November 9, 2009

You Never Hear the Shot that Kills You

Purdue 38, Michigan 36; 5-5, 1-5

From my seat 87 rows up in one of the endzones at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, I noticed a curious little phenomenon before the game. There was a very noticeable lag between the impact on the Purdue drum when the band members hit it and the actual sound of said impact reaching my seat. Like almost a full second. I dunno, I just thought it was interesting. My father commented, "Well, you never hear the shot that kills you."

Roughly three and a half hours later, that was the main quote going through my mind. I mused to myself that I should give a shoutout when someone else provides me with a title for a blog post. Thanks, Dad.

So. Here we are. Prospects of a bowl game look bleak, as Michigan will be heavy underdogs in their final two games, and they have shown nothing that makes any of us think they are capable of putting a full game together. If it's not the offense (Michigan State), it's the defense (Illinois). If it's not the defense (Purdue), it's the special teams (...Purdue). Sometimes it feels like this team, and program as a whole, is secretly out to inflict pain on its followers. They find the most perverse and heinous ways to lose. We scored five touchdowns on Saturday, the offense hummed for most of the day, and even when the defense was gouged, slashed, gashed and chopped to itty bitty pieces again, there it was, the game right there for the taking, just like the MSU game, and just like the Iowa game. And what happens? We miss a two point conversion that we had to go for because our kicker missed an extra point earlier in the game and our head coach went for it on 4th down with 5:00 to go down by eight.

I might be a bit unfair with that last point. In hindsight, it's easy to criticize RR for going for it on that 4th down. If we make it, we might go in for the TD. If we kick the FG and Purdue goes right down the field and scores to make it 45-33, it's game over and RR is criticized for trusting a defense that is entirely untrustable. And let's be honest...who here trusts this defense? The weird thing is, this defense has gotten stops in the 4th quarter against Notre Dame (HT: Pear Bryant), Michigan State, Iowa and Purdue, all while trailing. It's a schitzophrenic unit, and I don't blame Rich Rodriguez for not exactly having faith that we could've just kicked it and counted on the defense to not give up points.

For me, it breaks down like this. There are certain things that fall on the head coach, and certain things that don't that are blamed on him anyway because that's the nature of being a head football coach. Things like clock management are almost always on the coach. I didn't like that they let Purdue kill the clock at the end of the first half. There were around 30 seconds left, and it was 4th down. At least make them punt, maybe we block it. At the same time, it's never a bad idea to go into halftime up two touchdowns. There was also the "fiasco" of rushing the punt team onto the field on 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter. I was aghast at first, but after calming down, there is no fiasco here. The fiasco would've been going for it or wasting a timeout to preserve five yards. Whether it's 4th and 1 or 4th and 6, that was a punting situation.

Things that AREN'T the coach's fault are things like your kicker shanking an extra point. Save all the nonsense about "it's the coach's job to prepare the players." Okay, that's bunk. The kicker is asked to do only a handful of things. Making an extra point should be basic, and when it fails, it falls on one person: the kicker. Olesnavage yakety sax'd the PAT. That's on him, and him alone. The coaches didn't rush them out there, they didn't have to scramble to get it off because the coaches didn't have the right personnel on the field or anything like that. It was a good snap, a good hold, and a shanked kick. It happens, and it cost us.

It's also not Rich Rodriguez's (or Greg Robinson's) fault that this defense sucks like it does. At least not 100%, because the whole Shafer debacle does factor in to an extent. The whole "Lloyd left the cupboard bare" argument has returned with a vengeance in recent weeks, and guess what? It's hard to argue that it isn't true. They're operating with what they have, and what they have isn't much. The coaches were left with linebackers who are slow to react, can't shed blocks, and blow assignments. The coaches were left with safeties who are slow and can't tackle. They were left with a situation that puts a walkon on the field when a cancer is removed from the team. Guys like Emilien and Turner are waiting in the wings, and their time will come. But if they aren't ready, they aren't ready. Robinson, and Hopson and Gibson, even with all the ire directed at them, don't just sit around twiddling their thumbs at practice. They coach their asses off with the kids they have available to them. In a year, they'll have more, whether it be Cullen Christian and Dior Mathis and Tony Grimes and Aramide Olaniyan and Josh Furman and Marvin Robinson or whoever else comes along. They inherited a hot mess of garbage, and the results are such. If Rodriguez is wise, he'll give Greg Robinson free reign after the season. Robinson has been in RR's ear for months now about defensive recruiting, and RR has gotten the message. If Robinson says changes need to be made on the defensive staff, so be it. That will be a test for Rodriguez, to see if he employs Lloyd-like cronyism.

A week ago I was in a black hole of despair, and penned this. It was mostly out of frustration and breaking the 24 hour rule. At the same time, I chuckle at some of the comments I left unpublished. Like I care what someone who doesn't even leave their name thinks about my credibility. Don't be popping off when you're too cowardly to say anything under the "Anonymous" veil. That's weak fucking shit. WEAK.

So yeah, I was a sad panda a week ago. This week, I'm a bit more stable. So to the "fire the coaches" crowd, I ask: And do what? Can you name a defensive coordinator who would do better with this roster? There just isn't much to work with. When Robinson plugs one hole (run defense was solid against MSU and Iowa), another one opens (wide open receivers on playaction). He simply doesn't have the talent or experience on that side of the ball to put together a sturdy unit in all phases. And the offense...well, remember what Beilein said about the roller coaster last year after Michigan basketball was BACK against UCLA and Duke? When you're rebuilding, there will be ups and downs. Penn State and Illinois were downs. Purdue was an up. The offense did its job on Saturday.

People can talk all they want about how "this is MICHIGAN" and all that jazz. These same people held masturbatory orgies over Stanford's game against Oregon on Saturday. To this, I say: hypocrites. You exult the virtues of this university, the tradition and excellence of this football program...and then you suck off a man who took a big steaming shit on all that. Maybe you people don't remember what Jim Harbaugh said. Well, I guarantee you the people in the athletic department in Ann Arbor remember.

And Les Miles? Ask Lloyd Carr what kind of a man Les Miles is. Or better yet, ask Gary Moeller. There's a reason Bill Martin was conveniently out of contact when Les's agent tried to reach him during the coaching search. It's a puzzle, but it's a pretty easy one to solve. Go back to Excalibur in 1995 and connect the dots from there. Les will never be the Michigan coach. Deal with it.

RR's the guy. Whether or not that's a good thing or not cannot be determined yet. That doesn't mean I'm "accepting" what's going on or that I'm not really fucking depressed. It just is what it is. Saturdays aren't very fun for Michigan fans right now. But misery today doesn't necessarily mean misery tomorrow.


Jack Dingess said...

You give me hope that all Michigan fans aren't idiots. Thanks.

bouje said...

Thanks for coming back to the land of the fans off the ledge. It's great to have you back ToB.

David said...

Good stuff here. Keep it up!

Thrillhouse said...

"Robinson has been in RR's ear for months now about defensive recruiting, and RR has gotten the message. If Robinson says changes need to be made on the defensive staff, so be it."

Does this mean Robinson has been pushing for RR to can Hopson?

You seem to be in the know...are there already defensive coaches that Robinson and RR have decided to target in the off season?