Sunday, November 2, 2008

Walk in the Wilderness

Ok, I'll go out on a little limb here. I'm beginning to think we made the wrong choice for head coach. Or at the very least, he made some bad choices for his assistants. Rich Rod is looking like a man who is in over his head. I think he may eventually turn it around. By 2010, we will probably be back where we were under Lloyd Carr, a consistent top 10-15 team that wins 8-10 games every year. But I don't think that Rich Rod will ever get us to the elite, Texas, USC, Florida, or gulp, OSU level.

While I agree that players have to make plays, coaches can only do so much, yada yada yada, I think that when a team doesn't improve as the season goes along, that is directly attributable to coaching, and more specifically, the teaching. There is no doubt that this is the worst Michigan team I have ever seen, and it is on it's way to being the worst in the 129 years of Michigan football, in just about every measurable way. They are on pace for the fewest points scored since 1984. They have already given up more points than all but one Lloyd Carr team did in an entire season. Gary Moeller's 1994 team, which was reviled as the worst Michigan defense in the Schembechler era gave up only 12 points more in 12 games than this team has in 9 games. They allowed a Purdue team that had scored less than 10 in three of their four Big Ten games 48 points. They allowed an MSU team that was held to 25 yards rushing by Wisconsin to gain over 500 yards. They are last in the Big Ten in Scoring Offense, Scoring Defense, Total Defense, Total Offense, Pass Offense, Pass Defense, and Turnover Margin.

I have heard all the explanations for the bad season (I have even espoused a few of them myself). But as the embarrassing losses pile up, those begin to sound more and more like rationalizations. Yes, they lost of lot of talent from last year. That might explain a 4-5 record and an erratic offense, but it doesn't explain 2-7 against a fairly weak schedule and a defense that can't tackle, and doesn't understand the most basic principles of the game, especially when you consider that they returned 9 starters from defense. What is it that makes the defense so much worse than last year?
Yes they were converting to a new system on both sides of the ball. But so was Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech, and he's 7-2. So was John L. Smith in his first year at State, and they went 8-4. We all expected some growing pains. But this year goes beyond that.
I know his first team at WVU was 3-8, and they went to 9-4 the next year. But the program he took over there was 11-12 the prior two years. Two years Michigan came within a field goal of the national championship game, and beat the defending champs this year. This program didn't need to be rebuilt, it needed to be tweaked or refined.
Some people might say, "One bad season does not make someone a bad coach," and I would agree with them. But I think that whenever a coach make a transition from one program to another, you have a set of incomplete data with which to evaluate their prior performance. It's often hard to tell if success in one season or another is a function of coaching, or of institutional advantages. What this year is causing me to re-evaluate the evidence we had at the time of the hire.

Now don't misunderstand me, I don't think they should fire Rich Rod. That would be completely unproductive, and would set us back a few more years. Just look at what has happened to Auburn when they fired their new OC halfway through his first season. I will continue to support the team and Rich Rod. I'm just getting resigned to the ever increasing possibility that it may be a while before we are our old self again.