What the Deuce: Has It Really Been This Long?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Has It Really Been This Long?

Wow! Its been a long time since my last post. A combination of laziness, apathy, and spring break. But now I'm back and I have a couple of things on my mind, so here goes:

Detroit Lions Football

During spring break, the Lions made some personnel moves with the most interesting being picking up Josh McCown and Jon Kitna. This move pretty much signaled the end of the Joey Harrington era and at first blush, I couldn't be happier. Harrington never evolved to the quarterback the Lions thought he could be when they drafted him in 2002. Yet, when I think about it, I think most of the developmental issues fall on the Lions and not Harrington.

First, at Oregon, Harrington played in a completely different offense - one where he threw the ball downfield unlike in the West Coast he ran in Detroit. Second, I think anyone the Lions would have drafted would have failed because the offensive line is a seive. Too many times Harrington was getting leveled in the backfield or chucking the ball off his back foot. He just looked rushed back there, like he knew if his first option wasn't open, he was going to get sacked. Maybe that's why he used to dump off the ball so much. Third, even though the Lions put receivers around Joey, those receivers never lived up to their hype. The Williamses have been injured frequently and Charles Rogers is a waste of a draft pick for obvious reasons.

What's really interesting about the QB moves in the past week is that when Mike Martz came to town he felt Harrington had the raw skills to be a good quarterback. Less than a month later, Harrington is on the way out. Either Joey is not as good as Martz and Joey supporters thought he was or Harrington forced his hand to get out of Detroit.

I don't really have much hope for the future. The Lions still need an offensive line and neither QB acquired is a star. Kitna had success because he was surrounded with offensive talent. I'm not sure about McCown because he played in Arizona, but he did show he has talent (but that was against the 49ers). Simply, both QBs had a lot of help and I don't see that with the Lions. Now that Harrington is gone, I think the Lions need to address the receivers' attitudes. It 's been said that the receivers are lazy and prone to goofing off during practice. These guys need to grow up and be professionals. They need to know that in the NFL they aren't going to get by on sheer talent. Hopefully, the new coaching staff will instill discipline in the younger guys. And let's not forget, Roy Williams and Charles Rogers have something to prove. This will be Williams 3rd year and Rogers 4th. Time is running out on them. If the skill players don't develop more than they did in the past few years, its going to be a rough season offensively.

Michigan Basketball

I'm a little late with this, but Michigan Basketball was an utter disappointment this season. Finishing 2-7, they missed the NCAAs and headed to the NIT at a top seed. Joey of Schembechler Hall does a good job of verbalizing this frustrating season.

Skip ahead a week and half to today. Tonight, our beloved hoops team takes on Miami (FL) in the 3rd round of the NIT in a rematch of the BigTen/ACC tournament earlier in the season. I was fortunate enough to watch that game, a Michigan victory. I'm not going to break down the match up or anything like that; rather I'm going to say a few words about Tommy Amaker and the program itself.

Like a lot of people feel, I think its time for Tommy to go. I have to agree with Joey that Amaker basically got this job because of his ties to Duke and not because he's proficient as a coach. Just to rehash some statistics:

- Career Record: 132-155 (8 years prior to current season)
- Post Season Record: 59-73
- Best Post Season: Sweet 16 (2000)
- In 8 years, Amaker has been to the NCAA's just once and the NIT 4 times (Michigan wasn't eligible in 2003 but had a 17-13 record)

This stats hardly justify the first line in Amaker's bio on MGoBlue.com which reads, "
Amaker has had great success in his eight years as a collegiate head coach." I don't know what the constitutes success in the Athletic Department, but going to the NIT and finishing 8-8 in the Big Ten with a senior laden team, in my mind is not successful at all.

I'm going to echo Joey's sentiments and say that I think the biggest problem is that Amaker has not developed talent and is forcing players to run an offense for which they are ill suited. A sign of a good coach is his ability to make adjustments and I don't think Amaker has done that during games or during the course of the season. What I don't understand is why Amaker isn't changing his offense or recruiting players that are better fits.

In college, a coach doesn't have to worry about free agency or trades so he can build a program around a system that he likes; just look at Roy Williams, Dean Smith, Coach K, and Tom Izzo. It would make sense that a coach can succeed using the same system year after year, as long as he has players that fit in the said system. Thus, I would imagine, while recruiting, these coaches and their staffs targeted players that would immediately mesh or grow into the system during a collegiate career. They would not get players that were not good fits and they would be able to see a high school player and correctly evaluate his ability in relation to what the coach needed. My question is twofold: Is Amaker just recruiting the best players he can get with the hope things will work out or is he not a good evaluator of talent? Assuming he is a good evaluator (a prerequisite for coaching D1 basketball), are his assistant coaches just horrible at developing the talent they acquire? Or is it a combination of poor evaluation and poor coaching?

Whatever the problem is, it needs to be fixed. Amaker has had 5 years to get his players and install his system and it just hasn't worked out. Everyone on this team is an Amaker recruit and the best he has accomplished is the NIT. I understand injuries have hit the program hard in the last year, but a good team, with as much depth as Michigan, should be able to win games even with players missing.

I'm just really surprised that Amaker hasn't been able to land better recruits or that he didn't change his offense. With Dion Harris and Daniel Horton, I would imagine that an offense similar to the Pistons' would be effective. This team has 3 big bodies to set picks and Horton is an above average PG that can get to the hole. Running Harris and Abram off picks for open shots would seem an obvious strategy but I don't recall it being employed (correct me if I'm wrong; I didn't get to see many games this year).

Lastly, Joey makes a good point that the problem might not so much be Amaker but AD Martin himself. He seems more concerned about being a class program than winning. Don't get me wrong, I don't want an FSU or VT situation but I think being a state school with a national reputation, it shouldn't be so hard to succeed and be classy at the same time. Its been done before and it can be done again. Maybe its time for a change at the top, but I'll reserve judgment for another year.

I'm going to end this post by saying I hope Michigan wins tonite and gets to go to New York. It just be much better had they been preparing to get to the Elite 8.


Blogger Donald said...

Welcome back to the blog! I was waiting for another post. :-)

11:18 AM  

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