What the Deuce: January 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The South Rises Again

Yesterday's outcome in the National Championship game surprised me. Tressel was throughly outcoached and OSU look ill-prepared for Florida. The Offensive Line played terribly and their play hurt the Buckeyes more than anything. Not much more to say other than the following:

1. Still think that Florida should not have been in the game. Yes, they played tremendously last night and deserve the National Title but the fact still remains that the voters picked Florida primarily because they didn't want to see a rematch.

2. Backing anyone in this game was impossible. It was mortal enemy or people who think football doesn't exist outside of the south. I went with mortal enemy for two reasons: 1) Big Ten pride and 2) I hate the SEC. The worst thing that comes out of this loss is a bunch of rednecks chanting SEC! SEC! and having the media perpetuate "the SEC is the best myth" next year.

What I noticed the most about this year's game was logistical. In years past, I was really excited to watch the national championship game. Not this year and, I swear, it wasn't because of the teams. I think what killed me was the layoff between the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship game. Up until last year, the all the BCS games were played within days of each other so there was nothing else to distract me. This year, I had an entire weekend of NFL Wildcard games and two other college bowl games. Simply, too much of a lull. Fox's decision to schedule the game so late made the whole thing anti climatic. I just lost interest. In fact, this past Saturday, while watching the International Bowl, I thought "oh this is the last bowl game" and then realized that Florida/Ohio State was 2 days away. Just a terrible decision and they need to have the game no later than the 5th.

Random topic of the day: On the way to work there was a homeless person at an intersection attempting to wash people's windshields while they waited at a red light. He was using an old newspaper and nothing more. Now, I'm torn on giving homeless people money - I'd rather give them food or beer, but there was no way I was giving this guy money. Why? Cause he wasn't even trying. Look, if you want me to pay you for cleaning my windshield, do it well...don't half ass it. You might as well do nothing and ask me for spare change. This dude should get a squeegee ($3 max) and some Windex ($4 max). Yeah, that means he'd be out seven bucks, but I'm sure people would be more willing to pay him if he was using window washing tools. I know I would.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cautious Optimism

Surprisingly, the Wolverines, after winning at Northwestern today, are 2-0 in the Big 10 and 14-3 overall. Prior to conference play, the pundits felt that with Michigan would need to go at least 9-7 in conference play, along with a couple of wins to get into the NCAAs. After today's performance, I'm cautiously optimistic.

Although the Illini were 38th overall, based on RPI, at the end of OOC play, their best win appears to be against Mizzou. Throw in losses to Xavier, Arizona, and Maryland, Illinois' OOC performance reminds me a lot of Michigan's. Thus, I'm not too excited about this win.

It's well known that Michigan has stuggled on the road during Tommy A's tenure (18-38 after today's win), so any road win is cause for a smile - even if it comes against the 151st team (based on RPI - 12/31/06). Examining the opponent, if Michigan had lost this game, it would have been unacceptable. NU has lost to Cornell, Tennessee Tech, and Stanford.

I'm sure that Michigan will get blown out soon enough to remind me that I was foolish to get excited after these first two conference games.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wilted Roses

I came back home this past Wednesday and found an envelope from the Victors Club waiting for me. I assume that the mailing was sent well before the Rose Bowl, because after last Monday's performance, the Athletic Department asking for money is on par with smashing your mom's car and then asking for the keys to your dad's cause you have a hot date the next day. You just don't do it, even if it means having the hottie pick you up while your brother laughs at you (no, this did not happen to me).

I've attempted to write about the Rose Bowl for 6 days now and it hasn't worked. Thankfully, after talking to Michigan Friend today, I remembered how angry, frustrated, and embarrassed I felt earlier this week. Now I have the fuel to get out my thoughts, coherently, I hope.

There isn't going to be any analysis of the game; we all know what happened. The Offensive line wasn't able to stop the USC blitzes, let alone a warm afternoon breeze. The USC offense bombed our secondary. Most importantly, our coaches were reactive, rather than proactive, as they have been for as long as I can remember. Content with a tie at the half, the coaches made no adjustments. Discontent with a tie, the USC coaches decided to abandon the run completely. Game over.

For Michigan Friend, this was the last straw. A Lloyd Carr supporter, he told me, it was time for Lloyd to go. When asked if Lloyd should come back for next year, he said yes, only because there its too late to get anyone good. While I don't completely agree, I see his point. Michigan shouldn't rush into a decision for the sake of change. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't. But the bottom line is that Lloyd needs to go.

Michigan's program reminds me, ironically, of the Big 3. While the Detroit automakers had their heyday in the 1970s, their refusal to adapt, on many levels, has put them in the position they face today: Toyota will likely pass GM as the biggest automaker later this year. Ford has closed plants and offered early retirement to about a quarter of its employees in hopes of becoming relevant again. Daimler brought Chrysler. While each is in its current position because of different problems, the one commonality is arrogance. The Big 3 didn't believe they were subject to a global marketplace or the laws of economics. "People will buy our cars" they said. They were wrong. People started buying Hondas, Toyotas, Lexuses (Lexi?), and even Kias. "We don't need to build fuel efficient cars" they said. Gas prices went up. "We'll just squeeze our suppliers" they said. They forgot about global competition. Now, they are tredding water, hoping to stay afloat.

Michigan football apparently believes the laws of football don't apply to it. Apparently, the coaches believe that Michigan's talent is superior to that of all other schools. Thus, the Wolverines should be able to line up against anyone, and with good execution, win. Also, because of the superior talent, the offense doesn't need to adjust when it can't run the ball or disguise its plays. Defensively, it's the same story. Don't disguise anything and go right at the offense (although this has been lessened somewhat under Ron English). While this approach worked in an era of 125 scholarship teams, it doesn't any more. The talent level has spread out. With television, kids are exposed to many more programs. Wanting to to play early, in conjunction with reduced scholarships, has pushed talented players to schools like NIU, South Florida, and Cincinnati. Hell, after this year, Rutgers is showing an ability to keep NJ recruits in state.

When the talent gap shrinks, strategy becomes critical. The coaching staff's refusal to accept or realize this dooms the Wolverines to lose games against USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, etc. In the last 4 years, Michigan is 1-3 against Ohio State and 0-4 in bowl games. In the last 10 years, they've lost to UCLA, Oregon, ND, Syracuse, and Tennessee. This year, when asked about the USC loss, we heard the same crap: USC has better talent, it was essentially a home game for the Trojans, etc. Instead of solutions, we get excuses.

Okay, let's take step back. Maybe Michigan is more talented than everyone else. Even then, why play so conservatively? It's not little league where there is a mercy rule. Why waste the talent you have on both sides of the ball? Honestly, after the Rose Bowl, I'm surprised that QBs and WRs even come to Michigan. Wouldn't it make sense to maximize the output on both sides of the ball? This way, we wouldn't have to see games like this year's game against Northwestern.

What was most frustrating about Michigan this year and especially in the Rose Bowl was the unimaginative offense. Michigan's playbook seems to be the same as it was 10 years ago, except with zone blocking. During the Rose Bowl, Michigan didn't use its TEs until late in the game. They didn't throw any short or intermediate routes and kept forcing Henne to take 5 step drops. I was perplexed Michigan didn't go to the shotgun earlier but I've heard its because Henne doesn't feel comfortable in the shotgun. When DeBord was asked after the game about his gameplan, he stubornly said he'd do the same thing again. That's arrogance or sheer stupidity - I'm going with arrogance. Between Ohio State and the bowl game, Michigan typically has a month to prepare and still was unable to do anything against USC, this year or in 2004. What the hell did they practice for during that time? While other teams have learned to use the spread, Michigan refuses, which is funny, because spreading out a defense helps the QB read blitzes and neutralize them. Simply, this coach and his staff have lost touch.

The staff's attitude also seems stuck in the past. While Pete Carroll is the cool uncle, Lloyd Carr is your dad. Who is an 18 year old kid going to want to play for? Are they going to play for a guy who runs blindly into a line or a guy who throws in a trick play now and then? And this attitude is important to recruiting. Maybe it isn't related, but this year, Michigan had a good high school crop, and many opted to go out of state. Similarly, for the last few years, Michigan has been unable to land top flight corners or offensive lineman.

The Lloyd supporter say we should overlook his shortcomings because he runs a clean program that's full of class. Plus, he's a Michigan Man. While, I'm thankful for all that he's done and the example he sets for the football team, its not enough for him to keep his job. Since Tressel came to OSU, the Bucks have dominated the Wolverines. Too many times during his tenure, Michigan has lost to lesser teams. He has a losing record in bowl games. He's overly loyal to a fault and that's hurt the program. Jim Hermann essentially kept his job for so long because of 1997. Instead of looking outside the program when replacing Terry Malone, Lloyd went back to his buddy, Mike DeBord, who miserably failed as head man of Central Michigan. Andy Moeller, who coaches the OLine is still around after a few years of them being terrible - this year, Michigan struggled mightily on 3rd and short when they ran. Lloyd's inability to change is slowly eroding this program. No one is scared to face the Wolverines anymore - why would they be? As the USC players said, they knew exactly what was coming before it did. It's like playing cards with a guy who leaves his cards out for everyone to see. If Carr's job is to be a CEO and be a caretaker, he needs to have assistants that are very good at what they do. When Larry Bird coached the Pacers, he admitted that he wasn't the greatest coach and that he needed to surround himself with the best assistants. It's what any person in management would do if he wanted to succeed.

For those who make the Michigan Man argument, let me ask you this: Can't someone be a Michigan Man while being innovative and a good X's and O's coach? Can't someone be a Michigan Man and make in game adjustments? It's not like Michigan gets innovative on offense and overnight the players become thugs. And let's not forgot, the football team has had problems, although not major, during Carr's tenure. Like a poster at MGoBlog said, running slants isn't going to make this into a hooligan program. Being a Michigan Man and winning are not mutually exclusive. For those of you who think they are, you are wrong. There are plenty of coaches who fit Michigan's values and run clean programs that win. Pete Carroll, Jeff Tedford, Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Greg Schiano. It can be done. It should be done and Michigan should not accept anything less. We claim to be the Leaders and the Best, but unfortunately, the football program seems to have forgotten this.
That's why it's time for Lloyd Carr to go.

New Year...Same Nick Saban

The New Year inevitably prompts ridiculous resolutions (finding true love) that end up badly (sleeping with an ugly chic after too many beers). In this spirit, I started 2007 with great ambitions that have already fallen to the wayside like the single shoe so often seen on the shoulder of a highway.

I really do enjoy writing and I started this blog for two reasons. First, it allowed me to get out my frustration, stemming from Michigan football, constructively. Second, it gave me the opportunity to write in a way that wasn't diary-ish (exactly what I'm doing here, but give me a sec). So on December 31st, I said to The Editor, that I resolved to write more...even if it meant writing one sentence about what happened in the sports world that day - something reminiscint of Doogie Howser's musings on his PC after getting into a fight with Vinny. Well, today is January 4 and my last post was November 6. Although many things happened in the first three days of 2007, What the Deuce remained silent. I'm going to take a Mulligan and start my overly ambitious resolution today. Let's see how long it lasts.

Midweek Recap: Here is what I intended to write about during the past three days.

January 1, 2007: Rutgers big win against K-State (watched the game with The Editor and her family, including RURon, The Veep, and Beast Nose).

January 2, 2007: USC's dominance of Michigan in the Rose Bowl. More on this later.

January 3, 2007: Nick Saban accepts the Alabama job and "Dol-fans" (very clever, by the way) feel like a woman with 2 kids who just found out her husband was leaving her for someone with fake boobs.

January 4, 2007: Yesterday I was reminded that it has been an unusual year and half in Miami when it comes to head coaches. Beginning in November 2005, Miami based teams have experienced 5 head coaching changes, temporary or permanent. First, Riles took over for an "exhausted" Stan Van Gundy. Next, first year manager Joe Girardi was let go because of personal differences with management. This was followed by Larry Coker being dismissed but still coaching the 'Canes in their bowl game. On the heels of Saban to Alabama, Heat fans were told that Riles was taking a leave and Ron Rothstein, who once sported a perm, would be the Heat's interm coach. Of course, after pointing this out, Dan LeBetard promptly went on to bashing Saban and his decision to leave the Dolphins.

Today, it's been worse. Joe Rose, the morning guy, upon finding out that Saban cited his wife's unhappiness in Miami as a factor in his decision, took the obvious cheap shots which basically questioned Saban's manhood. LeBetard took a step further, displaying his lack of wit and laziness by stereotyping Tuscaloosa as a redneck outpost. Very, very original. Not surprising for a guy who still takes shots at Detroit for riots that happened over 20 years ago.

While the Miami fans have the right to gripe about how Saban handled the situation, it's illogical for them to be angry that he left. First, Saban is a nomad and this is a well known fact. Knowing this, the Dolphins gave him total control of football operations while failing to limit his mobility. They should be faulted even more for this, knowing that coaches regularly break contracts to pursue bigger and better jobs. I don't know the specifics of his agreement with the Dolphins, but they could have made it more difficult for him to up and leave. Second, fans are delusional to think they wouldn't have done the same. Saban is getting $32MM guaranteed in a job that guarantees at minimum 6 wins a year. He can recruit, not worry about salary caps and disgruntled players. Simply, he can micromanage to his heart's content. Putting those elements together, is there any question that when his name became linked to the job he wasn't leaving? Lastly, can you really fault him for taking a better job? Yes, it's college and not the NFL, but the money is more. If you were given an opportunity that was personally better for you, wouldn't you take it? That's the case here and that's what Saban did.

Maybe I'm not a true sports fan or maybe I'm jaded. I've seen too many players leave my favorite teams to understand sports are a business like any other industry. When Larry Brown left the Pistons, I wasn't surprised. He's Larry Brown. When Ben Wallace left for more money, I was sad. But I wasn't surprised. He's a 32 year old center signing his last NBA contract. Saban going to the Crimson Tide was simply Saban being himself. If you're surprised, you're probably the kind of guy who marries the girl who is known for cheating thinking that your marriage will actually last "till death do you part."