Rants, comments, thoughts and funny - mostly funny - on all things Michigan and college football.

If you have ideas, tips, links or pictures for the blog, e-mail us at: MichiganZone at gmail dot com.

Thanks for checking out the M Zone. And if you enjoy the site, please pass the link on to a friend or two. We'd sure appreciate it.

Twitter: @MZoneBlog

Facebook/MZoneBlog

Best Of Tat and Tresselgate

M Zone Videos

Best Of MZone 2.0

Best Of The Original MZone

Tosu Favorites

MZone Archive

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Of all the guys who post to this board, I'm the last one who mentions a shakeup of the staff as a way to improve the Wolverines. I've always felt coaching is overrated and have adopted the "Moneyball" philosophy about the head guys, though it's less true in football than in baseball. I believe it's not so much the X's and O's, it's the Jimmies and the Joes: Players win and lose games. That's not to say coaches don't make any difference. I just believe that their role is overrated and the calls of firing coaches is usually just frustration, rather than education, on the part of fans.
Now this is not a rant about Lloyd. I don't believe he's on any sort of hot seat next year, and I don't think he should be. His record stands on its own and, despite a disappointing season this year, he has built up so much winning capital - we've just come off back to back Rose Bowl seasons - that when he leaves as head coach is totally his call.
But I just watched tOSU's final drive again even though I promised myself I wouldn't. I can't get over the complete collapse of our defense. We didn't even force a third down. We missed tackles, didn't get off blocks, never made a negative play that could have won us the game. Actually I'm not surprised. The defense did the same thing all year - four times they were on the field at the end of the fourth quarter, where a stop would win us the game and once where a stop would force OT against a backup QB. ALL FIVE TIMES THEY FAILED. Just by chance, you'd think the opponent would screw up once, but no. Wisconsin drove for a game-winning TD. Minnesota broke off an inexplicable 60+ yard run to set up a winning FG. Iowa drove for a tying FG. Pennsylvania State scored a TD. tOSU drove twice for TDs. In their defense, the D stood up to Iowa in OT, but they were bailed out by the offense against Pennsylvania State.
So even though the D was improved over last year - we didn't get gashed as we did so many times last year - and even though the offense was largely to blame for the losses to ND and Wisconsin, and even tOSU to a degree, the defense showed a continual lack of being able to make a play when it counted. And I'm not just saying this because of the frustration against tOSU. This happened five out of a possible five times.
So despite the overall improvement in the defense, despite the more effective play against the spread offenses that killed us in '04, and despite probably playing better than the offense in most of the games, I think it's time for a change.
Jim Herrmann is undoubtedly a Michigan Man, moreso than anyone of us posting to or reading this board. He was a player in the early '80s under Bo and has been on the coaching staff 20 years, including two as a grad assistant and two as a volunteer coach. His first year as defensive coordinator was, by far, his best, leading to the National Championship in 1997. But the defenses have been disappointing since, and have, no doubt, underachieved. The last two years, the defense has cost the team from accomplishing major things. It's time for a new defensive coordinator at Michigan.
I doubt Lloyd will make the change. He rightly values loyalty, and he certainly knows more about his team and his staff than I do. But if Lloyd wants more people to think about him the way I do, he needs to make some changes, and the defense needs a change the most.

25 comments:

Yost said...

Benny,

Excellent post and, unfortunately, I couldn't agree more.

First of all, as you mentioned, when one looks at the defensive collapses, don't just look at the losses. Some of our "thrilling" wins came about only b/c the defense couldn't make a stop in the 4th quarter. This year alone consider these examples:
* Rose Bowl -- ONE stop in the 4th quarter and Michigan wins. But they couldn't get the job done.
* Wisco -- The Badgers drive some 60 yards to score the winning TD w/ :24 seconds left
* Minnie -- I will say this over and over again, as the Gophers were simply trying to RUN OUT THE CLOCK, they break off a 61 yard run and kick the winning FG w/ :02 seconds left
* PSU -- The only reason we needed the last-play heroics was b/c our D couldn't stop the NitLi's on the previous drive, allowing PSU to score a TD with :41 seconds left
* Iowa -- yes, we won in OT. But the reason we needed OT was b/c, yet again, the D couldn't stop a 4th quarter drive in which Iowa kicked the tying FG.
* tOSU -- Seven minutes, up two scores, one stop wins the game. But as Benny pointed out, the D couldn't even force a 3rd down on the Buck's winning drive.

Loyalty is an excellent trait. But a coach has to be a leader and part of that is recognizing that he must make a tough choice for the good of the team. This is one of those times for Lloyd. Unfortunately, it's time to shake up the staff.

The King said...

Ha. Get on the boat, gentlemen. Finally. Loyalty is all well and good, but you can't favor loyalty over success. If you're losing games that you should win because of loyalty, then you have to take a serious look at the system you run, because your job, above all else, is to WIN GAMES. Especially games you really ought to win.

Herrmann is awful with excellent personel, and has been for years. This is not surprising. What still pisses me off is the overall coaching philosophy of daring the opponent to beat us, as opposed to beating them ourselves.

Here's an example. It's 4th and 4 or so on what, the 35? Maybe? And as we all knew we would (this is ALWAYS a bad sign), we pooch punt to the 15. OK, that's a good punt. Nice job, fatso. But let's take a look at what we've just done. We've handed the ball back to a talented offense who only needs a field goal to beat us, with all the time in the world. On top of that, we've done it KNOWING that Herrmann will be running our patented prevent defense. Against a team with a running QB. This is a joke, right?

You watch a game like the incredible USC/Fresno State game, and there's no doubt whatsoever that Pat Hill would have gone for it on that fourth down, because AT WORST they have better field position, which really means nothing at all when you are running a defense that doesn not match up correctly with their offense. And, as it happens, Pat Hill is probably the hottest coach in the country this morning, because say what you will about his program, but they go out TO WIN. We go out to NOT LOSE. There's a big difference. Watching those two teams on Saturday, UM and Fresno, the difference in attitude was night and day. Those Fresno kids believed 100% they could win that game, and they played liek it, and --guess what-- they almost did. THIS WAS FRESNO STATE. Playing USC. At home. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Those hoodlums can get it together for a game like that and we can't act like we seem to even care at times against our greatest rival?

I have completely lost sight of my hypothesis here. I guess now my point is, yeah Herrmann sucks, but it's an overall weak attitude and passive mentality that is plaguing our program. It's shameful.

Yost said...

Loef,

Ah, yes, that 4th and 4...

You're preaching to the choir that we should have gone for it. We gained about 20 yards? So what? Going back to Benny and my comments saying that we haven't stopped anybody WHEN IT MATTERED (I don't care how we did in the 3rd quarter, NOW is when we need the stop), that past history MUST figure into a coach's decision. Must, must, must. You must know your team. And if you KNOW, from past history, that you haven't been making stops WHEN IT MATTERS, then you say, "Hmmm, maybe I should go for this. B/c then, even if they do score b/c they started on the 34 instead of the 11, that's probably another minute of clock time for us with the ball at the end instead of seconds which was the case.

The King said...

Here's an article that kind of sums it up on both accounts. I know there's many of you who will never subscribe to the "we should let them score" philosphy because it's defeatist, but the bottom line is, in the situation we were in, strategically it was the only thing to do.

http://www.collegefootballnews.com/2005/Columnists/MZ/MondayMorningQuarterback.htm

Yost said...

Great article, Loef. Once they had the 1st and goal with seconds left, the game is over unless you let them score. Hey, the only reason we beat PSU is b/c they scored with :41 seconds left. Thus, giving us :35 seconds with a couple timeouts made a win at least possible. But the coaching at the end made it impossible.

Folks, check out the link Loef put in his comment. Good stuff.

Benny Friedman said...

In my many years of watching both college and pro football, I can only recall a team letting another team score once - Super Bowl XXXII (32) when Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren had his defense allow a 1 yard TD run, giving the Packers 1:45 to come back down and score. They didn't.
Although there is a legitimate argument for us letting tOSU score when they got so close, I don't think it's open and shut. Though the tOSU kicker is good, he did miss a PAT earlier. There's always a chance for a botched snap or a block. Plus, forcing them to run a couple of plays left open the chance for a fumble. The killer was really not having three timeouts to use. Actually the killer was letting them drive down the field with no resistance. TWICE.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Michigan does get into that terrible predicament of giving the ball back to the opponent with exactly the right amount of time left on the clock for them to stage a fairly leisurely drive for the winning score. Lloyd Carr really should know better by now. The fact that the already suspect Michigan defense is tired makes a stop unlikely. Additionally, the conservative “prevent” defense—so named, because it apparently only prevents opponents from punting—simply means the opponent is free to eat up as much of the time remaining as they deem necessary.

All the pooch punt did was give Ohio State the opportunity to burn up more time so Michigan’s offense wouldn’t have the chance to score after Ohio State went ahead. One of the many frustrating aspects of this game is how Michigan flirts with the idea of playing to win—going for it on fourth down—but then doesn’t when it really counts. Either outcome of going for it on that last fourth and four would have been preferable to the outcome of the pooch punt, either Michigan would have made it or Ohio State’s inevitable score would have come quicker and Chad Henne might have had enough time to score.

I’ve often thought about the idea of letting the other team score in these situations. I know it goes against every football philosophy there is and will definitely be perceived as a slight against the defense, but in situations like these it really does seem to provide the best chance to win. I thought about it big time in the Rose Bowl against Texas and found myself hoping Ohio State would score quickly this Saturday.

I suppose one way of doing this without making it obvious would be to not play the “prevent” defense but instead play an extremely aggressive, high-risk defense, blitz often and go after the ball. First, it just might work; Michigan might actually get a sack, force a fumble, force a bad throw that gets intercepted, or get a stop outside of field goal range. Anything has to be better that letting Ohio State use up the remaining time driving the length of the field. Second, if it doesn’t work, it may give up a big play that results in a quick Ohio State score and Michigan gets the ball back with a couple of minutes remaining instead of 18 seconds. Without Steve Breaston’s kickoff return, the final touchdown against Penn State just wouldn’t have happened and with Josh Huston getting touchbacks all afternoon, a return just wasn’t very likely.

I have a feeling that Lloyd Carr is too close to Jim Herrmann. At that very least he needs to light fire underneath him to get Michigan’s defense back to where it needs to be.

Yost said...

Baggy,

Well said all around. Especially the part where, like you mentioned, we flirt with "playing to win" on that earlier first down from our own 40! Yet, with the game on the line, old habits die hard and we wuss out.

And also liked your thinking about playing an aggressive D. If we make a big play, we win. And if we don't, we get the ball back.

Hell, anything is better than what we've been going through.

The King said...

On a slightly positive note, at least Phil Fulmer isn't our coach.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Yost,

Although the day was a disappointing one, it did provide at least one moment of absolute beauty: the shot of Chad Henne running over to the sideline and passionately arguing with Lloyd Carr to go for it on that fourth and one.

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen,
don't usually spend time complaining after a bad season, but having lived in cow-town for 15 years, this 1-4 record against sweater boy has me steamed. the original post, as well as all the subsequent comments, are good, but they miss the big picture. the problem isn't that Carr is too close to Herrmann or loyalty counts too much or too little. the problem is that whole coaching staff is too much a product of the existing culture.

one of the early season rags (ESPN/SI) described us as the "most surprisingly successful incestuous program". incest is the right description. the bulk of these coaches are either former players or loooong time assistants going back to Moeller or even Bo.

we seldom bring in new blood from somewhere else and consequently, we haven't had much in the way of an original or new idea in the program since Moeller took over and installed the forward pass (which he learned in his brief stint at Illinois).

the coaching staff, as a group, is culturally inbred, w/ too few of them, especially those at the top, w/ much if any recent experience from anywhere else. when was the last time you heard anyone (even amongst the faithful?) describe anything about the program w/ the words "innovative", "imaginative", or "creative"???

we have some very talented coaches on staff, but they have either spent their entire careers in A2, or they have been there so long, they've forgotten what the rest of the world is like.

stability is good, but not to the point of stagnation. i don't think the long term blame or answer lies w/ one coordinator or assistant. i think the answer is to have a staff w/ coaches from different programs and different experiences, that will breath some new ideas/experiences, and along w/it, hopefully some creativity into the program.

thanks, and i apologize for my poor typing.

signed,
surrounded in columbus

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Surrounded,

You are correct! The strong desire to go with "Michigan men" hurts the team by unnecessarily limiting the talent pool and undoubtedly encourages groupthink among the coaching staff. It’s strange considering Michigan’s past coaching successes weren’t because of getting “Michigan men.” Hell, Bo Schembechler came from Ohio State! Maybe Michigan should look into hiring Luke Fickell?

Yost said...

Folks,

For another excellent post on the things we're talking about here (repeating the same mistakes all year long), check out MGoBlog which we have a link to on our home page.

Paul E. Brown said...

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

IC said...

I agree with the consensus on the need to find a new D coordinator and with the disdain for our tendency to place too much stock in hiring "Michigan Men."

That noted, I disagree with the notion that we lost the game because of the decision to pooch punt. We didn't lose because we forced a team to drive 50+ yards to have a chance to win a game. We lost because, when we should have known better, we helped them do it by playing the same soft, scared defense that had already burned us several times in 2005.

Remember, they only needed a field goal to win. Giving them the ball on or around their 35 (which is very likely what would have happened had we gone for it) would have put them in fg range with 2-3 first downs. Putting them back on the 12 required them to likely need 4-5 first downs to have a chance at a game winning kick (tOSU eventually tallied five first downs to get to our 31 yd. line., which if we could have held them there would have required their kicker to connect on a career long.)

Their final two scores were not inevitable. The Buckeye offense that only faced one third down in gaining over 150 yards and two touchdowns in the final two drives had the following statistics in the four drives leading up to these scores: 21 plays, 38 yards, 0 points.

So what happened? (Again) we didn't force incompletions, interceptions, sacks, and holding calls by being aggressive. (Again) we responded to our opponent's approach to win the game with a strategy of hope that they would lose it. This was the same hope that had been a proven failure in each of the games mentioned by Yost and Benny.

That doesn't mean that the deicison to punt was wrong. It means that (again) the decisions we made after that punt were wrong.

Yost said...

Surround,

First, speaking of inbred, I feel your pain down there in Columbus. My condolences.

However, I respectfully disagree about our coaches coming from within the program being a bad thing.

Some of the most successful programs in the country, ours included, stay stable and near the top by promoting from within instead of grasping for straws by trying to get the "hot coach du jour."

For a prime example of what I'm talking about, look no further than Nebraska. They fired their coach after a "disastrous" 10-3 season and got the "pro genius," Bill Callahan. In his two years, they had their first losing season since the 60s last year and another horrible season this year (much worse than ours). Even the "hottest coach in America," Urban Meyer, has 3 losses and another tough game to go which means he just might end up with the same record as us this year.

I could go on but my point is, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes, changes need to be made, but we didn't become the winningest program by panicking during a tough time. I mean, before this season, we had gone to back-to-back Rose Bowls.

Having said that, it also requires Lloyd to be very critical of what the consistant problems are (those defensive lapses) and make the TOUGH moves to correct them.

The King said...

I'm not sure anyone was calling Bill Callahan a "pro genius" after he took a Super Bowl team into the cellar in what, one year? Two years?

Katie said...

I don't compare to all of you and the incredible opinions you have. Although I totally enjoy reading every word you all write. I just wanted to say from a girl who always looks at the glass as half full....I loved Watson's forced fumble and recovery, but the best moment of the day was Henne's impassioned plea to go on forth. I know that here at my house, my son's and I were yelling at Carr just as compassionalty to GO FOR IT! I loved the smile Carr gave and the fact that he let Henne go for it. Yes there were many disasppointing moments particularly at the end, and I will leave all of those things up to you gentleman to debate and discuss, however this is the greatest team to be a fan of and I am fortunate enough to have found a group of passionate "fans" that allow me the greatest "reads". Thanks guys! (and thanks for letting me post with my meager comments!)

Yost said...

Good point, Loef, lol!

And Katie, thanks for your comments. We love the female "diversity" on our male-dominated rant-fest.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Since I’m new to posting here I want to clarify one thing, I am by no means in favor of firing Lloyd Carr. Overall, the man is an excellent coach by any standard: his winning percentage is excellent, he has an undefeated season and a National Championship—albeit a shared one—under his belt, he recruits good talent from around the country, and he runs a program with integrity, honor and class.

Additionally, whatever the play-calling may have lacked at certain points in the season, there were other aspects of coaching that were absolutely fantastic.

Going into the Penn State game, Michigan was a team that was reeling. It was three and three, riddled with injuries, and out of the Top 25. It would have been very easy for the team, with all that youth and inexperience, to completely fall apart a la Michigan State.

Somehow they didn’t. In fact they beat what is now the #3 team in the country, giving Penn State it’s only loss this year. I don’t know what Lloyd Carr and the coaching staff did the week between the Minnesota game and the Penn State game, but they did an amazing job. And, let’s face it, Lloyd Carr owns Joe Paterno and he’s one of the all time greatest coaches ever.

I think that’s what’s so frustrating about the way things have been for they last couple of years. Carr does so many things so admirably that I have a hard time understanding why he call plays in close situations with the same acumen.

As Yost points out, replacing Carr is probably fraught with more peril and would also be just plain wrong considering all he’s given Michigan and its fans. In addition to getting a coach who needs several years to get some sort of lame West Coast Offense in place, Michigan may get a coach who can’t recruit, makes worse game day decisions, says really stupid things to the media, and generally embarrasses the entire university.

I stumbled across this recap of a classic Michigan/Ohio State game:

Ohio State 10 ... Michigan 10, November 24, 1973

At the time: 10-0, No. 4 Michigan hosted 9-0, No. 1 Ohio State for the Big Ten title, the Rose Bowl berth, and national title consideration. The Buckeyes had allowed 33 points (an average of 3.67 points per game) and a mere three touchdowns while the Wolverines had given up a total of 49 points.

The setup: In a hard-hitting, intense battle, Ohio State took a 10-0 halftime lead on a 31-yard field goal and a five-yard Pete Johnson touchdown. Michigan battled back in the second half with a 30-yard field goal and a Dennis Franklin ten-yard touchdown run.

The ending: Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Franklin was knocked out for the game on what could've been the game-winning drive with a broken collarbone with 2:25 to play. This would have repercussions on more than just this game (more on that in a moment). Fearing an interception, Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler ordered three straight running plays to give Mike Lantry a long field goal try. Even though it was from 58 yards out, Lantry just missed. Ohio State tried to pull off the win by throwing the ball, but this was a pure running team. Michigan's Jon Drake picked off a Greg Hare pass and got it to the Ohio State 33 with :52 left. After two conservative plays, Schembechler went for the field goal on third down. Lantry missed from 44 yards out for a 10-10 finish.


Reading that, I can’t help but notice the same sort of mindset still existing at Michigan. And that game was played in 1973. I think that’s why there’s a problem with having so many “Michigan men” on the coaching staff. They’re thinking back to the glory days of Bo and Woody and remembering how Bo would’ve handled things. The thing is, it really didn’t work so great back then, either.

The truth is, there’s really only a few minor adjustments that need to be made: don’t be so conservative on both sides of the ball; play to win, don’t play to not lose; and get some ass-kicking graduate assistant to smoke the hell out of the defense and teach them how to pursue and tackle.

Will that mean we go undefeated every year? Nope. Will it mean we beat Ohio State every year? Nope. I’m not asking for either. In fact, I’d be pretty happy with splitting with Ohio State 50-50, that’s kind of what rivalries are about. I just want to at least have a shot at the National Championship towards the end of the season and win a few of these ESPN “Instant Classic” games.

Yost said...

Baggy,

Your point about "just wanting to be in the National Title hunt at the end of the season" is something Wangs laments all the time. Hopefully he'll stop working on the job that pays his bills so he can add his comment.

Your point is well taken.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

The thing about being out of the hunt for the National Championship game is that it kind of ruins the rest of college football for me. There's always upsets during the season. If Michigan had a better record, LSU's upset of Alabama, Arizona's upset of UCLA, Miami's upset of Virginia tech, and Georgia Tech's upset of Miami would have had meaning to me. I checked in on the USC/Fresno State game and was hoping Fresno State would upset USC, but just wasn't that interested because it really wasn't going to have any impact on Michigan.

At least when Michigan's still in the hunt, I get to enjoy a lot more college football by rooting for Michigan and rooting against anyone ranked higher than Michigan.

Anonymous said...

If Lloyd Carr can get rid of his HemLloyds, perhaps they'll have a chance next year. Otherwise, he'll be LLLLLoyd, an extra L added every year with each loss to the Buckeyes.

Brent said...

Thanks for your insight, anonymous. Even more thanks for illustrating once more the traditional Ohio State level of class and fixation on Michigan instead of your own team's tradition and achievements. And to top it off, you had the moxie and "heart" to post anonymously! Kudos!

Anonymous said...

I'm sending this message days late and way down at the bottom after many messages, so I hope someone reads it.

Anyway, it's just a general complaint I've had for years. I still remember 1980. When that team finally got it together, it was an EVENT to score a touchdown against Michigan. We would face Heisman candidates and make them look like patsies.

Obviously Michigan strives to be a great all around team, but I wouldn't mind if, recruiting and coaching wise, they started concentrating on defense first and foremost for the next few years.