Posts Tagged ‘denard robinson’

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Denard Robinson Should’ve Been Left Off the All-America Team

12.13.10

Awards, much like polls and surveys, tend to be way too subjective for my taste and the Football Writers Association of America’s All-America team is no exception.

Though I have to say, as a Michigan fan, I’m stoked to report that UM quarterback phenom Denard Robinson made the first team, which is a who’s-who of the best college football players in the nation.  What strikes me as a bit of a slap in the face, however, is that he wasn’t selected in the position that he plays.  Instead he was honored as a running back, alongside Heisman runner-up LaMichael James from Oregon.

Now, stats-wise, it makes total sense: Robinson was the third leading rusher in the nation.  Yes, you read that right.  Not the third leading rusher amongst quarterbacks, but among all running backs in the Football Bowl Subdivision.  In fact, he was only 6 yards shy of the second-leading rusher and less than 50 yards away from topping the aforementioned James.  To say that Robinson had a banner year is being modest.

But he didn’t accomplish these record stats as a running back. He did them as quarterback. True, he clearly runs.  A lot.  And does it remarkably well.  Just going by his numbers, it seems like he could be a  tailback on nearly any team in the country.  But that’s not his position at Michigan.  Nor was it his position in high school.  It’s not how Rich Rodriguez recruited him nor is it what he intended to play when he came to Ann Arbor.

He’s a quarterback. Just because he puts up better numbers than almost all other designated running backs in the country doesn’t mean that his position changes anymore than a wide receiver who’s excellent at running reverses becomes a running back simply because of that facet of his game.

Normally I’d say that, regardless, it’s an honor to be named to the All-America first team even if it’s for the wrong position.  And I do think that he did enough this season to warrant such recognition.  The reality is that running is an increasingly integral part of a college quarterback’s game, so to acknowledge his impressive talent but then essentially claim that it’s not part of his role as QB1 is to basically say that he’s not great enough at his position for the honor — so why bend the justification?

If the voters felt that he was not quite good enough all-around to make it on the team as a quarterback, they should’ve just left him off the list.

Denard Robinson is the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan.  He should be recognized as such.

Image courtesy of Mike Pettigano’s Flickr Photostream.

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A Rational Argument in Favor of Rich Rodriguez Keeping his Job

11.29.10

Another year, another loss to Ohio State. It’s not something that any Michigan fan can stomach, let alone the seventh straight defeat at the hands of our bitter rivals. But what’s the solution? Many are saying – and have been for some time now – that it begins with firing head coach Rich Rodriguez. But, I’m still not ready to jump on that bandwagon.

To blame Rich Rod for all of our woes is failing to see the entire picture. I liken it to those who blame President Obama everything that’s going wrong in our country today. Americans in general have become extraordinarily impatient and short-sighted, with a side of selective amnesia fueled by nostalgia. For Republicans, that means forgetting all about President George W. Bush’s shortcomings and military and economic policies. For those clamoring for Rodriguez’s prompt dismissal, it’s about forgetting that our streak of futility against the Buckeyes started long before his arrival — Lloyd Carr brought us a national title, but he also went 1-6 against Jim Tressel’s crimson-and-gray squads.

Speaking of Carr, there were plenty who were ready for someone new by the time that he stepped down. 1997 feels like a dozen lifetimes ago and this is clearly a “What have you done for me lately?” environment. His inability to take down Mr. Sweater Vest himself, even with the number two team in the nation and a roster of future first-round NFL draft picks coupled with a similarly putrid record in bowl games didn’t do much to solidify his reputation amongst the restless Michigan fanbase. But at least he had the impossible-to-refute response of: “I won a national title, ninjas.” Rich Rod’s best is: “I almost went to the title game but I lost to Pitt one year. I owned the Big East, mothertruckers!”

People will say, the facts are the facts. RichRod is 0-3 versus both Michigan State and Ohio State. He holds one of the worst season records in Michigan history (3-9, his first season at UM). His squads had back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in Michigan history since the 60s. He’s 0-11 against Big Ten teams with winning records at the end of the season.

And I concede these facts. But, the important part is to look at context.

He was hired relatively late in the recruiting season back in 2008, not giving him much time to get the kids he needed for his system his first year — namely, a quarterback who could legitimately run his offense.  That ended in a 3-9 season.  A total debacle.  I give him a mulligan on that one though because of the circumstances: new coach, new scheme, player attrition due to coaching change that was inevitable when going from a pro-style offense to a spread, shortened recruiting time.  It was worse than we’d all hoped, but given what we had, it’s not quite as surprising looking back on it.

So last year was his true first year and he went 5-7.  You know who else went 5-7 in his second season as head coach?  Yup: Jim Harbaugh.  Now, I don’t mean to say that one coach is better or worse than the other, only that for those who think that hiring Harbaugh will instantly make our defense like our old squads we had that were tops in the country with the same roster that we currently have, you’re clearly smoking some good herbal refreshments.  I bring it up because, for many programs going through massive change like the Michigan is going through, there is a curve of excellence.  It takes time to get things moving.  (Also note: that Harbaugh’s first season he went 4-8, not much better than RichRod’s inaugural run.)

Granted, we got smoked in the Big Ten, losing to our main rivals – again – and didn’t finish strong at all.  But remember again: this wasn’t like we had all-Americans all over the field here or something.  It wasn’t like we were underachieving based on the players on the field (which could definitely be argued for Lloyd Carr’s final squad who was full of NFL starters yet couldn’t beat our archrival nor win a bowl game until the last game of their careers.)  Our current players were and have been playing their hearts out every single week.  But they were mainly freshmen last year!  Both of our starting QBs – Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier – were true freshmen leading that offense, which showed flashes but sputtered because, well, they were barely out of high school trying to take on the junior/senior led teams of the Big Ten.  It wasn’t going to happen — save for that miracle against Wisconsin in RichRod’s first season.

And now that brings us to the 2010 campaign. We finished 7-5 in the regular season and made a bowl game for the first time in three years.  We lost to Michigan State and Ohio State again, extending our futility streak even longer.  But, 7-5 is what was pretty much expected of us by just about everyone.  I had hopes for an 8-win season, and I still hold onto that hope because I believe we’ll win our bowl game, making us 8-5 on the year.  You know who else went 8-5 in his third season?  You guessed it: Jim Harbaugh!

The reality is that some vocal Michigan fans haven’t liked Rich Rodriguez since the very beginning.  They wanted change to happen overnight and they wanted to just close their eyes, stomp their feet, and cry about having Michigan football back to the way it was with the click of their heels.  Change doesn’t happen like that.  It’s sometimes long and often hard.  But think about it this way: the worst is over!  The change has happened. The offense was ranked 5th in the nation this year — up until the OSU disaster — and was run by mainly sophomores; the leaps and bounds they made since last year was incredible.  Now, everyone can agree that the defense needs serious help.

But look at the reality there: we lost our two starting, senior cornerbacks (arguably the more porous aspect of our D) Troy Woolfolk and Donovan Warren — one to season ending injury in the beginning of the year and the other because he thought he was ready for the NFL and left early only to not even be drafted.  In an ideal world, those two would’ve been in our secondary and you could argue that thing would’ve been drastically different.  Instead we had true freshmen playing against veteran QB-WR combos like Pryor/Sanzenbacher and Stanzi/Johnson-Koulianos — and, well, we all know how that went.  Our front three were decent and our linebackers are improving.  But when you play sometimes eight true freshmen on a defense in the Big Ten, there’s just not going to be the stout response that we’d like from a maize-and-blue squad.

Short story long: Rich Rodriguez deserves another year. It’d be foolish to pull the plug at this point and change everything over again to a whole new coach and new system when things are noticeably improving.  The kids love the coach.  The kids trust the coach.  And the coach has our kids playing hard.  They never quit even during the embarrassment in Columbus on Saturday when the game was totally out of reach.  I mean, of course they wouldn’t: they’re Michigan men.  And those who stay will be champions.

(And for the record, in Jim Harbaugh’s fourth season, he’s currently 11-1 and has Stanford in the top 5 of the BCS rankings, poised for a big money berth.  I’m not predicting that success for us next year — we’re a different, younger team with a totally different roster — but 9-10 wins is clearly in our sights and attainable.  And, who can honestly be upset with a 9-10 win season?  Are we really that arrogant?)

Image courtesy of larrysphatpage’s Flickr Photostream.

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To Michigan Fans Still Unhappy Even After a Win: Get Over Yourselves

11.13.10

Michigan won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time in recent memory by defeating Purdue 27-16 on the road today.

This comes after a monster win over Illinois, smothering the Illini’s two-point conversion attempt on the last play of the game that needed three overtime periods to determine the winner amongst two teams that kept waiting for their defenses to make that one stop that would give them the victory.

Surprisingly: it was the Maize and Blue squad that provided that one crucial goal-line stand after having not done hardly anything of note for… well, pretty much the last two-plus years.  And, it was one of the most thrilling and maddening games I’ve seen the Wolverines play.

After a three-game skid that threatened to look like the futility of the past two seasons, the Wolverines are 7-3, bowl eligible, and even winning games because of their defense (rather than in spite of).

There are fans out there who haven’t been happy with Rich Rodriguez since the day he was hired.  Well, they were probably unsure at that moment but they were for sure unhappy when UM started out his first season with a loss and went on to having an embarrassing 3-9 record.  And it’s been hard to convince them since.

Michigan fans are extremely proud of their school, their football program, and – possibly even more importantly than anything else – their winning tradition. I get it.  I went to Michigan.  I love that we have the winningest program in all of college football history.  I love that we have the biggest football stadium in the country.  I love that we have 11 national titles, 42 conference titles, and 3 Heisman trophy winners. I love that we have had the longest active streak of going to a bowl game.

It’s what’s made these past two seasons that saw only three wins in the Big Ten and no postseason berths (not to mention extending the losing streaks against rivals MSU and OSU) even tougher pills to swallow.  No one likes losing. But when you’re not used to losing more than three (four, tops) games a season, you get spoiled.  You get a sense of entitlement.

Since we’re Michigan, we must be great.  Since we’ve always won a ton of games, we should continue to win a ton of games.

After last week’s win, I saw all kinds of comments on Facebook and on news articles from Michigan fans angry over the win.  Despite the fact that Big Blue scored one in the ‘W’ column after a three-game losing streak and became bowl eligible for the first time in three years (and hopefully starting a new record-breaking streak), people were still calling for RichRod’s head for the fact that the team allowed 65 points to be dumped on them.

People in the comments sections also bemused that anyone would bother being excited for a win over Illinois — you can practically taste the lack of respect dripping off the words, as if beating even an arguably solid (UI has had a defense that ranked in the top-20 in the nation) Big Ten team was below them, because historically we’ve had Illinois’ number so therefore they’re always unworthy of beating us.

Larry Lage described the excitement as such:

“The Wolverines, meanwhile, celebrated as if they had clinched a Rose Bowl bid instead of just a trip to some second-tier bowl. Forcier jumped and screamed as he ran off the field, then slapped hands with fans along the tunnel before racing to the locker room.”

Why shouldn’t everyone rejoice? I’m sure if I had been there, wrapped up in the excitement and intensity of the game, rolling with all the ups and downs of the inherent drama, going from crushing defeat when Forcier lost a fumble on his first play to total elation when the defense stopped Scheelhaase’s pass, I’d have been beside myself, celebrating with my fellow Michigan fans in every way I knew how.  It’s why you go to games.

And, of course, after this week’s win, the Michigan fans that I saw on Facebook and even with whom I texted throughout the game, the messages were all negative and pessimistic.  They declared it an ugly win; as if it were still embarrassing and unacceptable to not play a flawless game despite winning by 11 points, on the road, in the rain and wind, and holding Purdue to not a single offensive touchdown. How cynical and impossible-to-please are we when all we do is focus on the negative in a victory?  Sure we had five turnovers on offense, for the second week in a row.  But, c’mon: leave that for the coaches.  They’re the ones who are supposed to never be happy, even in a win — but not us fans.

I say to those cynical people: get over yourselves.

I think it’s because many of these people aren’t fans of RichRod, so they have to justify their dislike even in the face of his success.  We won?  Well, yeah, but look at those turnovers.  Our defense held Purdue to only field goals?  Great, but they still racked up nearly 300 yards against us.  We outlasted Illinois in triple-overtime?  Did you see the score, though!? At this point, they’re too proud and have been too vocal in their opposition to Rodriguez as head coach that they can’t now admit that our team is improving.  So they have to just focus on the negative and miss the entire joy of watching a team grow before our very eyes.

The fact is that we’re 7-3.  We’re .500 in the Big Ten.  And we’re going to a bowl game.  We are improving.  Our offense is ranked 5th in the nation.  Our rushing offense is set to break all kinds of Michigan records — a school known for its rushing prowess.

To not enjoy these past two victories is to miss the fun in being a fan of a team.  The point of being such a huge fan is that your day is either made or broken by the outcome of this weekly game.  Winning brings euphoria; losing drives you to bitterness and finding yourself irritated by anything anyone does around you all day.  Winning – for us fans, not for the kids who play the game – is everything.  There are no moral victories against your arch-rivals.  There is no consolation in almost.

And, these past two Saturdays in November, we won.

So, let’s enjoy it.

Image courtesy of larrysphatpage’s Flickr Photostream.