Who do I blame for the embarrassment we endured on Saturday, and what do we change immediately to salvage this season? Two questions that should never need to be answered on September 8th with ten games to play. But this is how we cope. It's something Michigan fans have had to learn to do the last seven years after spending the bulk of our lives in a stable, .700 winning-percentage environment that occasionally featured road victories. The popular options seem to be (in no particular order):
- Fire Brandon
- Fire Hoke
- Bench Gardner and start Morris
Nothing is likely to happen before this season's story is told, so suck it up...but let's talk about it until we're blue in the face anyway.
I find the bantering about of firing Brandon comical, not because I'm not all for it, but because his hand in the creation of the football team effectively stopped once Hoke was hired. As much as we joke, it's not like he's actually the general manager of the Michigan Wolverines, scouting talent and making trades. He's the guy that negotiates hotel rates and puts out the Meijer photo of the week on twitter. He fired RichRod and hired Hoke, which is what you all wanted him to do (probably me too to some extent), and last year he approved Nussmeier's salary. In between he monetized the athletic department by any means necessary at the cost of image and real fan support, and while that was disturbing, it had nothing to do with 31-0.
Brady isn't going anywhere mid-season, and any attempt to say otherwise is stupid. But there's no denying anymore that the seat is warming up underneath him. Having a team look so inept, so unprepared, and the lack of adjustments or improvement throughout the game...just unacceptable. I know I've said this a thousand times, but after three years of development under the tutelage of Hoke and friends, I haven't seen a single player grow and develop into something more than he was when he arrived. This may be because I have blinders on and only see the skill players, but whatever.
I didn't want there to be a number of wins that had to be achieved, I just wanted to be good. But now Hoke has to at minimum split MSU and OSU, and that's a tall order. Aside from that he also needs to win the rest of this pre-Big Ten slate, which includes a Utah team that seems to not suck. And I can even allow one other Big Ten loss, for a total of three-losses: 9-3. ND shellacking aside, 9-3 is somewhere in the area of the expectation I had coming in. Anything less, and it's time to clean house starting at the top by dialing 1-800-CALL-SAM.
I don't like pointing fingers at players, mostly because they're kids. But Devin Gardner doesn't seem like a kid anymore, and with each passing game where he effectively freaks out and throws shit all over the place in the hope that it will stick somewhere, I start thinking about what a nice second target he'd make next to Funchess. Is it him or the line? Probably both. But between Devin and Denard, I've been watching this scenario repeat for 4+ years. When challenged, panic sets in. On some rare occasions, this has resulted in what seemingly was brilliance (Denard against ND, Devin against OSU), but the other times...most of the time...it devolves into garbage. And I am not sure it would be different with Shane. He doesn't possess the mobility to evade the rush bestowed upon our quarterbacks by our always young, always inexperienced, always a work-in-progress offensive line. I do think he can make some passes that Devin just cant, dude has a cannon...but so did Jeff George. Man, if I can't trust that Nussmeier and Hoke to know who is better fit to help Michigan win games then none of this means anything anyway. So I will trust that the quarterback that starts is the best quarterback and leave it at that. I mean, if fans had control of the position, Griese would have never been on the field, and Drew Henson would have started the Orange Bowl against Alabama over Tom Brady.
The truth is...and I know it sounds ridiculous...these teams are not as far apart as the score indicated on Saturday. Notre Dame has more established depth and was able to make due with the second and third members of their depth chart covering our receivers. They have developed their players. They adjusted. Michigan did not. Call it attrition or blame Rich Rod or Lloyd or whatever, but Taylor and Peppers being out ruined us. We were once again victims of the Michigan mantra that "the expectation is for the position." Golston being really really accurate did not help that cause.
The other issue is that Michigan knows how to lose. They are conditioned to accept it in a way that previous generations of Michigan teams have not been. And because of that, the game ended as soon as the score hit 14-0. Their demeanor changed. They panicked, and then they laid down. They didn't adjust and Devin commenced his shit show.
Okay, okay. Let's finish with some hope. There is something to salvage here. The Big Ten sucks, and if we can get it together we can win in this conference, even this year. And while that would mean about as much nationally as winning the Sun Belt, it's still a ring. It would mean we figured some things out, that we didn't give up, and that we are actually building something. Trust me, you want this to work. You do not want a 4th different coach in a span of 8 years. That type of inconsistency and turnover kills classes and decimates programs.... Unless that coach is Jim Harbaugh. In which case blow it all up and back up the Brinks truck.
Hang in there. See you Saturday. Go Blue!