Tondar's Daily Rant

Prepare yourself for the writings of Tondar the Destroyer, Baron of Atlanta, Rightful Heir to the Throne of Spain, from whom all babies come. As his will be blogged, so let it be done.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

WORST YEAR EVER FOR MICHIGAN FOOTBALL?

From Seth...

Question: What's the worst thing that could happen to Michigan football?

Answer: Lloyd Carr getting fired and replaced by a win-at-all-costs guy.

Even if the game has passed him by, and it's his coaching that led to the outcome of recent weeks, firing him would do the most damage possible to the program. A new coach couldn't install a system to pick up this year's pieces. Our great 2008 recruiting class would fall apart (many are coming because of Lloyd's emphasis on academics). And we'd get our asses handed to us next year, when our best players are gone, and there's no infusion of talent or team direction to improve that which is here. Remember, as bad as this year has been so far, we have to play 2008 without Jake Long and Chad Henne and Michael Hart. So after two consecutive down years, and the academic prestige lost, then what? Perhaps another down year, before the new coach's goons are ready to take over in 2010. Then maybe a run at the national championship in 2011, followed by a disappointment in 2012. Then we fire that guy and get another. Maybe we have a good 2013, before other coaches figure him out. Then we fire that guy and offer Nick Saban $14 million to come coach. He does. We win a national championship. He bolts to the NFL. Then it comes out the speedy goons were cheating and getting paid, and we get slapped with NCAA sanctions and tumble into a middling team for five years.

Such is the life of an SEC team. Such is the life we choose not to live at Michigan. Such is the life that is being created before our eyes, as the local radio station hosts a website to drum up support for the firing of Lloyd Carr.

"He's a great guy," they say. "He's good at fundamentals," they say. "But it's time to use newfangled ideas like the shotgun and trick plays and the spread formation." Nevermind that there's nothing "new" about any of those. Because as much as these people have no clue what they're talking about, the evidence that Lloyd Carr's Wolverines have presented this year is exactly what the prosecution needs.

He's John Proctor, feigning humility when the masses expect righteous indignation, and thumbing his nose at his neighbors' silly superstitious ways when his audience is the pig circus. Someone should tell him there's a witch trial going on.

The heretic is college football. The purity. The sportsmanship. The education. The kids becoming men. The knowledge that if you do things right and consistently, you will be rewarded. So much of the game doesn't have this anymore. So many programs have gone to win-at-all-costs, willing to throw away their integrity and their kids' futures for the national championship. If the game has passed Lloyd Carr by, it is only because the game has become the NFL.

The loss to Oregon would have been the most embarrassing in the history of the program, but for the loss the week before. And considering our problem is the defensive line can't play, what happens but one of the few possible saviors gets slapped with an MIP, the Heisman-caliber quarterback goes down, and we're left to pin our hopes on freshman John Navarre reborn. And to top it off, we've got our star pupil, Tom Brady, the lead beneficiary of a major cheating scandal. And we haven't even played Notre Dame, let alone the Big Ten, yet.

Our only hope: a 5-foot-9 tailback with legs more purple than Northwestern's new uniforms can carry the ball 60 times per game, since the other tailbacks have fumbled -- not kidding -- one out of every five carries.

And it's the way we're losing, how everything's coming down on the coaches. DeBord is what DeBord is, but Lloyd Carr and Ron English were top football commidities. If anything could make them look like junk, though, it was these games.

Same goes for the players. When Ohio State won recruiting battles for defensive linemen, we said "worry not -- these guys Will Johnson and Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor will make our line unbeatable for years." Well, Branch started as a freshman and left as a junior. Taylor and Johnson have two seasons left. But Taylor isn't the same without Branch. And Johnson, well, he's about the worst starting defensive tackle in the conference.

And what about our new upperclassmen starters? We've had big hopes for linebackers John Thompson and Shawn Crable, and defensive end Tim Jamison for years. Now seniors, they were supposed to make up for the losses of David Harris and Prescott Burgess and Lamarr Woodley, respectively. They haven't. Not by a longshot. These guys don't get another chance. And they're blowing this one.

We were told not to panic when Ohio State won the nation's top corners year after year (Ted Ginn, Jamario O'Neal, Chris Gamble, et al.), and when Justin King chose Penn State. We had the nation's best defensive backs coach (English), who could mold speed (Morgan Trent) and size (Johnny Sears, Jamar Adams) and guts (Brandent Englemon) and brains (Brandon Harrison) and whatever Stevie Brown supposedly had into an unbeatable backfield. He couldn't. We're learning the hard way you can't get the job done with 2-star backfield talent, that coaching at DB can't conquer sheer talent (case in point: our best defensive back has been true freshman Donovan Warren). Warren's a find, a piece of hope. But Stevie Brown's craptacular performance means all the buildup to the start of this sophomore's great career at safety was a load of crap.

The future looks dim on the D-line, too. John Ferrara and Adam Patterson and Jason Kates and Greg Banks and Brandon Graham and Marques Slocum are sophomore defensive linemen, supposed to have talent and be ready to step in. They haven't (except maybe, surprisingly, Ferrara). Graham has been much, much, much less than advertized. Patterson and Kates looked lost. Banks and Slocum seem more interested in being college students than defensive line stars.

And the future of the offense? I have no complaints about Steve Schilling and Justin Boren -- they're well deserved of carrying on the offensive line tradition here. But Ryan Mallett was far from a superstar in his debut against Oregon. The Ducks have an All-American corner, true, but what happens when Mallett has to run an offense against Tom Zbikowski? Greg Mathews was pegged as the next great receiver -- he's kicked more balls than caught. Kevin Grady is too hurt to play, but the super sophomores Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown have become the fumble brothers.

And meanwhile, we're watching the time tick down on some players who should have been considered among the program's greatest: Jake Long, Chad Henne, Mario Manningham, and Mike Hart. And we're wasting the best year of solid guys like Adam Kraus and Alex Mitchell and Adrian Arrington.

Somebody, somewhere, sold their soul right before the Michigan/Ohio State game last year, and wished all the bad in the world to come down upon Michigan. If it could go wrong for Michigan since we were on top of the world in late November, 2006, it has. We lost the biggest game of the season despite our players playing their best game. We lost our opportunity to end the aura of USC with a lackluster bowl performance. We lost the key to our defensive line when Alan Branch declared for the draft. We lost to a Division I-AA team that nobody had ever heard of, and a Pac 10 team that nobody respects, and those two in the worst possible manner -- death by speed and "spread" -- that could most prove right the beliefs of the two biggest enemies of good football: uninformed fans, and the SEC.

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