Thursday, September 25th, 2008...12:16 am

MattNYC: The Spread Offense Is Awesome (Comment Of The Week)

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My blog post on Michigan Football and Rich Rodriguez wasn’t well received. That probably has as much to do with my writing as it does with my argument (although I’m sure you could argue that both are off base). The message I wanted to get across was that I understand we need to give this guy a chance but so far I’m skeptical for a bunch of reasons. It came across as a bit fair weathered, negative, impatient and reeked of the stigma of Wolverine entitlement.

One particular reader who calls himself MattNYC (I do not know who he is or how he stumbled upon my blog) had some strong worded yet thoughtful comments and I thought they were good enough to highlight and share so I’m dubbing it the “Comment Of The Week”. I’ve forever been trying to figure out how to get everyone to comment more on this blog and create more of a discussion but so far it hasn’t happened. Perhaps recognition and peer admiration will be a driving force for user participation.

His first comment was…

Ugh, are you sure you are a UM fan? There is so much wrong here that it’s difficult to find a good starting point.

First off, the “spread offense” is not some gimmick that only “gimmicky” teams run. This is the offense that Florida won a national championship with. The same school coached by some Urban Meyer guy that was rumored to be a candidate for the Michigan job – had Carr retired when Meyer was not yet at Florida.

The spread offense is f’ing awesome. It’s not some gimmick. This is the same offense that Tim Couch broke all those college records with. The same offense that Tom Brady led a pass-happy version of to rerite the NFL record books last year.

Rich Rod did not “run off” AA and Mallett and Manningham and Boren. The writing was already on the wall for AA and Manninham and Mallett. Carr had already put Mallett on thin ice, and there was serious rumblings within the program that Mallett was a heavy drinker who rubbed almost all the upperclassman the wrong way. As for AA and Mario, both of those guys were Lloyd recruits that would have beeen hard pressed to help there draft stock by staying another year in a brand new offense. They chose to leave as a career decision, they weren’t “run off”.

Boren? His “family values” statement doesn’t hold up in light of the fact that his brother went to OSU and that several recruits (Including on everyone’s list Craig Roh) have cited the “family atmosphere” at UM as a factor in their commitment. Boren wanted to transfer and used the coaching change as an excuse.

As for the “lowering the bar” statement – how you like that irony? Lloyd “8-4? Carr was fine when Cooper was at OSU, but losing to OSU 3 years straight, coupled with embarrassing losses (App State, USC and Texas in the rose bowl) had already lowered the bar.
You really should start reading MGBLOG and less Jim Carty.

I wasn’t sure how to respond or if I should even accept the comment. Perhaps, it was a bit snarky and I’m pretty sure he is telling me I’m an idiot. I appreciated his response and realized he was a knowledgeable fan (mgoblog sure — but who drops Jim Carty?). Obviously, I did approve his comment and then posted a trivial retort. After thinking about it some more, I wrote a private email back to him explaining my rational. He responded on the blog with an even better post

I’m more of a baseball guy myself, but do enjoy breaking down some football Xs and Os from time to time.

The spread works well in college because many teams simply don’t have the depth to field 5-6 guys on the field that can run (and shuck blockers and tackle well enough at the same time) to hang with an offense that is putting 5 or 6 fast little buggers out there – including the QB. Combined with the nascent not-yet-professional versions of many college defensive lineman (not quite fast enough yet) it allows for a QB to get adequate time to exploit the mismatches all over the field or to take off running when everyone is worried about the 5 guys running routes.

In the pros it’s rare to see a defense that doesn’t have a plethora of guys that can play the run well and that also run 4.5 forties with all the necessary quickness to stop a run and passing attack. And so the conventional wisdom has been that a spread offense’s strengths are mostly nullified in the NFL.
But a funny thing has started happening: teams are running it anyway – and having success. The Patriots are an unfair example, blessed with so much talent (both on the field and on the sidelines), but still they perfected a pass happy version of the spread last year and set all sorts of records in the process. Sure Tom Brady still lined ‘em up in the pro-set and I-form sometimes – but most of their success was from the 3-4-5 wide shotgun.

This past week the Dolphins turned the tables on the Pats and scored 38pts, mixing in some spread that featured Ronny Brown of all people running and throwing wild.

So the spread is cool and cutting edge and is now getting some more pub in the NFL as well as HS and college.
As far as the general line of “Rich Rod is a mercenary not the sort of Michigan Man I want” line of thinking that is so pervasive – fuck that noise. You know what Rich Rod is: he’s one of those flyover land swing voters that might read “No Country for Old Men” as his favorite novel this year, ok, well – this decade. He’s kinda an “aw shucks” kinda hick. But he isn’t teaching epistemology or discrete math this quarter, but football.

Lloyd was a tremendous sort of bookish guy – but in the last few years he wasn’t very good at winning football games. I’ll gladly trade a couple of Kipling quotes for a few more wins against OSU.

There have been legit concerns with Rich Rod throwing tradition to the wind (the jersey thing being pretty bad), but he’s also restored things like the march to the Stadium. He’s made a genuine effort to learn about Michigan tradition. And if he restores the best one – winning football games at a 80% clip – all else will be forgiven.

I like how he broke down the spread offense and I realize it’s more than a gimmick. I’m just not sure if want the team I root for to run it. And I’m certainly not sure if Coach Rod is the guy I want to root for. But as MattNYC said – if he wins at an 80% clip, we’ll all love him!

The future starts this Saturday. A win against Wisconsin would be beautiful and if that doesn’t happen I’m not about to call for a mutiny just yet.

Kudos to MattNYC for finding my blog and jumping into the conversation. If I had any LittyHoops t-shirts left I’d be sending you one!

  • awolk

    Well Litty Hoops, it looks as if you have met your match. Look on the bright side, if you ever cant get to the blog you can have MattNYC jump on and write for you. Or even better maybe he can “guest blog” kind of like Letterman used to do for Carson when he got older and less enthusiastic.

    As for my comments on the words themselves: I am what I consider a huge UM fan and truly live and die with the Maize and Blue. I will also say that I am a big time pessimist, and usually see the UM glass as half empty so while I stare down a 3-9 season, it will be tough to defend Dick Rod in season 1. That said I will also say in the all years I have watched and loved Michigan football there is one constant; nothing less than winning a National Title and beating OSU will ever be good enough. Under Llyod we bitched and complained and yawned our way through year after year of “good enough” but not “great football”. With the exception of ’97 and then the close, but not quite ’06, we watched us run up the middle more times than I care to count, we had some terrible clock and time management losses, and seemed to be slipping in the ever tough recruiting battle with OSU. Losing to Ohio State became an annual Thanksgiving tradition and while he seems to be a great guy, a fabulous teacher and mentor, people had been calling for Carr’s job for a while now (anyone recall that Alamo Bowl??). I do like Llyod, I do not like Dick Rod. I actually currently cant stand Dick Rod, but I will give him this; he has won everywhere he has gone. He has a system and it has worked so I am going to give him a few years before I drop the hammer on him. It took 2 bad losses to App St. and Oregon at the big house for the people at UM to realize what many of us already knew: That we will never be able to defend the spread offense with a Big10 D. Speed and the Big10 are not synonymous, but Speed and Dick Rod are. We will see where this journey takes us and who knows maybe we will be shocked, but I dont think so. I will say this, if he drives us into the abyss that currently holds once storied programs like Nebraska and FSU, I will hunt him down myself. Call me old fashioned but I think I could have gotten used to 9-3 and 10-2 seasons for the rest of my life, not USC greatness, but good enough to turn on the TV every Saturday and know my team can always win and maybe just maybe we put a sick ’97 D on the field and win a Natty Champ ever 10 years or so. At least I could watch Sportscenter. I will cheer because I am a Michigan fan, but I will tell you that my heart is just not in it like it used to be, but as MattNYC said, all it takes to get us back is WINNING and everything will be okay again.