Aug 4, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier signs autographs following practice at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football: The New, New World Order

Posted at 4:00pm — 1/10/2014

Michigan Football: The New, New World Order

Will Order Indeed Come From “The Change?”
An Intuitive Minor Predictor Of The Future

The big news came down from not so afar on Wednesday. Close sources trumpeted one potential candidate, somewhat embroiled Doug Nussmeier, the offensive coordinator at Alabama. It looks like this was a done deal for a few days considering the speed of the entire process. Losing two straight games, about three years worth of bad times for Alabama, must have left a bad taste in some mouths.

9593811The finality of the decision not to retain veteran coach Al Borges may bring eventual answers, but for now the hire will bring questions. These questions cannot be answered with pure certainty or absolute confidence. The answers can be put forth as probable, logical, and dangerously based on other clear factors that have held up the Michigan offense.

And so this article deals with this decision from a position of quarterback coaching, management, and some statements made with a reasonable confidence.

al borgesBefore analysis of the above, a word about departing coach Borges. It was a strange year for Michigan, on both sides of the ball, and from top to bottom. Some on this site have heard Coach Borges talk clinically about offense. He is much brighter than plenty of readers give him credit for. I would state he is really strong in the area of theory, the why. But maybe was/is not so strong on the how. In short, Coach Borges may be best suited to design and not implement. Some coaches are master teachers; some almost despise going over and over correcting mistakes and teaching technique. Coach Borges had two responsibilities, the other being quarterback coach. He had the pleasure of coaching two extraordinary athletes, Robinson and Gardner. He had the distinct displeasure of trying to meld them within a system that demands good decision making involving smart reads and timing. Touchdown and turnover machines were the result. The author is not sure how many quarterback coaches could have melded those two into what was envisioned. The guess is precious few. The line never met basic success and the backs averaged unimpressive numbers and play.

Al Borges 1An analogy may be in order: Coach Borges was like a person in the famous magic show saw box, the exception is the person holding the saw was not a magician. He has been labeled as obnoxious and arrogant. Those terms are not appropriate and lack evidence of support. He may have been stubborn on occasions, the problems of the offense never went away- and he was the coordinator- and the play calling in last year’s (2012) Ohio State game was properly flayed in this column. The constant flailing of poor play calling is not correct against his entire body of work. When a play caller is facing a good defense with a team that cannot run and a quarterback that panics and turns the back over way too much, play calling becomes a secondary problem: how the offense can move the ball remains number one. Defenses had it way too easy against the Michigan defense last year, since Michigan was limited, the opposing defense was allowed certain, shall we say, liberties.

Dec 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke in the second half against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Kansas State defeated Michigan 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It is the belief that Coach Hoke did not let Coach Borges go to satisfy the mobs; he made this choice in the best interest of the program. Coach Hoke had a fortunate window with Coach Nussmeier, and acted decisively. This was not a desperate roll of the dice. At the very least, this move will improve quarterback play. Coach Nussmeier has clear empirical evidence of turning out smart, effective quarterbacks, and that is the starting point of good quarterback play. His quarterbacks are prepared and execute.

Coach Borges is not the only area of concern within the Michigan program. He was the offensive coordinator, but was somewhat caught up in a vortex of falling dominos, literally. The offensive line could not block for the backs or quarterback, the quarterback made bad decisions, and the backs did not knock anything out of the park, showing little burst or vision. Each back had some strengths and plenty of downside. The good news is the back situation could improve greatly if the offensive line can somehow get it together. The current offensive line is made up of really good kids. But the youngsters were clearly overwhelmed, physically and mentally. That is bad, really bad.

In closing this section, Coach Borges had some downside, but does not deserve the village idiot treatment. He will land somewhere else and probably take a pay cut. He will remain most likely who he is and do not expect some Richard Strauss transfiguration. Last, remember, this offense has other problems. It is assumed that the administration and Coach Hoke are acutely aware of this certainty. This is a conclusion beyond logical discussion.

The new quarterback coach will need to immediately adopt and nurture his charges. A quarterback coach works in a different fashion with quarterbacks. This is the most cerebral position in the game. The training and management of a quarterback is as much mental as physical. Unlike Coach Borges, Coach Nussmeier cannot be denied. At all costs he must use his proven methods of training and preparing quarterbacks, modification and compromise did not work very well the past three years, leading somewhat, but certainly not in entirety, to Coach Borges’ difficulties. Quarterback coaches must act like the respected uncle that will not budge in principle.

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) talks with quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier during a timeout against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Alabama won 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) talks with quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier during a timeout against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Alabama won 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Nussmeier has an even bigger task than quarterback development. He must analyze why Michigan failed and what can be done about the situation poste haste. Coordinators do not name their supporting staff, but the bet is that Coach Nussmeier would not have come to Michigan if he had no say in problem correction. It is the belief and hope that the talent is not the primary problem, that indeed there are other embedded difficulties that can be identified and corrected.

This is a start for the Michigan program, and we will see if other “corrections” are in order. Corrections do not always mean progress, but common sense dictates Coach Nussmeier can do no worse than the status quo. The smart bet is the state of the offense improves.

Still, remember, the offensive line play must be severely addressed in one manner or another. And the quarterback must become an efficient manager of the game. It is fun to coach quarterbacks, but the hours are long and the anxiety high.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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