Defending Devin Gardner: Not the Best, Certainly Not the Worst


Nov 29, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) pulls away from Ohio State Buckeyes safety Tyvis Powell (23) at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 42-28. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

I’m the kind of guy who loves sports, basketball and football especially.  I’m also the kind of guy who thinks some players don’t get enough credit.  Enter, Devin Gardner.  First I will ask a question, an honest answer would be warranted.  Has Gardner, in his time at Michigan, done anything good for this team?  I mean really sit down and think about this.  For many of you, the answer would be something along the lines of “Yeah, he’s finally gone!”  And that’s fine, it’s your opinion.  I don’t hold that sentiment.  All I have heard for the past year are statements that sum up “Devin Gardner is the worst QB Michigan has ever seen.”  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying he is the best to ever step foot on the field for Michigan, but he is certainly not the worst.  The 2014 season can be blamed on a multitude of things, coaching is the main flaw that comes to my mind – and hey, I liked Hoke too, but that’s a story for another time.  Overall performance is also a huge factor.  Receivers dropping wide open and well thrown passes, linemen letting the defense shoot through wide open gaps, and the running backs never getting a run game established.  I get it, Gardner is the guy who has the ball at the beginning of the play, and yes he did have some issues, however, there is more to blame than just loading it all onto Gardner.  His 2014 campaign wasn’t nearly as productive as his 2013 campaign.  He saw a dramatic increase in most of his more-than-impressive numbers and an increase in his interceptions.  Like I stated earlier, not the best, but certainly not the worst.  Here are some facts and info defending Devin.

I am a fan, fault me for being so. However, as a fan I watched Gardner play.  We can touch on many people’s favorite, the flaws of Devin Gardner.  In my mind his biggest flaw is  decision-making.  That counts for both during the play and before.  Gardner had some terrible decisions made in the 2014 season.  I mean come on, the Notre Dame game he threw 3 picks.  I could point out the fact that his offensive line didn’t show up to block for him, but 3 picks?  That is entirely inexcusable.  This is the area Gardner’s game really took a dive.  He actually had me with a lot of hope in the first match up against Appalachian State where the Wolverines would get sweet revenge.  No it wasn’t the same Appalachian State team that Michigan had lost to the first time, but this will content that sting.  But then in his next three game he would throw 6 picks.  The first 3 against Notre Dame, another against Miami (Ohio), and 2 against Utah.  Only one of those games was a win.  He would go on to throw 9 more picks in 2014.  It hurts to see a stat like that.  Throwing 15 picks in one season is incredibly bad.

Another negative of his game would be his lack of confidence.  Not just in himself, but in his offense.  Gardner was a leader that didn’t lead in 2014.  He could have told his linemen something along the lines of, oh I don’t know, “Get your heads out of your rear and give me some more time.”  His confidence in his receivers was shaken as well.  Dropping wide open passes can make a QB think twice about looking your direction,  but Gardner also has that choice to make sure he gives that receiver another chance.  Mostly he needed the confidence in himself.  I get it, you get hit a lot, shake it off.  You throw a bad ball, even a pick.  Brush it off young man, I’ve seen you do great things.  Against OSU he threw 1 pick in a 451 yard game with 4 TDs in 2013.  He significantly outplayed the opposing QB and exposed a terribly soft secondary, which Clemson would take advantage of in their bowl game.  It was his last second go-for-two attempt that would make this game a 42-41 win for OSU.  On this play (not a Gardner fault necessarily) every single receiver would end up in the same side of the end zone.  Any high school team would have picked that ball off, OSU definitely could.  That’s where confidence comes into play.  Yes you were injured, but you could sacrifice yourself for a couple of yards and a win.  Heck you got the experience call an audible, do anything but that God forsaken play – which the Seahawks would use and end the Super Bowl the next year with similar fashion.  Confidence.  That same confidence every time you lined up at receiver, that confidence.  Every time you took a snap against OSU, that confidence.  The same confidence that made you second in the conference in passing yards, only to be beaten by Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase, in 2013.

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End discussion with Gardner…

Back to my story. Let’s talk positive.  Devin is a 6-foot-4, athletic, smart guy (though it may not have always shown in his decision), full of class and character.  He tended to J.T. Barrett when Barrett fell to injury in their 2014 meeting.  Barrett and Gardner had become something like friends over the course of last season.  Even still, to do that at a rivalry game with one of the most hated teams in Michigan history.  That’s class ladies and gents.  He can also throw an accurate ball.  He showed that for the most part in the latter half of the season.  Yes, he threw more than a few picks to wrap the season up but when he hit his target, he was on point.  He was on point quite a few times with Devin Funchess.  He had shown to be not reliable – “Michigan WR Devin Funchess”could be a dominant ‘move’ tight end on the next level,” writes CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco.  “He isn’t explosive as a receiver,” wrote Prisco. “But he could create real matchup problems as a tight end.” Funchess posted an 8.8% drop rate in 2014, with six drops on 68 catchable targets. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Funchess (38.5-inch vertical leap) ran a 4.47 forty at his pro day. – per  Am I saying that Funchess is to blame for everything? No, definitely not.  I know he was injured ever since the Notre Dame game.  There are other receivers on this team and he could have taken a seat and healed up.  Give Michigan the explosive guy we saw in 2013.  I believe Funchess will be very successful at the next level, however I am not grading him and he is not receiving a high criticism for last year.

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Back to Gardner.  Some of you reading this may be looking at your screen with a terribly confused look saying “Jay, how can you defend 32 picks in his career and still say he was accurate?”  That answer is simple.  60.4%.  That was his career completion percentage.  Not to mention his 6336 passing yards over his career.  He also had 44 passing TDs with his 32 picks.  He finished his career with a 138.4 rating.  Not the best, certainly not the worst.  To add to his passing numbers he also ran for 916 yards on 342 attempts and 24 TDs.  As a receiver he caught 18 passes for 286 yards, that’s an average of 15.9 yards per catch, and getting 4 TDs at that position.  Back to that 60.4.  Fun fact, that is a higher career percentage than Chad Henne, John Navarre, and Denard Robinson.  He will also finish his career ranked 17th in the conference for his career passing efficiency.  The school records he will finish with are 5th in career passing yards (6336), 6th in passing touchdowns (44), and 2nd in season pass yards for his 2013 outburst of 2960 yards.  He will also take the single game records for 1st and 2nd most passing yards in a single game, 503 against Indiana and 451 against OSU.

Keep in mind that he also did not have as many games played as recent QBs such as Braxton Miller and Denard Robinson.  He is about even with Connor Cook and played significantly fewer games than Chad Henne at the QB position.  To think if he would have had more time and better development – I don’t think he would be getting this kind of criticism.  All in all, as stated many times before, not the best, and certainly not the worst.  I know I am not the only Gardner fan, but so far, I am the only one speaking about it.  We saw what happened to Denard Robinson when he switched positions, he did Michigan proud.  I am confident Gardner will do the same – did you see what I did there?  I have faith in every person entering the draft this year to do some damage in the NFL.  Best of luck to all of you young men.  Until then, GO BLUE!

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