Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Is Al Borges Outsmarting Himself?

The dead horse regarding Denard Robinson's disastrous performance in Michigan's 13-6 gagfest on Saturday against Notre Dame has had the crap kicked out of it in the media, watering holes, and water coolers since the clock read 0:00 in South Bend to the point PETA may need to step in.  He was terrible indeed.  He looked more like a frightened freshman than a senior QB in his third year as a starter.  The finger should be pointed at him (and his 5 turnovers) as the biggest reason ON THE FIELD that the Wolverines lost the game.  But maybe another finger needs to be pointed at someone else as well.  That somebody is offensive coordinator Al Borges, and not just for the latest offensive clunker "Big Blue" displayed against the Irish.  In his 16 games calling the plays and developing the offensive game plans for the Maize and Blue, he's left me scratching my head on many occasions.

Let me introduce Exhibit A:  The Vincent Smith Interception.

I have no choice but to ask: Why?  Actually, what I would really like to ask is WHAT THE @#%$ WAS THAT?!?!?!?! 

You mean to tell me that after failing to capitalize on a huge early ND turnover in which you found yourself in a 1st and goal the previous drive (Missed a long FG after Denard was pulverized by sacks), the best option on the next possession on a 1st and goal is to run a halfback pass with a 5'6" RB on a short field?  Talk about a momentum swing.  Especially when the offense was humming along seeing Robinson go 5 for 6 to get them 70 yards down the field.  Why take the ball out of a hot hand 10 yards from pay dirt and destroy the offense's rhythm?  After missing out on at least 3 points minutes earlier, why not see if you can get close on a running play or a screen on 1st down then take a shot with a safe pass in the end zone?  You don't get in, you get a chip shot FG and seize momentum and the lead on the road and quiet the crowd.  Instead, a possible 14-0 lead early is 0-0 and the home team knows they just dodged 2 huge bullets.  I love Vincent Smith, nice player, but can you really expect him to make a touch pass in tight quarters that some QBs struggle with?  I know Brady Hoke defended the call but did you really expect him to say "my offensive coordinator made a bonehead call?"  I am sure the thought crossed his mind.  Funny how after that drive Denard and the offense never got that rhythm back and scored a meager 6 points the entire game.  As the kids say: "just sayin'."

This instance is scary similar to those we have seen previously from this offense.  I remember screaming multiple times at my TV last season when Denard and the offense's rhythm was interrupted and drives were stalled when Borges would decide to bring out the vaunted "Deuce Package" (Iowa) or run a reverse in the red zone and lose a big chunk of yards (Illinois) and miss golden opportunities.  This is not Tecmo Bowl!  If your offense is working stick with it!!  Stop being cute especially on the road in big games!  It is crippling your quarterback and the offense!

May I present to you Exhibit B: Tying Together "Shoelace's" Shoelaces.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Al Borges continues to make Denard Robinson a pocket passer and it just is not working.  When is he going to figure this out?  After the offense crumbles for a 5th straight time against the Michigan State defense?  Will that be enough to convince him that he has a QB that has a certain skill set and being a drop back passer who throws the ball down field 30 times per game is not it?  That approach didn't work again against ND, just like it didn't work against Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, VT, MSU, etc., etc., etc.  Teams are not going to let him run all over them.  Fine.  But where are the roll out passes?  Where are the short to intermediate passes that build confidence and move the chains?  Where are the throwback screens, the bubble screens, the QB draws?  When Denard runs this simplified attack he succeeds.  Borges figured that out against Nebraska and Ohio State last year and "Shoelace" ran a very efficient and explosive offense.  They won those games.  When he has been handcuffed as a pocket passer and forced to make decisions against a pass rush in the games aforementioned, he has continued to make poor decisions, take sacks, miss receivers, and turn the ball over.  He doesn't know when to take a sack.  He doesn't know when to throw the ball away.  He doesn't know when to simply tuck it and run.  If he doesn't know this now he never will.  It is not an indictment on him it is just not what he does or what type of quarterback he is.  Why force it?

You want to actually win a meaningful road game this year against a good defense?  You want to beat MSU and have a shot at a B1G title?  If your answer is yes, Mr. Borges, then I suggest you come to grips with the type of QB you have and run the plays and schemes where he can succeed.  If you continue to be stubborn, and try to make him the QB you wish you had then you can forget all of those goals because he just cannot be that type of QB.  If you are hellbent on installing your offense that's fine too, just come out and say it.  Or, if you want a better passing QB, start Bellomy.  Just don't insult the intelligence of the fans.  We want to see you win games...not experiment.  Enough is enough.  Stop putting this kid in positions in which he will fail.  He deserves better as do the fans.

Al Borges is regarded as a very smart offensive coordinator.  An offensive guru if you will.  I am sure he has forgotten more Xs and Os and offensive plays that I could ever fathom.  I fully expect that in 2-3 years when he has his ideal QB/WRs/RBs at his disposal he will have the Wolverines among the best in the nation offensively.  However, in the here and now, he needs to take a step back and simplify things to adhere to his personnel, particularly Denard Robinson.  I understand these are not the players he recruited but if the goal is to win football games he has to suck it up and run plays that can maximize their skill sets.  I think he has a tendency to get too cute and it costs the team.  He must keep it simple and let his athletes make plays.  He has to stop confusing them with goofy formations, poorly-timed gadget plays, and complex passing schemes.  It's not in their DNA.  I just hope that he realizes that B1G play starts now and it is not the time to be cute, experiment, or over-think.  He is a smart offensive mind, maybe too smart, and if things don't change, he will think Team 133 into a mediocre 2012 season. 


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