First question I have: A few MnB commenters noticed that BTN's list of finalists for this glorious Rushmore of football only had one player from the 2000s and beyond (Braylon Edwards)...agree/disagree or is it appropriate given Michigan's struggles since 2006?
Peter: That was something that stuck out to me, and I mention it in my piece on Desmond Howard, I think. I'm okay with it, but not necessarily because of any struggles since 2006. When I think of a Mount Rushmore, it has to be players that were transcendent on the field and/or helped make the program what it is. When you look at guys like Harmon, Howard, and even Edwards, they are players that went "above and beyond" as it were and sort of pop into your head when you think of Michigan football. I'm not so sure that someone like Mike Hart, for as good as he was, is one of those guys. I also think that a lot of the list may have to do with when you were watching. I'm guessing that I'm the oldest one at the site, so someone like Bennie Oosterbaan really sticks out to me. Okay, I'm not that old, but I think you get my point. You kind of stick with some players that you're more familiar with, and Edwards is probably just at the beginning of the age spectrum with some of our younger readers, fans of Michigan football, whatever, actually being able to witness. I mean, at 40, only three of the candidates were on the field during my watching memory. AC was already in the NFL and playing for my Vikings.
Kevin: In a way this list kind of worked itself out to be "all-decade" players that embody the best success of the program. Edwards is easily the most recognizable name and face of the 2000s, but as was touched on in the comments, Denard Robinson deserved honorable mention of some kind since he was the program a few years ago. I was a bit surprised Chad Henne didn't make it in there purely for how many Michigan quarterback records the guy broke during his four years. Not many players start as true freshmen, because, and I don't think I'm wrong on this, no one had started as a freshman since Rick Leach. I went and looked at parts of Michigan's record book last week. Leach, when he played, owned nearly every record at his position. Now he has gotten bumped down to 6th place, 11th place, even lower on some stats, because so many QBs in the modern era have had so much more success. Edwards was the guy though, and he is revered so much more because of how much better at his position he was than any before or after him.
Peter: I'm not a fan of past players not being on a list of greats because of those who have passed them by. Desmond Howard is another example of that. He owned some records, and has been knocked down a few pegs...by Edwards...but it would be a mistake to leave him off the list because he's been passed up. I think that's what you're saying about Leach, right? He should be on the Mount Rushmore even though others have left him in the dust?
Kevin: Definitely, because Leach was the face of Bo's program in the Seventies. Records are made to be broken of course, but at the time, he was unstoppable if you watch film of him. There's a difference to me between the guys who were merely really good at their positions, and those who made their positions. I'm sure Edwards caused a lot of defensive coordinators to think up some new coverage schemes for a guy of his size and ability. I think that's what this list was after, like you say above, it's the guys who are the epitome of the program.
John: I was fairly surprised to see that Denard Robinson wasn't in the top ten given all the things he did at Michigan. I suspect he was a case of the right player at the wrong time. He went through so many coordinators, coaches and supporting cast that its hard to believe he was as good as he was. He was even able to fight through his near career ending injury to put together a great performance at running back, including an amazing run against Ohio State. That being said I think being on a few bad Michigan teams and kind of being identified with the Rich Rod era has hurt Denard's legacy. Still the guy was an absolute joy on and off the field and is arguably the only reason Michigan has beaten Ohio State in the last decade. He deserved to be in the discussion.
Peter: I agree that Denard should be on the list to discuss, but I'm not sure if he's necessarily an all-time type of player who belongs on the mountainside. One thing I'll give you, though, is he certainly was fun as hell to watch.
Josh: That's tough to make a case for Denard. Granted he was the most electrifying player in college football for the years he was in Ann Arbor, but I don't see him as anything more of a "hey, remember him?" type of guy when fans look back at him. To be on the mountain with the likes of Harmon, Howard and others, he would need to do do much more. More wins, for starters.
Nick: It would be great to have a reason to put Denard on Michigan's Mount Rushmore, wouldn't it? As John pointed out and as we all know, he suffered through some of the worst years in Michigan football history and still gave us something to cheer about. It seems almost as if he deserves some sort of honor for his time in Ann Arbor. I'd like to think he remains more than a "hey, remember him?" type of guy, because he gave me my most cherished moments as a Michigan fan. I was too young to enjoy the ‘90s, and I didn't really become dedicated to Michigan football until the later Carr-years. Denard helped define my fandom. If this is redone in 50 years and more than four players are allowed to be chosen, maybe more people look back at Denard in a more powerful, program-defining light, because he held the team together through those struggling years. I think it should be asked, "Where would Michigan be today without Shoelace?" Maybe that doesn't seem too important right now, but it might in a few decades.
Zoob: I might have missed something, but was Mike Hart not listed? I get it, his ‘Little Brother' comments are polarizing, but I still think he's one of the most dominant RB's at Michigan since Carter. What about Jake Long? When is the last time a Michigan guy was drafted #1 in the NFL Draft.
Where there any other guys from some of the other eras left off that should have gotten into the final ten that you were surprised by?
Peter: Tyrone Wheatley is one I thought would be on there. He led the Big Ten in rushing back in ‘92, I think. Plus, he was also the Player of the Game in the ‘93 Rose Bowl. I remember seeing him live in Minneapolis and was blown away by what he did. One thing that possibly prevented his being placed on the list is the fact he also played with Tim Biakabutuka. I'll also make a tongue-in-cheek reference to a couple guys who really made me a fan back in the day: Tripp Welborne and Jon Vaughn. They are on my personal list of all-time Michigan players, but I obviously don't believe they should be on our list.
Kevin: There were probably a few guys who were in the running, and it probably came down to their impact like you say. Wheatley was likely one, and Dennis Franklin was probably another. They're more fan favorites than the stuff of revered legend. I'd put Brian Greise and Anthony Thomas on there too. Both of those guys weren't starters their entire careers, they just struck gold for one or two seasons and got Michigan some memorable wins. It's also hard to think of defensive guys that could've compared to Charles Woodson, maybe Ty Law or Jarrett Irons.
Josh: Kind of surprised that Anthony Thomas or Tim Biakabutuka didn't make the cut on the list. We're all aware of the what Timmy Touchdown did against Ohio State and Thomas was king in the record books for many years before Mike Hart came in and crushed those records. I think both guys deserved a look, even with Thomas winning a National Championship.
Which of the guys everyone wrote about has the best chance to get to the top, how do you see the votes playing out?
Peter: It's going to be Harmon. I don't know how, of all the players, he doesn't get the most votes. I won't make a prediction as far as numbers go, but I'm willing to bet that he gets the vast majority.
Kevin: Harmon is an interesting case, Peter. How many are going to be voting purely on name recognition or body of work? Hey, just like the football playoff committee! Ha!
Peter: Part of the deal with Harmon, though, is that everyone who knows Michigan football knows Tom Harmon. Everyone knows that he was the only Michigan player to ever receive a standing ovation at Ohio Stadium. Everyone knows Old ‘98. He's the one old-timer on the list that I think most people recognize when it comes to accomplishments. Although I wrote about Bennie Oosterbaan, I doubt that many people think of him right away...and that's something I mention right away in that piece. It's precisely why he's such an intriguing figure on the list.
John: I just have a gut feeling it's gonna be Charles Woodson. Woodson's accomplishments were recent and significant enough that I think he'll snag the top vote over Harmon. After all, how many of us can even name on Tom Harmon highlight? Charles brought Michigan it's best season in the modern era, plus was the only defensive player ever to win the Heisman(beating Peyton manning!). How do you not vote for him?
Josh: Woodson or Harmon are going to get the most votes, with Woodson being the king. I think Michigan fans will see the familiar Heisman-winning names on the list and have them sent straight to the top. Honestly, that's what they deserve, if you win the Heisman you deserve to go down in Michigan football lore.
Peter: Yet at the same time, Josh, I think it's almost too easy to pick those guys. It isn't the wrong choice, but thinking about this critically is important. AC didn't win the Heisman, but should he be left off the mountain because he didn't? In the end, he may end up on the mountain, but I just don't want to see all the Heisman guys up there automatically--then we're just debating the last spot. Doesn't seem fair to the guys on the list who may be just as important to the program.
Nick: I agree with Peter on a couple points. Harmon will get the most votes, but the Heisman winners shouldn't be shoo-ins. That's not to say they don't deserve a spot, but players like Oosterbaan and Kramer are considered Michigan Legends for a reason, even if the majority of people watching today never saw them play.
Zoob: Woodson is the Godfather of Michigan football now.
Who on the list is your personal favorite that you voted for, if anyone different? Or, who are you pulling for to get some love?
Kevin: I think I'd pull for Desmond Howard. I met him once in Ann Arbor. The guy lives and breathes Michigan. From what I know of him, his heart is as big as his personality. I first started going to Michigan games when he was still playing. I was super young, but #21 was all I remembered.
Peter: Desmond Howard. Woodson was great, but Howard was playing when I was in high school, so it was okay for me to have his picture up in my bedroom. As much as I love my all-time favorite player (regardless of Mount Rushmores), Jarrett Irons, it is Desmond Howard who I probably think of the most when I think back to watching Michigan football back then. If he gets left off the mountain, I'll be very disappointed.
Did you go to any games while he played, Peter?
Peter: Hell, no! Ann Arbor is a long way away from Eveleth, MN. I didn't get to my first Michigan game until I was 21 or so. I think it was Penn State in ‘96, so I guess that would have made me 22. I wish I had been able to see games back then. It was a major goal in my life to see just one game at the Big House...now that I have season tickets, I don't know what to think. It's crazy. Hopefully I'll be able to see some similar players at Michigan before I give ‘em up.
Nick: I've never watched anyone on the list play in person, so I'm coming into this with a fairly unbiased view. I'm a sucker for sports history, so I'm pulling for some of the older guys that might not get as much attention, like Kramer, Oosterbaan, Chappuis.
Zoob: Des. Des. Des.
What's a takeaway or grand impression from doing this project? Learn anything incredible and amazing while digging up archives about these players (can tease content from your own piece as well)?
Peter: I don't know if I have a grand impression, but it has been a lot of fun and a bit of an education. I took on Desmond Howard and Bennie Oosterbaan. Desmond was easy because I lived through it. Finding stuff on Bennie was difficult because he played so long ago--before YouTube, people! I think one thing about him was just how hard he played against Ohio State during the Michigan Stadium dedication game--I include a glowing review of his defensive performance in my piece. Most of the information I could find on him was pretty much the same as far as what a force he was, but I still got a pretty clear picture of what he meant as a player. I knew he was very good, but I was more familiar with him as a championship-winning coach.
Kevin: From what I know, Oosterbaan and Bump Elliot were pretty similar molds as players and as coaches. Probably not a coincidence. Wonder why Elliott was left off the players for consideration?
Nick: In the final paragraph of my article on Ron Kramer, I mention how he spread Bennie Oosterbaan's ashes around Ann Arbor. I suggest clicking the link and reading the beginning of the article, which is actually an obituary for Kramer. You should do it. If you don't remember any of my writing, that's fine, but you should at least take away the fun story about Kramer spreading Oosterbaan's ashes.
Wonder why they didn't decide to do like an overall football program Rushmore, in order to include coaches? Probably too difficult to keep it a manageable number. We all know what coach would make it on the mountain anyhow.
Peter: If the Rushmore turns out to be what I predict it will be (the three Heisman winners), and then a coach were added, the entire thing would have been a pointless and predictable task. At least we can have a little debate with the current set-up.
Nick: I think a more interesting task would have been to pick a player to define either each decade or each coaching era of the program, because at Peter pointed out, the process is fairly predictable as it is. This would have forced Howard vs. Woodson and allowed players like Denard to be part of the discussion.
Zoob: Only four people can go up on the Mount Rushmore, so I like them sticking to their current outline. I think for any major program like Michigan, picking just 4 people will be a challenge. It's not a knock on anyone who doesn't go up there, just speaks to the depth of the history. I mean, come on, This is Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeechigan.
Be sure to check out Big Ten Network at 6:00 PM Eastern tonight for the full reveal.