The Michigan football season feels like it is at a tipping point even with 10 games still to go, as this is a fanbase that is as restless and impatient as it seemingly ever has been. And understandably so as a very important year for this program has started out slow and underwhelming out of the gate.
There has been a ton of hot takery and ridiculousness out there, but with the bye week is perfect time to relax, decompress, and take the most objective and critical look we can about this football team.
On Wednesday afternoon, we sent out the following tweet from the main account.
#Michigan fans, reply to or quote this tweet with your biggest logical concern for the football team so far this season.— Maize n Brew (@MaizenBrew) September 11, 2019
We have a ton of responses, but at a certain point, many of them begin to mirror one another, so let’s pull some of them from the hat and discuss here as a unit.
Is Shea injured enough it's hampering his play? Or did he not improve on his weaknesses at all?— Mike Kawano (@triggamanmike) September 11, 2019
That Shea simply is what he is and is a fine QB but not the 5 star QB we need to get us over the hump.— Matt Cypher (@MLCypher) September 11, 2019
Shea is regressing. That’s it. The QB is the engine that makes this offense run.— Zajture Boy (@zaj128) September 11, 2019
Let’s address these three first because I think they all tie in to one another. First off, Patterson has been dealing with an oblique injury. The severity of it is unknown, but it does not seem to be something that should affect his ability to make reads and diagnose defenses. If it is affecting his ability, then it seems like the staff would be ready to put Dylan McCaffrey in if they truly believed they had to. Seeing as they have shown a willingness to get him on the field, it does not seem like there would be much hesitation to put him out there if Patterson was so hurt that he could not be effective.
As I wrote earlier this week, Patterson simply needs to figure it out and play better. Even in a new offense, the game should be slowed down enough for him as a senior quarterback that has played significantly in all four seasons of his college career. Things are not processing quickly enough, and it needs to get better fast.
Why Harbaugh is slow to make personnel adjustments. He was a guy who once benched Alex Smith for Kapernick. Shea is Alex. Solid but not dynamic. Why are Sainristil and Jackson at 1 catch combined. I get young players make mistakes but we need speed and explosiveness. Play to win— James Michael (@nickschance) September 11, 2019
It is too premature to say that Patterson is Alex Smith and McCaffrey is Colin Kaepernick, but it is an interesting juxtaposition of something that may play out at some point this year. Michigan has championship aspirations and if they are not getting championship-caliber quarterback play, Harbaugh showed in the past he is willing to make the change if it is in the best interests of achieving their goals. They are not there yet with this quarterback situation, but it is worth keeping an eye on if they truly are as high on McCaffrey as everyone seems to think they are.
As far as Patterson not being dynamic, that is a bit of a stretch. He might not be playing well, but it is not like he is only a runner or only a passer. In fact, that’s sort of what McCaffrey has going against him.
The one concern I have is that if they continue to get lackluster quarterback play, how long will it take for them to have someone ready? I will go to my grave saying that Brandon Peters should have been made ready to play earlier in 2017 and continuing to trot John O’Korn out there cost them a win against Michigan State, at the very least. There was still a decent amount of goodwill with this staff that season, but the margin for error is razor thin there. Just keep an eye on it.
As far as Sainristil and Jackson go, we are getting a little too ahead of ourselves here with freshman hype. Nico Collins and Tarik Black need to be on the field and Donovan Peoples-Jones coming back gives them three of the best wideouts in the country. Ronnie Bell has played fairly well, too. People are taking the #SpeedInSpace term way too literally and thinking it means they need to have burners on the field at all times. They need to get the ball in the hands of their best playmakers is what it means, and they have to do a much better job in this area.
The “speed in space” offense. We did not use any of our speed in space last week. https://t.co/5orv1Jf8zR— Antonio Shina (@A14Shina) September 11, 2019
No, they did not. We saw a bit of it in the first half, but three fumbles, two of which came from the quarterback, seemed to have caused them to go conservative. This is supposed to be an aggressive, attacking offense, and some of it may just be execution-based, but Collins, Black and the tight ends must remain a focal point.
O line. 33 carries for 100 yards and that’s NOT on ZC— korey kincade (@birdman032) September 11, 2019
Michigan leaned on Zach Charbonnet last week at running back and 33 carries probably is not the recipe for success moving forward for a freshman back. Part of that is the offensive line, but Army also sent pressure on almost every snap of the game, which clogged up the running lanes. That the coaching staff continue to hammer away there is totally fair game to be criticized, and should be. They wanted to control the clock against Army, but you can still do that with a quick and efficient passing game. Everyone needs to be better.
Letting players play. Putting our talent in position to be most successful.— Michael Lawrence (@acousticmike80) September 11, 2019
And this tweet is a good point, as well. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis says his goal is to put his players in the best spot to succeed, but he and Jim Harbaugh did not do enough of that in Week 2 and parts of the first game of the season. They cite it as having confidence in their players to execute what they call, but it does not seem like they are consistently calling what best utilizes the talent they have. That’s where this offense was supposed to be different about this new offense and it has not happened a ton yet. Maybe they need a few weeks of game film to figure it out, but whether it is preparation or in-game playcalling, these players have not been totally ready to roll and on the same page.
That it lacks crispness. I'm not expecting perfect execution on every play, but it feels like there's too many times where it's just a little too sloppy (which I suppose is a cost of a new offense install as Joel Klatt threw out there on Saturday.)— Hoover Street Rag (@hooverstreet) September 11, 2019
Mental mistakes.— Josh Evans (@jevansradio) September 11, 2019
Good news is that you can fix it.
Bad news is that it happened two weeks in a row.
For any who complained about the early bye week...this looks like about as perfect a placement as you can ask for, now.
I said to start the year that nothing becomes a concern until it becomes a trend. So far through two weeks, self-inflicted wounds are by far the biggest issue this football team has, and this is definitely the perfect time for a bye to settle things down.
Something that has been a bothersome trend in the Harbaugh era is slow and tentative starts to football games, and it has cost them on a handful of occasions while other teams they have been able to regroup and escape. Sometimes, a quick start is the good mojo and confidence booster that a team needs to kick off a three-hour war against another team, but Michigan is hardly giving itself a chance and has turned the ball over quickly in both of their contests to start the year. And it is not because they are “soft” or anything like that, but this is a coaching staff and a group of players that is pressing right now.
These guys are on social media. They know what you say. They know what pundits are against them. They know they have to win a Big Ten Championship this season. And they’re trying too hard and overthinking a ton, which leads to mistakes.
Harbaugh and his staff need to find a way to get things settled down, to block out the outside noise. The leadership and captains on this team need to settle down. Ben Bredeson is a two-time captain yet has been called for a handful of pre-snap penalties, which feels emblematic of what this team is going through right now. They know they will be defined by one or two football games this year and they are trying to win games two months away in the here and now.
Shut it all out and go to work. Period.
As far as what may be the biggest concern...
lack of alcohol to get me through this season— GoBlueBiophysics (@MrBioPhysics) September 11, 2019
Right there with you, pal.
Hop on over to Twitter to join the discussion there are take it to the comments section below. Air your grievances and let’s have a discussion.