Deebo Knows: Is Al Borges Outsmarting Himself?

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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.

GO BLUE!!

**You can also find this blog, as well as blogs regarding ALL DETROIT SPORTS, at www.deeboknows.blogspot.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @adamdibart.**
Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.

4 thoughts on “Deebo Knows: Is Al Borges Outsmarting Himself?

  1. I have to agree. Borges needs to simplify things and call plays that use Denard’s strengths. The long ball is not the answer (maybe once in a great while but not as much as he has been doing it). I say use Denard in some quick outs, rollout options and hit your TE on a slant or some conventional bubble screens. Remember the Diamond formation. That was a brilliant play. Denard works best when he throws quickly or acts quickly. So those plays should work to his advantage. Also where’s that Deuce formation. They can still use it if Denard gives it to Gardner in the backfield and have Gardner throw some good passes downfield.

    1. Could not agree more. I feel like Borges is just being stubborn and it is maddening. I understand he is in a tough position bc he wants to install his offense and this is not the guy he recruited but still have to win games. After 3 years it is obvious to know when DR succeeds and when he struggles.

  2. Let’s take a look at it. Denard was brought in from rich Rodriguez staff as a running quarterback, a Michael Vick type quarterback. Never having to read a zone defense. So Al would be wise to take a note from that and develop a offensive play calling style the would promote the west coast/ pro style that he likes keeping mostly shorter/ high percentage passes mixed in with the option run and pass.
    One play that I found that denard ran well was the triple option dump pass. Basically Denard would start in the shotgin formation with a run to the slot receivers side with a pitch man to his out side. At that point the nickel back had a choice to cover the receiver or to attack the run. If he covers the run he dumped it to the slot if he stays with the receiver he contiues the option. Simple to run but hard to cover.
    Also I have noticed that Denard is much more able to make bigger plays when the run has been established by his RUNNING BACKS!!!!! The running game is abysmal at best. And the support that was given to Denard was something I hated to watch. Go back and watch as Fitz just trots out and doesnt lay a hat on anyone. Where is the passion for the game?

    Denard is not all to blame and Al believe that Denard is further along than he is. You may be able to make the passes during practice, but game speed is so much faster and less forgiving.

  3. Let’s take a look at it. Denard was brought in from rich Rodriguez staff as a running quarterback, a Michael Vick type quarterback. Never having to read a zone defense. So Al would be wise to take a note from that and develop a offensive play calling style the would promote the west coast/ pro style that he likes keeping mostly shorter/ high percentage passes mixed in with the option run and pass.
    One play that I found that denard ran well was the triple option dump pass. Basically Denard would start in the shotgin formation with a run to the slot receivers side with a pitch man to his out side. At that point the nickel back had a choice to cover the receiver or to attack the run. If he covers the run he dumped it to the slot if he stays with the receiver he contiues the option. Simple to run but hard to cover.
    Also I have noticed that Denard is much more able to make bigger plays when the run has been established by his RUNNING BACKS!!!!! The running game is abysmal at best. And the support that was given to Denard was something I hated to watch. Go back and watch as Fitz just trots out and doesnt lay a hat on anyone. Where is the passion for the game?

    Denard is not all to blame and Al believe that Denard is further along than he is. You may be able to make the passes during practice, but game speed is so much faster and less forgiving.

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