Saturday, November 09, 2013

I don't know Davey

This photoshop is as realistic as expecting a successful
Michigan run out of the I-formation.
There are times for rational analysis and there are times for STRONG TAEKS: The only person who has less understanding than Al Borges of what an offensive lineman can and cannot handle is Richie Incognito, no offense. OK then, carrying on.

Bill Barnwell writes at Grantland about David strategies and Goliath strategies. The purpose of David strategies is to increase the variance in the outcome when you clearly are at a disadvantage: a recent example of this is Jacksonville's risk-taking against Denver, which kept the game close for about a half. Spread offenses developed as David strategies - smaller teams developed ways to neutralize their size disadvantage through speed and misdirection.

MANBALL is essentially a synonym for Goliath strategy. Alabama can execute MANBALL. Stanford can execute MANBALL (provided they're not playing Utah). If you have superior athletes, you don't have to make clever play calls. If everyone executes the plays properly, you'll end up ahead. Low variance is what you want if you have the initial advantage.

What happens if we have pinnepedian, Whitlockian, patience? Suppose Michigan's great recruiting classes keep coming in and the players are coached up properly and the line play becomes effective. (Possibly next year, possibly the year after that.) Will MANBALL be effective then? Sure, it'll get you to nine wins, but, at some point, you'll be in the hole against Ohio State or Michigan State or Rutgers or against an SEC team in a - God forbid! - national semifinal. What then? That's when it's time to use a David strategy, break a tendency, take a risk. Maybe you'll lose big, but you'll give yourself a chance to come back and win a game that you should have lost. It's better than trying the same thing that stopped working again and again and again.

What's the ceiling of a MANBALL team with a coaching staff that shows no inability to get creative when things aren't going well? Maybe Michigan gets all the breaks in every game one year and wins it all. Most likely, it's back to the bad old days of 9-3 or 10-2 and perennial trips to central Florida.

Goliath strategies work against Indiana's defense. They don't work against Michigan State's. They apparently don't work against Nebraska's either. MANBALL always hits a brick wall eventually.

The Borges-O-Meter has finally reached Tlön, though not in the way we hoped. Setting incredible offensive records one week, then following it up - after a bye - with two astoundingly crappy performances. That's otherworldly. A Stygian otherworld is still an otherworld.

1 comment:

Dan McCarthy said...

Not sure I buy this analysis. Stanford's recruiting has improved recently, but on the national level, they're more David than Goliath. Same with Wisconsin, the other team I think of as quintessentially manball. Manball as practiced by Stanford does not strike me as stodgy or pigheaded. I see no reason why that kind of strategy, coupled with elite recruiting, can't lead to a national title.

On a more fundamental level, the problem for Michigan on offense at this point is not that they're implementing a strategy that will lead to lots of Citrus Bowls, but that they're failing to execute any kind of strategy competently. They're closer to Rich Rod than to late-stage Lloyd Carr at this point.

In the long run, the scary thing is that Wisconsin and Stanford's success on offense is based largely around their offensive lines. Michigan's youth surely explains a lot, but their sheer incompetence of the past two years in that department makes me doubt whether the current staff is capable of ever succeeding at their preferred offensive strategy.