I've been actively watching Michigan football for over 20 years now and this is the most I have ever seen the fanbase complain and whine over a currently undefeated Michigan team. Seriously, I can't remember a time when it was THIS bad. You got fans booing players on the field, fans calling out coaches including Jim Harbaugh himself and fans sending angry hate messages to players on social media, which feels like it should be illegal to do but it sadly isn't.
When you confront these fans about their irrationally frustrating behavior, they give you the following line of excuses for it:
- We are paying fans and we have the right to be critical of our team!
- We are not going to pretend like everything is alright! When there is something wrong, it needs to be addressed!
- Bo is rolling over in his grave because of how this team is playing right now!
- This kind of play is not going to get it done against good teams on the schedule!
- We haven't won a conference title in over a decade! Heads need to roll!
I'm paraphrasing, but this is the kind of logic I have seen on several message boards and in Michigan Facebook groups. A lot of fans really are angry that Michigan doesn't have a good red zone percentage, doesn't have a world-beating QB and isn't beating teams by 40 or more three games into the season......which is funny because I remember three years ago when all I wanted as a Michigan fan was a team that didn't embarrass the hell out of me every Saturday afternoon in the fall.
I think that a lot of Michigan fans complaining now about our 3-0 team have lost perspective on the situation and are in desperate need of a history lesson. This history lesson doesn't go back that far at all, just ten years to be exact. Well to be fair, it's actually closer to eleven years, all the way back to one of the saddest if not the saddest day in Michigan football history: The Day that Bo Died.
Make no mistake, Bo Schembechler was the patriarch of Michigan football and is still arguably our most hallowed and revered coach in the long and storied history of the program. The day he died, I was working at Jet's Pizza in Davison, Michigan and I got a text alert that it had happened. Shortly thereafter my dad, the man responsible for initiating my University of Michigan love at a young age, called me and said that it felt like a death in our own family and he was right. Not to get too maudlin and depressing here, but that was officially the beginning of "The Dark Times" as I call it for Michigan football.
The next day, our undefeated 11-0 football team took the field against our 11-0 arch-nemesis Ohio State and played the historic "No. 1 vs. No. 2 game," which saw Michigan lose by a field goal 42-39, ending our bid to win the B1G and our bid to get a shot at playing for a national title. We were all heartbroken for too many reasons that day.
The following year saw Michigan football as the victim of the greatest upset in the history of college football when Appalachian State came into Ann Arbor and literally shocked the world with a 34-32 upset of the No. 5 Wolverines. Instantly, we were the punch line of the entire nation and our enemies had shirts made to commemorate our single greatest failure on the football field. Seriously, as if we hadn't been hurt enough already. That loss was epic enough to drop Michigan more than 20 spots, all the way out of the polls and they didn't get back to being ranked until Week 8 with a 5-2 record. They finished 9-4 that year with a Citrus Bowl win over Urban Meyer's Florida Gators, led by then QB Tim Tebow and it was a grand send off for head coach Lloyd Carr, who was retiring after that game and handing the reigns of the football team over to Rich Rodriguez, fresh from West Virginia with a nice new spread offense in hand.
I remember friends of mine thinking that 2008 would be at least a nine or ten win season and that we would win a national championship within the next year or two. I didn't argue with them at all because I also thought it was possible. Little did we know what abject horror and pain awaited us around the corner.
That pain was a 15-22 record over the next three seasons, complete with no bowl appearances in 2008 or 2009, snapping our bowl game streak, two seasons of sub-500 finishes in the win-loss column and most damning of all, a winless record of 0-6 against BOTH major rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State. It was positively surreal.
In the midst of this, Dave Brandon was hired as the athletic director. He fired Rodriguez and then hired Brady Hoke, a former defensive line coach for Michigan that had compiled a 47-50 win-loss record as a head coach at smaller programs like Ball State and San Diego State. Before Rich Rod was hired, we thought the spread offense was what we needed to get out of the antiquated "three yards and a cloud of dust" mentality that we always seemed to be in offensively, but now we were desperate for the old days again and Hoke and Brandon promised us that they were coming back. For a minute, it seemed like they were when the team went 11-2 in 2011. They still lost to MSU, but they did beat OSU for the first time since 2003, a victory that still rings somewhat hollow because it was during OSU's probationary period and Luke Fickell was the interim head coach, Jim Tressel having been let go earlier. The year ended with a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech and we thought we were back in business.
We found out the next year that business just wasn't good. At all. We took a throttling on national television from Alabama to start the season, turned the ball over six times a few weeks later in a silly loss to Notre Dame, also on national television, and finished the year 8-5 with a loss in the Outback Bowl that made Jadeveon Clowney famous for his crushing hit on Vincent Smith. Just like that, the nation was right back to laughing at us again.
Then came 2013 and with it, the game that broke my soul as a Michigan fan: November 2 against MSU. I knew we were going to lose and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but I didn't know it was going to be that brutal. I watched Devin Gardner almost die on the field that day in a 29-6 loss that wasn't that close and I was done with Brady Hoke at that point. What had been a 5-0 start with some shaky wins agains Akron and Connecticut, followed by a quadruple OT loss to Penn State on the road and a video game offense win at home over Indiana ended with losing five of the final six games, including a mismanaged one point loss to the Buckeyes at home and a humbling loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. At 7-6, it really felt like we were back where we started when Rich Rod left.
One more year of embarrassment from Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon, both of whom were fired in 2014, featured Notre Dame waxing us 31-0 on national television again, losing to Utah at home, losing the Little Brown Jug to Minnesota at home in the infamous "Concussion-gate" game with poor Shane Morris, losing to Rutgers AND Maryland in their first years in the B1G, and of course getting pasted by both rivals on the road. 5-7 record, no bowl game in sight for the third time in seven years and back to the all-time low that we thought we were escaping when Hoke was hired.
Michigan's overall win-loss record from 2008 to 2014 was 46-42, a winning percentage of .523. The team averaged 28.4 points per game in that time while giving up an average of 25.4 points per game to its opponents.
From 2015 through the first three games of this season, Michigan's overall win-loss record under Jim Harbaugh is 23-6, a winning percentage of .793. The team has averaged 34.8 points per game since 2015 while giving up an average of 15 points per game to its opponents.
So that means in two seasons and counting since Harbaugh has taken over, Michigan's average margin of victory has gone from a field goal to 19.8 points. Alright, to be fair the team is under it's average just for this season, only winning each game by an average of 18 points, so I guess there is improvement to be made to get that 1.8 points back.
Seriously. Perspective, people. I spent seven years in abject hell as a Michigan fan constantly watching our team get destroyed by the Buckeyes, Spartans and Domers on national television, watching us miss bowl games, watching our team struggle to beat Air Force by six and UConn by a field goal, watching a putrid brand of identity crisis football that featured a 67-65 triple OT win over Illinois in 2010, a 12-10 "field goal only" win against MSU in 2012 that I was disgustingly desperate to be proud of, and the dreaded "Moon Game" against Northwestern that ended in a 10-9 win which also featured six interceptions combined from each team......and you want me to be bothered by early red zone issues with a young team in the third year of Michigan's "renaissance," while they are still undefeated and growing as a team. No. Just, no. Stop it right now.
I really didn't suffer through The Dark Times as a fan of Michigan football for us to get impatient and lose our collective minds now while we are still ascending. This 2017 Michigan team isn't perfect, has a lot of youthful talent across the board and most certainly has things to work on to become an elite squad, but before you condemn Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, Wilton Speight, the right side of the offensive line or any of the players and coaches at all for that matter, remind yourself just how godawful this football program was only three short years ago and consider if what you are really complaining about is worth the ridiculous impatience you are showing with your attitude. We are out of the tunnel, into the light and now we are headed up to the mountaintop. Don't be the jerk that's whining because it might take us a bit longer to get there. We're damn lucky to even be out of the tunnel in the first place.