Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm Billy Mumphrey

"You see Elaine, Billy was a simple country boy. You might say a cockeyed optimist, who got himself mixed up in the high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue."

- Kosmo Kramer (The Assman)

Okay, today I'm Billy Mumphrey. But I'm ready to admit that Michigan's football season is a lost cause. Although I am still convinced that this is just a bad season, and not a sign of bad things to come in the future, some others are not so sure. In my season-long quest to convince myself and others that this season is a transitional one, and does not necessarily mean doom for the Michigan football program, I thought I'd explore some other relatively recent transitions to new ways of doing things. Many teams/products have tried new formulas throughout the years, with mixed results. Let's examine some of those, shall we:

New Coke
The geniuses at Coca Cola decided in 1985 that their product was not dominant enough in the cola marketplace - their market share had dipped from 60% just after WWII to 24% because of the emergence of Pepsi. Coke's response was to come up with a new formulation for their cola that tasted more like the sweeter tasting Pepsi Cola. To make a long story short, New Coke (or Coke II) was such a failure that Coca Cola brought back the original formulation as "Classic Coke" just 77 days later and New Coke was ultimately phased out altogether by 1992. This failed marketing ploy is the standard by which all failed marketing ploys are judged - kinda like the "Watergate" of stupid marketing ideas.

Nebraska Football
Obviously this is a closer parallel to the Michigan football situation. Tom Osborne retired after the 1997 season (after sharing the 1997 national championship with Michigan), and his handpicked successor Frank Solich took over the program. In Osborne's 25 seasons at the helm, the Nebraska program had finished the season out of the top ten just four times. Solich coached the team from 1998 thru 2003, when he was fired despite winning nearly 75% of his games. Then, Nebraska inexplicably hired Bill Callahan, who had recently been fired from his position as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. The Huskers changed from a power running I-formation offense to a "west coast" style offense - with disastrous results. The Huskers fired the AD responsible for the hire, then hired Tom Osborne as AD - who then fired Callahan. Nebraska is still recovering from this. This comparison should strike some fear on the hearts of Michigan fans everywhere, but there are as many differences as similarities - so don't panic too much. Because...

Oklahoma Football
Another close parallel to Michigan football. The Sooners broke from the successful Switzer era (successful early, but struggled later) by hiring Bob Stoops in 1999. Stoops previously had been the defensive coordinator at Florida. The season before his arrival, the Sooners were 5-6, despite the superior talent accumulated by head coach John Blake's stellar recruiting. Stoops was 7-5 his first season in Norman - a season in which they used the spread offense for the first time, let by a JC transfer QB. They won the BCS championship in 2000 - just Stoops' second year on the job. Oklahoma has consistently been near the top of the rankings ever since.

Bush Administration
Despite his re-election in 2004, things were not going well with the Bush Administration in 2005 and 2006. During 2005-06, Bush changed out most of his cabinet. Gone were Sec. of State Colin Powell, Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Interior Sec. Gale Norton, Sec. of Energy Spencer Abraham, and Sec of Homeland Security Tom Ridge (among others). However, the results were largely the same. The President has one of the lowest approval ratings in the history of approval ratings. Whatever it means, the success or failure of this midstream re-structuring of the cabinet will essentially be judged by the voters on a couple weeks. Election of McCain will be an endorsement of Bush policies, and election of Obama will be a repudiation of same. Barring an upset, it looks like it was a failure. Personally, I think the entire 8-year term was a failure, but perhaps that's a post for another day.

American Idol
While the essential format of American Idol has remained constant - marginally talented karaoke singers judged by three panelists of varying degrees of qualifications to judge anyone - the first year of the program featured two hosts: Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman (nice hair, dude). After the first season, Dunkleman was jettisoned and Seacrest was left as the only remaining host. Whether or not it was because of the newly formatted hosting arrangement, the show's ratings have been consistently high - routinely 50% higher than the ratings in season one - and Seacrest is a ubiquitous presence on television. Regardless of whether you like this show or not - and I do not - this has to be viewed as a good decision. In addition, many of the shows that are rip-offs of American Idol have the same format - single host, three judges: America's Got Talent, Nashville Star, etc.

Windows Vista
I have Vista on my home computer, and I haven't had any major problems with it, but I am not doing anything fancy on my home computer - Microsoft Office, torrents, internet browsing, blogging, watching porn, downloading pics of celebrity nipple slips, etc. But there are lots of whiners out there are complaining for various reasons. But there are also some positive reviews, mostly from gamers. I'm not computer savvy enough to know what the issues are, but I do know that the switchover from XP to Vista was insignificant from my standpoint. I think the jury's still out on this one.

After forty years of success under the guidance of Bo Schembechler and his former assistants Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr, AD Bill Martin went "outside the family" to hire Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia. Not only did Martin hire an outsider, but one with an entirely different offensive philosophy. Coach Rodriguez is one of the creators of the spread offense that is used throughout the country with great success (nine of the top ten offenses in the country run a version of the spread). The good news is that West Virginia went 3-8 his first season, and 9-4 his second season. Then he went on a streak of four conference titles in five years. And the year WVU did not win the conference title, they finished second. The bad news is that it was the Big East.

The last time Michigan hired an outsider, they hired a little known assistant coach named Bo. That worked out pretty well. How will this one turn out? I'm hoping it's more like Oklahoma rather than more like Nebraska or Coke II. Stay tuned...


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