Michigan Football: Gardner Was Great Against Minnesota, Can't Replace Robinson

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIMarch 6, 2017

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 12:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a touchdown against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Michigan defeated Illinois 31-14.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

He's just over 70 percent of the Michigan Wolverines' offense, a two-time preseason Heisman candidate, an All-American, and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

He can't be replaced.

Despite a praiseworthy debut as a starter Saturday against Minnesota, Devin Gardner can't simply assume the role of Denard Robinson, the unquestioned and unmatched force behind Michigan's offense for the past three seasons.

Gardner completed 12 of 18 passes for 234 yards, threw a pair of touchdowns (ran for one) and made Robinson-like plays while the real Robinson rested his right elbow on the sidelines during the Wolverines' 35-13 trouncing of the Gophers in Minneapolis.

It wasn't expected, but it was welcome. Gardner wasn't supposed to burst on the scene as a star quarterback during his first collegiate start; he was supposed to simply manage the game and give Michigan a dual-threat while Robinson sat out Saturday.

Sure, Gardner impressed. But he's not Michigan's answer on offense; he's not the Missing Link, nor is he better-suited as quarterback than as receiver. There is a reason why he didn't earn the starting job, and it's because Robinson is a better overall athlete, an athlete who provides plenty of fireworks each week.

But after Gardner's thrilling debut, college football followers began filling message boards with pro-Gardner comments, saying that he should be the quarterback. Radio shows, TV, pundits across several media platforms are pouring it on thick about how Gardner rocketed to instant stardom.

That's not only a superior example of a knee-jerk reaction, but it's also too laughable of an idea to entertain.

Replace Robinson? Right now? Really?

Gardner was great, but let's be honest here: He's an insurance plan while Robinson recovers. That's it.

The Wolverines are still in great shape in the Big Ten Legends Division race. Nebraska's last-second win over Michigan State didn't help their cause, but the Wolverines (6-3, 4-1) aren't exactly scrambling to stay afloat.

Pulling "Shoelace" for Gardner wouldn't only change the way the offense ran—probably not too much, though—it would take the best athlete on the field out of his element. There is no reason to work in Robinson—who has had a record-setting and shattering career—so that Gardner fits better, no matter how dazzling of a first time Gardner had.

It's the other way around, Michigan works around Robinson.


Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81