I'm sure that most football fans, both college and NFL, have read all of the jabs that were exchanged over the last decade concerning the state of Michigan's football program.
The whole debate breaks down into two groups...
Team coaches: These are UM fans who believe that the coaches are not at fault for the team's poor performance. They believe that the players are substandard.
Team players: These are UM fans who believe that the players are very good; it's the coaches that need improvement.
I'm with "team players" and I'm here to do something that perhaps no fan of any other FBS school can. I'm going to field a fantasy NFL team, using nothing but former Michigan players, and I dare anybody to field a team that can beat them.
So be afraid, be very afraid because...
HERE'S YOUR LINEUP FOR TEAM MICHIGAN!
The starting QB is of no surprise to anyone.
Tom Brady has played in four Super Bowls, winning three of them (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX). He has also won two Super Bowl MVP awards (XXXVI and XXXVIII), has been selected to five Pro Bowls, and holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a single regular season.
He has a pretty good backup in Chad Henne.
Henne got the starting job with the Miami Dolphins after Chad Pennington was sidelined with a shoulder injury. In the 13 games played, Henne completed 274 passes for 2,878 yards and 12 TDs. The highlight game was his 241 yard, two touchdown performance in a 31-27 win over eventual AFC finalist New York Jets.
As for the running backs, well, there's only one.
In his second season, Mike Hart has seen little to no action with the Colts; however, he should get a couple of carries in Super Bowl XLIV.
Running the ball should be the only weakness for Team Michigan. With only one feature back in the backfield, your fantasy team should have no problem stopping the run.
You know, this just isn't fair for your fantasy defense.
Sure your team can stop the run, but when I have a quarterback like Tom Brady and a receiving corps like the following, I don't see my team playing "three yards and a cloud of dust" football.
So, which receiver will you concentrate on stopping? Will it be...
Steve Breaston—Arizona Cardinals (6'0, 189)
Played in Super Bowl XLIII and in the 2010 NFC divisional playoffs
2009 season—55 receptions for 712 yards and 3 TDs.
Jason Avant—Philadelphia Eagles (6'0, 212)
Played in the 2010 NFC wild-card playoffs
2009 season—41 receptions for 587 yards and 3 TDs.
Braylon Edwards—New York Jets (6'3, 213)
Played in the 2010 AFC Championship
2009 season—45 receptions for 680 yards and 4 TDs.
Mario Manningham—New York Giants (5'11, 183)
2009 season—55 receptions for 822 yards and 5 TDs.
Well, when in doubt, you can cover Adrian Arrington (pictured), should I put him in the game. The 6'3, 192 lb. receiver for the Saints hasn't posted any stats yet, but he will be playing in Super Bowl XLIV.
RECEIVING CORP ANALYSIS
With no tight end, I expect my team to play in a run and shoot offense—all passing and little running.
Yeah I know, I know—if Bo Schembechler was made out of copper and his coffin was a magnet, he could easily power the City of Detroit, with all of the rolling going on in his grave.
With your defense facing a one-sided offense, you obviously feel that the task of your defense is rather simple—just harass Tom Brady right? Right....?
Jonathan Goodwin (pictured)—New Orleans Saints (6'3, 318)
Will start in Super Bowl XLIV
Steve Hutchinson—Minnesota Vikings (6'5, 313)
7 time Pro Bowl selection (2003—2009). Played in the 2010 NFC Championship game
David Baas—San Francisco 49ers (6'4, 330).
Although he's slated to move to left guard next season, Baas will start as center on this team.
Jake Long—Miami Dolphins (6'7, 317)
2 time pro bowl selection (2008, 2009)
Jon Runyan—San Diego Chargers (6'7, 330)
Pro Bowl Selection (2002), played in the 2010 AFC divisional playoffs
Jeff Backus (6'5, 305) and Jon Jansen (6'6, 297) both with the Detroit Lions.
With the exception of Jansen's lone pro bowl selection (2005), there' not much to say about these two other than I hope Runyan and Long stay healthy.
OFFENSE- FINAL BREAKDOWN
I think this offensive line can knock open enough holes to give Mike Hart a good day on the ground. With good running and great receivers to chose from, Brady should be able to pick apart your defense.
James Hall—St Louis Rams (6'2, 281)
2009 season—40 tackles (39 solo), 4.5 sacks
Tim Jamison—Houston Texans (6'3 263)
2009 season—2 tackles
Alan Branch (6'5, 338) and Gabe Watson (6'4, 329)
Both played with the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
Branch: 18 total tackles (14 solo), 2 sacks
Watson: 28 total tackles (22 solo)
DEFENSIVE LINE ANALYSIS
James Hall is going to have to take the young Jamison under his wings. Although Jamison came back from being undrafted to making a NFL roster, he still has much to learn. Fortunately for him, he has Hall and two Super Bowl defensive tackles from whom to learn.
This line has a lot of potential.
I hope your running backs and tight ends have brought their lunch boxes with them, because a long day at the office awaits.
My linebacking corp consists of a lot of elite linebackers.
Prescott Burgess—Baltimore Ravens (6'3, 247)
2009 season—6 tackles
Shawn Crable—New England Patriots (6'5, 243)
Missed 2009 season (shin, groin)
Larry Foote—Detroit Lions (6'1, 239)
Two time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers (XL, XLIII)
2009 season—99 total tackles (70 solo), 2 sacks
David Harris—New York Jets (6'2 245)
Starter in the 2010 AFC championship game
2009 season—127 tackles (82 solo), 5.5 sacks
Dhani Jones—Cincinnati Bengals (6'1 240)
Starter, Super Bowl XXXIX (Philadelphia Eagles) Starter, 2010 AFC wildcard playoff game
2009 season—133 tackles (76 solo), 3.5 sacks
Lamar Woodley—Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl Champion (XLIII)
2009 season—62 tackles (50 solo), 13.5 sacks
Pierre Woods—New England Patriots
2009 season—36 tackles (25 solo)
Tell your QB, RB's, TE's, and any WR dumb enough to come over the middle, to leave their families at home; the 50 yard line is a terrible place for anyone to claim the body of a family member.
So your running back was just carried off the field and you're now forced the throw the football...
2009 NFL defensive player of the year Charles Woodson (pictured) leads what could be argued as the greatest fantasy secondary ever to be assembled from one school.
Charles Woodson (6'1, 202) had a brillant 2009 season. He registered a total of 74 tackles (66 solo), 2 sacks, and 9 interceptions (three of them returned for touchdowns).
For the average QB, just dealing with him alone is a headache. So what happens if you add a few more championship defensive backs to his squad? Lets take a look at the rest of this secondary.
Marlin Jackson—Indianapolis Colts (6'0, 196)
Super Bowl Champion (XLI)
2009 season—10 tackles (7 solo), 1 INT
Leon Hall—Cincinnati Bengals (5'11, 199)
Started in 2010 AFC wildcard playoff game
2009 season—71 tackles (58 solo), 6 INTs
Ty Law—Denver Broncos (5'11, 200)
Three time Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX- New England Patriots)
2009 season—10 tackles (9 solo), 1 INT
Morgan Trent—Cincinnati Bengals (6'1, 184)
Played in 2010 AFC wildcard playoff game
2009 season—10 tackles
Jamar Adams—Seattle Seahawks (6'2, 212)
2009 season—4 tackles (3 solo)
My advice for your QB is simple; tell him to switch from a quarterback helmet to a defensive back helmet. Once he throws the football, he must immediately run up and make the tackle.
FINAL DEFENSIVE ANALYSIS
With a good defensive line, a very deep and talented linebacking corp, and a secondary full of future Hall of Famers, I just don't see your offense scoring many points. I do see my defense, however, scoring a few.
After finishing this past season ranked third among kickers, Jay Feely is definitely on my roster.
Feely completed 11 out of 14 FG attempts between 40 and 49 yards. This makes him, in my opinion, one of the most reliable kickers you can have in fourth down situations.
Jay Feely can also punt, which leads to a very interesting scenario. What happens if he has to make a tackle? No problem. You see, Jay Feely is 5-10, 205 lbs, with less than five percent body fat.
In short, he's ripped and is quite capable of throwing a lick on you.
Charles Woodson and Mario Manningham have done kick and punt returns in the past, so looking for a return man won't be an issue.
SPECIAL TEAM ANALYSIS
It's really simple. Feely's leg and Woodson/Manningham's speed are good enough to put pressure on your team's field position. I have no worries.
So there you have it—Team Michigan.
This fantasy NFL team that will have a high octane offense, an incredibly stingy defense and an efficient special teams unit. My team can easily beat any pro team you can make from your school, which leads to this question:
How could it be that so many Michigan players perform so well at the pro level, yet have so much trouble performing while at the school?
Answer: coaching. Bad play calling and scheme issues can make even the best of players look very bad.
However, once you go to the pros, the best of best will be coaching you. If you're slow, they'll enhance your speed. If you're weak, they'll make you stronger. If you don't know something, you will know it by the time your first season comes to an end.
My theory as to why Michigan players are so good at the pro level is obvious—Michigan scouts don't recruit dummies. They recruit the brightest and smartest football players coming out of high school.
So if these men don't make it to the pros, they are almost certain to succeed in life. That was the true meaning of Bo Schembechler's motto, "Those who stay will be champions". He meant both on and off the field.
Bo never showed much interest in players with low GPAs, attitude problems or poor work ethics. He loved players who worked just as hard on their moral values and in the classrooms as they worked on the practice field.
His coaching philosophy, passed on to Moeller, then to Lloyd Carr, has turned out many players with a head for the game and a willingness to lead by example. Once the NFL's strength and conditioning coaches got their hands on these "head smart" players, the rest became history.
Because Bo was well aware of the intelligence level of his players, he never blamed them for any loss. He accepted full responsibility for it and he encouraged those who'd followed him to do the same.
So it all boils down to this—if you really want to believe that the UM coaches are NOT responsible for how the team plays, fine. Go for it, I won't stop you. I just want to let you know three things...
1. 24 former Michigan players have played in this season's playoffs; four of them will play in Super Bowl XLIV (Marlin Jackson, Mike Hart, Adrian Arrington and Jonathan Goodwin).
2. 31 former Michigan players have at least one Super Bowl ring.
3. Four former Wolverines were selected to the NFL's All Decade Team (Tom Brady, Charles Woodson, Steve Hutchinson and Ty Law).
The numbers don't lie; it's not the players.
Good luck to all 27 members of this year's recruiting class.
Just do yourselves a favor. Make sure that no member of "team coaches" are behind you anytime a bus passes by. Food for thought.