So, the MAC Blogosphere is coming back at your again. This week it was our week to host, so below you will find the questions I asked and the responses given by our peers. Thanks to Over the Pylon for the kind words on his blog. Enjoy.
1: PJ Fleck. He came in, young and brash. They were walking on coals and getting highly ranked recruits. Now a rough season...Fleck says the year has been "100% success." Is Fleck going to succeed or flame out spectacularly?
(Bull Run) To be completely fair to PJ "The Human Meme Machine" Fleck that quote has been taken wildly out of context. Fleck was talking about what is happening off the field. The recruiting, donations, and facilities work is, in his opinion, 100% in line with where he wants it to be.
I don't know enough about Western Michigan football to know if even in context it's crap.
The Biggest thing in PJ Fleck's way is PJ Fleck. The guy has been nothing but a position coach and only that for a half dozen years. You could count the one day he was NIU's offensive coordinator but taking your job at your Alma mater on February second and leaving for Tampa Bay February 3rd is not exactly a character endorsement. But jumping to the NFL after one day on the jobs was a Fleck thing to do.
Flecks success or failure at WMU is going to hinge on how fast gets out of his own way and on his willingness to he learn, because he still needs to learn to be a head coach.
Learning at WMU will be difficult. Even though his coordinators, Ciarrocca and Pinkham, bring 50 years of coaching experience not one of those years is as a head coach. Quinn brought in a similar staff at Buffalo in 2010 and he had bravado in spades. Look what that got Buffalo.
After an awful season the Quinn fired his offensive coordinator and brought in Alex Wood. Wood brought with him head coaching experience from his stint at JMU. When UB's Defensive coordinator was hired away by the Bills Quinn tapped ex Illinois coach Lou Tepper. The experience from both coaches appears to have aided Quinn.
On the field Buffalo stopped trying to be something they were not. The "Cincinnati Spread" was replaced with a version that uses a fullback and tight ends. It's a different offense, not something Quinn tried to do when he was just starting out.
I would guess that unless WMU wins four of their remaining five games Fleck will have to replace some of his staff. He would do well to go find someone who has been a head coach to help mentor him along.
And for Pete's sake Stop rowing the boat and keep your damn shirt on, nobody is shooting a calendar.
(Let's Go Rockets) It’s too early to determine if Fleck is done at WMU. He’ll get another year or two before the school would even consider cutting their losses, in our opinion. He is working on changing the culture at WMU and that doesn’t happen overnight. When the Broncos played the Rockets, the announcers were very high on Fleck and said at that time, he had the highest ranked recruiting class in the MAC for next season (according to one recruiting site). With a program that went 4-8 in 2012 before getting a new coach/staff, it would be difficult for anyone to win at a high rate right from the start, especially facing quality teams in the conference like NIU and Ball State. It’s possible that Fleck isn’t ready to hold the reigns as the head coach yet, but we think it’s too early to judge.
(Over the Pylon) The flame that he’s already created makes Rome’s infamous fire seem like a hobo cooking situation, and there’s PJ doing his best Nero, sans fiddle, rowboat dancing all around the embers. The fact that he says this season is a 100% success makes me wonder what a 100% failure would look like. He’s winless, hapless, sort of a joke, and there’s really not a lot of gap between rock bottom and where this program is at. He’s the worst. Seriously. He’s like Lane Kiffin with less talent and that’s saying a lot. If I was a Western Michigan fan, I would just start rooting for Eastern. All of the losses, but only some of the lost dignity. My only hope is that he’s also a complete prick off the field. Rolling through Kalamazoo in a T-Top Trans Am with an eagle airbrushed on the hood, spinning donuts in old people’s yards and knocking off mailboxes with one of his boat oars while littering. And stealing things from children. He’s a joke. But the one good thing he has done is make Bill Cubit look like a serviceable head coach, so let’s take a minute and marvel at that spectacular feat.
(Eagle Totem) Yes.
Fleck came in with a turn-the-program-upside-down attitude that would have been suitable — heck, it would be welcome — at EMU. The problem is that, although they did lose to the Eagles the last two years, Western Michigan has generally fielded MAC-decent teams. When Bill Cubit was fired, I can only assume that both the university administration and the fans were hoping for something far, far more than what Fleck has delivered so far.
If the team starts to show signs of improvement, if Fleck can hold his recruiting classes together and if the recruits then live up to their ratings — a lot of ifs — then Fleck will be fine. Let’s be honest, if a coach is as bombastic as Fleck has been and disrupts a program the way he has, that coach had better deliver wins…quickly.
(Hustle Belt) Oh man. My heart tells me that the Nicholls game was a fluke, the rest of the schedule was monstrous (it really was), and Bill Cubit wouldn't have done much better than the 4-8 (3-5) I predicted at the start of the season. Fleck turns it around, figures out this whole coaching thing, and actually turns into a semi-decent coach after some growing pains. I mean, he can recruit and fund raise, but the X's and O's aren't apparent right now.
However, my gut says he sucks and gets the "Ianello Treatment", especially if he goes 0-fer either this season or next. Last year's Bronco team was competitive, better than their 4-8 record suggests, but questionable coaching decisions (Carder over TVT against Buffalo, Carder playing late against UConn), bad luck with injuries, and high pre-season expectations made the team look bad. Now we have this team looking horrible. They can't score, can't move the ball, and can't stop anything.
Fleck is in deep right now, and HAS to beat UMass next weekend, or the uproar will be deafening. Lose to CMU and EMU as well? Oh man, I don't want to think of that. That would be the first 0 win season in WMU history. That almost has to get you canned without major improvements in your 2nd year, if you get one (which Fleck will). It just sucks. Really bad. Next question.
2. NIU had a close call with Akron. Is this just something that happens or do you think it exposed weakness for the Huskies?
(Bull Run) Coming into this game Akron had nearly beaten Michigan (now 5-1), Lousiana-Lafayette (now 4-2), and held their own against Bowling green for two and a half quarters. The Zips are a bit better than their record indicates so I am chalking their effort against NIU as "something that just happens".
(Let's Go Rockets) We feel this type of game can be indicative of both factors you mentioned above. Sometimes a team just trips up – they enter the game without the kind of focus they need or a gameplan doesn’t go as expected and their timing and rhythm is thrown off. Akron may have keyed into what NIU is doing well and disrupted their flow. Our guess is that this was a combination of both factors, plus NIU might have been overlooking an opponent who, on paper, shouldn’t have been much of a threat. A team that isn’t given much of a chance in a game is usually pretty dangerous.
(Over The Pylon) Did someone say OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU? I hope that close call against Akron demonstrated their weakness, however, considering Ball State needed a last-minute touchdown to beat Kent State, it would be hard for me to sit in my glass mansion and throw boulders at OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU. Hard, but not impossible. Therefore, yes, it did exhibit significant weakness. I think OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU is a paper tiger and nowhere close to the buzzsaw that people are making them out to be. Their scores this season have been less than impressive, and in all reality, they haven’t really beaten anyone. Sure, they beat Iowa, but how hard is that? They thumped Purdue, but the Boilermakers can’t beat their meat this season, so that is also not impressive. Their weaknesses will cost them. For example, they can’t appreciate a good sunset. Whack, bro. They also don’t drink Jager bombs and ask random strangers “How much you bench?”. Why? Because they are weak. OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU is weak and it is my belief that the MAC West is ripe for regime change.
(Eagle Totem) The Huskies can take consolation in the fact that their margin of victory against Akron was nearly double what Michigan was able to do, so at least they win that whole transitive thing.
(Hustle Belt) Both? Honestly, I didn't catch the game, so let me look at the stats.......
Hmmm......not too much there. The way I see it is that Akron got up for another big game, and couldn't finish it off. The Zips run game appears to have never got going, and Pohl threw a crap-ton for a not-so-bright average (4.7yds/attempt). Lynch didn't have a great game though either, and the Huskies went 1-for-15 on 3rd down. I mean, yes the Huskies are vulnerable, but I'm not looking too much at a "down game" in my eyes. Statistically, both teams stunk, it happens.
3. I have been proposing for some time that first downs be added as an individual stat. What do you think? Any other things you think could be added?
(Bull Run) I'm working on something for capturing the number of plays a pass rusher occupies two or three linemen. Call it a "Mack" ratio. Khalil Mack spends more play's facing multiple blockers than he does in one on one matchups. Tossing around Ohio states tackle like a rag doll in week on set the tone for his season. Against Western Michigan he was double teamed almost every down and triple teamed quite often.
That kind of attention has slowed down his assent up the NCAA all time TFL charts but it has also made Colby Way and Adam Redden that much more dangerous as pass rushers.
A great Linebacker or lineman will take the attention in stride. It can get frustrating for them personally but it's great for the team.
(Let's Go Rockets) We agree that first downs would be an interesting individual stat. For receivers, it would be interesting to see yards after the reception tracked and for the rushing game, it might be appropriate to track yards after initial contact. Both these stats would give you an idea of the performance of the athlete after they received the ball/received contact and would paint a better picture of their individual performance rather than only getting a summary result of the play.
(Over the Pylon) I like it. If for nothing else, it would give something meaningful for Western Michigan to shoot for. First down? ROW THE BOAT, MAN!!!! I think a stat like yards after contact or yards after catch assuming they are kept objectively would give a much more complete picture of an offensive team. Perhaps official pass deflections, etc. to let you know whether all those interceptions WMU is racking up are the QBs fault or just fluke luck. I’m a big proponent of anything that gives a more complete and accurate picture of established and accepted statistics is a good thing. But again, the key to that is the MAC doing it effectively and correctly, which they can’t do. Between the referees, the chain gangs, etc. I’m pretty sure the MAC would screw up a ball bearing.
(Eagle Totem) I don’t see all that much value in tracking first downs on an individual basis. If we’re going to start adding stats, I’d like to start with stats that can’t be derived from a normal complete box score and play-by-play listing. For example, breaking down passes into distance thrown versus yards-after-catch would actually add useful information, as opposed to simply presenting information that’s already tracked. Distinguishing between on-target passes that were successfully defended, on-target passes that were dropped, and off-target passes would also be useful, although it presents more of a judgement call than most other stats. Tracking of personnel and formation by play would also be nice, although it would be a lot of work. Basically, I’m looking at the kind of information that Brian presents in his “Upon Further Review” posts at MGoBlog.
(Hustle Belt) Fantasy owners would love this for "power backs" and "possession WRs" who consistently get called in the middle of the field. I like it. Among other things that could be added in my eyes include, but are not limited to: Bat-Downs (or J.J. Swats), QB Hurries (I know they are counted en masse, but individually?), and WAR (because why not have sabermetrics?).