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Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The following post is a response I entered on M-Live to a reader debate on Andrew Maxwell. Some fans seem to think he has earned a spot on the bench. Some defend him. Some want Connor Cook. Some want Damion Terry who is breaking records in Pennsylvania HIGH SCHOOL football. Others want to can Dan Roushar, the offensive coordinator. There won't be much drama around any of this stuff in the "off season" - at least not by design.

People amaze me with their tunnel vision and inability to see the "inter-contectedness" of the many parts of a system. Here is the post...

The offense is an eco-system. When one part goes bad, it contaminates the rest. The nightmare started with the receivers dropping passes and running bad routes which affected the flow for play calling (consistent negative down and distance situations and available options to deal with it - coaching did not adapt well). The drops and negative down distance and poor flow to play calling complicated Maxwell's development and reduced confidence. When he did make a bad throw or bone head mistake (some, that every QB makes), the stakes were higher - the receivers had already used up the margin for error, making each throw more and more critical (causing fans to further increase the pressure with each sailing pass) as the "3 and outs" kept rolling in. Then the injuries started coming in waves along with the pressure of mounting losses and the emotional drain of close, "woulda-shoulds-coulda" games. Mix it all in and I'm guessing that only a few very special QBs would have impressed in their first year starting - especially as compared to the expectations surrounding the program (and even some trash talking/tweeting from inside the program). Don't get me wrong - Maxwell still played poorly. The coaching had oversights and flat out misses. There is no avoiding those facts. I just think it snowballed on Maxwell as the "eco-system" (of which he was a part) deteriorated around him.

Here is why Dantonio will not make a change:

    Coaches are, by nature, conservative (avoid the big mistake - avoid the unknown). With only one senior starter on offense by year's end in 2012, my guess is that we won't see a lot of planned personnel changes next year - including QB and OC. I think Dantonio's thought process will be something like this:

"The line and full back should be healthier, more experienced and better. The receivers should be stronger, more experienced and much better. We've got more help on the way. We can learn from mistakes in some play calling and be better without changing coaches. Even if Maxwell stays the same, which is unlikely - he should improve significantly, the offense will be better. No need to add an unknown factor in a new QB who will have to learn from mistakes in 2013 that Maxwell already made in 2012 under unusual circumstances. I'll stick with a known commodity with a experience, who will have every receiver coming back (opposite of 2012) and allow my 5th year senior QB to lead this offense in 2013."

    If Bell goes early - that hurts no matter who is QB. If Sims goes early, that hurts (although MSU did not use him nearly enough and 2013 will have way more depth at TE - maybe even Lawrence Thomas).

    Looking at the depth chart and players returning next year, including those coming off injury and red shirt years, the number of seniors who will be in the playing group and then considering the schedule (no Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin), Maxwell's 2-year record could look very much like MSU's record in Cousins sophomore and junior years (17-9 ~ I know KC did not start all the games. I'm looking at "the program".). I expect MSU to make a return visit to Indianapolis in 2013. I expect the eco-system on offense will be much more favorable for Maxwell and combined with the experience of 2012, growth in other position groups, schedule, etc., he will deliver stats among the best in the Big Ten next year - Not because he is great or special or anything, but because (barring more unforeseen bummers) the offensive eco-system won't have so much going against it in 2013 as it did this year. It will simply function better, which means better down and distance situations, they move the chains, reduce risk of turn overs, possess the ball, improve field position, keep the Spartans' defense off the field and fresh, more momentum, chew up more time on that final drive with a lead, get that much closer for that end of the half/game field goal, settle for field goals less frequently; FUNCTION BETTER. 

   If each component (the eco-system) of the offense were even slightly better (or "less contaminated") in 2012, MSU would be headed to Indy this year too. Forget that one play in each game or the bad call - simple functionality is all that was needed. Coach D sees that. There is no way he will scrap any major component of it. He will work on improvement tweaks and count on experience to carry the Spartans a second division championship in three years. He keeps it simple.

  A more specific break down of the depth chart and 2013 schedule, here is a post from earlier in the season:

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  1. farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt

  2. " guess is that we won't see a lot of planned personnel changes next year - including QB and OC."

    Not to be the one to call this out, but MSU did hire a new OC. So much for playing it safe and conservative.

  3. Mr Anon.

    Notice the word the PLANNED. The MSU OC left for the NFL. Dantonio did not dump him. I remember writing that sentence, specifically accounting things out of Dantonio's control. I don't get 'em all right, but I didn't get this one wrong.

  4. " inter-contentedness "

    Did you mean " interconnectedness ?"

    One statistic most fail to see is that the receivers coming into 2012 had less than 6% of the total receiving yards from 2011; 201 yards, TOTAL. Compare that to Kirk Cousins first season (both Cousins and Maxwell had about the same yardage and interceptions. Cousins had more TDs. Maxwell had 1 more win) about 83% (2300 yards) of the 2008 yardage returned.

    Cousins had 2680 yards with the benefit of an experienced receiving corps in his first season.

    Maxwell had 2606 yards with the benefit of an inexperienced receiving corps in 2012 in his first season.

    Hoyer/team 2773 yards in 2008, 2300 yards returned in 2009, Cousins/team 3502 yards in 2009.

    Cousins/team 3535 yards in 2011, 201 yards returned in 2012, Maxwell/team 2729 yards in 2012.

    This same group of receivers is returning with 2270 yards total receiving. Why is it we expect it to be as bad or worse in 2013?

    Maxwell did a heck of a lot with what he had to work with. Now, given the experience at the receiver position, we should expect worse this year? I think not.

  5. MSUSpartan76 - Hilarious pick up of my typo. SpartanMan82 says I am the king of typos and he is correct, of course. You see it all day long on M-Live (commenting as - SM82 does not comment on M-Live at this time). I wish we had a lot of reason to possess a sense of inter-"contentedness"! Yes - you got it got it; eco-system = inter-connectedness, which apparently is not a real word! I am going to fix it here shortly.

    You make some good statistical points. Who knows how Maxwell will do? All I was saying is that whatever was wrong with Maxwell was dramatically compounded by all the negative synergy of the other factors working against him. He would miss a throw that Cousins (and every QB misses), but then on the next play a receiver would drop a pass that would have bailed him out, so the missed throw was not forgotten/forgiven as it was with Cousins. Cousins also benefited from drive sustaining acrobatic or at least "big-time" catches. In Maxwell's case, those same throws fell incomplete leading to a punt or missed field goal. How do you measure that? That's why I say that Cousins may not have been drafted had he been the QB of last year's team.

    All that was right with Maxwell was buried beneath all the junk and the mental games it had to play on a first year starter for a program that appeared to be on it's way as a national power, then.... NOT! It had to impact every micro-decision during each play and check down. It was a bad situation for everyone - fans included. No one except the chUMp commentators on M-Live saw it coming. They ended up being right. It was the first time for a long time they were right about MSU, so I don't think it was any keen analysis.

    Things will improve this year, but that home schedule sure is a yawner - except for 11/2/13! 2012 hurt MSU in recruiting and national perception, but things are still moving in positive direction overall.

    Email me at - I would like to discuss something with you.


  6. My background is Systems Engineering (30+ years). From that I know, unlike so many who just want their opinions on a message board, that focussing on just one characteristic or attribute and ignoring all the rest is not only unfair, but stupid in that it always leads to the wrong conclusion and failure results.

    Ecosystem is a very apt analog. After all, it is the team that wins (or loses). That is why pinning the blame on Maxwell or Roushar is just plain wrong.

    Digressing -- that is why recruiting rankings and even player ratings are so overblown, IMHO. How a recruit functions in the team is all there is to it.

  7. One item that is not brought up is that, historically, MSU has not been able to make quarterback transitions.

    In the past 40 seasons, 7 quarterbacks (Bryan Clark, Clark Brown, Dave Yarema, Bobby McAllister, Dan Enos, Todd Schultz, & Brian Hoyer) had first seasons that improved on the prior year's record. 11 quarterbacks had "step back" seasons.

    In the past 40 seasons, only 4 QBs ended with winning records in their first season. Maxwell finished 7-6-0 and that is tied for the 3rd best for a 1st year QB at MSU in the last 40 seasons. Bobby McAllister (1987, 9-2-1), Dan Enos (1989, 8-4-0), and Brian Hoyer (2007, 7-6-0) are the other 3 MSU QBs to have winning seasons their first year as a starter in the past 40 years.

    Brian Hoyer is the only MSU QB of the past 6 (including Maxwell) that had a first season better than the previous, but then, it is hard not to improve from 4-8 and it was Coach Dantonio's first season, too.

    1. Can we edit that post. A typo... 13 quarterbacks had "step back" seasons.

    2. Yes, we can help. If you will just re-post your message with the typo corrected, we will see your re-post and then we can delete your original post. This way your message will be listed under your screen name.


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