Friday, October 16, 2015

Michigan QBs in my lifetime, #6 through 10

Alright, so a couple people have expressed some skepticism of how clear my memories of watching Elvis Grbac could possibly be. I'll go right out and say it, I have very few memories of him at all. I willingly concede that the highly simplified and unsophisticated snippets of memory that I have of guys like Elvis and Todd Collins don't give me anywhere near the full picture of their careers. However, I'll argue that this in no way invalidates my feelings and perceptions of them as a child, just starting to get exposed to sports and to my future college choice--both of which have heavily affected the direction of my life to this point. Anyway, I'm veering a little too close to sentimentality and philosophy here, so I'll cut myself off and just give my write-ups for Michigan Qbs number 10 through 6 on my list.

10. Tate Forcier (2009-10)

Shining moments: 
- We'll always have '09 Notre Dame
- That wonderful/awful 67-65 Illinois game in 2010

What I thought when I was 22:
I wanted Denard. I was blown away by Tate's incredible clutch play during the Notre Dame/Indiana/MSU stretch, but I'll freely admit now that I was secretly (not always secretly) rooting for Tate to fail so Denard could take over. Once that magical September run ended, fail is exactly what he did. First mildly (@Iowa), then spectacularly (OSU), then hilariously (actually getting the wings removed from his helmet by Rich Rod), then embarrassingly (crying by himself on the sideline as Denard demolishes UCONN), and finally kind of sadly (flunking out of UofM, transferring to 3 more schools and never playing a single down for any of them). Such a fast rise and such a steep fall, but one thing I'll say for Tate was that he was exciting to watch on the field and played with a certain pre-Manziel flair. And that Notre Dame game lives on.

9. Todd Collins (1993-94)

Shining moment:
- '94 @ Notre Dame, final drive to set up the Remy Hamilton game-winner,
Bowl Games: Hall of Fame (W), Holiday (W)

What I thought when I was  7:
I barely remember Todd Collins at all, even less than Elvis Grbac. That Notre Dame drive, listening to the '94 Hall of Fame Bowl, and watching the 95' Holiday Bowl are really my only specific memories of him. I got a little more excited about the Holiday Bowl game than I should have, thinking that knocking off 10-1 Colorado State was some big upset (I didn't really understand mid-majors at that point), and that it somewhat made up for the Hail Mary game against Colorado earlier in that season (you know, because they were from the same state).

In hindsight:
Collins seems to have had a very solid, but unspectacular 2 years as the starter. This was in the era where 4 losses was a major disappointment for Michigan, so two consecutive 8-4 seasons with him at the helm probably didn't sit well with a lot of people. I wonder now whether he got the same type of John Navarre-like abuse from the fan base at the time, and I just wasn't aware of it. Even so, he was still a big enough talent to get picked in the 2nd round of the NFL draft and had a long career, so he must have been pretty good overall at UofM.

8. Scott Dreisbach (1995-98)

Shining moment:
- '95 Virginia, pass to Mercury Hayes on the final play; and the way Brent Musburger says, "ssScotty, Dreis-bach!" right after.

What I thought when I was in elementary school:
I was far more in awe of Mercury Hayes and Amani Toomer at the time, so I wasn't necessarily paying that much attention to Dreisbach. I didn't really trust Griese after the Outback Bowl on New Year's '97, when his unbelievably stupid pick-6 cost them the Alabama game and caused Pops to whip a big roll of masking tape across his classroom and nearly put a hole through the opposite wall. With that in mind, I would have preferred that Dreisbach retain the starting job for the '97 season, but that season's result suggests that they had the right guy under center. I felt kind of sorry for Dreisbach, because it seemed like it was injuries more than anything else that put a halt to a promising career.

In hindsight:
Dreisbach to Mercury Hayes was the exact moment when my Michigan football fandom went to a new level, for many reasons. First, when I was in 2nd grade was the point where I could really start to sit through a full game by myself and either watch or listen to the entire thing from start to finish. This was also when I started reading the newspaper, so in the Detroit News/Free Press double Sunday edition, I was starting to check box scores, game recaps, and Wojo/Mitch Albom analysis the day after in edition to following most games on Saturday. Up until then, my only vivid Michigan memories are of bowl games and Desmond Howard, but by 1995 I was starting to know the names and numbers of a lot of different players. Finally, Michigan football took on an increased importance in our household in 1995, since this was the year that my cousin Tate walked onto the team, making the Virginia game his first time in a Michigan uniform. Unfortunately, Dreisbach dealt with a lot of injuries, and Michigan was stacked at the QB position in a way that I couldn't possibly comprehend back then (Griese, Brady, and Henson are a pretty tough trio to compete with, especially coming back from injury), so he really fell off the radar even by the end of that first season and never did much else from then on.

7. John Navarre (2000-03)

Shining moments:
- '03 @Minnesota, the epic 4th quarter comeback that probably saved him from getting lynched by an angry mob upon returning to town. He also had an awesome trick play receiving TD in that game.
- '03 Ohio State, his finest hour.
Bowl Games: Citrus (L), Outback (W), Rose (L)

What I thought when I was going through puberty:
John Navarre was the first Michigan player that I ever disliked. Maybe this is just because of the sturm and drang of adolescence, but it also might have had something to do with the inordinate number of passes that John Navarre got knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Or how he never once eluded a pass rusher in 4 years. Nor showed the faintest trace of emotion after crushing my hopes for another dream season, with 1997 fresh in my mind and an insanely talented supporting cast for 3 of those years.  Whatever the case, I didn't not care for the football stylings of John Navarre for about 3 1/2 seasons, and came to a grudging respect for the guy when he finally put it together a little bit a the end of his senior year. Michigan had all the pieces for undefeated regular seasons in 2000, 2001, and 2003, and my teenage self put the blame squarely on Navarre that all of those years ended with 3 or more losses.

In hindsight: 
The last half of his last season did a lot to make up for his previous shortcomings, and he did leave Michigan with a ton of passing records, and was named the 1st team All-Big 10 quarterback in 2003. He got an unbelievable amount of criticism from his own fans, and handled it with class, so I guess I have to respect that. At the same time though, I'll always associate Navarre with 1st and 3rd down passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage, and he is the poster child for an era of near-misses and unfulfilled expectations for Michigan football.

6. Brian Griese (1995-97)

Shining moments:
- '97 @Penn State, unbelievably scrambling 40 yards. Hitting Woodson across the middle to cap off the drive
- '95 @OSU, the quick slant across the middle to Tai Streets.
Bowl Games: 
'95 Alamo (L), '97 Outback (L), '98 Rose (W)

What I thought when I was in elementary school:
I was aware that his own dad, "Bob Grease" had been also been a famous quarterback. I was also aware that Brian Griese had gotten drunk and made an idiot of himself in the offseason. I knew that with Dreisbach in '95, Michigan was undefeated; with Brian Griese in '95, Michigan was not undefeated. Remember that roll of tape that Pops sent flying across his classroom? Brian Griese's fault. I thought that Michigan still could have won the Rose Bowl with Scott Dreisbach in '97.

In hindsight:
Griese was the consummate game manager during the National Championship season, and he quarterbacked three huge upsets over undefeated teams late in the season (two on the road, two against OSU), but for a guy with so few tangible iconic moments, statistics, or spectacular plays, I just can't put him any higher on the list. For what it's worth, Griese might be one of the all-time 'slightly above average' quarterbacks in Big 10 history. I also don't really understand why he was the one who got lifted up on his teammates' shoulders after the Ohio State game in '97 and not Woodson.

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