Wisconsin 35, Michigan 14

Wisconsin 35, Michigan 14


September 22, 2019
Dylan McCaffrey (image via Detroit Free Press)

Gross. I had practice on Saturday morning and then went to scout an upcoming opponent, so I DVRed the game and planned to watch it late. I purposefully didn’t wear any Michigan gear to scout, because I didn’t want any douchebags coming up to me saying, “Oh, you’re a Michigan fan? It looks like they’re about to win/lose.” I successfully went home without any idea how the game was going, turned on the recording, and promptly figured out within a few minutes that Michigan would lose the game. I waited an extra three hours to start it, and it took me five minutes to know the outcome.

Hit the jump for more.

Michigan is lost. The team has no offensive identity, and their best playmaker is a former Missouri State basketball commit. Their best play? Throw the ball inaccurately to the former Missouri State basketball commit and let him dive for it. There is no speed. There is no space. There is no downhill running game. There is no tempo. Michigan can’t hang its hat on anything.

F*** Ben Mason on offense. I was absolutely livid when Ben Mason even ran on the field to play offense, for two reasons. For one thing, the guy put on a bunch of weight this off-season to play defensive tackle and hasn’t been practicing running back, but in a critical game against one of the top few teams Michigan will play all season, he was put in the game. On the goal line. And handed the ball. Of course it was a fumble. And the second reason is that the team clearly was not prepared for the situation, because Mason didn’t even run onto the field until there were about eight seconds left. As a coach…

…I hate hate HATE disorganization. As a high school team, our elimination day is Wednesday. We install new plays/wrinkles on Monday and Tuesday. We rep them on Wednesday. If they’re not smooth on Wednesday, we trim our playbook. If they’re not smooth on Thursday, we trim it even more. That way on Friday night, we’re only running the things we’re most confident in. If we have a heavy substitution package, everyone knows the name of the package and when it’s going to be used. When we get within the 5-yard line, the heavy package is going in the game. We’re not waiting until there are 15 seconds left on the play clock to send in the package. As soon as the ball is placed inside the 5, we’re yelling for them to go in. Period. Michigan was late getting Mason in the game, then had to call a timeout and lost the element of surprise; then they came out of the timeout, ran the same formation, and everybody knew Mason was getting the ball up the middle.

The lack of running game at Michigan is embarrassing. The all-time leader in NCAA football victories doesn’t have any options in the running game. Freshman 5-star running back Zach Charbonnet had his knee scoped, so he was limited to 3 touches for 5 yards. Walk-on “starter” Tru Wilson hasn’t touched the ball yet this season. Christian Turner had 7 touches for 21 yards. Michigan doesn’t have any reliable options at running back, and the offensive line can’t block for them, anyway. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s running backs are all going for at least 5.2 yards per carry.

Is this 2017 all over again? The 2017 season started with Wilton Speight breaking his back. Then John O’Korn played well before sucking. Then Brandon Peters got destroyed by Wisconsin, and it was back to O’Korn for the rest of the season. This year the parts are jumbled up, but Shea Patterson got dinged up, then Dylan McCaffrey got destroyed by Wisconsin, and the team went back to Patterson. Late in the game, it became Joe Milton’s turn to look unprepared as he threw an interception directly into the chest of a Wisconsin defender.

McCaffrey isn’t the answer. What happened yesterday to Dylan McCaffrey was sad. The most important thing is that he gets healthy, and the referees were right to eject Reggie Pearson for targeting. (Incidentally, Pearson is from River Rouge High School in Michigan, so I wonder if he was playing with an extra bit of juice since he was playing against his home-state Wolverines.) But what happened is also evidence that McCaffrey isn’t the right choice to quarterback this team right now. I’ve been saying that since week one, when the calls for McCaffrey started. McCaffrey is very immature as a player (not as a person). He can’t handle the passing game, and he runs recklessly. He broke his collarbone last year, and this time he hurdled a player in traffic and subsequently took a nasty, illegal hit to the side of the head/neck. You can’t count on a guy like that to be your starter at QB; you give him all the #1 reps during the week, and then you’re going to have to put in your #2 quarterback, anyway. McCaffrey has a lot of tools, but he’s not a good decision maker right now.

What happened to Ed Warinner’s offensive line? Those three veterans on the interior of Michigan’s line are getting confused by cross stunts, and a big chunk of it is center Cesar Ruiz. The guy who’s supposed to be making all of the protection calls can’t handle passing off defenders to his neighbors. Patterson and McCaffrey were getting hit on probably 75% of their dropbacks, if not more.

No speed, no space. I watched Notre Dame play Georgia last night with tight end Cole Kmet making plays (9 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD), and then the rest of their receivers were spread out across the field. They had 321 yards in a tight, one-score game. Michigan had 299 in a blowout loss, much of which yardage came in garbage time. We were promised speed in space, but instead it’s a bunch of 6’4″ receivers and tight ends. There’s nothing lateral. Michigan keeps trying to run RPOs up the middle – which is not a threat – and then throw the ball over the middle – where nobody has bitten on the run. I feel like we’ve seen this somewhere before: without the threat of the run, the RPO/play action game won’t work. There’s jet sweep action without the jet, and there are lightning-in-a-bottle freshmen receivers – Giles Jackson, Mike Sainristil, etc. – who are, well, still in the bottle. Jackson has 1 catch this year, and Sainristil has yet to touch the ball even once. He was the “starting” slot receiver in the spring and everyone was raving about him, but he has zero involvement.

Don Brown has to take some blame. We’ve said for a long time that Michigan was likely going to struggle without any big dudes in the middle. I even put Donovan Jeter near the top of the countdown list, because Michigan’s defensive success against teams like Wisconsin was going to depend upon having big bodies in the middle to stop the run. So far Jeter looks out of shape or perhaps unhealthy, and Michigan’s two blue-chip defensive tackles (Mazi Smith, Chris Hinton) are MIA. Instead, the Wolverines are in goal line situations with linebacker Jordan Glasgow playing 3-tech defensive tackle in a two-point stance. Cornerback Lavert Hill is rotating back to play middle of the field safety against two tight end sets, and – surprise, surprise – the skinny cornerback is unprepared to fill the alley against Jonathan Taylor.

It’s bad. This is bad. These are mistakes that I would not make as a high school coach. They’re coming against a plodding team that doesn’t use tempo to screw with your substitutions. And they’re coming after a bye week when the Wolverines had two weeks to prepare for same old Wisconsin. I do not expect Michigan to get better anytime soon, though there is a glimmer of hope in the sense that Warinner’s offensive line got better last year as the season went along, and maybe Josh Gattis will improve since he’s a first-time play caller. This season is likely going to be a slog the rest of the way.

38 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 300
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Sep 22, 2019 at 9:35 AM

    All of your writing and one word is missing:
    “Harbaugh”…………..INTJohn

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1228
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Sep 22, 2019 at 10:14 AM

      Jesus H. Christ…who downvoted you for posting this?

      • Avatar
        Comments: 300
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        INTJohn
        Sep 22, 2019 at 10:41 AM

        lol; trust me I’m an unapologetic elitist and not influenced by a democracy type facade & since I’ve never run for Congress I’ve never given a fuk about anyone’s vote………(chuckle) INTJonny Luszha

        • Avatar
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          WindyCityBlue
          Sep 22, 2019 at 10:49 AM

          Didn’t imagine you did. Just shaking my head over someone getting triggered by your comment, but not having the balls to respond openly.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3256
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 22, 2019 at 10:44 AM

      Jim Harbaugh is responsible for everything related to the football program.

      • Avatar
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        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Sep 22, 2019 at 10:58 AM

        Exactly. I’ll go as far as to say, we might not make a Bowl. If everything you wrote goes unchanged, that probability becomes more likely. It’s that bad

        • Avatar
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          WindyCityBlue
          Sep 22, 2019 at 11:25 AM

          Other than Rutgers and Illinois, we aren’t likely to win any other games on our schedule if we play like we did yesterday, after a bye week.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1228
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Sep 22, 2019 at 10:13 AM

    We hit them in the mouth with a big gain on the first play, and then are totally confused as to what to do next, and we when did decide, it was a horrible decision that turned out as badly as could have been expected. The game was basically over at that point.

    Harbaugh and his staff have no idea how to right this ship. I think we were the only team I watched yesterday that couldn’t manage to run a play that gave the QB an open receiver, ANYWHERE. At this point, can anyone imagine this continuing all of this year AND all of next year?

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 19
    Joined: 9/3/2015
    Joby
    Sep 22, 2019 at 10:24 AM

    This was an out-and-out disaster, and it started from the top. From a fan perspective, I want to see our coaches and veteran players diagnose and adjust to what’s in front of them and lead inspired efforts. Neither of those happened. Instead, it felt like the entire team, coaches included, were going through the motions after the fumble and the incorrect Ronnie Bell catch reversal call. On both sides of the ball, play calling felt rote and incoherent, rarely if ever based on what Wisconsin was showing. It was made worse by poor veteran performances. Patterson does not have high enough processing speed and regularly misses checkdowns. Stunts and slants created free rushers, but each of the guys on the interior OL was directly responsible for at least one sack or TFL on single blocking with no stunts or slants. Twice, a DB rotated out to two-high safety looks for a team with one deep threat, making for the world’s easiest audible. I would have loved to see Harbaugh bang on the shoulder pads of those guys and tell them to wake up. But he seemed dazed and immobilized himself. It doesn’t bode well for this season.

    • Avatar
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      WindyCityBlue
      Sep 22, 2019 at 10:47 AM

      Harbaugh is the reason these guys are playing lazy, sloppy, uninspired football. A few helmet slaps are not going to change anything. He and his staff had two weeks to do their best to prepare for this game. We’ve now seen their best, and it ain’t pretty.

  4. Avatar
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    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Sep 22, 2019 at 11:01 AM

    2017, only without a new OL, Fr WRs, and JOK

    This is all on the big guy

  5. DonAZ
    Comments: 466
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Sep 22, 2019 at 12:03 PM

    I’d like to think the Wisconsin debacle will serve as a wake up call to the coaches and the players. But I don’t think it will. There’s something wrong at the top. Harbaugh either (a) has lost interest in being HC, or (b) is being revealed to be a not very good HC after all, or (c) a combination of those two. I suspect (c) … I suspect he has found it to be more of a grind than it was even as recently as his Stanford days, and I suspect he can’t find a way to let go of some of his preconceived notions about football in the face of the college game today.

    So we’ll muddle through a 7-5 or 8-4 season, and Warde will waffle, and we’ll carry this mess into next year as well.

    • Avatar
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      WindyCityBlue
      Sep 22, 2019 at 12:22 PM

      A wake-up call is only helpful if the coaches know what to do once they’re awake. I have seen no indication of this.

  6. Avatar
    Comments: 7
    Joined: 1/16/2019
    Blue83
    Sep 22, 2019 at 12:20 PM

    Regarding your point on McCaffrey, I don’t disagree that he needs coaching and seasoning. And until one play yesterday, I would have been the first to say that Shea is and should be the No. 1 for the season, barring injury.

    The Army game, first drive, Shea fumbled while clearly looking to throw the ball away and avoid the sack. He should have swallowed the ball so the team could punt and play defense. OK, figure lesson learned — or at the very least it should have been drilled into him every day for the next 2 weeks.

    Yesterday, he pulled the same move when he tossed the ball to his O-lineman, again to avoid a sack. Granted the team was getting pummeled, and Shea was desperate to make a play. But it’s evident (at least to me — am I the only one?) that SHEA is the one who is not going to make a good decision, nor is he going to learn how.

    McCaffrey may be immature as a player now, but maybe with some coaching (is that available?) and some playing time, he could learn what Shea never will.

  7. Avatar
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    Joined: 9/24/2017
    bluegoinggray
    Sep 22, 2019 at 12:21 PM

    Michigan’s football program is clearly headed in the wrong direction. I’m not sure why anyone would gave faith in Harbaugh to turn it around at this point. It’s going to be a long, unsatisfying season, and it doesn’t appear that things are going to improve significantly any time soon. This is what we have – Jim Harbaugh, year 5.

  8. Avatar
    Comments: 56
    Joined: 9/18/2016
    Chowman
    Sep 22, 2019 at 12:57 PM

    So what’s going on D? I get we lost Bush, Winnovich, Long, Gary, and Kinnel, but they’re not even lining up right. The DL doesn’t even know how to line up right in short yardage. We saw that against Army and again yesterday when Coan dove untouched into the end zone. I knew we’d miss Mattison, but never guessed this much. And is this the reason Don was looking at HC jobs? He knew things would be this bad and wanted out? The whole team’s a mess and I don’t see this getting dramatically better this year. We’ll beat the Rutgers and Illinois of the world, but will be in dog fights against PSU, MSU, and Iowa. And will get crushed by ND and OSU. Think the ceiling for this team is 8-4 and we’ll have to get big time breaks to do so.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3256
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 22, 2019 at 1:52 PM

      I have no reason to believe that alignment wasn’t a Don Brown thing. They did the same kind of thing last game against Army. It’s somewhat inexplicable.

      • Avatar
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        Chowman
        Sep 22, 2019 at 5:18 PM

        Thunder,

        Should this signal the beginning of the end of the Harbaugh era in AA? I mean its 5 years. We haven’t beat OSU once. We beat Sparty only when they are having a down year. His teams routinely don’t show up in big games. He doesn’t have 1 signature win in his tenure in AA and this program has no identity. It seems like after every season he’s grasping at straws and goes in another direction offensively! When do we realize this isn’t the guy who turned it around at Stanford and got SF to a SB!

        Not to sound like Brady Hoke, but this is Michigan. Michigan is a brand and will always be able to recruit well. Michigan also has deep pockets and has more money to spend then most other big time programs. I’m not expecting Michigan to be at the level of Bama or Clemson year in and year out. Saban and Swinney have built those programs into well oiled machines. But I would like to see us compete for the B1G and not get embarassed like we were on Saturday.

  9. Avatar
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    Joined: 11/17/2015
    funkywolve
    Sep 22, 2019 at 1:59 PM

    Woodson said it best “It was an embarrassment.”. In just about every aspect of the game yesterday he is right.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 56
      Joined: 9/18/2016
      Chowman
      Sep 22, 2019 at 6:30 PM

      Yeah, he was clearly emotional. Loved his honesty. I think he hinted about having a Braylon moment, but said he’d wait till he got home!

  10. Lanknows
    Comments: 5314
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 22, 2019 at 2:18 PM

    I turned the game off before halftime. I’ve never done this by choice, not once. Watched every bitter OSU slaughter to the last snap. Soak in the suffering. It will make revenge all that much sweeter. Look for a glimmer of future hope from some young backups fight. None of that yesterday.

    There are no good takeaways. It wasn’t the most damaging loss in recent history nor was it the most lopsided defeat even the Harbaugh era. It’s probably the most disheartening. An entire season is left but 1 month of steady disappointment has completely erased 9 warm months of hope. For some it’s 4 years of building to nothing.

    My expectations were more modest than many other fans but I’m no less disappointed. In the offense’s disorganization, sloppiness, incoherence especially. Firing Hamilton was supposed to be the cure. It wasn’t. It rarely is.

    If anything it feels like Harbaugh should have doubled down on the manball approach with the OL finally settled down. At least seemingly. Maybe there were limitations but at least there was some identity. Instead we got another transition and now, again, we suffer through the costs.

    Some want more blood. OK. I’m not in the mood to argue or defend.

    This one game will pass. After a day or two or seven. A victory over Rutgers. Recalibrated expectations. One loss is one loss. Nobody cares right now but it’s coming. Beat OSU and all is forgiven. Hard to imagine that but football is a funny game.and Michigan had their chances even in 2013 and 2017.

    How they respond to not just getting punched in the face but getting knocked the F out is everything. It feels like the program’s future hangs in the balance. Maybe that’s an emotional overreaction. Maybe not. I’m not feeling optimistic but I’m also not jumping ship. I will be watching this saturday, hoping to see some basic foundation of hope for the season and beyond.

    • Avatar
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      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 22, 2019 at 2:39 PM

      I kept the whole game on, despite being in Santa Barbara for GF’s son moving in at UCSB

      I’ll probably skip next week. My hopes started getting up after we took a few deep shots; I don’t want to get even mildly excited over a win, and probably couldn’t handle another loss (yes, it’s possible)

    • Avatar
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      WindyCityBlue
      Sep 22, 2019 at 9:30 PM

      Taken by itself, any loss is just one loss. But this one came at a critical point in a season where our coach was finally supposed to have everything he wanted in place to take the program to the next step, and it was a disaster. Losing, even by a significant margin, is one thing, but to show no fire, no passion, no heart, no leadership, no toughness, speaks of deep-seated problems in the program that cannot be fixed with the current staff, and which are likely to results in an unacceptable number of additional losses this year.

      • Avatar
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        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Sep 22, 2019 at 9:54 PM

        Worse, the same players who promised a “statement” game, admit to playing flat

        https://youtu.be/q1Xn5PcMiTM

        2010 & 14, all over again

  11. Avatar
    Comments: 300
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Sep 22, 2019 at 2:20 PM

    The thing is, the only thing Harbaugh has done well in his entire time at Michigan is recruit at a decent level; but so did Hoke , initially. But when it became obvious to recruits that there wasn’t decent coaching at the top; by Hoke’s 4th year the recruiting fell off the cliff and recruits RAN AWAY from Michigan. Hoke was kept on 1 year tooo long and Michigan cannot make the same mistake with Harbaugh.

    There is tremendous talent on this team, just as with Hoke’s teams but there is no decent coaching, period! Get rid of Harbaugh before the recruiting suffers and talent runs away so the next HC has something decent to work with yet. These young guys want to do well and are busting their asses to do it but there is no leadership & guidance at the top down re coaching.

    …….and maybe even some Saban subterfuge: Nick has always hated Michigan going back to his MSU days; and now 2 offense ‘genius’ from Alabama & Saban have been hired by a Michigan Head Coach only to show themselves a failure if not out rite sabotage after being successful under saban? Food for thought………..

    Get rid of Harbaugh while there is still talent on this team and before recruits run away…………intjohn

  12. Lanknows
    Comments: 5314
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Sep 22, 2019 at 3:44 PM

    I’m not saying it should happen but if I’m firing anyone in the middle of this season it’s Gattis. He has no track record in the position he’s in. Maybe he’s just not up to the task. Locksley called out his lack of experience and hasn’t been proven wrong.

    The Alabama offense doesn’t appear to miss either man, but that’s neither here nor there. Harbaugh was cheered for hiring Gattis but it might be his biggest mistake. When Hoke hired the Alabama OC to fix things I scoffed. It was a desperation move when HIS GUY proved inept.

    This was a top 25 offense under Pep Hamilton. Almost all of that returned. Runyan and DPJ were back and Patterson claims to be healthy. Personnel is not the problem.

    As I said above I will hope for progress but that is 3 disappointing weeks in a row. The HC is the one in charge but he also has a track record of success. Gattis does not.

    We have months of investment in whatever Gattis is doing, not years. There are viable alternatives on campus in Harbaugh, Warriner, and whatever analysts are in the background. Things need to turn around and fast.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3256
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 22, 2019 at 4:44 PM

      I agree, but I’m not convinced that anybody else on the staff is capable of taking over the offense with the current pieces and making it work. Warinner is an uninspiring choice for offensive coordinator, and Ben McDaniels was a little bit of a reach to be the QB coach, too. I don’t see Gattis lasting an entire season if we don’t see a glimmer of hope from the offense.

      • GrandLake
        Comments: 39
        Joined: 8/22/2019
        GrandLake
        Sep 22, 2019 at 8:06 PM

        Someone find Jedd Fisch and give him the OC – I seem to remember he left for UCLA because JH wouldn’t give it to him in after 2016 season. This isn’t even an offense they are running right now and I really don’t get how the OL seems to have so throughly regressed. Are stunts and slants really such pathbreaking defensive concepts for which there are no adjustments? Thought Warinner had done a good job of making them into a solid group by the end of last year and the only player they’re really lost was JBB.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5314
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 22, 2019 at 11:52 PM

          Jedd Fisch led Michigan to the #34 and #35 offenses in the country. Pep Hamilton did better.

          • GrandLake
            Comments: 39
            Joined: 8/22/2019
            GrandLake
            Sep 23, 2019 at 6:38 AM

            Jedd only had QB and passing game. UM had plenty of disorganization/slow getting plays in last year. I seem to remember that being one of the main complaints that led to Gattis

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 5314
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Sep 23, 2019 at 9:48 AM

              They were also slow with Fisch. I dont get the fetish with this guy. He moves from team to team every other year. You can’t pin anything on him good or bad because he’s never the owner.

      • Avatar
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        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 22, 2019 at 9:35 PM

        As far as Gattis, I could possibly live with it if he were installing a new offense featuring more up-tempo drives and actual “speed in space”, and was still working out the kinks. But he’s not even TRYING to do the things he said he was going to do with this offense. I can’t help but feel that the whole thing was a con job. All the blatant lies from the coaching staff about Sainristil are just incomprehensible otherwise.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5314
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Sep 22, 2019 at 11:54 PM

        Probably true. That why you wait for the offseason to do these things but maybe they just need to curtail responsibilities. I obviously don’t have the answers but something needs to change fast.

  13. Avatar
    Comments: 300
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Sep 22, 2019 at 6:59 PM

    Didn’t mean to imply that any1 should go mid season but , yeah, have no problem letting Gattis go immediately. Then Harbs needs to take full offensive control and limp this team thru the season as best as possible while maintaining as best a recruitment level as possible. Harbaugh owes this University that.

    In the meantime, Warde has got to start a search for new HC – he’s got 3 months and then after the bowl season Harbaugh falls on his sword alah Spurrier – Harbaugh owes this University that and Warde announces immediately thereafter the new HC………..

    Thats about the only good way I see this thing ending and starting a new beginning…………INTJohn.

  14. Avatar
    Comments: 245
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Extrajuice
    Sep 22, 2019 at 10:46 PM

    Absolute embarrassment. Prediction: Staff stays intact the whole season but Harbaugh shares duties with Gattis. Harbaugh takes a head coaching job with in NFL (Miami, LA Chargers etc) right after bowl game (if we make one). New head coach search in January.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1545
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 23, 2019 at 1:29 AM

      If we go 5-7 or 6-6, I don’t know if the NFL will want him

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1228
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Sep 23, 2019 at 9:02 AM

        Someone would. He has a record of success in the NFL, and not many guys do. There are more than a few teams desperate enough to make a grab for him, but I think it would be a losing move. For whatever reason, he no longer seems to have what he had at Stanford and SF.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5314
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 23, 2019 at 9:52 AM

          JH would get scooped up within the week if he wants it.

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