It is finally the end of 2018. We got Cavs-Warriors pt. 4, have Alabama-Clemson pt. 4 on the clock, Tom Brady is still going strong, and this is the wild Dow Jones Industrial Average for the year:
Hit: Tim Drevno holding Michigan’s offense back
Jim Harbaugh finally got rid of Tim Drevno, and the results were definitely positive. Michigan’s offense went from 85th to 24th (per S&P+). Now to say that the jump is all due to Drevno would be ignorant. Shea Patterson was way better than any of the three quarterbacks that Michigan had in 2017, and Ed Warinner did wonders with the offensive line. But in a vacuum, the play-calling improved (still much room for improvement), and the offense was much better without Drevno. Good riddance. Now Harbaugh needs to get rid of Pep Hamilton and find a real OC.
Miss: Michigan vs Notre Dame; Michigan vs Ohio State; Michigan vs Florida
After being extremely pessimistic about Michigan football for most of the 2017 season, I regained optimism when Shea transferred and was ruled eligible. I was sure Michigan would win in South Bend. 24-17. They lost a close game to a Notre Dame team that went 12-0 before getting demolished in the Cotton Bowl (CFP Semifinal) against Clemson. At the time, that game actually reassured me. There were some negatives, for sure, but Michigan dominated the second half. Then they won 10 games in a row. OSU was 10-1 with a blowout loss to Purdue and close, ugly wins against Nebraska, MSU, and Maryland. I was once again sure Michigan would win. 62-39. On November 24th, I didn’t think it could get any worse. And then as the bowl game started coming closer, I was once again sure Michigan would win. 4-0 all time against Florida. They were mediocre offensively all year. Their defense was solid, but our offense was better. No Bush, Gary, Higdon, and JBB hurt, but they’d be fine. 41-15. I hope my brother (who just got admitted to U of M) has a better 4 years of Michigan football as a student attending the University than I have. No more Michigan football talk (besides the next part of this article) until after the NCAA Tournament.
Austin Falco requested this, and I owned up to it. I thought Don Brown and Co. would watch film and 1. Stop OSU’s primary source of passing offense: crossing routes and screens 2. Pressure Haskins to make him uncomfortable like Penn State did. I was incorrect. Don Brown and Co. did none of the above. I am disgusted typing this. Rant time: Michigan football has one national championship since World War 2. Ohio State has dominated the ‘rivalry’ for nearly two decades (aka my entire life). Where do our expectations as fans come from? National championships in the early 1900s against Yale and the Chicago YMCA? Bo’s legendary OSU wins (11-9-1) and Rose Bowl losses (2-8)? Seriously, where do these standards come from? Let me know.
Miss: Michigan Football recruiting class finishing strong
After the OSU blowout, I thought the recruiting class would fall apart. Jim Harbaugh, Matt Dudek, and Don Brown proved me wrong. Dax Hill temporarily flipped to Alabama, and it looked like the class was in trouble. But Hill recommitted on the early signing day (although he allegedly silent recommited a week before) and Michigan won some other small battles to finish with a top 10 class. They didn’t get Zach Harrison from Columbus, Ohio, but the fact that it was even a battle says something. I guess.
Miss: Northwestern Football
After Northwestern followed up a season opening win against Purdue with losses to Duke, Akron, and Michigan, I felt it was safe to rule them out of the Big Ten West race. Boy was I wrong. They finished conference play 8-1 (only loss was the Michigan game), challenged Notre Dame, and lost to OSU by less than Michigan. Kudos to Pat Fitzgerald. He may have earned himself an NFL job. (Or he could stay and lead Clemson transfer and former 5-star Hunter Johnson to another Big Ten West title)
Hit: Michigan State Football
This one goes back farther than just the past 365 days. I have firmly believed that MSU was a mediocre football team for the last 3 years. They went 3-9 in 2016 and were one of the unluckiest teams in the country. They went 10-3 in 2017 and won games against Michigan and Penn State teams that were definitely better than them. Now finally in 2018, they went 7-5. I feel validated. I’ll let Mike Valenti finish this point for me (I’d give you a specific part to listen to, but it is 100% pure gold so I recommend listening to all of it):
Hit: Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson
I said before the draft that I wouldn’t touch any quarterback besides Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson in the first round. Darnold led the NFL in QBR over the last 6 weeks of the season and Jackson led his team to the playoffs. While I was very wrong about one other rookie quarterback (I’ll talk about him later), I was definitely right about Darnold and Jackson. Darnold has a very bright future. The Jets have a bunch of cap space, a star safety in Jamal Adams, and a high draft pick. I anticipate their head coach opening being one of the most desirable this offseason. I don’t know if Jackson is the long term answer for Baltimore, but he had a great rookie year as teams struggled to defend the Ravens dynamic rushing attack. The Ravens went 6-1 after he took over as the starter, and even though he isn’t an excellent passer yet, at the end of the day winning football games is how most quarterbacks are measured (which is incorrect, stupid, and unfair but true).
Hit: Chicago Bears
Even before they traded for Khalil Mack, I thought the Bears would win the NFC North. Part of that was a lack of faith in the rest of the division: Lions hampered by Stafford’s contract (more on that later), Vikings hampered by Kirk Cousins’ contract, Aaron Rodgers sucking. They had a promising young quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, as well as a solid line, good backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and added some good pass catchers (Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel). But I was more excited about the defense. Safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos, edge rusher Leonard Floyd, linebacker Danny Trevathan, and corners Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara were enough for me to be sold. Add Khalil Mack to the equation and what do you get? NFC North Champs who get to host a playoff game against the reigning champions this weekend. Their ceiling is probably the NFC Championship game though.
Miss: Baker Mayfield
I deserve the Colin Cowherd treatment from Baker. I thought the Browns wasted their pick on Johnny Manziel 2.0. Yikes. Mayfield is a baller and led the Browns to a 7-8-1 record. They’re gonna be a real problem next year. They’ve got good talent on defense, and Nick Chubb is a great running back, but Mayfield is the real difference maker here. The Browns went 5-3 after Hue Jackson was fired, with the losses coming against 3 playoff teams/division winners: the Chiefs, Texans, and Ravens. With a whole bunch of cap space and a finally competent coaching staff and quarterback, watch out. Believeland is back, and not for Lebron this time.
These might deserve to be separate points, but I’m at 3 pages and not close to being halfway done, so I need to start being more brief. I thought the Seahawks were toast. They haven’t had an offensive line in a couple years. The whole Legion of Boom + Michael Bennett + Jimmy Graham all said bye. Kudos to Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson for making me eat my words. I also thought Dak got exposed last year without Elliot and the Cowboys were in for a rough season. Their young defense put together an excellent season (what’s up Jourdan Lewis and Taco Charlton?) led by draft steal Jaylon Smith, and Dak and Zeke rebounded. Whether the Cowboys team is morally comfortable (Elliott and Defensive End Randy Gregory both have off the field issues) is a different conversation for a different day, but this team is fun to watch on the field. These teams will me Saturday in Dallas, and the winner will likely head to New Orleans and lose to the Saints, but it’s safe to say that both had solid seasons.
Sub-hit: Amari Cooper Trade
I received heavy criticism for liking the Cowboys trade. Weird that a 24-year old former Alabama receiver is actually a stud when put in the right situation. Who could've guessed? Oh, I did. I’m trying not to gloat to much on my hits, because some of these misses are humbling, but I got a lot of crap for this one, so it had to happen.
Hit: Patrick Mahomes
I’ve been high on Mahomes since his Texas Tech days. But this one is a special shoutout to my dad and brother. After the first game of the season, I said Mahomes was already the best QB in the league. They told me it was a ridiculous hot take and joked about it for months. Yikes. This might be my biggest hit of all of them this year because I was so sure and so right.
If I made this take this year, it would be my best. But I made it a long time ago. When Stafford was due for a contract extension, I said I wanted the Lions to let him walk. Almost everyone I know thought I was insane. Let me be clear: a team could win a Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford as its starting QB. What a team can’t do is win a Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford’s contract. Before I get into the details of this, I don’t begrudge Stafford for getting paid. But what I can say is he doesn’t care about winning and the ‘back’ and ‘lack of talent’ around him excuses are garbage. Mike Valenti and I share a very strong opinion on Stafford (more gold; if you’re a Stafford slappie, don’t listen; if you live in reality, please listen):
Aaron Rodgers: $33.5M
Matt Ryan: $30M
Kirk Cousins: $28M
Jimmy Garoppolo: $27.5M (Injured for most of the season)
Matthew Stafford: $27M
Derek Carr: $25M
Their teams combined for 31 total wins (an average of less than 6 for each of those teams), and only Cousins’ Vikings were still alive by week 17. Yikes.
One more point on this, there is basically no correlation between Quarterback salary and team wins over the last 5 seasons:
Hit: John Beilein > Tom Izzo
This is another take that goes back farther than 2018. To be clear, Izzo’s body of work is better than Beilein’s. He won a national championship and has produced more NBA stars. But Izzo has lost more than a step. Three consecutive years of losing during the first weekend of the tournament? Yikes. Three straight losses to Beilein? Yikes. A draft bust in Deyonta Davis? Yikes. Wasting Jaren Jackson who looks like a steal for the Grizzlies after being taken 4th overall? YIKES. Mike Valenti, take it away:
Miss: Virginia NCAA Tournament Run
When the brackets came out on Selection Sunday last year, I thought Michigan had a great chance at a Final Four run. I thought MSU got screwed by having Duke and Kansas in their region, but Tom Izzo made sure they didn’t have to play any of them (see the Valenti video for more). What I was most sure of: Virginia had a cakewalk to San Antonio. I was sure that Tony Bennett would overcome his tournament struggles and make his first national semifinal appearance. I literally could not have been more wrong. Bennett’s Virginia squad wasn’t just the first 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed ever, they got blown out by a team that look like a 16 seed one game later against Kansas State. All credit to UMBC, but Tony Bennett, what the hell?
Hit: Kawhi Leonard still being a top 5 player. Sorry San Antonio. Could the Raptors actually win the East?
Miss: Russell Westbrook being a superstar. I even said he was better than Kevin Durant one time. Ouch.
Hit: Luka Doncic being the best player in the 2018 draft and having superstar potential.
Miss: Ben Simmons blossoming into a superstar and the 76ers making a deep playoff run last season.
Hit: The Blake trade ruining the Pistons organization even more than it already was. I hate Tom Gores. He’s the second worst owner in the league behind Dan Gilbert.
Hit: The Rockets seriously challenging the Warriors last season. If Chris Paul doesn’t pull his hamstring, the Rockets win the series. (Chris Paul's contract has destroyed the Rockets)
Miss: Elon Musk
Mid-summer, I staunchly defended Elon Musk in our WCBN Sports GroupMe (if you know me well, you know that I, along with many others, spend an unhealthy amount of time debating sports in that GroupMe). This one is specifically for Dalton Potocki, Morris Fabri, Jeremy Parks, and Nate Sorensen, and let me tell you, it hurts to write this. While I maintain that Musk has accomplished much in his career and is brilliant, he has acted like an absolute idiot this year. Congrats Elon, you made me look like an idiot for defending you too. I won’t get into the specifics, but yikes.
Hit: WCBN Sports
If you’ve made it this far in the article, props to you. I barely made it this far writing. But I have to call out one last ‘hit’ for the year. This is definitely the softest paragraph I’ll ever write for this website, and I know I’m going to take a lot of flak for it. When I officially took over for JP back when he graduated in the spring, I had an ambitious set of goals that I wanted to accomplish for WCBN Sports. While they haven’t all been hit through one semester of my reign as supreme leader (I am a firm believer in setting loftier goals than are capable of being met as a motivator), I do want to say I am extremely proud of what has been done. We had 4 hours of radio airtime per week on 88.3 WCBN-FM-Ann Arbor (The Daily Sports Report 6-6:30 pm M-T and a Friday night slot from 7-9 pm that was used for a variety of sports broadcasts and extended DSRs), three additional football broadcasts on-air, covered football, volleyball, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, and hockey to varying degrees, conducted player interviews with members of the volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball teams, expanded again in size, increased listenership across the board, and much more that can’t properly be put into words. This wouldn’t have been possible without former Executive Directors Jeremy Parks and David Carlson, the seniors who taught me how to fish (not in the literal sense) my freshman year including Leo Blavin and Dalton Potocki (who took me on my first road trip to Indiana), Morris Fabri, and Kevin Cline, and especially the executive board who not only tolerates me but has put in many hours of their own time to make everything possible: Alex Drain, Alex Kremer, Alex Hsi (yes we have three Alex’s), Daniel Thompson, Nick Hornburg, Nate Sorensen, Jack Molino, Max Brill, Austin Falco, and Emily Herard. If I could thank every individual member of WCBN Sports for their contributions over my first 2.5 years, I would, but I’m already running way over my page and word targets for this article. Lastly, I’d like to thank our generous donors (who I won’t name in this article for privacy and professional reasons) who make everything we do possible. Our professional grade equipment, uniforms, Soundcloud account, travel and this website would not be possible without all of them. I have 1.5 years left to accomplish a plethora of further goals, but I am so proud of what has already been done by our group to this day. So thank you, to all of you have contributed to making WCBN Sports into what it is today: definitely a hit.
Feel free to disagree with anything I wrote in the comments or on Twitter (@E____money).
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