Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where You At?: Michael Taylor Edition

Today's edition of Where You At? looks at former Wolverine quarterback Michael Taylor, the last Michigan starter with true dual-threat capability.

Believe it or not, there once was a time (pre-RichRod) when Michigan quarterbacks were not enormous white statues who seemingly all came off the same assembly line equipped with cannon arms and 5.2 speed. To watch a Michigan quarterback of the Moeller/Carr era take off from the pocket was to watch a Wright Brothers creation occupy the same airspace as the Blue Angels. You just prayed the poor pedaling sap got out of the way before he got sucked into a jet engine.

John Navarre (left) looks for an escape from the oncoming defense. I recommend the nearest sideline, pronto.

However, there was a time when Michigan actually utilized the mobile quarterback to great effect. Michael Taylor, who lettered at Michigan from 1987-89, was the last of these quarterbacks, before Michigan ditched Bo Schembechler's triple option attack and put Elvis Grbac under center.

A highly touted recruit out of Cincinnati Princeton High School in 1984 (he was personally recruited by Bo), Taylor entered Michigan at the same time as Demetrious Brown, another dual-threat QB with aspirations of replacing Jim Harbaugh once he departed after the 1986 season. When the 1987 season rolled around, Taylor was locked into an intense competition with Brown for the starting job, which he would lose by the beginning of the season. Relegated to the bench, Taylor jumped at the opportunity to start when Brown was injured in a loss to Indiana. The next game, Taylor rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in a 31-10 Homecoming victory (passing was a bit of an afterthought, he was 1-5 for 3 yards, but when you run that well, who needs to throw?).

Although Taylor expected that performance to earn him the starting job, he was back on the bench the very next game. He had never had a good relationship with Gary Moeller, who at the time was the offensive coordinator, and this latest benching really did not sit well with him. From Jim Cnockaert's book "Where Have You Gone?":
"The week of the Ohio State game, I did something I had never done before: I didn't care what I did out there in practice," he said. "At some point I had had enough. I thought: 'If they are not going to play me, why should I bust my butt? Why go through the hassle if you're not going to play because someone doesn't like you?' I figured I wasn't going to play, so I threw interceptions on purpose."
Taylor ended up having to relieve an injured Brown in the Ohio State game, which Michigan ended up losing, 23-20. He was back on the bench for Michigan's victory over Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl.

Taylor did not see eye-to-eye with Gary Moeller (right)

In 1988, Taylor got his shot at being the starting quarterback after Brown had trouble qualifying academically. He started the first eight games, in which Michigan went 5-2-1 (with losses to Notre Dame and Miami), and amassed over 1000 all-purpose yards. Brown then returned, leading Michigan to three consecutive victories to end the season, putting Michigan in the Rose Bowl against USC. However, Taylor earned the starting job in practice leading up to the Rose Bowl, but a broken collarbone suffered the week before New Year's ended his season prematurely. (Correction from an anonymous commenter: "In 1988, Taylor lost the starting QB job in 1988 when he broke his collarbone in the first series of the Minnesota game. He did not lose the starting job because Brown got healthy, and he did not break his collarbone right before the Rose Bowl." Cnockaert says Brown broke his collarbone the week before the Rose Bowl. I believe the commenter, but haven't found anything to back it up. Anyone know?)

Michael Taylor, front and center in 1989 (#9 in the front row)

Demetrious Brown was ineligible for the 1989 season, opening the door for Taylor to assume the starting role full-time. Although Taylor suffered three cracked vertebrae after taking a hit against Notre Dame, and was forced to earn his job back from Elvis Grbac upon his return five games later, he led Michigan to a 10-2 record and the conference title. Most importantly, he again beat Ohio State (the amazing WolverineHistorian with the video; Taylor is #9, although you probably figured that out when he lined up under center):

A closely-fought 17-10 loss to USC in the 1990 Rose Bowl ended Taylor's up-and-down career at Michigan, and he did not leave the school on particularly good terms. Upset that Michigan would not pay for medical treatment of a recurring arm injury if it was not performed by a University doctor, Taylor cut himself off from the team for years. He didn't even attend games, despite continuing to live in the Ann Arbor area.

Finally, Taylor's wife Tina convinced him to reconcile with the University, and since 2000 he has done radio broadcast work at WTKA, including covering Michigan football postgames and doing the GoBlueWolverine Radio Hour. Taylor also works as a salesman for Detroit Building Supply.

Taylor recently popped up in a surprising role on the radio recently, staunchly defending the Michigan football program he one butted heads with in the wake of the Ann Arbor News' investigation into the program. To hear him defend the program, check out the audio clip over at MVictors.

Where Have You Gone?: Michael Taylor (Google Books)
WTKA hosts react to news article (MVictors)
GBW Hour is Back! With Former UM QB Michael Taylor (Scout)
MGoBlue Statistics Archive
Bentley Historical Library: Football


Anonymous said...

there are a lot of facts wrong here. First, Moeller (subbing for Bo, who had just had open-heart surgery) alternated Taylor and Brown at QB in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Watch the highlights on youtube if you don't believe me.

In 1988, Taylor lost the starting QB job in 1988 when he broke his collarbone in the first series of the Minnesota game. He did not lose the starting job because Brown got healthy, and he did not break his collarbone right before the Rose Bowl.

In 1989, Brown was academically ineligible. He was not hurt.

Ace said...

Thanks for pointing those out. I didn't have much information to go on (really just Cnockaert's book and the statistics archive, which doesn't tell me a whole lot). Cnockaert said Brown was gone by the 1989 season, which I knew was wrong, but wasn't sure why. Poor guess there.

As for all the facts from 1988, I got those straight from Cnockaert's book. There's a good chance he was just wrong (he was fired from the Ann Arbor News, for chrissakes). I'm trying the best I can with what information I can find, and he was all I had to go on. I was two when Taylor graduated, so I had no personal memories to go on. Thanks for the corrections.

Aram said...

Taylor absolutely 100% broke his collarbone in the Minnesota game. it was raining like mad, the AstroTurf was slick, and he snapped it (as I recall) on a scramble.

And, yes, he was academically ineligible in 1989. This stuff isn't that hard to figure out...