Michigan Football: Two Great Starts from Gardner Not Enough to Oust Denard

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IINovember 12, 2012

Denard Robinson has been Michigan football for the past three years.
Denard Robinson has been Michigan football for the past three years.Leon Halip/Getty Images

He's been overwhelmingly exciting to watch, almost like a breath of fresh air. 

Ahh, a Michigan Wolverines quarterback who can throw the ball with accuracy, velocity and style—something that's been missing since Denard Robinson assumed the role as starting signal-caller.

Sure, Devin Gardner has a better arm; he's had two great starts in consecutive weeks as well. He should be the starter, but only while Robinson fully recovers.

End. Of. Story.

It's easy to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding Gardner's tremendous pair of initial collegiate starts. He threw for 234 yards two weeks ago during Michigan's 35-13 trouncing of the Minnesota Gophers, and he added a career-high 298 this past Saturday during a thrilling 38-31 overtime win over the Northwestern Wildcats.

But he's filling in as needed, that's what backups do.

With only two games left, some look for Gardner to finish the season as the Wolverines' go-to guy.

And that's OK.

There really isn't a right or wrong answer, there are two sides to the argument.

Why pull Gardner? He's hot as lava right now (via Andy Reid of TheWolverine.com). It would make sense to keep him going while the getting is good. Denying a 59 percent completion rate would be ludicrous. 


But if you subscribe to the idea that he's only in to manage the Wolverines while Robinson is out, then you're waiting for Robinson to return to full health and lead Michigan to a victory Nov. 24 over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the regular season finale. 

Letting Gardner take on the Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday wouldn't be a bad idea. Resting Robinson would be a good call, especially since the Buckeyes stand in Michigan's way of a Big Ten title. Why not use the most explosive player in the Big Ten (maybe in the country) in the biggest duel of the season?

Robinson kept Michigan football in the spotlight when pundits and analysts knocked it at every available turn. The Wolverines' folly was comical, and those who follow the game either rejoiced at the sight of Michigan's plummeting ways or questioned the natural balance of the world.

It was that serious.

But the Wolverines have been one of the Big Ten's premier programs—not only historically but during the past two years of a solid, Robinson-ran offense. Granted, he's dropped off a bit and may not be quite as dazzling as he was in 2010 and 2011, but Robinson is most certainly Michigan's guiding force. 

When he's healthy, of course.

One more week of Gardner will be good for Michigan. A third start will give Gardner confidence for next year, and it will provide yet another laid-back Saturday for Robinson.

But when it's all on the line, when Michigan is forced by Ohio State to hunt or be hunted, Robinson needs the ball in his hands.

He put the Wolverines where he's at. He's a senior. He needs to finish what he started.

"This is Denard's team, and it's always going to be Denard's team until he's gone," Gardner told MLive.com after beating the Wildcats. "He's done way too much for two games to change that. I feel like I just have to do what I have to do to help the team."

Now there's a kid who knows his role, has respect for a mentor and isn't fixated with a couple of great spot-fill starts.

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.


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