On first glimpse the idea of hiring a man who says things like "it can maybe snowball into something that can catch fire" after he cratered a traditionally respectable-or-better program seems pretty dumb. I said so myself. But Rodriguez done did it anyway, so it's time to talk ourselves into it, or at least try to.
A Syracuse-oriented reader opines:
As a member of the Orange Nation, I can state that the Greg Robinson years were hard and lean. In part, that was due to a growing talent deficit that Pasqualoni left behind. Coach P's numbers look impressive until one takes into account the fact that SU went into a pretty serious decline after Donovan McNabb graduated. He was running on empty by the time he left.As for Robinson, his teams proved to be maddeningly inconsistent and just plain bad. By all accounts, he was a decent guy. His players never quit on him. But he was not up to the head coaching task. As a DC in the college game, he might be better judged by his last 2 years at SU (when, I think, he handled most of the defensive coordinator's job) and his 1 year at Texas. SU's defense improved the past two years but was still pretty bad.Would he fare better with others handling the recruiting and with a better talent pool at Michigan? Probably. Would he be much different from Jim Hermann or Ron English? Who's to say?Coming from the Big East, he and Rich Rod might have an affinity that would work at Michigan. But that seems a pretty risky move for a team that just went 3-9 and had its worst defensive season in program history. . . .
As noted in the above-linked MGoBlog post, Robinson's last two years at Syracuse were pretty atrocious, and the evidence from his brief Texas posting (via Varsity Blue) does not suggest competence above and beyond:
|Year||Total D||Rush D||Pass D||Scoring D|
That's about par for the course at a school that regularly out-talents all but one or two opponents a year. A couple commenters noted that my dismissal of his year at Texas was a bit harsh since a guy who turns in a really good defense when blessed with more talent than his competition is likely to find it nice and comfy at Michigan.
Point taken. Texas fans seem to remember Robinson fondly, at least. Various posts in highly positive thread on Hornfans:
He is a good guy and a good pick-up for UM. … I thought he improved our D when he was here. … Good hire. Our D definitely improved while he was here, and no doubt he was helped a lot by Tomey. I loved Robinson's sideline demeanor. That. as much as anything else, reminded me how great it is to have fired up coaches roaming the sidelines. … I think he will do a great job at Michigan.
Also Texas coaches and players. Angelique gets fawning quotes from Mack Brown…
"They're (U-M) getting one of the best defensive coordinators in the country," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Greg's a high-energy, creative, hard-working guy who has had success at both the NFL and collegiate levels. He's a veteran coach with a wealth of knowledge who the players really respond to."
…and Derrick Johnson, Texas' horrifying, bolo-punching linebacker demon from that 2004 team:
"He's a players' coach who is very patient with his players and works well with everyone," Johnson said. "He knows how to get his point across about what he expects and has you prepared for everything on game day. ... He was great for Texas."
HOWEVA, the defense Robinson inherited was pretty good and he held it at that level for a year. He didn't build anything up or (probably) have to coach anything up and that data point seems less relevant than the three disastrous years at Kansas City that preceded it or the four disastrous ones at Syracuse that followed it. Longtime college DC Carl Reese preceded Robinson and this guy followed him…
…suffice it to say that being Texas' defensive coordinator isn't the hardest job in the world. (Side note: Texas had better hope like hell the current guy is a bit better in the head job than the two men who preceded him.)
This table, on the other hand, was totally omitted from the first go-round on Robinson:
|Year||Total D||Rush D||Pass D||Scoring D|
After a ramp-up year that's (almost) four consecutive years in the top ten in total defense in the NFL. At the very least that indicates some level of competence.
So… what do we have? A guy who performs with talent and doesn't without it. Yeah, Greg Robinson and every other coach on the planet. This causes Orson Swindle, writing as someone named "Spencer Hall," to muse on fate at TSN:
Greg Robinson, fired Kansas City defensive coordinator, former Texas coordinator, and complete failure of a head coach at Syracuse, is firmly at fate's mercy now: he's the new defensive coordinator at Michigan, a move that has some Michigan fans near seppuku and others merely sighing and shrugging their shoulders. It would be very, very easy to pronounce this as a stillborn HR move from the start, a mistake taking a flyer on a guy who while good when surrounded by obvious, glaring talent -- see his successful stint in 2004 at Texas -- can be very, very bad, as anyone who saw his work at Syracuse can attest.
The whole fate thing weighs heavily on any Michigan fan contemplating Mallett or Pryor or the circumstances that led to David Cone being one of two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. If Rodriguez had walked into a viable dual-threat quarterback, or even just a viable single-threat one, his still toddling regime at Michigan would be far less precarious. Michigan's hope here is that Robinson was a product of his circumstances, and while he may be very, very poor at assembling advantageous circumstances for himself that won't be a problem where the four-stars flow in from the sea.
Orson, for his part, says that Michigan's "considerable talent on defense"—er?—combines with the mediocrity of the Big Ten and provides "good odds for a happy outcome." I'm less certain, but since I have a good friend who hired that guy on a coin above I'm very familiar with the process that gets you to "hey, this isn't so bad!"
Another name for DC has been unleashed into the wild, and it's, uh, well. Well, it's this guy:
- Former Syracuse University head football coach Greg Robinson may be headed to the University of Michigan to serve as defensive coordinator. One source said it's a done deal. Another source said they thought Robinson might be involved with UCLA.
This probably won't come as a surprise to those of you reading the diaries or the message boards, but up until now it's just been speculation: "done deal" is another level entirely.
I admit a sense of foreboding at this news. While Robinson is a man with much experience at both the NFL and college level, the results of that experience have been decidedly mixed. My impression of the man has been heavily influenced by Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. The site's proprietor, as you might imagine, is not a fan:
Wow, Michigan fans. I know we don't know each other all that well but you might want to pray that God will make you a bird so that you can fly far, far away from here.
TNIAAM's burning hatred for a man who went 10-37 may obscure rationality, but then again: 10-37 at a school that had gone 107-59-1 under Paul Pasqualoni with just one losing sesaon. Greg Robinson is a stunningly incompetent head coach.
(This is somewhat amazing to me: I actually watched the first game of Robinson's tenure at Syracuse, which also happened to be the first game of Pat White's career. It was a sleepy early-season game in a half-empty Carrier Dome between two nondescript Big East teams that I had no real opinions about. The only reason I watched it was because it was that giddy time at the beginning of the year when you're so excited to watch football that things like Mississippi State-South Carolina seem like a fantastic way to spend three and a half hours.
If you had stepped out of a time machine and told me that in four years Pat White would be governor of West Virginia, Rich Rodriguez would be head coach at Michigan, and Greg Robinson would win 25% of his games and then be under serious consideration for DC under Rodriguez, I would have punched you and stolen your time machine. But on the way towards a nondescript house in Mentor, Ohio, where Jim Tressel would conceived in approximately an hour, I would think to myself "wow, that's pretty far out."
Oh, yeah: West Virginia puttered along for a bit before getting some huge runs out of White and won handily; I thought to myself that gimmick offense will never work long-term.)
Anyway: being a stunningly incompetent head coach does not necessarily mean one is a stunningly incompetent coordinator. Numbers will have to make that case. Go, numbers, go!
I'm a little stressed out by that. Robinson walked into a good situation at Texas* and managed not to screw that up, then went to Syracuse, where he had an average defense on a horrid team (1-10), which he then proceeded to crater for the next three years. Before his brief, star-making turn at Texas—again, for doing nothing more than treading water—he presided over one of the worst defenses in the NFL, getting fired after three years. The last actual success you can plausibly attribute to Greg Robinson came during his tenure as the Denver Broncos' DC, when his defenses were top ten in the NFL and a significant aid in Denver's back-to-back championships. Since then it's been abject failure save the one year in Texas.
But but but but… is there a but somewhere in here? I don't think so. Robinson was a horrendous, horrendous recruiter. This year a kid decommitted from Syracuse to go to Central Michigan. He is old and his energy level will only dip. Rumor is that he doesn't swear and looks down on those who do, which, like… that whole "fit" thing mentioned earlier, right?
Maybe the abject failure at Syracuse was one of recruiting, motivation, and roster assembly, and not schemes, but since Rodriguez doesn't coach the defense at all he's really hiring someone to be head coach of half his team. In that context, Greg Robinson seems like a horrible choice. (Also in all other ones.)
*(The 2003 Texas defense was 32nd in scoring D and 25th in yardage.)
Elsewhere: New M blog Those Who Stay runs down the Robinson resume and comes out the other side not covered in sewage.