This is awesome!
Mike Lantry, 1972
This is clearly not part of the 2011 football preview, except it is. It was not possible to write this year's "The Story" without closing the door on the Rodriguez era. Thus this.
I meant to, but never got around to, writing one of the Rich Rodriguez obituaries that sprouted across the Michigan blogosphere in the aftermath of his firing. At the time I was busy panicking about Les Miles, the lack of Jim Harbaugh, and the possibility someone with as thin a resume as Brady Hoke would get hired.
By the time I'd stopped railing about The Process and the hire it begat, Rodriguez's corpse was cool. People were already complaining about how I wouldn't let the last three years go. So I dropped it. They say things happen for a reason, though, and usually say so at press conferences.
A couple months later I was at show at the Magic Stick. We had no knowledge of any of the bands that were playing; we'd been encouraged to see the headliner by a friend of the MGoWife. Whatever talent the headliner had was overwhelmed by the impression she was the worst person ever*, but the second opener was this quirky trio from Ypsi called Lightning Love. Lightning Love is a twee indie band whose drummer (now) looks like he was acquired from the Megadeth surplus store. Most of their songs are about being a miserable discontented loser surrounded by people just like you**. MGoWife adored them, bought the album and all that, and eventually I came to think of one of their songs as The Ballad of Rich Rodriguez.
This is it. Yes, you're going to have to do this obit multimedia style:
Lightning Love - Friends
Thirty Josh Grobans agree this is more in the spirit of the Rodriguez era than Josh Groban songs. And that's hugely depressing, isn't it?
It's his kid that kills me. Scattered amongst shots of Rodriguez emoting like a mofo are pictures of his son Rhett doing the same. At this point he must wonder why the universe hates his dad. Three years ago Rodriguez was promising his son as a member of the class of 2017. A few months ago this was happening after the Illinois game…
…a few months later it was this…
…and some heretofore innocuous sports photographer got a terrifying glimpse into life as a paparazzi.
The universe's capper:
The universe has watched your gladiatorial antics, Rich Rodriguez, and it is not impressed. Thumbs down.
In retrospect the downed thumbs were inevitable. I mean… the Groban thing. Come on. It was always something. It was Groban or another fake controversy about how people need to "get a life" or his inability to "get it" about rivals. Rodriguez wasn't subsumed by the overwhelming Michigan-ness of Michigan. He either failed to understand the need to throw himself at the shoes of the Great Tradition or just couldn't be anyone other than the guy who grew up in the "holler" and married someone my mother would certainly refer to as "that woman." You know how mothers do.
So the legacy program and local media rejected the organ transplant. The program started throwing t-cells at Rodriguez on day one. Rodriguez chipped in with stormy sideline antics and pouting. When he swore it was weakness; when he choked up it was weakness.
All of that was unambiguously negative for a football coach, but an offshoot of that was having your kid with you in a genuinely touching way. For a human this is the definition of low expectations. You publicly express your affection for your son. You are not a grim military object; you are capable of squeezing emotions other than rage out of your gray heart. Congratulations for not being a one-dimensional character straight out of American Beauty.
But I can't recall ever seeing the kind of father and son shots Rhett and Rich Rodriguez feature in before. Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.
Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit. He, like most of us, was doing okay but sometimes—too often—he was not. When Michigan instituted "The Team The Team The Team" as its official pregame hype theme it drove the point home: there is God, and there is man, and Rich Rodriguez is not God.
There was no clearer evidence of that than his answer to a question posed days before the Wisconsin game. Michigan was 7-3 but a teetering 7-3. The question was something about "how he projected the third season at Michigan." A coach would have blustered something about senior leadership. Rodriguez told it like it was, and though it was already kinda over this seems like the moment when Rodriguez accepted his fate:
"I thought we'd be further ahead.
"I thought a lot of things when I got here."
*[The chorus of every song was functionally "I'm sorry I don't care about you or any of the things you care about, except I'm not sorry."]
**[Or they've been arranged for marimba by a Michigan State fan… which… wow, internet. Vast and deep are your reaches.]
This is awesome!
And this is why blogs are the way to go. I don't see anyone in the newspaper or other media calling its readers A-holes. Good work, Brian.
Damned if you don't.
Either you can Start 2011 by saying "Here's how 2010 ended, analyze it, share your feelings" (what you've done) and it becomes "GET OVER IT"
Or you say "well here's 2012" and it becomes "WHAT ABOUT THE END OF 2010, HOW DID WE GET HERE".
Brian even said this is how he's starting the 2012 Season Preview, and telling the story. This IS Brian getting over it, what's the big deal? Does anyone NOT wish the last 3 years went better? RR tried hard, he failed, now it's Hoke's turn.
And just like that, dahblue's got his new tag line.
this blog and posts/articles of your for a long time....this one is my favorite! lol
Mayor Quimby: "You people are nothing but a bunch of fickle mushheads!"
Crowd: "Hey, he's right! Give us hell, Quimby!"
Because I just find it delicious how many people don't get what you mean at all.
Brian, you can certainly write what you want, but for your own sanity, I'd advise you to let other people's criticism of RR (and there will be plenty) not get under your skin from here on out. His won-loss record, and the fact that we're on NCAA probation, pretty much guarantee that he won't be fondly remembered by most.
It doesn''t read as if Brian's upset about people criticizing RR, it reads that he's pissed at people telling him what he should write and what emotions and ideas should underlie his words. Given what's occurred with Tim and Tom (and Holly Anderson at si, etc), Brian's certainly had opportunities to go to places that would have told him what to write, would have edited it to meet their format, and would have paid him very well to do so. Control over content obviously matters a lot to him, and anyone who doesn't get that doesn't get what Brian's trying to do here.
And they're pretty much assholes.
Am I not supposed to try to put a coda on Rich Rodriguez's tenure?
Yeah, 7 months ago. Douche.
Brian, ignore them. For someone as snarky as you are, you're really thin-skinned at times.
Your wrap-up post was very appropriate and the timing of it was perfect. Closing one door while another one opens . . .
But I'm sure you knew that it would stir up a hornet's nest. So let it.
Best. Comment. Ever (by Brian). I don't think I've ever seen him so pissed. Awesome.
And yeah, you can just, you know, not come to the blog and read it anymore, Indy. Or, you can read the blog, make posts about how you're pissed, and then when confronted with the logical ridiculousness of the fact that you are apparently taking time out of your day to read stuff you do not enjoy or find mentally stimulating, yet continue to do it and even take more time out of your day to talk about it in comments (multiple)...you still don't get it. I don't go to places on the internet where I know I don't like what I read; certain political websites, for example. I certainly don't go to those sites and then comment on how I didn't like the viewpoint expressed by the author. You're a consumer. Your clicks, pageviews, and time on a site are your currency, as is your personal time. Why spend it on something you have such a problem with? It would be like me hating some random activity, such as, say, fishing, and then going fishing, repeatedly, and bitching about it the whole time. Which is why I don't go fishing.
that is really one of the better sports pictures I've seen. I've almost bought the print before, but I'm not sure it's the kind of thing I'd want on my wall. Nevertheless, sums up three years in about 10 million pixels.
Every person, even football coaches, have strengths and weaknesses. Rich Rodriguez was brilliant for coaching college football offense. He brought a unique approach that with the right players, could win against any team. He was a real person with real emotions and a real family. Anyone who could recruit Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner is not all bad.
Unfortunately, RR had weaknesses. He was not able to hire the right DC and he had some bad luck. The cupboard was bare, there were anti-bodies rejecting a new approach, who wanted a continuation of the old regime and RR didn’t gain the right blend of resources. RR biggest mistake was not getting the right resources for the defense, bodies as well as leadership. You cannot win football games just with offense (although the 2010 Illinois game was great fun even as it was painful watching our defense in that game).
I wish Rich well and it looks like Michigan is on the right path again. It is not easy being patient as a Michigan man watching our football team recently. I agree with Brian, While other schools expect to win a NC every year . . . at Michigan we should have high expectations of sportsmanship, team and academic excellence plus a good conversation. Let’s move on. The future is brighter.
That was well-said.
will always be remembered for the defensive failings.
On offense Michigan did pretty well over time, IMO, and probably would have improved even further as the offensive position starters stopped being error-prone freshman and sophomores anymore.
RR's biggest failure was ever considering Greg Robinson as a UM DC to coach alongside RR's own inplant cast of former WVU defensive assistant coaches. All of these guys were completely lost without Casteel's "leadership". Expecting GERG to be the shepard of that crew was very naive, or just stupid. That decision will surely haunt RR forever.
All we can do now is await both Michigan's and Rodriguez's destiny - The one in the not too distant future that sees RR's son commiting to play quarterback for some team that destroys Michigan in embarrassing fashion in the "Rose Bowl by Virgin!", brought to you by Richard Branson and his new international service of global hyperbolic flights...
The Hatfields & McCoys in W. Virginia were small change compared to the factional divide awaiting RR when he got here. That plus the meager salary structure for assistants which precluded him from matching what his former Defensive Coordinator in Morgantown was paid showed how small minded & tight fisted UM football had become.
..."Airing of Grievances Thread."
Nor do we need a CHART.
The King is dead. Long live the King.
don't let's fool ourselves the being a fan is an exercise in democracy. Coach builds the team, runs the practices, calls the plays. He has - and deserves - my support, at least until he proves unworthy of it.
The fact of the matter is RR wasn't David Brandon's guy and Dave didn't have the balls enough to stick his neck out for him. It happens. It's politics.
RR delivered Denard and a wealth of other talent. I am forever grateful. He wasn't that bad considering where we were after Lloyd. We're all better for it!
definitely was part of it, but the results didn't merit retention, regardless of whose guy he was.
Where is the "/s"?
Brandon "didn't have the balls to stick his neck out for [RR]"??? Did you forget that Brandon personally accepted responsibility for the NCAA violations under RR? Did you forget that Brandon wasn't even on the job yet?
RR didn't deliver a "wealth of talent". Denard is great, but one player doesn't make a team.
In all fairness, we have enough talent to win 10 games this year if the ball bounces our way a couple of times. Will that happen? Probably not, but this is an 8 win team at minimum.
Can you say the same thing about the talent Lloyd Carr delivered in 2008?
Of course I can. Doing so, however, would open the same immensely tired "bare cupboard" excuse/argument debate. Some would point to multiple NFL WR's, an NFL QB and NFL linemen (on top of a D regarded as the "strength" of the 2008 team) and say that RR had plenty to work with. Others would say, no, that all of those talented players were leaving (or trouble or assholes) anyway. No point in it. The season starts in just over a week and Michigan is taking the field. Not Hoke. Not Denard. Not RR. Not Bill Martin. Not Dave Brandon. Michigan.
If you take the 2 NFL wide receivers and the NFL QB that left before RichRod coached a game and include them with everyone else drafted in the last 3 years, you still wouldn't get as many players drafted as the last 2 years of Lloyd Carr's tenure. But you are right, he could have easily taken that 9 win team that lost to Appy State and lost the all time leading QB and RB in Michigan football history and won 8 games.
The "bare cupboard" argument isn't tired, it is a fact. Misopogon's decimated defense didn't even look at the offense that has had 1 player drafted since Henne, Hart, and the gang left. But you keep fighting the fight of ripping on our ex-coach because he didn't try hard enough to keep all that amazing talent.
You make plenty of good points on this 'blog (seriously), but this is not one of them. Look at the results of the '09, '10, and '11 drafts. It's the worst 3-year stretch in the modern era for UMich.
Good post Brian. I too feel that RR's tenure was somewhat doomed at the beginning, and that many of his faults as a person and coach were remarkably human and "real", as opposed to the machine-like precision you saw from guys like Carr and Hoke. Honestly, I wish Hoke the best and think he will be fine here (though I'm not going to crown him the savior just because he is a better cheerleader than the guy he replaced), but RR could have been special here and it didn't work out. It is a shame, and I wish him the best. As this era fades away and some of the rawness subsides, people will probably look back and wonder what could have been.
Great band, great people. You should give them your money.
Sport is a contrived event. It sits atop Maslow's pyramid. To the individual, sport is relevant as long as a person relates and cares about it. People care more when the team they follow does well, is admired, or hated. Losing, especially prolonged losing, doesn't cause anger, it causes apathy. Apathy is death of any sport (see NHL).
Is Rich Rod a good man? Was Bo a good man? Jim Tressel? For us, those questions are meaningless. What we care about is whether those individuals won games. Did Rich Rod cause people to care more about Michigan or did he inspire apathy? Is Michigan more or less relevant after RR. I hate Jim Tressel. Not as a person, but as a winner/cheater/Suckeye. John Cooper? I could care less.
I don't know if Rich Rod is a loving father, a caring husband, a thoughtful son. What I do know is that there was a fuzzy stuffed animal on the sideline during the year Michigan had it's historically worse defense ever. Once overheard at a gentleman's club: Her 'I'm just doing this to pay rent', Him 'I don't care'.
Win Baby, Win.
Wow. Just wow.
I feel this post by Brian is actually a post by Johnny from RBUAS.
The focus on human elements to tell a story that is not about wins and losses? The use of rarely seen pictures?
I miss that blog.
We all took carr's season for granted, got annoyed with loosing in the rosebowl. Made a sexy pick in RR. Nobody ever gave him a chance after that aweful start. But it just never worked, he was starting to get his talent and we saw that with the offense. We just don't have that much time to fully develop his plan and I think we realized our mistake a few years later.
Wish him the best at a ACC school or as a coordinator somewhere!
Square peg, round hole. Sometimes in life things dont work out. Bo may have been a mediocre coach at another school or under different circumstances. Success is often a combination of opportunity and timing. If RR had somehow had a career defining win over say OSU (which propelled Bo's career to legendary), we may all be hunkering down for another year. Brian runs this show so good to see you get some closure. Lets now focus on the future and hope repeated years of 8-4 become a disappointment again.
or did this article seem to just a stream of consciouness? Seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what Brian was talking about.
Having said that, I'm glad we are where we are.
I am too old to be emo, but I am sad, disappointed, and let down. I won't disagree that it was time for RR to go, but I am still sad. I really liked RR & Barwis. Bad luck and bad defenses doomed him. And also, a cultural elitism and snobbery that I feel are without justification.
I won't get in any pissing matches with anyone about RR and Hoke, but I can't tell you how much I appreciate Brian and his support for RR. Sure, I wish Hoke well, and even think he is the right man for Michigan, and has done a great job of recruiting, and has some great assistant coaches. But I still am sad at what could have been. We put coaches on a pedestal, and they are only human, they aren't God.
Funny, for being as old as I am, (over 50) but some of my optimism and naivete about football died with this whole debacle. I have become much more cynical and reserved and unwilling to commit myself and reveal what I think and care what happens.
RR is a guy I like who ran an offense I like watching. I was pretty excited when he got hired and I would have given him another year, even after the bowl game, had it been my decision (provided a new DC was hired and allowed to choose his own staff).
I thought he'd be successful, but it didn't turn out that way. I'll always wonder what would have happened if he would have just left Shaffer alone and let him coach the defense.
I didn't go to Michigan, so, even though my fandom goes back to the Harbaugh guarantee game in 86, I don't know that I quite understand the Michigan exceptionalism that breeds phrases like "gets it" and "Michigan Man" but maybe that means I don't get it.
But I also have to admit that I'm excited about the start of a season for the first time since 2008.
For Rich's short tenure, I blame:
- Lloyd Carr recruiting
- Lloyd Carr faction
- Insane amounts of attrition
- GERG, or RR's inability to let GERG run his own defense
- RR inability to pick an outstanding DC
- RR inability to win B1G games
- Tradition-worshippers and non-GETTERs
- About a thousand other things
Let's face it, this was NEVER going to work. Just none of us could admit it. From the moment RR was hired, what was ONE THING that actually went right (other than Denard and his trillion watt smile and majestic dreads)? We failed to get better week to week, our fan base was so fractured it simply created more friction, there were rumors abound about LC antics behind the scenes, the media seemed to live off RR tears... Even at the end it was terrible because of the fractured base. If he wins the bowl game you probably keep him, the RR haters get pissed. He loses the bowl game and you fire him, the RR supporters get pissed. It simply was not going to work.
That said, I do feel bad for RR as a person. Really tough situation and I know it had to be tough on him and his family.
That and that said, this Brian's blog and he can post whatever he wants. I disagree quite often, but still man if he wants to keep talking about RR, so what? I'll still read it...
Are you kidding? An 11-1 season would have fixed it all in a flash. Had he won more he would still be here. And we would all love his non-Michigan Man hillbilly ass.
We all (think) we love Brady Hoke. But if he starts losing, all of a sudden some of his quirky mannerisms that we find so endearing now will start to grate on our nerves.
Bo was kind of a dick during his prime years. But he was beloved because he won.
someday, when you are grown, you will find a video of 2011's Gator Bowl and you will watch your father tell the kicker, who is nothing for everything on the year, to come out in the third quarter, down by 17, and do what he always does, while the most dynamic offense this side of fielding yost heads to the sideline and as that kick is snapped and kicked and has no chance of making it and you remember that this has happened before this very year, you will understand...
RR may have showed his humanity more than many coaches, but let's not forget that humans are imperfect beings. He appears to have been a good father and to have been open and honest; however, he also tended to deflect blame to others. Firing a defensive coordinator who seems to be good at his job after one year as a scapegoat. Implying that he inherited a difficult situation instead of a dream job, and that while tradition is good, he is going to make Michigan football better by molding it to his vision. Passing the blame onto the players instead of accepting it himself, "They are young. They will get better." "Vince Lombardi could not make this defense better." He showed his human nature more than most coaches-for good and bad. In the end, his humanity was not why he is no longer coach, nor should it be the determining factor. He did not win enough games. That is the bottom line.
To be a head football coach at a famous program is about more than the coaching the team.
For the assistants it can be just about the x's and o's, schemes, scouting and recuriting.
For the head coach, the job comes with a lot of other stuff. First and foremost he has to win. Second, he has to stay legal. Third he has to be sure he is solid on all the other aspects: alumni, administration, community. Coach Rodriguez didn't win enough, stayed legal, but really tripped up with the alumni, administration and community.
When people play the retrospective game and wondered what if, the real decision was when he decided to look at the UM job. Had Coach Rodriguez stayed at WVU and finished out his career there he might be thought of as their Bo. He was the guy who put them back into national prominence. He'll definitely get another HC job but he'll know he'll have to pay attention to other things.
An underlying theme was to remember that everyone involved are people and should deserve some compassion. I applaud Brian for this noble sentiment, but realistically this is only going to get harder. The amounts of money involved and the passions stoked up by 24 hour cable/internet makes that unlikely. We'll probably not see any long serving HC because everyone goes through a bad patch (even Bo was 6-6) and today and the foreseeable future, there will be someone stoking up a "dump name xx" campaign whenever that happens.
Great post and looking forward to the season.
I believe he gave everything he had, but it just wasn't meant to be.
Good luck, coach, to you and your family. I look forward to watching you land on your feet and building a tough program somewhere else now.
While the debate over RR good/bad can be called a dead horse, your obit is not. Glad you had the courage to write it. And a damn good job to boot.
I agree completely. From day one there were people arguing that RR was not the right coach for Michigan. He seemed like a good, and genuine man who was honestly trying to do the best he could. Unfortunately, it was this humanity that doomed him. People don't want their leaders to have the same flaws they do. I think it's astounding that people are so willing to accept Hoke's initial lower-rated recuits (Stacey, Braden) but with RR we were treated to a chorus of "you can't recruit like you're in the Big East anymore... he doesn't Get It". Even now, it's "trust the coaches". Where was RR's trust?
I understand that it's time to move on. I support Hoke, as I supported RR. But I can't help regretting What Might Have Been.
From day one there were people arguing that RR was not the right coach for Michigan.
...and from day one, there were people (primarily here) arguing that Hoke was not the right coach for Michigan.
it was this humanity that doomed [RR]
...or his record, losses to MSU, sanctions and failure to field a competitive team.
I think it's astounding that people are so willing to accept Hoke's initial lower-rated recuits
...Who are part of a class ranked between #1-#5 nationally.
This is an excellent point. The easy and common answer is to blame the Free Press, just as Nixon might blame the Washington Post.