What team did you watch the last 3 years? I watched the University of Michigan. You see any dropped punts or kickoffs? How about missed fg's? Rich brought us Denard and we can be thankful for that.
I Thought Real Friends Would Have Stayed
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.]
I see you decided to only look at the kickoff and punt teams from 08 and the kicking game from last year, not, you know, all of our special teams over the past 3 years. I wonder why you didn't mention one of our punt/kick returners setting a Michigan record. I wonder why.
Also, I am sure all of the returning starters and pretty much the entire team who was brought in by RichRod appreciate you saying they aren't worth shit. Sometimes I wonder if people who say RichRod didn't do anything positive other than Denard realize they are calling our entire team worthless.
I said nothing negative about any of the players. I didnt single anyone out and bash them. I blamed the man in charge, who was paid significant money to win football games. I'm sorry if you feel like we had some great coach and special teams guru with RR. So criticism by any poster on here is considered attacking UM players? Good to know. Guess 99.9% of the people on this site hate Michigan. Including Brian. Interesting.
Ah, so when you said we can give thanks to RichRod for bringing Denard, you meant "Denard plus every other player on the team?" Why didn't you mention Gordon or Molk or Shaw or Robinson or Gardner or Roundtree or any of the other 19 starters? See, when you criticize RichRod and then point to 1 player we can be thankful for, you are suggesting that RichRod had nothing to do with all the other players or that we can't thank RichRod for them. I am pretty sure everyone knows what you were talking about. You can criticize RR all you want, but when you suggest that 1 player is the only thing we can thank RichRod for, you are telling us you don't think very highly of the rest of the team.
Denard is clearly the highlight of RR's tenure. It doesnt mean he's the only good player on the team. I dont really know where you're coming from on any of this. The topic here was Rodriguez and why he failed as a coach. I believe Michigan has plenty of talent. I did not list talent evaluation in reasons for his dismissal. You think we had good special teams during his tenure. I disagree. Having a great return game one year is great, but that is a portion of special teams. You don't win games playing the way we did. Period. The coach is responsible. He gets paid. The players (at most schools) don't.
"rejected the organ transplant....the program started throwing t-cells at Rodriguez on day one."
Too bad the transplant surgeon (BM) didn't recognize the slim chance that the transplant would succeed. In retrospect, the program would have survived better with conventional treatments.
To be sure, I feel sorry for RR. He got far more than his share of criticism from the press. He was attacked mercilessly from a group of semi-psychotic West Virginians. He did not receive the help he desperately needed from the AD in coping with the bad PR. Often seeming alone and overwhelmed, he looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights.
His fatal flaw perhaps was that he was too decent a man. He did not know how to counterattack when he needed to do so. By contrast, I can remember how Bo and LC handled the media eg when a reporter asked why his QB took a knee toward the end of the half of the OSU game, LC said: "that's a stupid question." RR never would have said that and kept the press on the defensive.
In summary, I do think that what happened to RR was unfair. My more compassionate side genuinely regrets his difficulties. But my more competitive side is really not sorry at all that he is gone. He was not the right man for the job.
RR faced some uphill battles, but I don't think it's fair to say he wasn't supported by the AD when he got here.
WVU decided to enforce his buyout . . . the AD paid his buyout. He brought in a new strength and conditioning regime . . . the AD spent a million dollars on a new weightroom.
It's not like he was brought in here and then abandoned.
I agree that Martin helped RR in many other ways. It's just that Martin seemed totally incompetent when it came to PR and RR needed help with this.
Rich Rodriguez will win again, wherever he ends up. The cards were always stacked against him at Michigan, for reasons now that are all too clear. And by the way Brian, David Foster Wallace would be proud.
man I hope this ends the RR discussion forever. OK he is a good, loving Dad, whose son is sad that his Dad failed. What an insight. I am a bit older than many on this Board but the bottom line is that despite the fact he is a good person he failed as a coach of Michigan. He stole at least 3 years of my Michigan football life and that sucks. I am more than happy to move on.
2014...we are right back where we started. Michigan should never lose to ASU or Toledo. Nor should MIchigan lose like they did to Mississippi State.
Chip Kelly doesn't know beans about defense. Somehow his legacy is not the same as RR's. My fear is that DB may not have fixed the problem rather have traded one for the other - but only time will tell. Denard is going to delay that answer a couple years at least. DB's definitely scheduling like he did fix it. Hoke does not have the luxury of six years or even four years. Hoke is just a guy like RR - but Michigan needs to do whatever it takes to be Michigan. There is just no reason to settle for less.
Somehow a well paid Mattison like DC could not work with RR despite being what is best for Michigan football. That is sad. The schism that this post is and Bacon's book will center on is only going to go away when Ws come back. It can't come soon enough.
Myth #1 - That he "didn't understand" CARA and coach-number rules. Anyone who concludes this hasn't read the whole public record. It's IMPOSSIBLE to conclude he didn't know. (And if you read WVU charges, there is an explicit statement by a Compliance person there that RR was TOLD about coach-number problems of his there.
Myth #2: That RR told the truth to the NCAA. His interview, and his statements, are laughable excuses which didn't pass the straight face test. It needs to be described for what it is: RR LIED THROUGH HIS TEETH. All this talk about him "not being a M Man?" -- I agree with that -- and this lying is far and away the main reason for his "not being a M Man." It was embarrassing, and I also think he lost ALOT of credibilty and respect when he executed on his plan to try to lie and coverup. This was his NUMBER ONE defect.
Myth #3: That RR was a great coach. He was a one-trick pony (and what a pony he had - Denard.)
Myth #4: That RR's NCAA violations were started by him: Not entirely true. The practice-time absence of records preceded him. This is BILL MARTIN's legacy, and he never got properly blamed for that side of it.
Myth #5: That RR dragging his 12 yr old boy around with him is evidence that he's a great guy. A good bit of that display was painful, and shameless PR-manipulation by RR - you wanted to call RR up and say, PUL_EEZE will you spare your kid all this limelight? He even arranged a late Oct video down at Saline High or whatever, with RR and wife in stands, and it was posted on MGoBlue. Shameless.
Myth #6: That RR is a great and decent person. I'm guessing a little more here, but it's worth noting. UM's strength for 100 years has been the men of really superb character who have been Head Coaches, with perhaps the exception of Kipke. RR was a foul-mouth, abusive coach who engendered a whole lot of enmity from many people he dealt with. I just don't think he met that UM standard.
Myth #6: [This may be the biggest myth of all]: That anyone can make a believable estimate as to some "tiny number of minutes' by which RR's practice time exceeded NCAA regs. [Brandon emphasized this.] THERE WERE NO CONTEMPORANEOUS RECORDS. None. Zippo. This myth is created out of thin air.
Myth #7: That Rosenberg is responsible for all the NCAA fuss, & it was completely overblown. If #6 is a myth (and it IS), then the violations were likely substantial. Just between us girls, I assume almost everything Rosy reported was true, as I assume most everything SI printed last May about the MANY more players involved in OSU's tatt-gate was true: College FB Athletic Depts are masters at "killing" and burying evidence, & using their power to "encourage" participants to shut their mouth. ALOT of that went down, and everyone knew what they were supposedd to say when NCAA came to town. To contend that repeated practice-time and coach-number violations generated no "competitive disadvantage" is difficult. And it is by no means a given that that long-term double violation necessarily is outweighted, say, by cash payments to one player -- in terms of competitive advantage.
Myth #8: That there is no difference between major college FB above -- then below - the Mason Dixon line. There is a HUGE difference, and below that line it's really just professional football in so many ways. And RR could be be a good coach and successful coach somewhere down there.
Myth #9: That RR is all bad. He's not. People are "layered", as John Updike used to say, and he has a number of strengths. Despite some of his flaws above, I found him (when I could see what I thought were non-PR glimpses) to be a very interesting, bright, and sometimes likeable guy, who might be a great guy to have a beer with.
your method of mythbusting is to say "nuh uh" to each one?
The whole RichRod era makes me sad. I can't argue with his firing, and am thrilled with the early signs of the Hoke era. That said, I think that RichRod is an offensive genius and had he been savvier about defensive coordinators (or given Scott Shafer free reign to run a defense and hire a staff) things might have different.
That said, I love this post -- American Beauty does totally suck.
Once he dismissed Shafer but kept the rest of the defensive staff it was no longer possible for him to be savvy about defensive coordinators. Who's going to come in under those circumstances, knowing that he won't be able to choose his own staff or scheme and that the HC's loyalty is not to him but to the people under him? Greg Robinson may very well have been the best available option, given the circumstances.
The chain of command demands respect in both directions, downward as well as upward. I hope for his sake and for the sake of his next school that RR absorbed that lesson.