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!"