I Thought Real Friends Would Have Stayed Comment Count

Brian August 25th, 2011 at 12:21 PM

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.]



August 25th, 2011 at 2:34 PM ^

Say what?

He is getting paid not to be our coach.  He is getting paid to give television commentary.  How exactly is that ALLCAPS "fuck his family".  Coaches get fired.  Their families move around a lot.  That's a business, and that's why most don't complain about it.  It'd be like a lifeguard complaining about a sunburn.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:18 PM ^

Anyone who's telling me to "get over it" can go to hell. Am I not supposed to write a wrap-up post for the last three years? Am I not supposed to try to put a coda on Rich Rodriguez's tenure? It's like you've never read this blog. Assholes.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:40 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

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.



August 25th, 2011 at 3:11 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 11:56 PM ^

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.


03 Blue 07

August 27th, 2011 at 2:56 AM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:24 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^



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.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

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...




August 25th, 2011 at 2:20 PM ^

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. 


August 25th, 2011 at 1:34 PM ^

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!



August 25th, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

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. 


August 25th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

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?


August 25th, 2011 at 2:39 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 8:51 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:35 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:39 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 1:39 PM ^

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.



August 25th, 2011 at 1:42 PM ^

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!


August 25th, 2011 at 1:43 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

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.


August 25th, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

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.