The Mountain Will Come To Michigan

Submitted by Brian on May 27th, 2010 at 1:37 PM

mountain rich-rodriguez-p1

Published reaction to the Day of Slight Reckoning has mostly fallen into two camps. One focuses on how the prideful block M has been brought low; addressing that is left for another post. The second shrugs at the end result, adds it to the ever-growing pile to strikes against Rodriguez, and quickly segues into a discussion of Rodriguez's presence on the proverbial hot seat, which is deemed hot indeed. Unlike last year, when a smattering of dips said Rodriguez was in danger of losing his job, there's no denying the reality of it: there are 2010 football seasons that end with Rodriguez getting run out of town on a rail.

How many are there? It will come as no surprise to anyone who's read this blog for a long time that I believe there are (and should be) considerably fewer than the popular conception does. Heck, I (and Dave from Maize 'n' Brew) just managed to convince Doug Gillett of this. For the last year and a half this space has been advocating radical patience.

For an example what seems to be the conventional wisdom, Bruce Feldman has a piece($) in which he repeatedly asks for much more than I think is reasonable for RR to deliver next year:

This is still Michigan, growing pains or not. This isn't a normal rebuilding job. Going 8-4 may not even be a strong enough sign that Michigan is rocketing back to the top and all of this tumult in the previous two years were worth it. …

Again, 8-4 might not be enough. Michigan needs to go back to winning like Michigan used to. Now.

Similarly, Dan Wetzel declares that setting the bar at a return to a bowl game is "incredibly low."

I had a twitter conversation with Feldman about this assertion a couple days ago. During that one of the tweets hit my main account—forgot the "d"—and thus the Facebooks, where it drew a chorus of raspberries because I asserted that going from 5-7 to 7-5 whilst replacing Baby Seal U with UConn would be "significant" progress. (It's since been pointed out that Michigan is playing a I-AA team next year so they're replacing with Eastern Michigan with UConn, but it's not like there's much difference between EMU and a horrible HBCU except when it comes to the entertainment provided by the marching band.) Patience is running low. 

I know it's my role as the crazy fan blogger to demand the head of the coach when he fails to live up to my crazy expectations, but if we're seriously talking about an 8-4 regular season "not being enough" for Rodriguez to get a year four Michigan should have just fired him already. If this ends up being an 8-4 team the Mathlete's luck chart will have Michigan considerably on the happy side of the ledger.


  • Aforementioned schedule upgrade.
  • In games against non-baby-seals last year, Michigan was outgained 410-353 on average. They did not outgain any BCS opponent other than Purdue.
  • The two-deep at safety, which covers three spots, has two walk-ons and zero upperclassmen. The corner depth is horrifying, as well.
  • The quarterback depth chart also features zero upperclassmen.
  • The scholarship breakdown looks like so: 11 seniors, 13 juniors, 20 sophomores, and 39 freshmen. The defense as a whole remains extremely young relative to competition:

The 2009 and 2010 classes make up about half of each unit for our rivals; for us it's about 75 percent..

  • Only four seniors project as starters.

"This is still Michigan" is demonstrably false. Even in year three this remains a desperately young team with major holes in the secondary and no upperclass quarterbacks. Rodriguez's responsibility for the state of the state of the roster is limited to the absence of Terrelle Pryor, or any marginally acceptable option at quarterback from his first two months on the job, and a couple of would-be-sophomores Rodriguez did not add to the end of his first full recruiting class. You can wave your hands and say "Michigan! Rabble rabble rabble!" all you want but if you dressed these guys up like Generic State University people would expect them to go .500.

Progress is mandatory, but firing a guy because he's not healing lepers is unwise.  This is a team that deserved to go 3-9 in 2008 and had four non-freshman defensive backs on the roster last year. Rebuilding from that is not a short-term operation. We've been through why this happened many times before; suffice it to say Rodriguez's margin of error to prevent a wholesale cratering was infinitesimal.

Later in Feldman's piece he says Rodriguez is an "excellent coach" and "proven winner" who "knows how to develop talent and motivate players." If this is the case—and everything in his coaching tenure before Michigan suggests so—why shouldn't Michigan give him the benefit of the doubt? They are not going to hire a coach with two BCS wins to his name next offseason. Patience is warranted. One year now (to be clear: 2011) has the potential to pay off with a 20-year stretch of success. While recruiting has suffered Michigan's classes are well within the range where Michigan can expect to compete for Big Ten championships when it is not operating with literally half the upperclassmen of its primary rivals.

My personal measuring stick for Rodriguez: yardage parity and a winning record. I would be displeased with 7-6 but willing to grit my teeth and give Rodriguez a shot in 2011, when he will return both specialists, every starter on offense save Steve Schilling and all but three starters on defense. That will seem exceptionally kind to many, I know, but literally no coach in the country could take the leftovers after Mallett's transfer and do anything other than flail as Rodriguez has.

2008 was a complete waste. To me, this is year two for Rodriguez, and 2011 is when I expect rubber to meet road.



May 27th, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

"There was systemic, institutional flouting of the relevance of compliance by program executives, including the head coach"  - Did he read any of the exhibits? If by "systemic" he means 1 or maybe 2 administrators playing Tropico, then maybe he's correct.

Cock D

May 27th, 2010 at 1:48 PM ^

in tailgating.   Never lost one of those yet.

All joking aside, I was just starting to plan out my tailgating for the fall and this really harshed my mellow.  But I agree, 2011 can be a big year (favorable schedule, no PSU, finally playing seniors) if we don't blow the program up and make 2011 another 2008.


May 27th, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

Everything said in defense of RR has already been said.  People either hear it and make logical conclusions based on facts or they stop their ears with their fingers and say things like "But this is Michigan!  Our talent alone should win 8 games"

I agree with everything you say in defense of RR.  I am through trying to convince others to see things from my point of view. 

The only thing left for me to do is show up at the home opener and scream loudly in support of RR when they announce our head coach over the loud speakers.  I hope many will join me.


May 27th, 2010 at 3:27 PM ^

Therein lies the problem. For many people, Michigan football IS religion. For still others, it takes on political overtones. It seems as though relatively few people are able to look at it as a game.

It's almost gotten to the point where I don't have any interest in arguing whether RR deserves to stay or go, because the same old argument keep getting vomited up time after time. Like bringing up Justin Boren as an example of RR's malfeasance without mentioning that Boren's decision to leave did not occur until after his kid brother did not receive a scholarship offer from Michigan, fr' instance. Combine that with the Mr. Plow routine he was expecting to continue, and it's hardly surprising that Boren took off when RR came in.

It's all moot—the decision is David Brandon's, not the fans, and as long as progress is made, I don't think there's any question that RR will be back for 2011.


May 27th, 2010 at 3:14 PM ^

You and Brian have it right.  I'm getting tired of the volume of voices shouting crap while ignoring the facts but I guess I'll have to deal with it.  

If they were to let RR go after next season prepare for a long cold spell for football as we will first get the equivalent of an Ellerbe, followed by an Amaker and will be good again in about 10 years.

I want to give him the necessary time to fix things as dictated by the hand he was dealt. 

Crime Reporter

May 27th, 2010 at 1:52 PM ^

I too, consider this Rodriguez's second year as coach. I really think we should give him until 2011, but it will all be moot when we bash skulls on the field this fall.


May 27th, 2010 at 1:55 PM ^

Feldman writes:

Again, 8-4 might not be enough. Michigan needs to go back to winning like Michigan used to. Now.

Uh, obviously Feldman hasn't been paying attention the past 15 years. From 1993 until 2007, Michigan had four or more losses on seven occasions, with 3 losses on five more occasions. So, an 8-4 record will get Michigan right back in line with what they've done more often or not every year since I was a senior in high school.

May 27th, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

literally no coach in the country could take the leftovers after Mallett's transfer and do anything other than flail as Rodriguez has

That's a pretty bold statement.  I believe there are at least a dozen coaches who could have done better than 3-9 with a loss to Toledo, followed by 1-7 in Big Ten play.


May 27th, 2010 at 2:12 PM ^

Okay, I'll bite. Which dozen are you talking about?

Of course, when you list the dozen coaches I'd like some, I don't know, support for your argument. For example, if a coach is a perennial winner at every stop, winning conference titles and BCS bowl games with borderline 3-star talent, he probably deserves to be on that list.

Also, a coach who has a history of taking a team with QBs like Threet and Sheridan and turning it immediately into a winner despite a patchwork offensive line and a corps of receivers where the number one guy had less than 40 career catches and the running backs are perpetually injured or prone to fumbling due to mere proximity.


May 27th, 2010 at 2:32 PM ^

Well, I'll name three:

Saban, Kelly, and yes, Jim Harbaugh.

Not because they're better coaches than RR (although I think one of them listed above is and it's not Kelly or Harbaugh), BUT, because (at least two of them) would have run an offense that would have been easier for the returning players to digest and execute.

Anyone here think that had Threet played in a pro-set in 2008, he wouldn't have been as beaten up by the end of the year, and maybe, just maybe, Michigan would have been able to eek out a couple more wins?

Disclaimer: this post doesn't criticize RR or the spread, just answers the question posed by the asker.

Huntington Wolverine

May 27th, 2010 at 2:48 PM ^

This post also ignores the data on this website regarding whether or not spread QBs get injured more often than pro-set QBs and that the majority of the 2008 players were learning a system for the first time regardless of who the coach was- the problem was youth, not that they all kept confusing the two systems.  Threet and Sheridan had trouble setting their feet because of an inexperienced O-line, not because of the playbook.


Also, how did Saban and Harbaugh do in their first years at their respective schools?


May 27th, 2010 at 3:00 PM ^

Your post ignores the fact that had one of the coaches taken over that I had named, players such as Boren, Mitchell, Mallett, and even Arrington might have been compelled to stay in Ann Arbor. We obviously don't know that for sure, and also, Saban would have undoubtedly brought in 35 guys to whittle down to 22 spots, and would have had cover everywhere Michigan was amazingly thin that year.

Your post also ignores the realities of having a 6'6" guy playing the spread-read run offense. I'm sure, but I really don't care to Mathlete it, that having a guy fundamentally ill-suited to run the ball, over and over again, makes him more prone to injury. But that's just me I'm sure.

Saban went 7-6 at Alabama. Harbaugh went 4-8 with way less talent than Michigan, yet beat the number two ranked team in the nation, and also beat his school's chief rival in year one.

Face facts - the only reason Michigan's loss to App. State has any competition for shock value is because Stanford, the 49 point underdogs, beat USC. So, thank Harbaugh for that.

Monocle Smile

May 27th, 2010 at 3:03 PM ^

ignores the fact the Brian was talking about a coach using those specific 2008 players that we had and said nothing about what the situation would have been like with another coach.

Plus, the minute Mustain said he was leaving Arkansas, Mallett had a foot out the door.


May 27th, 2010 at 3:07 PM ^

Mallett's transfer wasn't the only thing that decimated the 2008 Wolverines. Claiming that the losses of Boren and Mitchell weren't significant is ignoring reality, and both of those events occurred AFTER RR was hired. So, acting like those events were Acts of God with which RR was bestowed, as opposed to the more likely scenario that RR's regime ran those guys, literally, out of town, is only telling half the story.

Boren and Mitchell didn't transfer because A new coach was hired, they transferred mostly BECAUSE OF the coach that was hired.

There's a difference.

Monocle Smile

May 27th, 2010 at 3:22 PM ^

Claiming that the loss of Mallett wasn't THE most significant problem with 2008 is ignoring reality.

Correllation != Causation. The truth is that we have NO idea who would have transferred if another coach was hired instead of RR...were they just waiting for a particular coach, or were they hoping someone would have been promoted internally? We'll never know.

lexus larry

May 27th, 2010 at 3:12 PM ^

Don't know where to insert comment about Mitchell, but it's a point and a semantics issue.
Semantics - he chose to forego his 5th year, for reasons untold.
Point - watch some vid of 2007. Mike Hart was almost REQUIRED to help block on the right side of the line, helping Mitchell, maybe Butler, too.
(Further point, Mitchell was the pizza dude, so that's gotta count against, right?)


May 27th, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

would be gone regardless of the coach.  He has his foot out of the door at the end of the year and the hiring of RR gave him an excuse to transfer to a school that he always wanted to go(but couldn't because of Mustain).

Adrian Arrington probably would be gone because he doesn't want to spend his senior year learning the new system, catching balls from an inexperienced QB and there's a possibility of getting hurt which would hurt his draft stock(in theory that is).

Alex Mitchell basically quit on Lloyd Carr and the coaches begged him to come back to finish off the season.  He was lazy, fat and doesn't really do shit on the field as a OL.  I'd doubt that any of the new coach would want Mitchell on his team.

Boren is probably the only plausible possiblity of staying on with Michigan.  However, the new coach would have to bend over for him to let him come home every weekend to help his family farming.  Not sure if the new coach is down with it because he would be trying to exert authority on his new team.

Huntington Wolverine

May 27th, 2010 at 3:24 PM ^

9-1-07 WESTERN CAROLINA WON 52-6 Western Carolina at Alabama Football Tickets
9-8-07 at Vanderbilt WON 24-10 Alabama at Vanderbilt Football Tickets
9-15-07 ARKANSAS WON 41-38 Arkansas at Alabama Football Tickets
9-22-07 GEORGIA LOST 23-26 (OT) Georgia at Alabama Football Tickets
9-29-07 vs. Florida State @Jacksonville, FL LOST 14-21 Alabama vs. Florida State Football Tickets  
10-6-07 HOUSTON WON 30-24 Houston at Alabama Football Tickets
10-13-07 at Mississippi WON 27-24 Alabama at Ole Miss Football Tickets
10-20-07 TENNESSEE WON 41-17 Tennessee at Alabama Football Tickets
11-3-07 LOUISIANA STATE LOST 34-41 LSU at Alabama Football Tickets
11-10-07 at Mississippi State LOST 12-17 Alabama at Mississippi State Football Tickets
11-17-07 LOUISIANA-MONROE LOST 14-21 Louisiana-Monroe at Alabama Football Tickets
11-24-07 at Auburn LOST 10-17 Alabama at Auburn Football Tickets
12-30-07 Colorado WON 30-24


May 27th, 2010 at 3:48 PM ^

But how is 7-6 in mostly competitive games with a bowl win NOT better than 3-9? And it's not like Saban was left with National Championship talent either.  Alabama wasn't very good before he got there. I mean, in a post where Brian is saying 2 wins would be major improvement, how is 4 more wins not "so much better"??

Huntington Wolverine

May 27th, 2010 at 4:29 PM ^

It is better on paper.  I posted it to show the teams he won and lost to because the original comment specifically took a shot at losing to Toledo and Alabama was upset by Lousiana Monroe.  I thought it would be facestious to not post the entire record. 

Alabama in 2007: W's against W Carolina (1-10), Vanderbilt (5-7), Arkansas (ranked #16 at the time, finished 8-5), Houston (8-4), Mississippi (3-9), Tennessee (quality team that year at 10-4), Colorado (bowl game, 6-7, imploding under Hawkins in his 2nd season).

L's against Georgia, FSU, LSU, Louisiana Monroe, and Auburn

Michigan in 2008: [I don't want to look at the numbers again. Suffice to say, I'm angling that our schedule was more difficult in 2008 than the one Saban faced at Alabama in 2007]

They had 3 quality wins, we had 2. 


Screw it. Should've never posted it.

Monocle Smile

May 27th, 2010 at 2:52 PM ^

But even Nick Saban apparently couldn't escape the insurmountable gravity of the MSU .500 record.

Harbaugh...maybe, but I question Threet's talent in general, not his conduciveness to the spread offense. The only real plus side to Harbaugh would be greatly reduced attrition, which would probably contribute to a couple more wins. But Brian was talking about the set of players in 2008, not a situation where more would have stayed.

I also honestly think Kelly would have done jack shit. People talk about him like he's the second coming of Christ to college football, and it makes me sick. For me, the jury is still out on him, and it's mostly because I feel Cincinatti was overrated these past two seasons.


May 27th, 2010 at 2:54 PM ^

didn't do shit at Stanford until last season.  He went 4-8, 5-7 and then 8-5 which isn't too impressive for a so called great coach.  It's a natural progression from being one of the worst team in Pac-10 to a respectable team in Pac-10.  We'll see this season once Stanford is being taken seriously.   They have an outstanding QB in Andrew Luck but they lost a lot with Gerhart graduating and getting drafted by the Vikes in 2nd round.  I expect them to have a similar record as last season which isn't too shabby.

I sincerely doubt that Harbaugh would have done better than RR(as well as Saban and Kelly) because the cupboard was so bare thanks to bad recruiting strategy by Lloyd Carr(who is a good coach but held onto the postion too long IMO) that it's nearly impossible to get a .500 record.  The defense would still suck, the offense would struggle(even with Mallett at the helm, but he will still transfer regardless of the coach).

Foote Fetish

May 27th, 2010 at 2:57 PM ^

But the O-line still would have still been pretty inexperienced, no?  I imagine Threet would have still seen his fair share of beatings.  Record might have been better by a game or two, but I still think it would have been pretty ugly.


May 27th, 2010 at 3:04 PM ^

If Boren and Michell had stayed (which, no Barwis, how do we know they're gone?), the line would have been:

Ortmann - Boren - Molk - Michell - Schilling.

Uh, that probably would have been sufficient to win a game or two more with a pro-set style.

Foote Fetish

May 27th, 2010 at 4:00 PM ^

I didn't know we get to pick and choose who stays and who leaves.  If that's the case, then Mallett doesn't take off and then we're not even talking about whether or not Threet takes a beating, as you posted originally.

Assuming the only change is in coaching, I don't think it would be unreasonable to expect similar struggle along the O-line.

Bobby Digital

May 27th, 2010 at 2:27 PM ^

I suspect there are a couple coaches who could've gotten four, maybe five, wins out of that roster, but that's still flailing. The idea is that Rodriguez's ceiling is higher than most (all?) of the coaches who could've done it, so let's see what he can do when his guys/systems have a chance to take hold.