The Tenuous Case For Keeping Rich Rodriguez

Submitted by Brian on November 2nd, 2010 at 2:55 PM

AATP copyWhere I'm at. The previous "when can we fire this guy" post?

(illustration via reader Brian Louwers)

I promised I wouldn't talk about Rich Rodriguez's job status until the season was over but apparently I'm going to. I blame everyone.

Three Questions

Too many posts in the Fire RR vein argue things no one is disputing. This one titled "The Buck Stops at Rodriguez," argues that a head coach is in charge of his program. This is not very enlightening. Neither is restating his record. We're all aware of Rich Rodriguez's record. We watched it. Saying "but this happened and I was sad" means you're answering the wrong question. You're answering the question "what will make me feel better?" Sometimes you're answering the question "who would have been the best choice for 2008?"

These are the questions I'm interested in:

  1. Which football coach will give Michigan the best record in 2011?
  2. What about 2012?
  3. What about 2015?

You hire a coach for the long term. I think you fire a coach for the short term, though, and the point at which you boot the last guy is when you think the next year isn't going to meet a reasonable minimum threshold of progress. I completely understand people who have hit that point. You can save your comments about how he needs to go—neither I nor anyone else cares to hear it for the one millionth time in the last three days. It's an understandable position. If Rich Rodriguez is cut loose after the season and Jim Harbaugh comes in I will not be in the streets with a bullhorn.

But I wouldn't endorse that move (at least not right now), because I think the answers to questions one and two are conditionally "Rich Rodriguez."

Upperclass Denard: How Does It Work?


Michigan has a unique talent on its hands in Denard Robinson, and they've acquired a mobile offensive line, slot receivers, and tailbacks to complement him. Some of these players can easily transition to another scheme. Stephen Hopkins can I-back with anyone. The outside receivers are just outside receivers. Taylor Lewan is going to hate donkeys in any scheme.

Others can't. The gaggle of tiny waterbug types—including Dee Hart, though he probably won't end up at M if there is a change—are going to be marginalized. I'm not sure how well the offensive line will hold up in an offense that prizes power over movement. Michigan isn't going to be able to materialize an excellent fullback and tight end depth out of nothing.

And then there's Denard. He could move to receiver or tailback, I guess, or more likely transfer, or you could bring in a spread guy, or you could try to keep Magee, or you could just ride with the guy who has already made Denard the all-time leading QB rusher in the Big Ten, will make him the all-time leading QB rusher in NCAA history, and turned Pat White into one of the best quarterbacks in college football before that. One of the "Smiths or MGoBlog" posts contains an argument I've made before:

For everyone that wants RR gone, I submit a short rebuttal.

1 Oregon 8 2488 2095 625 4583 7.3 572.9
2 Oklahoma State 8 1471 2747 615 4218 6.9 527.3
3 Nevada 8 2407 1754 584 4161 7.1 520.1
4 Michigan 8 2204 1943 563 4147 7.4 518.4
5 Boise State 7 1500 2111 473 3611 7.6 515.9

This team (could) return 22 of 24 starters next year.  The #4 offense in the country will return every skill position player except Martell Webb and the offensive line should improve even with losing S. Schilling.   The 2011 schedule is set up for a Big 10 Championship.   Rodriguez will finally have experience and depth at his disposal on offense.  No freshmen(even redshirt freshmen) save possibly Hart will see the field.  Don't you want to see what could become of this offense and the stars it could attract with stability up top?    If you broom RR then what?   If you bring in Harbaugh, Denard is either gone or a slot back.   I have no idea how much attrition you get but this offense has been molded by RR for 3 years,  it will not be as good.

I think that's indisputable: you will lose offensive firepower by making a change. Over the course of his career Rodriguez has established he is standard deviations above the mean as an offensive coordinator. Criticisms about the offense exist but are limited to suggesting that this group featuring two seniors and a sophomore quarterback isn't really the fourth-best offense in the nation because they're not scoring enough. That's true—Michigan is only 19th in scoring offense—but the blame for that rests largely with a defense that doesn't force turnovers (or punts) and the nation's worst kicker situation. If you adjust for all the vagaries that make straight yardage and scoring statistics unrepresentative, pile on a strength of schedule factor, and average it all out this is not, in fact, the fourth best offense in the country:

Michigan is still ranked #2 nationally in rushing and #3 overall in Points Above Normal but the game scores are coming down.

While Michigan's performance over the last three games is not that good, it would still be top 25. If you're wantonly throwing that much data away to make that your conclusion you've just gone Nanking on math for little reward.

Whatever you lose had better be made up for by better play from special teams and defense, but if we're rebooting the defensive coaching staff what does it matter who's doing ninja stuff on the other side of the ball? Unless Anonymous New Coach, who we'll call "Jim Harbaugh" for simplicity's sake, brings in someone who can play instantly the only way that will happen is by bringing in a better defensive staff. Michigan can do that without disrupting something that looks like it's going very right on the other side of the ball.

The obvious argument against that is Scott Shafer, Jay Hopson, and Greg Robinson. That's why the conditional case for bringing RR back rests on either 1) grabbing Jeff Casteel, probably in the event of a Bill Stewart firing, or 2) clearing everyone (or almost everyone) out, bringing in a defensive coordinator with a track record of established recent success on the college level, and giving him carte blanche to bring in the people he wants to bring in. This will be expensive but I hereby volunteer a dollar from each Michigan season ticketholder to make it happen.

The Convincing Argument Against

i hope i'm not having an aneurysm—YEAH SMOOTHIES

Recruiting, basically. Rich Rodriguez is chased around by a horrendous narrative caused by a lot of losing and a lot of other stuff. Jim Harbaugh has to deal with a DUI and some self-serving statements about Michigan's academics—these don't live up. If Michigan goes 9-3 next year under Harbaugh, people are delighted. If Rodriguez does it there remain many, many grumbles. Michigan can throw away the last three years and start over.

Even if this reduces expectations short term, the narrative is totally different and recruits might be more amenable to jumping on board. Fuzzy Dunlop, who amazingly does not have a tennis ball avatar:

Many of those saying the defense is not Rodriguez's "fault" miss the essential point.  It doesn't matter whose fault it is.  What matters is who has the ability to rectify the situation.  And we are fast approaching the point where Rodriguez will no longer have that ability (if he ever had it).

The defense sucks.  Let's say it's not Rod's fault.  Fine.  So how does he fix it?  Get great defensive recruits?  If we lose out, or eke by Purdue, what makes anyone think the good defensive recruits will be rushing to come to Michigan this year?  Perception becomes reality -- our defense is perceived to be a joke, with terrible coaching -- this is not a situation talented players are going to rush into.

He gets a little more negative than I am but the point is valid. Unfortunately, at some point the baggage in your past becomes an active detriment to your future. Rodriguez is either already there or one season from it.

The Gibson Issue

Defensive backs coach Tony Gibson is a lightning rod for criticism because the secondary is a disaster zone and the internets have it that he and Rodriguez have a Clinton-Blair style "special relationship," with all the charges of cronyism that brings. Even Michael Rosenberg is making that argument after years of blithely ignoring the DerpBord era. (Q: What's the difference between a Free Press columnist and a message board poster? A: Editors.)

Unfortunately there's no statistic you can point to that definitively says he's good or bad but the vague outlines provided by the NCAA's site aren't exactly damning:

Stat 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001
Pass Eff 114 126 116 107 121 116 99
Pass Eff Rk 28 63 30 20 45 47 8
Pass 189 243 201 198 260 214 137
Pass Rk 14 109 34 32 104 55 1
Sacks 3 2.4 2.4
Sack Rk 15 38 46

That's not great aside from the bizarre first year (West Virginia was terrible at run defense so teams just ran) but it's consistently above average. In six years Gibson had three players drafted, one of them (Ryan Mundy) a guy who transferred away from Michigan because he wasn't going to get playing time. That's about one per slot he was in charge of, assuming that the spur and bandit were not his responsibilities. The rest of WVU's team saw eight guys drafted across nineteen spots.

None of this is definitive but it's at least an indication that Gibson isn't the anchor certain FFFFFUUUUUUU sorts make him out to be. The debacle here could be a coaching issue, but Occam's razor suggest it's talent (and attrition). Cbuswolverine put up a diary looking at the experience of the top five and bottom five secondaries in the country with the expected results—everyone but LSU averages at least 3.5 years on campus, and LSU is at 2.75. It is possible that Tony Gibson is a huge problem, but even if he was we wouldn't know. His reputation as a great recruiter is commonly stated, but we have even less data on that.

I put in a Mathlete request for a fancy math version of the above statistics that would adjust for schedule strength and maybe parse out the sacks in the three years they're available.

The Most Insane Thing Ever Said About Me

It's days like this that I envy Brian.

What I'd Do At 7-5 Or 6-6, Probably—I Mean If We Lose By A Billion In Three Games, Probably Not, But Let's Just Say If The Season Plays Out Like It Looks It Will

I'd fire Robinson. Then I'd bring in Casteel if he's available post Stewart firing or broom most of the defensive staff and bring in someone making SEC dollars along with two other established position coaches, and then I'd give Rodriguez 2011 and hope like hell. Michigan's in a bad spot either way, but at least Ivan Maisel's with me.

Yeah, that's right: Ivan Maisel.


Other bits: for folks complaining about the O/D coaching breakdown, Touch The Banner surveys the Big Ten and finds that literally every team in the league has four defensive assistants and all but one (Purdue, which has a dedicated ST coach) has five offensive assistants, or would if they hadn't fired their head coach already. Maize And Go Blue is here:


Wojo on matters:

Rich Rodriguez didn't fire or demote his defensive coordinator Monday, and to some, that's a sad surprise. Frankly, I'm not sure it makes a big difference.

Greg Robinson has done a poor job, and his position certainly should be in jeopardy. But full accountability sits where it always sits, where it now shifts uncomfortably — on the coach.


North Star

November 2nd, 2010 at 6:01 PM ^

When Zook cleaned house after last season, he hired new DC / Secondary coach and gave him the authority to pick his own staff - hired new OLB coach but kept the incumbents at D-line and ILB.  Result has been immediate improvement year 1.

Could be a model for U-M:  hire new DC and let the DC make decisions on his staff and scheme - maybe he keeps Tall, Gibson and/or Braithwaite and maybe not. But to get the right DC, RR needs to give him autonomy on staff and scheme. 

I think RR should stay but it can't be business as usual on the defensive side - I understand the no talent meme and do not discount that, but there is not much to point to support the current defensive staff - our defensive talent, such as it is, is not getting better as the season progresses.  The same could be said last season - coaching problem needs to be addressed.


November 2nd, 2010 at 6:05 PM ^

Suppose his replacement goes 3-9 his first year?  Do you then can him as well?  What are your options if the next coach has problems of his own?


That's the trouble with these "grass is greener" arguments.  There is no guarantee that a different coach would actually do a better job.  If you jettison Rodriguez after only three years, you're putting all your chips on the bet that the next one succeeds.  If that bet doesn't pay off, you're in serious trouble.


Getting rid of Rodriguez should only be considered after all possibilities of righting the ship have been exhausted.  We're a long way from that yet.


November 2nd, 2010 at 6:18 PM ^

A more accurate analogy would be - what if his replacement goes 1-11.  RR won six games fewer than the previous team his first year.  Assuming RR wins 7 this year (which could be a stretch), then to be as bad as RR's first year, the new coach would have to lose 11.  If RR only wins 6, then a RR-type first year would be 0-12.


November 2nd, 2010 at 6:29 PM ^

RRs predecessor also left him 1 starter on offense and who knows how many on defense. RR would leave his successor something like 19 of 22 starters if you consider Ezeh to no longer be a starter and James Rogers to be Woolfolk's backup. There is a huge difference what the next guy would have to work with. If the next guy coming in went 3-9 it would be worse and RR going 3-9 IMO.


November 2nd, 2010 at 9:53 PM ^

Boren, Shilling and Mitchell all had starting time on the offensive line.  Minor and/or Mathews were starters depending on what set the team used (2 RB, 3 WR....).  Ryan Mallett started multiple games in 2007 while Henne was hurt. 

His predecessor left him much more than 3-9 experience on the offensive side of the ball.


November 2nd, 2010 at 8:01 PM ^

does any better either. I don't see how the lack of certainty about the future favors RR over anyone else. There will be uncertainty regardless of what decision is made.

I don't understand how hiring a new coach is "putting our chips in one basket" to a greater extent than retaining RR puts all our "chips in one basket." It's just a matter of in which basket we put our chips. Again, this is does not favor keeping RR nor firing him. It's an aspect of the situation regardless of the decision.


November 2nd, 2010 at 8:29 PM ^

is a major blow to the program.  It makes it far less attractive to other coaches to want to come here knowing that either they produce immediately or die.


One of the reasons Michigan is considered a prime job is because we have a history of giving coaches time to implement their programs and succeed.  Top programs keep their coaches for a long time.  Programs that churn their coaches become mere stepping-stones to elsewhere.


So my point is that if Michigan becomes a place that gives their coaches a short leash, don't be surprised if they start coming here only on the assumption that they're using it for resume padding.


November 3rd, 2010 at 12:02 AM ^

to see that this a different circumstance. Not only has he failed to win at the school with the most wins, but he also got the program slapped with sanctions for it's first major NCAA violations. This is a very different case from ND.
<br>Furthermore, the longer UM let's this disaster of a regime continue the risk if long term damage increases.
<br>At some point you have to cut your losses.


November 2nd, 2010 at 7:14 PM ^

I think a new Defensive Cordinator can make all the difference in the world.  in the NFL look at the Saints two years ago they had a great offense and no Defense and everybody said if the Saints had a Defense. They fire  Defensive cordinator hire Greg Williams who makes two changes in the secondary and they win the SuperBowl.  The Pittsburgh Steelers same thing in 2003 they had one of the worst Defenses in the NFL what does Bill Cowher do?  He gets Dick Lebeau the steelers went from 27th in defense to first overall. A good Defensive cordinator can do lots.  Look when Rich was hired he thought that he had jeff Casteel on board and he was he was coming with Rich to michigan and Rich thought that he was not going to have a problem with the Defense but when Jeff Casteel told him that Bill Stewart wanted him to stay that shocked Rich but Rich told him if he wanted to stay that's ok.  I think if Rich respected Bill Stewart and didn't want to get in between the Bill and himself.  But now I think if Rich went to Jeff and pleaded with him because Jeff and Rich were very close friends I think Jeff would come over.


November 2nd, 2010 at 7:28 PM ^

I think our players would work just fine for Harbaugh's system.  Yes, Denard would no longer be the QB, but Devin would take over and do well, and our other offensive playmakers would get worked in.  Lots of pro-style offenses use short, quick WR's.  As for the OL, I think they'd do just fine.

It wouldn't take too long to build up some TE and FB depth, starting with the few we have, some walk-ons, and a couple young guys from the first recruiting classes.

If Harbaugh came, it wouldn't take long for his guys to sign on to play.  Some of our commits would bail, some of his Stanford commits would follow him, and some guys who considered Michigan but passed would reconsider.  Truth is, there wouldn't be too many guys at this point saying "I wanted to play for RR, but not for that Harbaugh guy," whereas there are certainly some saying it the other way around.


November 2nd, 2010 at 7:41 PM ^

Why assume that there wouldn't be many guys wanting to play for RR. He has a lot of players who love him. Just because he had a few transfers doesn't mean players don't like playing for him. Transfers happen all over the place not just under RR. Seeing the way our players talk about Coach Rod and seeing the way West Virginia players talked about him, I think he has plenty of support from the players he coaches.

Not that I think Harbaugh will ever be hired anyways, I'm just curious as to why you think Harbaugh is anymore of a players type of coach than RR. Harbaugh should at least win a bowl game before he becomes this savior of Michigan football.


November 2nd, 2010 at 8:04 PM ^

What if Harbaugh says no? Humiliating.
<br>So we look at other guys - are they "Michigan Men"? Yes? Who would that be?
<br>Oh, they're not Michigan Men? Give me your list and I'll immediately cut it in half, b/c my guess is that's the percentage who will say "Fuck. No." after the way RR has been treated for the last 3 years.
<br>Who's left? A bunch of guys 60% of the fan base has never heard of. How about potential recruits, have they heard of him? He better not make any early mistakes, and he better run the spread. If no on the latter, we go from scary good on O to who knows what. And the D will be average at best.
<br>If the bottom falls out, JH is an option people are getting very comfortable with. Go the next step and ask who may be next.
<br>I won't blindly support RR at the expense of the program. But I won't ignore the risks of a change either.


November 2nd, 2010 at 9:42 PM ^

"Denard would no longer be the QB"

I don't know if this is necessarily true.  I think that any new HC (including JH) would have to think long and hard before moving Denard completely out of that role.  I mean, he leads the nation in rushing right now.  He generates tons of offense and should reasonably be even better next year.

It's possible that a new coach (JH for instance) would favor running sets that feature two tight ends and a fullback with the QB under center.  However, he might also run some wildcat formations (Denard, anyone?) or mix things up a bit.

Either way, I'm confident that a new coach will find ways to utilize Denard in space. 



November 2nd, 2010 at 7:34 PM ^

There are 4 games left. The world is very different now than it was 3 games ago. Yes we have learned a lot in those 3 weeks, and it stands to reason we'll learn a lot more in the next four. Many posts in this and other threads are excellent. Very informative and great reads. But most missed the instructions on the bottle.
<br>Let. Season. Play. Out.
<br>1. Cheer for team
<br>2. Repeat 4 times
<br>3. Form decision with all data points and rabble thusly


November 3rd, 2010 at 2:34 PM ^

I could +1000 this post, I would.  Or, if not the wisdom of Bodogblog, you could listen to this guy:

We've got five [now four] additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk.

Is someone giving out a prize if you're the first to call for some coach's head and he turns out to get fired? If not, I can wait.


November 3rd, 2010 at 11:14 PM ^

These guys are kids; and I want to see them do well. 

But its also okay to not like going from saying  'Wow, I was tired of going from losing to OSU regularly' to 'Wow, I'm tired of losing to OSU, PSU, MSU, Iowa, and Wisconsin' regularly.'

I want a disciplined team that is physical and can pound on offense, and crush on defense. I don't wish ill to RR or these players, but I do want a return to solid Michigan football and program stability.

We'll see what happens at the end of the year. FWIW, I don't see RR going anywhere; so I think this is kind of a moot argument.  


November 2nd, 2010 at 9:04 PM ^

Hey Brian,

How about offering some nifty "Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork" t-shirts?  It just feels right.  You know what they say, out of lemons you make lemonade....


November 2nd, 2010 at 9:22 PM ^

The down side of Harbaugh is that he will be gone to the pros if he is successful at Michigan; the upside of keeping Rodriguez is that the pros don't want him--if he achieves success at Michigan, he could be around for a long time.


November 2nd, 2010 at 9:52 PM ^

It makes sense, I think, when you read what they wrote about why you'd have the 5/4 split that normal schools have. If you add an extra defensive coach, from what offensive group do you take him? (The way Michigan's offense has been working: none.) You just have to have competent defensive coaches.

As for the abnormal school, let's see ... Purdue had a tight ends coach up through 2008, and as a result, they produced players like Tim Stratton and Dustin Keller. (The information about the TE in Purdue's offense is incorrect: their version of the spread does use the TE. Fairly heavily, in fact, especially when the entire goddamn RB and WR corps is injured or sucks.)

Then in 2009, Hope took over, and suddenly there was no TE coach, but there was a special teams coach. So what was the result?

Well, they have a good kicker who can hit some really long FGs (career long of 59) ... oh wait, he was there in 2008, and most college kickers learn (or don't learn) on their own anyway. Right.

So how are they doing this year? 115th in average KR allowed. 63rd in average PR allowed. 111th in average PR. (3.81 yards per return. I am not making this up.) 119th in average KR.

Woo special teams coach! Genius! 1111111

Yes, that is the beauty of rooting for both Purdue and Michigan. I get to watch spectacular special teams play - in the sense that they are generally spectacles - or I would watch it if I hadn't clawed my eyes out sometime in mid-October.

So, I have two conclusions: don't hire a special teams coach, and defensive issues are about coaches and the coaches who hire them, not about the number of coaches.

Tony Soprano

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:21 PM ^

The dilemma is this.  If you keep RR and let the defensive staff go, which top-notch D coordinator candidate is going to want to come into a situation where RR is on the hot seat???  No one will want that. 

Please remember RR couldn't get any D coordinator he wanted to come to Michigan after the '08 season - he didn't have many choices, Greg Robinson was it.  

So, even if you keep RR, the D may still not be better because we won't have the best D coodinator available.  Not good....

The only way you can ensure a good D coordinator is to start with a new  - he's got at least 3 years to make it work.

Don't get me wrong, I like RR a lot - he's a nice guy and a good offensive coach.  I'm just pointing something out for consideration.


November 2nd, 2010 at 10:42 PM ^

But doesn't that also make it an enticing opportunity?  The reality is, if a D coordinator comes in and is moderately successful, isn't next year's team 9-3 at worst?  If this defense gets to 60th in the nation, with a top 5-10 offense and a lot of the key games at home, there's a great shot for a great year. 

It seems to me it wouldn't take much success from a D coordinator to bring a great year in 2011.  Not to mention the prestige of restoring a program that has seen its worst three year stretch in at least my lifetime.


November 3rd, 2010 at 10:43 PM ^

I'm going to think I can take RichRod off the Hot Seat.

With RR's offense, I only have to be merely competent.  And I'll have a whole gaggle of sophomores with lots of playing experience their freshman year to boot.


November 2nd, 2010 at 10:36 PM ^

In 3 years a man was paid millions of dollars to coach the greatest football program ever. And turned it into Purdue.

If he doesn't have the decency to resign, and he don't, he must be fired. End of story.


November 3rd, 2010 at 11:33 AM ^

This offense is just too good. It's like nothing Michigan has ever seen before - not 1980, not 1990, not 1991, not 2000. This year the offensive unit is chock full of freshman, sophomores and RS juniors.  That's goddamned scary when you think about it.

The defense sucks right now, but it's all correctable stuff over time. Yes, RR is stubborn about loyalty in his work and has demonstrated impaired/poor judgement and some chronyism regarding all of his coordinators and assistants, which might annoy some people, but it's not at all new to college football programs across the country. It's also not knew to the Michigan football program.   Once the stats are in for 2010, Rodriguez has some sobering decisions to make regarding his defensive stafff, many of which followed him from WVU.

But Rodriguez is not necessarily awful at hiring people.  He should get credit for bringing with him Rod Smith and Calvin Magee, though Magee had opportunities to HC elsewhere. 

I'm optimistic in the storm. UM is 5-3 now with at least 2 winnable games left.  Wisconsin is a good team, but their track record in Michigan Stadium even with great teams defies explanation. They play Michigan poorly on the road and always have. I'm not saying Michigan beats Wisconsin, but the team could with a little help from their friends in the stands.

The only thing that worries me a little is UM's progress in recruiting year-to-date, but even that will take care of itself around January/February time frame anyway.  There is plenty of talent out there - and plenty of other recruits on the bubble about their previous commits.







November 3rd, 2010 at 11:07 PM ^

but how much of its numbers are padded by playing lousy teams? Yes, we are 5-3, but jeepers, we have no quality wins! I don't see us *getting* any quality wins! And I think our losing streak vs. even decent teams is slowly killing us in recruiting! 

RR seems to be a decent guy, and the offense is a ball to watch when we are playing Uconn or Indiana. But against State or Iowa, or I'm betting OSU... man.  And even then, we are one injury away from being lousy. I don't see the offense doing nearly as well under Forcier.

And how flexible is the offense? Can we say 'Whoops, D. needs a breather, better do some ball control and eat some clock' or 'Whoa, Denards out and the O needs some time to adjust to a new QB, lets lay the load on the RB's...'. I've not seen alot of evidence of that. 

I'd like to see him go, and a more conventional coach come in. I think that would refresh recruiting and if we get a good enough coach he'll make use of the talent we have. We *can* get a good solid coach. I think part of the allure of RR was that Mary Sue and Martin botched the job so badly that they wanted a big name, and there was RR. 

Everyone remember when the fear was RR would take over Michigan, go crazy on the Big 10, and then leave for another program? We don't have to worry so much about that now. 

Impaler 19

November 5th, 2010 at 2:13 PM ^

I also think that we ahve to do something with the defensive coaches.  Option 1 - fire Gerg and bring in someone to run their own system with automomy, or 2 - fire Gerg and bring in someone to run the 3-3-5 with the current staff.


November 3rd, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

1.  With all due respect to Brian, the right question is not 'who is the best coach for the next three years'.  The right question is 'who is the best coach to fix the defense?'

2.  You have to bear the terrible truth:  Michigan will not beat a quality team until it fixes its problems on defense.  That defense cannot stop anyone.  This is really the only information that is relevant to solving Michigan's problems.  I'm not talking about offense because the offense has proven itself to be great, capable of winning any game if it has defensive support.

3.  Intelligent minds may differ on this, but I posit the defensive issues, in order of DOOM-bringing, thusly:

  • Personnel shortage- whether by injury or by attrition, Michigan does not have enough high-quality players to compete against upper-echelon teams.
  • Player development- even for those players they have, there has been a general inability to develop players well enough to get them capable of starting, or even identifying who is best to play a particular position.  See Ezeh v. Demens.  Don't give me the BS recruiting five-star argument; the defensive staff doesn't need recruits, they need players.  Kovacs can play.  I think Talbott can play.  They need to find those kids (like MSU did with Greg Jones and Blair White, among others) and coach them up.
  • Inexperience- nothing but time can heal this.   RR's point that the defense is very young is on point, but his staff has had something to do with that too.
  • Scheme- I don't think the 3-3-5 is conducive to winning in the Big Ten, but it is far from the biggest issue.

So, looking at these issues, is Coach Rodriguez the right person to fix these issues?  If he can get the DC from West Virginia, maybe- GERG has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is not the guy to fix these problems.  And even mediocrity would help the team immensely- look at what Auburn's doing.  They light teams up on offense and ask their defense to make a few stops per game.  If they can do that, they believe they will win.  If Rodriguez can hire a DC/defensive staff who can recruit players and identify starters, I say keep him.  If Dave Brandon doesn't think Rodriguez can do that, he should be gone, and let Harbaugh or another man take the job.  And let the chips fall where they may.


November 3rd, 2010 at 12:34 PM ^

If RR is let go after next season, I very much hope we bring in a HC who is a defensive guy, but brings an established spread OC and staff, sort of like when Pelini took over at Nebraska (except the OC was retained from the previous staff, which, if McGee will stay that'd be fine too).  We should have little drop off on the O side since the fundamental philosophy will not change if that were to happen, and then much progress on the D side since that will be the HC's specialty.  I really just want whats best for Michigan, and part of me really wants to see RR overcome all this crap he's gone through and prove all the haters wrong, but I'm very much doubting that could happen now.  We'll see.


November 3rd, 2010 at 3:48 PM ^

Before the season started and before Woolfolk got hurt, everyone thought this year’s defense would be a disaster.  Then, Woolfolk was injured and out for the year, so expectations went to somewhere below disaster.  We wound up with a defense that involved 3 seniors (Banks, Mouton and Rogers) who would not play on most Big Ten teams, 2 juniors (Martin and Van Bergen), 4 sophomores and 2 freshmen.  As time went on, 2 of the 3 seniors were replaced with 2 more freshmen, Banks with Black and Rogers with Vinopal, so we had a defense of 1 senior, 2 juniors, 4 sophomores and 4 freshmen.  Recapping our defensive starters by class, we have no one from Carr’s 2006 recruiting class, 1 not beaten out by a freshman from Carr’s 2007 recruiting class (even that one would not be playing at most Big Ten schools), 2 from Carr’s and RR’s joint 2008 recruiting class who play well and would play for most Big Ten schools and 8 from RR’s recruiting classes in 2009 and 2010.  For the last two games, Martin, our best defender – and only really good and experienced defender – has been out with injuries for all except a very few plays, bringing the experience level and quality even lower.  As RR said, even Vince Lombardi could not make this an effective defense, and until GR has had a team with some experienced players it is just plain unfair to throw him under the bus.  Next year, with Woolfolk back, the defense will field 3 good and experienced seniors, 4 good and experienced juniors and 3 experienced (and we hope good) sophomores unless a redshirt freshman or true freshman is able to beat someone out.  Give the man a chance!  I agree that this year’s defense looks like a disaster so far, but (1) we expected it to be a disaster before the season began, (2) the kids are gaining experience and (3) the coaches are trying to make changes and improvements, as shown by last week’s position switches and the emergence of Demens in the last few games.  As someone said, how quickly do you think kids who had not yet attended their senior prom a year ago are going to gain the needed experience?  To me, this problem becomes particularly acute when you consider that we have no one other than Rogers (who was benched last week) behind the linebackers with any significant experience.  People will continue to pick us apart until our kids get enough experience to understand what to do, where to be looking and what not to do.  If we make a bowl, they will get 4 extra weeks of practice plus the spring, all of which combined with another year of experience, should lead to substantial improvement.  Be patient, and don’t make our fan base seem like a rabid lynch mob.  I’ve got to believe that has a negative effect on recruiting (I suspect recruits are even more likely to be reading this blog than the current players or coaches).  And keep in mind the human quality of the kids RR has brought in, almost all of whom make me proud that they will also be alums.


November 3rd, 2010 at 7:37 PM ^

Excuse me for the length of this post, I wanted to post this in the forum but I don’t have enough points yet. So if you like what you read please vote me positive.

I like Rodriguez and his offense, I like the players on this team and I like the effort that they give even when they are down early. I don’t like the way the defense has played this year like everyone else. So whether its G-Rob's fault or not I think we should change DC's at the end of the year. I went scouring through some of the NCAA stats for this year and found Kent State's Defense (yes Kent State).

Kent State currently is sitting at number 8 for total defense in FBS this year. What about scoring defense you say? Well that is lower for sure as they come in at 27 there, but their offense is also very bad this year (how bad? they are 106 in total offense and 82 in scoring offense even with an awesome defense). The Kent State defense sports the number 1 rush defense in the country and the number 61 pass defense, the number 12 team for sacks (2.88 a game) and the number 1 team for tackles for loss (9.25 a game).

So I went out and looked up the defensive coordinator for Kent State and found him to be one Pete Rekstis.

Who is this Pete Rekstis... he's apparently a pretty good defensive coach if you look at Kent States defense over the years that he's been there. Here is his credentials on Kent States website (, I’ll highlight a few things that jumped out to me.

He coached at Youngstown State as a D-Cord before moving up to Kent State, now who else has made a jump from that school and had success? I can’t remember but he probably has horrible fashion sense.

Pete made an immediate impact when he arrived at Kent State because he did this "Rekstis led a dramatic and record-setting turnaround in his first season in charge of the Kent State defense. He oversaw a unit that had ranked 12th of 14 teams in total defense in the Mid-American Conference in 2003, then finished first in the league and 15th nationally in total defense in 2004. The team also set a school record for quarterback sacks in a season with 34." Tell me we couldn't use an immediate impact like that? If he can do that with Kent State talent he should be able to pull off numbers that are at least middle of the road in the FBS for Michigan next year given his track record.

What does Pete's defensive front look like? Like this "The 3-4 defense Rekstis preaches is one predicated on great pressure by the defensive line at the point of attack, a swarming corps of linebackers and strong, athletic defensive backs who seek out contact rather than hiding from it." A secondary that doesn't play 18 yards off the receiver! Hurray! His defense lead Kent State to this in 2009 "Kent State ranked third in the country in tackles for loss (8.42), eighth in red zone defense (.72), 17th in sacks (2.75) and 20th in takeaways (26)." Yes please I’ll have another!

Pete coaches the secondary! We automatically solve the secondary issue with his hire and probably see immediate impact with his coaching. His defensive front is a 3-4! That means he shouldn't be terribly limited by the personal that is already on the team as I don’t know how well we'd look as a 4-3 team due to the present personal and recruiting has been building for a 3-3-5. It's probably much easier to switch to a 3-4 when you are in a 3-3-5 than if you’re in a 4-3.

Something else that surprised me when looking at Kent State was their best linebacker. Cobrani Mixon. The same linebacker who transferred out of Michigan after his first redshirt year. Mixon has thrived under Pete's coaching and was a talent from Ohio that was at one point on Michigan's team. Pete being from Ohio couldn't hurt recruiting defensive players from that state.

My plan would give Pete full control of the defense and defensive staff picks are his decision. Pete to me looks like a perfect hire for us right now, I’m not sure how him or his staff or would fair at recruiting but if they start cranking out top 25 defenses and with the Michigan brand the recruits will come given time. I'm not sure who else would be a much better fit for this team right now. 

Go Blue!


November 3rd, 2010 at 8:28 PM ^

Wow, I feel like a celebrity.  Twice in a week that my diary is linked to the front page.  Woo, me!  I'd trade my mgocelebrity for an average defense though.....


November 4th, 2010 at 9:08 AM ^

If Harbaugh truly is a Michigan Man, he would do what's best for Michigan and drop whatever team he is currently coaching and take the HC job at Michigan whenever he is asked to do so, be it this year, next year, or sometime in the future.  We cannot have the mentality that we need to fire RR now so that we can get Harbaugh before he goes to the NFL or signs with another program with more opportunity than Stanford. 

Give RR another year, force him to clean house on the defensive side of the ball, pull in an entire defensive staff that is proven in big conferences, i.e., Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC (no matter what the $$ cost), and then, if that doesn't work, pick up Harbaugh. 

While RR's performance is truly sub par, his potential is really high.  Hitting restart now would be throwing away that potential and subject us to at least 2 more years of "readjusting"