CC: Rich Rodriguez vs John L Smith (not all negative)

Submitted by MichiganFootball on December 1st, 2010 at 11:48 PM

This is probably a bad idea right now the way people are divided and I'm not making this comparison with negative intentions (though for Rich Rodriguez supporters, just mentioning the name John L Smith is bad enough, the guy's reputation is radioactive).  And just for full disclosure I'll say up front that I would be in favor of getting rid of Rich Rodriguez and replacing him with Harbaugh.

All that said, this probably won't go over well but all I'm really trying to put forth is the stats (and let people draw their own conclusions). Maybe this against my better judgement and I'm just asking for trouble/being overly provactive. All I can say is that I'm not intentionally starting to stir up trouble. Going to try and just present the data and let people draw their own conclusions. With that said, I think the year three comparison of the two coaches is troubling. 

Went with this comparison for three reasons

1) John L Smith represents the worst case scenario. Those who want to get rid of Rich Rodriguez fear that we just have another version of John L Smith (whether this fear is justified or not). Someone who gets the job done on the offensive side of the ball, but who can't build a complete team. And to be clear, there's no definitive answer here.    

2) Easy comparison because John L Smith is someone who most Michigan fans are pretty familiar with.

3)From what I remember (and my memory of the John L Smith years has faded a bit) there were similiar kinds of problems. Good offense, bad defense (especially secondary wise). Had the tendancy to start the season well, but fade once MSU hit the meat of their schedule.

Below are relevant stats that I've pulled

Record for three years before Rodriguez or John L Smith

  MSU U of M
Year 1 5-6 7-5
Year 2 7-5 11-2
Year 3 4-8 9-4

Year One Comparison

  John L Smith Rich Rodriguez
Record 8-5 (started 7-1) 3-9
Total Yards 367.38 yards per game (73rd) 290.75 yards per game (109th)
Passing Yards 270 yards per game (23rd) 143.17 yards per game (108th)
Rushing Yards 97.38 yards per game (111th) 147.58 yards per game (59th)
Points 27.92 points per game (49th) 20.25 points per game (101st)
Total Yards 379.92 yards per game(62nd) 366.92 yards per game (67th)
Passing Yards 255.15 yards per game(97th) 230 yards per game (87th)
Rushing Yards 124.8 yards per game(27th) 136.92 yards per game (50th)
Points 22.5 points per game (40th) 28.92 points per game (84th)  

Year Two Comparison

  John L Smith Rich Rodriguez
Record 5-7 5-7 (started 4-0)
Total Yards 460 yards per game (10th) 384.50 yards per game (59th)
Passing Yards 221.50 yards per game (51st) 198.33 yards per game (81st)
Rushing Yards 238.50 yards per game (10th) 186.17 yards per game (25th)
Points 29.42 points per game (38th) 29.50 points per game (41st)
Total Yards 381.42 yards per game (42nd) 393.33 yards per game (82nd)
Passing Yards 209 yards per game (54th) 221.42 yards per game (67th)
Rushing Yards 172.42 yards per game (73rd) 171.92 yards per game (91st)
Points 27.17 points per game (72nd) 27.50 points per game (77th)

Year Three Comparison

  John L Smith Rich Rodriguez
Record 5-6(started 4-0) 7-5 (started 5-0)
Total Yards 497.27 yards per game (5th) 500.92 yards per game (6th)
Passing Yards 295.45 yards per game (11th) 249.83 yards per game (34th)
Rushing Yards 201.82 yards per game (20th) 251.08 yards per game (11th)
Points 33.82 points per game (18th) 34.33 points per game (23rd)
Total Yards 409.55 yards per game (87th) 447.92 yards per game (109th)
Passing Yards 244.91 yards per game (85th) 260.25 yards per game (110th)
Rushing Yards 164.64 yards per game(76th) 187.67 yards per game (94th)
Points 28.73 points per game (77th) 33.83 yards per game (102nd)

John L Smith Year 4

Record 4-8 (started season 3-0)
Total Yards 356.75 yards per game (48th)
Passing Yards 227.58 yards per game (35th)
Rushing Yards 129.17 yards per game (65th)
Points 25.17 points per game (52nd)
Total Yards 363.75 yards per game (88th)
Passing Yards 230.92 yards per game (97th)
Rushing Yards 132.83 yards per game (56th)
Points 28.73 points per game (77th)

I was too lazy to do so, but another data point that's probably worth taking into account are the relevant offensive and defensive measures in the three years prior to RichRod and John L Smith. This also doesn't take into account attrition numbers that each coach had to deal with (well documentated in Rich Rodriguez's case, no idea when it comes to MSU).

Editing Notes: made some changes with stats so presentation is better plus fixed typo in title.



December 1st, 2010 at 11:55 PM ^

Watch out some D-bag will hook you up with a "1 MGoPoint deducted... you can appeal to me, the almighty point assignor, and I will hear your plea, and I will take pitty on you accordingly" type message.  Godspeed


December 2nd, 2010 at 11:00 AM ^

Tough guy.  The whole point of the Act and all the nukes is to get people to cease and desist with posting their sh-tty opinions (for or against) on firing/keeping Rodriguez, whether or not Harbaugh should be hired, and Brandon's timetable.  Alas, there is not much I can do other than explain it in a way that even my toddler could understand.


December 1st, 2010 at 11:56 PM ^

I really hope RR is not our John L. There are some scary similarities though....


-With that said I think RR is a MUCH better coach than John L and therefore will pull us out of this slump(Unlike John L)


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:00 AM ^

Rodriguez already is guaranteed a better record in his 3rd year than Dantonio had in his 3rd year. Considering how much MSU fans love Dantonio and (still) hate John L Smith, it is pretty clear that RR is not JLS.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:15 AM ^

"Considering how much MSU fans love Dantonio and (still) hate John L Smith, it is pretty clear that RR is not JLS"

Agreed on both points.

MSU fans have come to regard Dantanio as "St. Mark" --- OK, he's had one good season (9-4), one great season (11-1, with a SEC-bowl spanking on tap), and two mediocre seasons (7-6, 6-7). If his team gets smoked, as I expect in the Citrus Bowl, he will have repeated Lloyd's not-quite-satisfying 2006 season when we went 11-2, but got torched by OSU's offense and then smoked in the Rose Bowl.

Let's see Sparty's reaction if/when St. Mark takes over for Tressel at OSU if Sweater Vest retired!

John L won at small-time places (Louisville, Utah St???). RichRod won at a higher profile program, and won the Sugar Bowl.

RichRod is known for the spread and people come to his program to see how it's run --- how many people tracked down John L to see how he ran his offense?

skunk bear

December 2nd, 2010 at 1:26 AM ^

(Have we lost so much faith in ourselves than we don't even think we can beat this guy anymore?)

best argument for a new coach, all other things being equal. It would give us a reason to be optimistic. The only way RR makes those of us who are disillusioned optimistic, is by winning big.


December 2nd, 2010 at 1:29 AM ^

Sparty has had two really good teams since Saban left. 2008 they beat an historically bad UM team. This year, they had their best team since 1987.

"(Have we lost so much faith in ourselves than we don't even think we can beat this guy anymore?)"

I haven't lost faith at all. Let me say he is a very good coach (MSU's best one since Saban and 2nd best since 1980's version of George Perles). But they won three games (ND, NW, Purdue) that they would have lost last year and those teams are a combined 18-18. The stars aligned right for them this year.

If he can replace Greg Jones and Eric Gordon with studs next year, then they won't see a terrible drop off. But those two guys, who are senior LBs, were the main reason Denard had trouble running through the middle of the D.

I'm not expecting a return to the good old days when UM would win 5 or 6 in a row, but probably more like the Bo-Perles or Lloyd-Saban days when UM would win 2 of every 3 games. It's a rivalry again.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:02 AM ^

demise was that 4-8 season.  we are nowhere near that at this point and to think that will happen next year is foolish.

also notice that Smith had 4 years to do his thing even after his teams DIGRESSED record wise.  All this tells me is that RR is going in the right direction and is not JLS


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:28 AM ^

A ton has been made of our D's decline the last three years (and fair criticism to be sure), but John L's teams quit when the going got tough, especially later in the season.

We got pushed around by Wisky and OSU, but I didn't see any quit (ala MSU).

People aren't happy with 7-5 (and M fans shouldn't be in most years), but the only question is the program improving fast enough under RichRod?

I loved watching John L's teams throw in the towel in a brutal home loss to a 7-5 NW team!


December 2nd, 2010 at 1:17 AM ^

We were over-matched by both teams' O-Lines. At least Rogers ran all the way down the field (and got a bogus holding call from Sansenbacher) on the 98-yd TD run that wasn't. Check-out Illinois' long TD run on the option pitch...Vinopal was in the backfield, missed the pitch, turned around and still ran down the field after the guy.

I recall Javon Ringer running down the sideline in 2008 for a long TD, with all-motor Brandon Graham the only guy close behind. Morgan Toast Trent, with his speed, was a mile behind even though he was on that side of the field. Some of our guys on the 2008 D quit.

The only other really embarrassing D quits I can remember were at the end of the 2002 Iowa home loss blow-out, and the entire 2nd half vs. Oregon in 2007 (thank goodness Bellotti called off the dogs, he could have scored 60).


December 2nd, 2010 at 1:33 AM ^

I was traveling on business and ended up staying for the weekend. That was an October game. Man...the talk at work the next day wasn't about how great the Pats played but how much Jeff Fisher (who is a good coach) had to light a fire of PRIDE under his team. Even the 2007 Lions didn't get smoked that bad.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:04 AM ^

Nice bit of research and analysis.

I made a post a year ago, pointing out the possible similarity between seasonal meltdowns (John L usually started strong, then collapsed after a loss to UM, or ND as was the case in '06).

I'm not happy with 7-5 by any means (although 7-5 is what I was hoping for when Woolfolk went down in August), but, at least this year we got over the hump with the 3OT-Illinois and Mudbowl-Purdue wins. Last year, we died on the field vs. a horrific Illinois team and then let Danny Dope beat us in the Big House and act like an A-hole during the post-game handshake.

Another brighter side...I don't recall any Wolverine planting a flag on the field after the rally at ND this year. Also, John L lost to a horrific Illinois team in '06 the week after the meltdown at home to ND. This was his last season. We were clearly outplayed in our 5 losses by better teams (OK...I think we are on par with PSU, but clearly not as good as the Top 3 and October-Iowa).

John L had one signature win (at ND in '05) and then the players screwed the pooch by planting the flag in the field. RichRod doesn't have his signature win, but I am happier when I look back at wins vs. likely Big East Champ UConn and an improved ND team on the road.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:08 AM ^

First off, I think the data would be better served in form of a chart (chart? chart.) or graph of some kind for each stat. You could put the offense yards and defense yards for each coach on one graph, etc. Just a thought.

That said, I also think that while on the surface they appear similar, the records are completely different (in fact, Smith went on pretty much the exact opposite trajectory Rich seems to be going on).

Also, like you said, how young were Smith's offenses compared to Rodriguez's? What about the defenses? I haven't done any research, but based on those stats I'd say it's likely that John L. Smith's offense simply got older and more veteran. Michigan's offense this year is a bit difference because even though the stats would seem to suggest a veteran offense, we're really not and can get even better. Same with the defense. Michigan may, on the surface, have similar stats to John L. Smith's, but John may have had seniors/juniors (I don't know) on defense in his third year. Nothing like what we have.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:13 AM ^

his back-to-back top 10 finishes with Louisville.  Oh, wait.  That never happened.  He had a pedestrian career at his 2 D-1 stops before MSU.  JLS is nothing like RR.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:27 PM ^

He wasn't exactly winning BCS bowl games or finishing in the top ten consistently. RR's resume blows John L Smith out of the water.

Comparing the rosters of the two teams when the coaches took over the program would be much more telling as well. Michigan State was loaded with senior and junior depth when John L took over.


December 2nd, 2010 at 3:12 PM ^

I agree. But he outperformed expectations at Louisville, is all I'm saying. I was watching the whole thing closely as it happened. There was no chance whatsoever of any of the JLS Louisville teams making a BCS game, let alone winning one. But the guy took over a team that hadn't had a coach with an overall winning record since 1972 (Lee Corso, btw). Howard Schnellenberger had pulled Louisville up from the dregs and really did about as well of a job building Louisville as he did building Miami, relatively speaking. The coach after Schnelly was Ron Cooper, who was possibly one of the worst hires imaginable, a guy who was just waay too inexperienced (age: 32, coaching experience: two years at EMU, went 9-13, which EMU would take today in a heartbeat, but that's all). JLS came in after the Cooper debacle and saved what Schnelly started and took the team to bowls every year — five bowls total, or the same number of bowls Louisville had gone to ever before. Not a great guy, by any means, and telling the team that he was leaving during halftime of a bowl game counts as one of the worst coaching decisions in history, but the guy's coaching tenure at Louisville included some relatively amazing coaching decisions as well. He was great at hiring staff and at recruiting. 

Talk about Snake Oil, check this out:

That's Amobi Okoye, now known as one one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. JLS signed him at age 15, when he was coming out of high school. Look at how many other, crappy programs had "Low" interest in him, but the real story is that Amobi was Harvard bound and has always said he wants to get a doctorate (finished Louisville at 19 with a psych degree after only three years before entering the draft, btw — exceptional guy). JLS snagging 15 year-old Amobi Okoye was brilliant.

Anyhow, yeah the guy kinda snaked Louisville on his way out but the notion that he wasn't a good hire or a good coach is ridiculous. Things may not have worked out at MSU but he was a good coach. Now, none of this means that JLS is a comparable coach to or a better coach than RR nor that the comparison posed by the OP has any merit. He's not and it's not. But it's a little of a headscratcher to me as to precisely why JLS couldn't make it work there. Maybe, as they say, his players quit on him. Maybe he lost the will to compete. Whatever. He was a great coach at Louisville, that much is hardly disputable.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:35 AM ^

I checked on the highly reliable Wikipedia (not to be confused with WikiLeaks).

John L's current job is...(drum roll, please)...Special Teams Coach for Arkansas and quitting-Bobby Petrino.

Maybe RichRod has a death wish and wants to hire John L as his 2011 ST that would be a terminable offense.


December 2nd, 2010 at 1:09 AM ^

His agent reportedly contacted Bill Martin, while Bobby was still failing off the job in his less than 1-yr assignment as Falcons coach.

Knock Bill Martin for his bumbling, Frank Drebin-style coaching search in 2007 but at least we steered clear of Bobby and his WOO-SOOOUIE Arkansas cheers.

Blue in Seattle

December 2nd, 2010 at 12:27 PM ^

Many times people have mentioned a coaching candidate who wasn't selected, and how that candidate has issues or would have been a bad choice, then they say "Bill Marting screwed up the coaching search"

what is our criteria for judging a coaching search.

Oh never mind, what was I thinking posting realistic discussion in a post topic of RR is JLS

I'm a moron.


December 2nd, 2010 at 12:58 AM ^

I do think RR is better than JLS, though I've got to say, those 2005 MSU numbers look incredibly similar to ours now.  I didn't remember them being that potent offensively.


December 2nd, 2010 at 1:51 AM ^

So JLS goes from 8 wins to 5 wins(twice) to 4 wins and it's equal to a coach who has gone from 3 to 5 to 7 wins? Consider me skeptical about that point. It just seems disingenuous at best for a person who wants RR gone to compare him to a failure of a coach at our rival school.  There are legitimate arguments to be made for getting rid of Rodriguez, but his similarities to John L. Smith are not among them.  


December 2nd, 2010 at 1:56 AM ^

. RR's tenure at UM is similiar to JLS's at MSU. All offense, no defense.

But next year everything will change. The defense will suddenly start playing again. So what that there is no data to indicate this. It will just happen. Just you wait and see.


December 2nd, 2010 at 1:58 AM ^

At least RR is coherant. JLS was always a laughing stock. MSU fans were embarrassed during his press conferences many times.

I don't even want to think about this even being a possibility. It is impossible.. haven't you hear, our helmets got wings.


December 2nd, 2010 at 4:16 AM ^

He didn't inherit a top tier program, didn't bust up the nation's longest bowl streak...  RR has a lot of people doing a lot of spin to explain how he inherited a program in such shambles.  The scout recruiting rankings tell a different story, and if anything our recruiting scores have been sliding under RR.  Doesn't seem to matter though since he seems fairly good at running off talent and finding walkons to start.  No amount of injury excuses or system learning the system excuses apply.  He ran off Mallett, Boren, etc.  People at the time thought that they just weren't team players, but maybe these guys saw the writing on the wall and it was the guys with out the talent that couldn't find a new home.

I'll take a Michigan man in Harbaugh any day over RR.  I want a program that develops players, moulds them into football players and men, works harder than anyone else, rewards experience, takes the entire process seriously, and strives to produce NFL talent.  I no longer want a gimmick or 5'9 slot ninjas.  I want a program that can compete with OSU and to be honest even OSU right now as a program is viewed as more classy than Michigan (when has that been the case in the last 50 years).

I also have had enough of the excuses for talent and execution or injuries.  It just doesn't cut it, all programs can make excuses, the best don't have to because they have a system that compensates for contingencies.

Let's go get Captain Comeback, allow him to work his butt off for his beloved Michigan, and maybe just maybe, when we go to the Rose Bowl we won't get slammed by someone in the Pac 10.  Better yet, maybe we will actually compete with OSU when we have a coach that understands the meaning of the game.