Ferentz, Alvarez, and Rodriguez

Submitted by I Blue Myself on November 1st, 2010 at 2:51 AM

Rich Rodriguez's defenders generally point to Kirk Ferentz and Barry Alvarez as examples of coaches who were given bad situations, struggled enormously at first, but then were able to right their ships and become highly successful. If we only give Rich Rod enough time, the argument goes, he will surely do the same thing. CRex's recent diary includes a helpful chart comparing the initial records for the first three seasons of various Big Ten coaches. Once again, Alvarez and Ferentz are the only ultimately successful coaches on the list who did about as badly as Rich Rod in their first three years.

If you look more closely at their performances, the comparisons break down. Both Ferentz and Alvarez struggled greatly through their first three seasons, but they took huge leaps forward in year four, something that it doesn't look like Michigan will be capable of under Rodriguez.

Wisconsin under Alvarez

I was a kid in the late 1980s. I remember Wisconsin at the time as an absolutely atrocious team, one of the two worst in the Big Ten (along with Northwestern). They hired Alvarez in 1990, as indicated in bold on the chart below.

1987 3-8
1988 1-10
1989 2-9
1990 1-10
1991 5-6
1992 5-6
1993 10-1-1
1994 7-4-1

In short, Wisconsin struggled for three years, with gradual improvement, then won Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships in year four. They did slide back a bit, with a losing season in 1995, then ramped up in the Ron Dayne years and have been a very good, occasionally great Big Ten program ever since.

Iowa Under Ferentz

Ferentz inherited the Iowa program in a very similar situation to what Rich Rod had at Michigan. He replaced a beloved coach (Hayden Fry) who had done very well but slipped a bit toward the end of his career. If anything, Fry had fallen further than Lloyd Carr did, posting a very bad final season before Ferentz took over in 1999.

1996 9-3
1997 7-5
1998 3-8
1999 1-10
2000 3-9
2001 7-5
2002 11-2
2003 10-3

The pattern is strikingly similar. Rock bottom start, gradual improvement, then Big Ten champs in year four. In Ferentz's case, Iowa was 8-0 in the Big Ten in 2002. They didn't play OSU, and their only losses were to Iowa State and to USC's first juggernaut team in the Orange Bowl.

So what does it mean?

I confess that I don't know the details about the circumstances at either Iowa or Wisconsin leading up to the hiring of these coaches. If anyone did follow these programs very closely, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on what their situations were like at the time. But I think it's safe to assume that neither Alvarez nor Ferentz inherited much talent.  Iowa was in decline prior to hiring Ferentz, and Wisconsin was terrible prior to hiring Alvarez. Yet these coaches, working with much more difficult recruiting situations than at Michigan, were able to turn their teams into Big Ten champs by year four. Does anyone think Michigan will be close to winning the Big Ten next year?

Can you name any highly successful coach who was unable to build his team into a winner by year four? That's not a rhetorical question. I haven't heard any names mentioned. The usual story is huge success in year two. That's what we see in virtually all the most successful coaches from the last decade: Tressell, Stoops, Carroll, Meyer, Brown, Saban. Am I missing anyone? 

It's true, none of those coaches began in as bad a situation as Rich Rod did at Michigan.  But Barry Alvarez and Kirk Ferentz did. Highly successful coaches seem to have a very swift upward trajectory when taking over a program. Even if you put them in the absolute worst situation possible, they manage to turn things around amazingly fast. Maybe Rich Rodriguez is an exception to that rule. If he is, he is a rare exception indeed.


I Blue Myself

November 1st, 2010 at 2:56 AM ^

Here's one possible exception: Bill Snyder took over Kansas State in 1989, and they weren't really successful until 1993, his fifth year in the program.  But Kansas State was an entirely different level of awful.  They won a combined three games in the four years before Snyder took over.  Under Snyder, they were 5-6 in 1990, which itself almost qualifies as a miracle.


November 1st, 2010 at 3:51 AM ^

I think it will be at least a couple years before we are in contention of the b12 title.  The defense will be too young and with the possibility of a new DC, this could make the 2013 the real season of improvement.

We have two choices.  Do we sack RR at the end of this season and bring in Jim Harbaugh and see if he can turn this program around.  A risk may be a prolonged period of being in the basement of the b10 while Jim brings in his players and rebuild everything from scratch.

Or do we keep RR and ride through the next couple seasons which may be rough and meh .500 or slightly better seasons.  The reward could be a good to perhaps great defense teamed up with an offense nobody will stop. This could elevate us to perennial BCS contenders.  Or do we not get the top talent on defense and only attain average defenses along with a great offense which would spell 2 to 4 losses per season for the next decade?

I guess that is what our AD will have to decide at the end of the season.

I Blue Myself

November 1st, 2010 at 4:02 AM ^

I think that's basically right, though I think I lean more toward option #1.  It comes down to whether you think Rich Rodriguez can turn things around on defense.  My point with this diary is that really good coaches tend not to stumble as badly as Rodriguez has so far.  Why should we believe he can do it right this time around?  As your seat gets hotter, it becomes harder and harder to recruit, and if you keep firing defensive coordinators, it gets harder to bring in someone competent the next time.  The road only gets harder, not easier.

But you're absolutely right that firing a coach is always a big risk.  Behind door #1 is Bob Stoops and Bo Pelini.  Behind door #2 is Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis.  you don't get to find out which one you got until two or three years later.


November 1st, 2010 at 7:50 AM ^

A big quarterback who has a great arm, and can throw deep balls ... check - Devin Gardner

An effective offensive line ... check

An effective running back ... remains to be proven but candidates exist

Wide receivers and tight ends that can catch and block ... check

Am I missing something here? If Jim Harbaugh, a proven winning coach in a BCS conference, and ex-NFL QB and QB coach, and someone who is himself part of Michigan history was hired here, how many would leave? Kids leave because they don't make it grade-wise, they don't see playing time, or they don't believe in the coaching staff.

I'm not buying the extended transition. The only thing I buy is the defense would continue to be young.


November 1st, 2010 at 9:05 AM ^

Your checks assume no attrition, which I think is unrealistic. Guys who left when RR came in did so because they were adverse to new philosophy, not out of love for Lloyd. The kids on the roster today would run through walls for RR. I think attrition from firing Rich would be as devastating as losing Mallett, Arrington, Mario, Boren. My opinion is, if you fire RR be prepared to start all over with 2008's roster and depth.


November 1st, 2010 at 9:46 AM ^

I agree with you 100%.  Starting with a new head coach, especially one that does not run the spread, is equivalent to starting at square one.  Bring in a pro-style scheme and Denard is basically done at QB.  I think that's clear and, if so, that would be terrible.  He's the most exciting player to wear the winged helmet since Charles Woodson (if you ask me).  Denard is the reason I didn't jump out my window on Saturday night.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:35 PM ^

When RR took over in 2008 to implement his spread, he had one returning starter on OL and two very green QBs. That season was exceptionally bad for reasons largely beyond his control. If he had more experienced players, especially on OL, things would not have been so bad. I think bringing the pro-style offense in, with a solid OL (many non-spread teams use zone-blocking schemes anyway, so this need not be a drastic transition) and a superior QB situation (any one of Denard, Tate, or Devin would be functional), would not be equivalent to 2008's situation.


November 1st, 2010 at 11:54 AM ^

Yes Denard, yes maybe some slots, etc. But I think Devin would fit a pro-style, and maybe Tate too.

Mallet left because he thought his best shot at the NFL was in a pro-style offense. Arrington and Mannigham because they saw Sheridan and Threet and spread with no deep ball, and had the opportunity and momentary cache coming off the Florida win to go to the NFL directly.

If you were Devin and Jim Harbaugh came to you and said "I'll make you an NFL QB", or you were any of our wide receivers and you saw return to pro-style / more opportunity to showcase, why would you leave? I mean Jim Harbaugh is standing right there: a guy who played QB for Michigan, played QB in the NFL, was one play away from playing in the superbowl, was an NFL QB coach, and has developed talent at Stanford. Do you take the risk and have to go re-establish yourself somewhere else, or is there enough reason to believe that you stay? Same for the tailbacks, tight ends, etc.


November 1st, 2010 at 11:44 AM ^

I am responding to the insinuation that if we were to go with Harbaugh, there would three years of reverting to the pro-style. I am challenging that assumption. My point is that we have the players to be successful in pro-style, so the real question is whether those players would stay.

So if we assume they all came for Rich, and not to play at Michigan, and they'd all leave that is one thing.

So, if you are a player and are facing a year sitting out, versus the opportunity to continue to play at Michigan, how do you evaluate your options?

1.  Do you believe the new coach and staff will be supported and can be successful?

2.  Do you believe you can compete and get playing time in that system?

3.  Do you think the playing time positions you for the next level?

4.  Is your former coach or assistant going somewhere you'd rather be because you feel you'd be more successful?

5.  Is it worth an extra year?

I think with Jim Harbaugh there are enough reasons to believe, that most of the offensive players he needs would stay. Maybe not Denard, maybe not some of the slots, but most. So Jim would just be facing converting them to the new offensive playbook.

I agree the defense is still young and inexperienced, and no coach will have an immediate fix.

At this point I wonder how many of the players on the team believe that Rich will ever be successful. I think the answer comes in the next two weeks: if they don't play Illinois at least close, and if they roll over and loose to Purdue then Rich has lost them. If that happens, then I submit that we're better off biting the bullet and bringing in new leadership because the team will always have doubts about the current leadership in the back of their heads.


November 1st, 2010 at 3:56 AM ^

Nicely done.   There is some hope,   I was going to do some checking to see how Iowa manages to do so well with a number of relatively slower rated recruits.  For example they have one OT who was a 3 star, now starting for them.  

Reason I bring this up is that it takes some time to bring out the most in a player, which is one reason to give RR another year.  Considering the leap Denard made from last year to this, I expect him to be even better next year.

I am posting at 4am and  I cannot sleep, and I'm watching Holmes on Homes.   I have to be at work in 3 hours and I've gotten 2 hours of sleep. Yay.  Insomnia is a be-atch.

I Blue Myself

November 1st, 2010 at 4:11 AM ^

My guess is that Wisconsin and Iowa's success with recruiting comes down to a combination of two things:

1. Being really good at evaluating talent.

2. That the scouting services systematically underrate the talent in places like Iowa and Wisconsin.  Brian did some interesting work recently on point #2, showing that NFL draft picks came out of the South in much lower numbers than you would think, given the amount of 4 and 5-star talent there.  If someone had some time on their hands in the offseason, I think they could dig deeper and come up with a really interesting diary on that.

I think Rich Rodriguez and his staff are very good at finding underrated talent on offense.  I'm less convinced it's happening on defense, though I guess it's still too early to say.


November 1st, 2010 at 7:01 AM ^

You have a very valid point...look at Rivals data as far back as it goes and compare the recruiting rankings from Iowa and Wisconsin against Michigan.  Player quality at these schools is vastly below what Michigan's typical recruiting class looks like and even further below what OSU gets per Rivals view of talent.

Of course, maybe that is the reason that while Iowa and Wiscy have achieved occasional success, it has not come close to what Michigan and OSU have realized in the W-L column (at least, in our case, until recently).

Still, nothing can take the sting away from last Saturday night.  That was D at its pathetic worst.

Victory Collins

November 1st, 2010 at 8:02 AM ^

should not need 5+ years to succeed.  The reason our defense is bad is because of the youth.  But there is no excuse for having such a young defense (and starting so many true freshmen and position switches) in year THREE. 


November 1st, 2010 at 8:27 AM ^

You do realize that RR has had 2 real recruiting clases...  right?  that means the oldest most experienced guy he brought in (outside of a last ditch effort to fix the class Carr had put together before he split) is now a true sophmore.  Most are redshirt or true freshmen.   Any experience that we would have should have been brought in before RR showed up.  And during that short period and the next class he already had at CB 3 5* and several depth guys.  Not really a "possition of need" until the end of last recruiting cycle where he brought in anythign and everything he could.

And as for the original post, If you already know what our record is going to be next year, please enlighten us so you can save us the time of actually having to watch it.  You seem to make a strong case that we are on the dsame path as those guys but then conclude that we will vere wildly off their improvement arc in year 4. And you give no real reason for this divergence. Just seem very odd to me.  I was really expecting a "don't worry, we will be great next year and here is why" post.


November 1st, 2010 at 8:19 AM ^

Michigan could be good next year:


QB: Robinson (Jr), Forcier (Jr) plus maybe Fr* Gardner

HB: Shaw (Sr)/Smith (Jr), Hart (Fr)

TB: Hopkins (So), Cox (Jr*)

TE: Koger (Sr)

Slot: Roundtree (Jr*), Grady (Jr*), Gallon (So*), and more

Y: Stonum (Sr), Odoms (Sr)

Z: Hemingway (Sr*), Stokes (So*)

LT: Lewan (So*)

LG: Barnum (Jr*)

C: Molk (Sr*)

RG: Omameh (Jr*)

RT: Huyge (Sr*)

We return all but three contributors (Schilling, Webb, and Dorrestein), but Huyge already has as much starts as anyone but Molk, and Webb split time with Koger. Everyone else is a year older. Almost every position has an upperclassman starter with multiple years of experience. Next year's offense will probably be better than this year's.


NT: Martin (Sr)

DT: Van Bergen (Sr*)

DE: Black (So)

SAM: Roh (Jr)

MLB: Demens (Jr*)

WLB: Robinson (So) or Jones (Jr*)

Spur: T.Gordon (So*) or C.Johnson (So)

Bandit: Kovacs (Jr*) or C.Gordon (So*)

Hero: Vinopal (So) or freshman/transfer

CB-wide: Woolfolk (So*),Talbott (So)

CB-short: Floyd (Jr*), Christian (So), Avery (So)

Graduation Losses (in order of difference):

Schilling ---> Barnum: A downgrade, but going from a solid 5th year senior to a solid redshirt junior is the kind of positional turnover you wish you could have.

Sagesse/Patterson ---> Sophomores. Yes, the second-biggest loss next year is the backup nose tackle spot (getting Martin to return is a priority on the level of finding a free safety, maybe more). Since that position subs in a lot, this means almost certain playing time for Q-Wash, Talbott the Elder, or Ash, probably in that order. Washington at least will have the rest of this year plus spring and summer to learn DT. Talbott will probably not be ready for nose by next year, and Ash almost certainly won't be either (he's a boom or bust who I think might grow into RVB's spot or O-line in the future). So as bad as Patterson and Sagesse have been this year, expect the backup nose tackle to be worse. A true freshman (Jernigan) who can play right away would be helpful.

Webb/Koger ---> Koger: A downgrade. Webb has quietly been one of our more important players, as he has become a plus-plus blocker. Koger won't progress so much from his junior to senior year to make up for that, but he will be a bigger passing threat than Webb.

Banks/Sagesse/Black ---> Black and/or Paskorz/Wilkins/Talbott/Ash. A bad senior defensive end makes way for the slight rush end he was platooning with, and a spattering of redshirt freshmen, but the rush end has had extensive playing time this year. This is a small net downgrade, with the potential to be an upgrade.

Dorresten ---> Huyge or Schofield: Probably net no difference. Huyge was a starter this year and last until getting bumped by Lewan, and Dorrestein is the next guy on the line to go. Schofield has been hyped and will be a redshirt sophomore; if he passes the senior Huyge that puts this position at an upgrade.

Mouton ---> Mike Jones or M-Rob: Here we are going from an enigmatic senior who's net average to either a guy who was challenging for the starting job before getting injured, or a sophomore that every big program in the SEC wanted. There's a chance that this is an upgrade next year.

Moundros, Ezeh ---> Furman, Jones. This is another downgrade, but backup MLB isn't the most important position if Demens can stick for all downs. Jones is probably the backup at both LB spots next year, with Furman growing into the role.

Ferrara ---> Already passed on depth chart.

Rogers ---> Woolfolk. HUMONGOUS upgrade. Troy's injury is actually a very very good thing for the 2011 defense, provided he recovers fully. Swapping out the senior Rogers, who is not-good, for a 5th year senior who was our best or second-best player on defense before getting hurt, well, that is very good news. This allows us to play Floyd on the short side where he belongs, and gives us a bona fide Big Ten senior cornerback.


So the question is would you trade Schilling, Webb, Dorrestein, Mouton, Banks, and the backup NTs and MLBs for another year of experience for Denard/Tate, the entire RB corps., Koger, the entire receiving corps., the other three offensive linemen plus all of their young backups? Maybe. Would you trade them for that plus a magic wand that gets Jibreel Black and Craig Roh 40 lbs. heavier, puts another year under (and within) the belts of the young and hyped linebackers, transforms freshman DBs into sophomore corners, and transforms James Rogers into Troy Woolfolk. Um, yes please.

The nice thing about a young defense, as opposed to an Indiana or MAC defense, is that they get a lot better as time progresses. I could easily envision, providing we get some luck in the health department, Michigan being next year's Oregon. The Year 3s from Alvarez and Ferentz were 5-6 and 7-5, respectively. Our team is somewhere between 7-5 and 5-7. I'd say we're right on track.


November 1st, 2010 at 10:08 AM ^

There's a big difference between the May-to-now losses you mentioned, and the guys I have projected to start next year. By this summer, Emilien, Turner and Lalota had generated a total of zero positive practice hype. Neither had Davion Rogers. Kinard and Dorsey never made it campus. Maybe you'd see Emilen or Turner play during Penn State when we were throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks, but why would either of them stick when Cam Gordon was consistently better than both of them in practice. Lalota was the 3rd team DE who never got near a quarterback in either spring game we saw him in, and he was a boom or bust guy, so once he was not booming it was obvious he wasn't going to be better than Banks, Sagesse, or Jibreel. Steve Watson was ahead of LaLota on the depth chart.

Compare those guys with the guys projected to join the starting lineup next year:

  • Rickey Barnum or Rocko Khoury at Guard: Barnum is a high 4-star who has generated a considerable amount of practice hype but is blocked by Omameh and Schilling. He will be a redshirt junior. Khoury we have seen play at center, and though he's not a great snapper, he does fine as an interior blocker.
  • Jibreel Black: Should be redshirting until he gets some more weight, but the true freshman has shown a lot of promise as a rush end in extensive real game time, earning a platoon with Banks. We have seen him play, seen him be a disruptive force against the pass, and there is good reason to think he'll make a better sophomore than freshman.
  • M-Rob or Jones: Jones was challenging Mouton for a starting job until he got injured, and will be an upperclassman. M-Rob, like Turner, was a borderline 5-star recruit, but unlike Turner, has impressed coaches and earned playing time at two different positions this year. Also unlike Turner, M-Rob is growing into his preferred position rather than out of it.
  • Woolfolk. He was the best free safety Michigan has had since Jamar Adams, and Troy is a better cornerback than he is safety. He will be a senior and we have seen him show extensively that he would at least be the starting corner opposite one of the NFL guys like Marlin, Hall and Warren. This will replace James Rogers, who is probably the worst starter on our current defense.

2010's big problem list:

  1. Free safety holy fuck
  2. Cornerback holy fuck
  3. Defensive line behind Martin and RVB holy fuck

2011's big problem list:

  1. Free safety holy fuck
  2. Defensive line behind Martin and RVB holy fuck

If Martin leaves, then next year's defense will be terrible, but probably not as terrible. If he stays, then next year's defense probably will be sub-par, but not lose-to-Penn State walk-on sub-par. With an offense that should be able to generate 40 points consistently, that should be enough to win a lot of games.

Also, the schedule is a bit easier:

WMich - MACrifice. Num num.

ND - Probably on par with '09 Michigan. RR has owned ND, and this will be in Ann Arbor.

EMU - MACrifice 2. Num num.

SD State - Slightly worrisome. They'll have a senior QB and they have good young backs. I still think we can beat Brady Hoke.

Minnesota - Post-Brewster Gophers in Ann Arbor. Not worried.

@Northwestern - Returning Persa, but lose a lot of the O-line. Their bad defenses loses its best players.

@MSU - Probably Dantonio's last year in East Lansing before the SEC comes calling. They lose some guys (like Jones) but senior Cousins plus some recent 5-star guys will grow into starting roles. Both State and Michigan should be 6-0 by then, and I think this game is a 50/50 proposition.

Purdue - Get them at home, and Brimley Two doesn't scare me (despite beating us when he shouldn't have the last two years).

@Iowa - This year is the apex of the Stanzi era. They'll fall back a bit next year as the next generation moves in. Michigan should be able to take advantage of a young defense (finally!)

@Illinois - I dunno. I figured Zook would be gone but his team is playing well enough this year that maybe they'll improve next year. Then again, whenever expectations are up for Illinois, they disappoint.

Nebraksa - At least it's at home, but facing a Pelini defense in the cold is not good.

Ohio State - Same with Tressell and a senior Pryor.

Would you take 9-3 with losses @MSU, and at home to Ohio State and Nebraska? How about 10-2 with a win over one of those three?


November 1st, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

Thank you for a post that has finally given me reason to think things will get better in the future.

I've thought every coach deserves 4 years since the beginning, but this last weekend made me wonder if RR would ever assemble a defense that was merely okayish (I guess the 2008 defense probably was, when not constantly put in terrible positions by the offense or trying to throw together a completely new scheme in one week).  The offense is turning into what we were all hoping for from the second RR was hired, and with an upperclassmen under center for the first time he's been here I think the offense should improve from merely top-10 to challenging Oregon for best in the country.  I don't want to believe the only way to fix the defense is to get rid of the guy that brought us that offense.  And now your post is making me think maybe the defense can improve to "the offense doesn't have to be perfect against good teams, although it just might be anyways".


November 1st, 2010 at 4:09 PM ^

i want to believe this with every fiber of my being, but after the past 4 weeks, looking ahead with optimism is not something i have any strength for.  i will file this under "factual future circumstances" and remain nuetral. 

i think that dropping Indy and Wisc for Minny and NW is a net gain for UM, though.


November 1st, 2010 at 8:45 AM ^

The one problem I see with this is that next year we still have "The Hair" as DC.  Considering that GERG just got lit up by JayPa and a freshman QB my faith in his ability to scheme is limited right now.  Not to mention getting torn up by a DII school.  

Or we're breaking in a new DC.  Hopefully not another new system because scheme changes are murder, but still a new DC is a new DC.  

On defense we'll return a lot of players but we still won't have depth (lots of starting Sophs) and the entire coaching staff is up in the air.  Offense will be better but I have to wonder how much improvement the defense will have due to experience offset by coaching changes.


November 1st, 2010 at 2:55 PM ^

The one problem I see with this is that next year we still have "The Hair" as DC. 

Problem. Major, major problem.

Considering that GERG just got lit up by JayPa and a freshman QB my faith in his ability to scheme is limited right now.  Not to mention getting torn up by a DII school. 

You're a lovely, patient, optimistic and blind person if your faith in Gerg's abilities are only "limited" by now. My faith in gerg never existed, but I'm also a cold, cynical bastard.

Or we're breaking in a new DC.  Hopefully not another new system because scheme changes are murder, but still a new DC is a new DC. 

Not a problem. The opposite of a problem; a solution. And yes, I'm saying this w/o even knowing who the new DC is. Brian Ellerbe, Princess Peach, Rod Blagojevich's mom, the Cookie Monster... anybody is better than gerg. 

I have to wonder how much improvement the defense will have due to experience offset by coaching changes.

Subtracting a negative is not subtraction. The only scenario in which the defense will not improve next year is if The Problem in your equation happens. The only wonder is HOW much the defense improves under his replacement.


November 1st, 2010 at 8:21 AM ^

but they took huge leaps forward in year four, something that it doesn't look like Michigan will be capable of under Rodriguez.

This is clearly false.  19 returning starters and all of these true freshmen getting PT is an absolutely ideal situation for a huge leap forward.


November 1st, 2010 at 10:39 AM ^

I was going to take issue with the same comment.

If anything from reading this post i come away thinking MIchigan is more capable of taking a huge leap in year 4 than Iowa and Wisconsin were.

Or, that is what I am blindly hoping.

Either way, I am a firm believer that a college coach needs 4 years to show what he can do. And last year i came to the conclusion that Rrod deserved 5 years due generally to...

Drastic scheme changes, massive attrition, horribly timed injuries at key positions, just general bad luck and multiple AMHG-inspired events, and the fact that i think you basically can't even count 2008 if you look at what he had to work with that year.

All that being said, the downward-spiraling defense is making it tougher on even the strongest supporters of RR (myself included).


November 1st, 2010 at 8:49 AM ^

Alvarez took over and built a completely nonexistent program from scratch.  Absolutely no comparison whatsoever here with RichRod.  Frerentz took over a program in significantly worse shape than Michigan's, although not nearly as bad as Wisconsin's.  Both coaches showed significant improvement in their teams in their third years which suggested that they might be good someday.  Wisconsin beat Ohio State in 1992 and you absolutely never saw Iowa get the shit kicked out of them in Frerentz's third year by a team as bad as Penn State starting a walk-on quarterback.  We have seen none of that out of Rodriguez.  The team is terrible.  Much, much worse than Iowa's 2001 team.  All progress on offense has been offset by getting worse on defense, which is saying a lot because the defense started off very very poor.  The defense has shown no sign whatsoever of improvement in any of Rodriguez's three seasons -- either from one season to another or within a season.  If you really want a valid comparison for RichRod, compare him to John Blake at Oklahoma or Paul Hackett at USC. 


November 1st, 2010 at 9:34 AM ^

I don't care what their other experiences were.  That's not the point of the diary post.  The point was to compare the horrible three-year records of Frerentz and Alvarez to that of Rodriguez.  It's a bad comparison for the reasons that I stated.  A couple examples out there of guys who have taken over traditional powerhouses in a mediocre state and driven them completely into the ground are Blake and Hackett.  I would add Tyrone Willingham and Mike Dubose in there, but Willingham actually had a winning season his first year and Dubose took Alabama to the BCS in year 3.  But Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan has arguably been worse than all of those guys.  4-16 in the Big Ten is incredibly, incredibly, mind-bogglingly terrible.  It is beyond anything that anyone but a master prevaricator would try to justify.  This is probably a good time to point out that Kirk Frerentz actually won four Big Ten games in his third year. 


November 1st, 2010 at 9:39 AM ^

Hannibal, do you think the defense would be lots better this year had there never been a coaching change, had Carr remained as head coach?  I submit that there would have been a very significant drop off on the defensive side of the ball regardless.  But the offense would never have improved as much as it has under Rodriguez.  All that said, his record in the Big Ten is bad and everyone acknowledges that its not good enough.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

IMO this isn't about hindsightery. It's about what to expect going forward. The game against PSU was more than just a midseason barometer -- it was a blast of ice-water from a bucket in the middle of a deep slumber. Don't forget, we should have lost by 17 (Joe Pa showed more mercy than I expected). It wasn't even close.

The fact is, and we don't know exactly why, but RR has completely failed at this D. I think most coaches could have had better results -- but this is a counterfactual statement, there's no way to prove it. The big question is, what should be done? Not that we are in a position to decide, anyway, but consider...

The absolute travesty that has been our DC the past three years. Shafer comes in, offered the job before even meeting in person. He proceeds to be pigeonholed into an increasingly marginal role, as he is the odd-man-out in the coaching staff's culture. He is teaching one strategy for the D while the position coaches are suiting their players for another. It comes to a head before the Purdue game, which is a travesty, and he is subsequently marginalized and used as a scapegoat.

Incipit GERG. This time, no pussyfooting from RR and co. GERG will implement their strategy. He is micromanaged, a square peg put in a round hole. Again, the odd-man-out. Results are even worse than with Shafer. Will he be the sacrificial lamb again?

I've inferred this narrative from various interviews, other sources of info., and on-field performance. Usually, such consistent crap results are indicative of up-stream dysfunction. And it's not to blame the competence or abilities GERG or anyone, individually -- it's how they work together; that, I believe, is the dysfunction.

My concern is, what should we expect from RR going forward? He seems unable to manage a defensive coaching staff, given the circumstances he inherited, here, in lacking his own DC. And it's been suggested that Brandon come in and tell RR to clean house in the defensive staff -- something I don't think RR will want to do; these are his boys, on the whole. But Brandon can't do that -- it's not a feasible option -- because it will completely undermine Coach Rod's authority. An ultimatum could be issued, ala Zook at Illinois: Make big changes or you're out. But as we've seen in the past, with RR it is his way or the highway -- and I respect that, because if you're going to give a man a coaching job, you have to let him do it his way and let him dig his own grave or build his own temple. I'm just not sure he can overcome his stubbornness to make the needed changes -- in fact, there is plenty of evidence to indicate that he will continue to do things his way even if that means the god-damned plane crashes into the mountain. And if that's the case, the big question is where to draw the line, based on what we should expect going forward in any situation (keep RR or get a new coach, and whom). Just my ten cents.

oc michigan fan

November 1st, 2010 at 9:09 AM ^

The biggest difference between Carr and Fry is that after Fry's letdown 97 season (7-5) he came back for a year of crap ball (3-8), then eh-hem, retired. To compare the two Lloyd would have had the letdown of 07, and follow up with a bad year, which was likely. Rodriguez sort of took that one for the team. Not saying the losses of 08 don't count, or it's not his fault. Just that the situations aren't quite the same. 


November 1st, 2010 at 9:16 AM ^

Both Ferentz and Alvarez struggled greatly through their first three seasons, but they took huge leaps forward in year four, something that it doesn't look like Michigan will be capable of under Rodriguez. (bold & italics added)

Based on what??? I take it, then, that you predicted Ferentz's and Alvarez's fourth years based on their first three?


November 1st, 2010 at 9:36 AM ^

I'd like to see some analysis of Rodriguez's potential in the 4th year.  We all agree that the past 3 losses sucked.  But lets not get crazy - MSU and Iowa are both very good teams and winning in Happy Valley at night is very difficult.  Plus, Michigan has the freaking #2 offense in the nation and Denard!  It can't get much better than that!  Everyone agrees that the defense is bad, so bad that improvement is really only the possible outcome for next year.  But, back to the point, the only statistical evidence you have on Rodriguez is the turnaround he made at WVU and I submit that he's done that exact thing with the offense.


November 1st, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

Pretty crude but here goes. I'd like to note, that I'm not writing the season off yet -- still have 4 games yet to play. But it's easier to see us losing out than winning any. This team has a knack of either falling apart or just coming up short in situations of greatest need.

Consider The Decimated Defense, which had a morose prediciton for this year even before the injuries and attrition. Now, take a look at who we have on the roster to return. These youngin's will have a year of experience and practice under their belts next year, it's true, but the secondary will still be full of underclassmen. Also losing some DL and LB -- whose replacements are less than proven. The D will still not be good. We will get Woolfolk back (probably), which will help, but at the same time it is looking like GERG might be on his way out. The defense could be marginally better, though if there is a change at DC there will be further discontinuity in player development.

Offense should be significantly improved. Not losing any skill players, and the young OL brought in have performed well so we can assume Dorrestein's and Schilling's replacements will perform. But will it be enough to win games against the top teams in the B10? That's the key -- no one expects a 12-0 season but we should at least be able to hang with the big boys after 4 years of RR's regime.


November 1st, 2010 at 9:54 AM ^

If you look at conference record, in Years 2 and 3 Alvarez is 5-6.  That means Wisconsin went from cellar dweller to middle of the pack.  Ferentz is 7-5 on year three after two crappy poor years.  Then they both have a breakout following a near .500 performance (Wisc being -1 off .500 and Ferentz being +1 off .500).

Last year the only B10 team we managed to beat was Indiana.  This year the only Big10 team we managed to beat was Indiana.  We better beat Purdue who is decimated due to injury (although I recall saying the same thing about PSU on Friday and that went poorly).  Then we look at Ill, Wisc and tOSU and figure we're losing 2 of those.  So that means we have a 3 win Big 10 season.  Or if we get lucky and win 2 out of Ill, Wisc and tOSU we have a 4 win B10 season.  

It would take an upset to get us to 4 B10 wins in year three.  Whereas in Year 3 Ferentz had a winning record and Alvarez had taken Wisconsin from "suck" to "mediocre."  Our year 3 B10 record will likely reflect suck and we'll be in the lower half of the B10 standings.

Basically both Alvarez and Ferentz had started to show proof their systems could provide B10 wins in Year 3.  We have one shootout win over Indiana (who is fighting with Purdue and Minn over being the worst team in the B10).  Right now we're trying to figure out if we want to fire GERG over the PSU debacle not looking at the orderly progression of a system.

steve sharik

November 1st, 2010 at 10:28 AM ^

As others have noted, it was different trying to recruit to Iowa and Wisconsin at that time then it was to recruit at Michigan with 40 straight years of bowl games and several BCS games.

I'll do a little research, but I'm thinking Miami post-Erickson with Butch Davis might be the best comparison.  Take a national contender and rebuild it in your mould.


November 1st, 2010 at 10:36 AM ^

'09 - we take Sparty to overtime and lose to the Hawkeyes 30-28.  Both games away.

'10 - we lose to MSU 34-17 and to Iowa 38-28, both in Ann Arbor.

This is regression, not progress gentlemen



November 1st, 2010 at 10:45 AM ^

You know, I can cherry pick stats as well:

In 2009, UM lost to PSU 35-10 at home.  In 2010, UM lost to PSU 41-31 on the road, at night.

In 2009, UM beat Indiana by 3 at home.  In 2010, UM beat IU on the road by 7. 

In 2009, MSU was a 6-7 team with no identity.  In 2010, they were the #5 BCS team.

In 2009, the UM offense finished #59th in the country.  In 2010, the offense is currenty ranked #4.

My point is that this team is making strides, but they are slow and incremental.  The defense needs to play better, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.