The "Offensive" Argument for Keeping Rich Rodriguez

Submitted by M16 on November 1st, 2010 at 11:33 AM

I'm creating this diary to dispel some of the myths that people are trying to believe in hopes of keeping Coach Rodriguez around. If you support keeping him, that is fine, I respect your opinion, but after a careful viewing of the Penn State debacle, my personal opinion is that this team needs to head in a different direction if it can get the right coach. 


The Offensive Argument

The theory holds that Rich Rodriguez has come into Michigan and in three years has built an offensive juggernaut that rivals the likes of Oregon or Boise State in terms of scoring offense. On defense he has had some bad luck with attrition and injuries, but that if we give him the necessary time and let him build a defense that is even remotely capable, he will have an unstoppable team given how great the offense is. There are two glaring flaws with this argument. 


Flaw #1: The Offense is Not THAT Good

Our offensive production has been overhyped on this blog by an obsession with one statistic: Yards Per Game. Right now, I believe we are ranked #4 in the country in YPG. On this statistic alone rests the entire "offensive" argument. The vital fact that is being forgotten is that in any sport, you cannot gauge a team, or even its offense, on one statistic alone. Take for example, Michigan's ranking in the following statistical categories:

Points per game: 20th

Time of Possession: 92nd

Third Down Conversions: 61st

Red Zone Efficiency: 51st

These statistics were not cherry-picked from a group of low ranking stats. Instead, I chose four random stats that I feel are extremely important in terms of offensive performance. In light of these statistics, it is clear that our offense is not some unstoppable force. It is good. But it isn't the "we score like our hair is on fire every time we touch the ball" machine that some on this board make it out to be. Not even close. 


Flaw #2: The Lack of Hope of Defensive Improvement

This one baffles me. The next part of the argument goes that if we give Rich Rodriguez time, he will build a competent defense to match our amazing offense (see Flaw #1 on that point). However, I wonder what gives people the inclination that he will do this. There seems to be no basis for believing that he is the type of coach that will do this. It is clear that he puts very little emphasis on defense, he has recruited bad apples time and time again on that side of the ball, either players who leave the program or don't end up being good anyway. They have not developed the talent that they have had and mediocre players have decided to try for the NFL instead of staying, even though there was a chance they'd go un-drafted) and did. 

The track record says that there is no likely foreseeable scenario where Rich Rodriguez builds a suitable defense to match up in the Big Ten. 



Perhaps you draw a different conclusion from these facts. My conclusion is that the University of Michigan football program needs to go in a different direction. After three years, a good offense and an atrocious defense just aren't good enough, especially with no expected improvement within the next two years. The record against almost all opponents is terrible and the program has literally become irrelevant.  

Starting over and bringing in someone else (perhaps someone closer to the program) is the much better long term solution.



November 1st, 2010 at 11:46 AM ^

Time of possession isn't fair as a comparison for our offense against others. That's an entire team metric, and our defense is allowing opposing teams to go on 5 or 6 minute drives consistently.

People believe the defense will get better because everyone is so young. Experience helps, and most of our defense has very little of that.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:13 PM ^

I think the biggest leap you will often see from college football players is from their Freshman to Sophomore seasons.  We have seen a lot of examples on the Offensive side of the ball here, so maybe the same can hold true on defensive.  The great unknown is just how talented our young defensive players are...I think that is difficult to gauge when discussing freshmen.  The good news is we should know what he have in about 49 weeks.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:22 PM ^

Lamar Woodley as a junior: 7 sacks, Lamar Woodley as a senior: 12 sacks

David Harris as a junior: 6 TFL, David Harris as a senior: 16 TFL (and 103 tackles overall)

Shawn Crable as a junior: 10.5 TFL, Shawn Crable as a senior: 28.5 TFL

To act like players don't get better with age (and none of these guys were freshmen/sophomores) shows a complete ignorance about the game of football and our own recent history playing the game.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:03 PM ^

Is the current coaching staff capable of recruiting, retaining, and developing defnesive talent. i.e., if they recruit and retain good defensive talent, can they actually coach them in a way to develop the YTY leaps we are talking about. The line and linebacking coaching staff of the past regime was able to. (Defensive backs were still a debatable issue.) Can the current staff?

While were at it, we need to expand the scope to include special teams: they have been a disaster for three years.

I think the offense has improved, and for that reason I would consider retaining Rich if I were David Brandon. But clearly we cannot win against strong teams without a defense that can make stops. Something has to be done about defensive and special teams recruiting and coaching, and if Rich can't bring himself to focus fully on doing something about it, then maybe David Brandon does need to let him go.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:21 PM ^

2008 and 2009 were the years of "catch the damned ball". Now that all place kickers brought in and developed by the former coaching staff are gone we routinely go for it on 4th down because we have no faith in our ability to make a field goal (collective 3 of 9), and our coach openly jokes about it. Then there are the kick-offs going out the side line, etc.

We've managed to catch the damned ball more consitantly, but that is it ...


November 1st, 2010 at 11:50 AM ^

I don't know about rivaling Boise State or Oregon...


But we're number 1 in total offense in the Big 10 and 2nd in scoring offense.

That ain't so bad.

EDIT: Sorry, we're number 3 in scoring offense in the Big 10.  Still...

Mitch Cumstein

November 1st, 2010 at 12:08 PM ^

not great (as number 3 in the b10 suggests).  Which is fine, unless you plan on fielding the worst defense in history of the conference (which we do).  In which case, a 3rd best scoring offense probably won't cut it (its not cutting it, look at our conference record).


November 1st, 2010 at 12:29 PM ^

We planned on having the worst defense in the history of the conference.  That fucking GERG is diabolical like that.  It has nothing to do with having one healthy upperclassmen on the entire roster in the secondary whose name is James Rogers. 

Rodriguez has had two full recruiting classes.  Those guys can't magically become juniors/seniors through time travel or any other fantastical means. 

If you don't realize why this defense sucks (complete lack of experienced talent) then you are dumb.  If you don't realize they will get better (nobody in the history of football has ever peaked in their freshman season) then you are dumb. 

I know it is hard to believe that a coach can't waive his wand and turn a crappy roster into a competent defense.  However, it is reality.


November 1st, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

Michigan is never irrelevant first of all.  If that were the case, we wouldn't get press every week, no matter which team we play.  And the whole practice debacle wouldn't have been such huge news.

How can you NOT expect the defense to get better.  It cannot get worse.  It's not a remarkable coincidence that with age comes experience.  This is true for nearly any aspect of life.  The defense will improve simply because they will have more time to practice, study film, and work on fundamentals.  Besides that, another post showed that RR HAS built good defenses at WVU.

I wish people would just settle down and quit calling for RR's head.  The alternative is a disaster (e.g., Notre Dame).  Michigan will win a couple more games this year, make a bowl, and people will smile.  Besides, we've all talked about "what did you expect coming into the year?" and not many people expected a 1 or 2 loss season.

Had Michigan won on Saturday there would be no "Fire RR" posts because "now we're back on track and everyone can go back to slapping everyones asses."

Unless you're part of the program (and I doubt you are) be a TRUE FAN and stick by your team instead of looking for people to blame. 

Smile and enjoy the games.


November 1st, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

especially with no expected improvement within the next two years.

I know of no one who is making that prediction.  I don't see any sort of objective evidence supporting your contention whatever.  In fact, given the documented improvement that players make as they mature and gain experience, the objective evidence points in exactly the opposite direction.

I find your thesis to be less than compelling.


November 1st, 2010 at 11:53 AM ^

I just don't see the greener pastures theory working out. Ask ND how well it is working out for them. Under no circumstances should a coach be fired before graduating a senior class and a strong argument could be made that he is still two years away from doing so.

Obviously the defense is pretty bad but this was expected coming in. Taking a flyer on Demar Dorsey was certainly worth a shot in my opinion. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Not having Mike Martin healthy for the past two weeks has certainly not helped matters either. With the losses we have had on that side of the ball I don't know how any sane and reasonable human being could expect anything more than what we are getting.

On offense you have to be delusional. If you are not happy with the offensive production then I feel bad for you because you will never be satisfied. You do realize your stats do not support your theory. We are 92nd in TOP and 4th in the nation on offense. Let me know where the other offenses rank that are 90 and 91?


November 1st, 2010 at 12:38 PM ^

You make some good points here, but they are undermined by this assertion:

Under no circumstances should a coach be fired before graduating a senior class

Do you reallly believe this? I'm not talking about only in terms of Rodriguez--you're asserting that every coach no matter how his team performs automatically gets four or even five years? Sorry, but that's just not the way the real world works.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

Yes I do believe this. Without allowing a senior class to graduate I feel there is not enough evidence to support an extension or a firing at this point. This is even more true when there is a new system implemented as the head coach has not had the time to get his guys in place in a shorter time frame.

As far as how the real world works you are correct, more often then not society wants instant gratification without the growing pains of heading in a new direction. Fortunately for Michigan we have a smart AD who will not give into society's pressures.

I do understand why many want RR gone but what you want is not what is best for the program no matter how well your intentions are. Stay the course, it will be worth it sooner than later I promise you that. Blow it up now and you will be calling for a different coaches head in three years.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

My guess is that Brandon would disagree with you and could come up with all kinds of scenarios in which a coach is not automatically given four or five years. CEOs cannot operate with that kind of black-and-white thinking.

By the way, I'm not calling for Rodriguez's head. I want to see what happens over the next four games. I think the key criterion is what Brandon himself mentioned a while ago: Is the program making progress? Right now, my answer to that question would be no. That's just my opinion, and it could change by late in the afternoon of November 27 (and frankly I hope it does).


November 1st, 2010 at 11:59 AM ^

First. your random stats are great indicators of a good offense. But I'll see your good offensive stats and raise you some

1st Downs: 27th

Receiving Yards: 22nd

Rushing Yards: 9th

Scoring Offense: 18th

Passing Efficiency: 19th

4th down converison %: 19th

And your stats (as regarded to a simliar high-powered successful O)

TOP Michigan 92

         Oregon 114

 Red Zone Efficiency (as per

Michigan 44th

Oregon   24th


Feel like your argument on stats has some flaws my friend, dont forget that the red zone issue has as much to do with our kicking game as our scoring ability. Just because you can find a few negative statistics on our offense does nothing to diminsh the fact that this offense is absolutely lethal when firing on all cylinders and executing

Communist Football

November 1st, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

plus, TOP is totally irrelevant.  Our TOP is low because we have a big play offense and our D doesn't get off the field.

I think this post sums up the lack of perspective of the anti-RR side -- if you can't be impressed by what we're doing on offense, I feel sorry for you.  Denard just broke the single-season Big Ten QB rushing record -- with four games to go.  He may end up as the first quarterback in NCAA history to lead the nation in rushing yards.  How can you call this offense unimpressive?

I get the frustrations about the defense -- but knocking the offense is nonsensical.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:46 PM ^

To good?
<br>Decent=above average
<br>There are 120 teams so 60 is average. The top 10% is top 12.. I never knew that the top 20% of something was so plain. I guess Michigan academics are just decent since most of our classes are filled with top 20% kids! We only accept the best top 1%! After all we are the leaders and the best.


November 2nd, 2010 at 2:08 AM ^

So im supposed to believe that, given all the stats available, the ones you apparently vomited on the page are the ones that are important?

3rd down effciency: yes, Id like it to be higher, who wouldnt  but, based on our 4th down efficiency somewhat negates the impact of the stat.

Red Zone eff. Apparently someone hasn't been watching... we don't kick anything but extra points. So all those times that we should have been kicking, and picked up points (and thus increased our RZ eff) we don't. Because its more productive statistically for this team to take a shot on 4th to either get the 1st or score. (See statistics above)

TOP. Useless stat with a designed fast-paced offense. (see Oregon).

Now, you know what wins ball games? Points. Having more of them than the other team. So, if you told me that a team is top 25 (top 20%) in running and receiving on the way to those points, not to mention 27th in actually scoring said points (which, again, is skewed low by non-fieldgoals) Id say thats a heck of an offense. 

Dont get lost in the details of stats, they only are as important as the team that puts them up. This team runs a hurry up offense, we make no qualms about trying to hold onto the football. And, if our D could force some 3 and outs, im guessing our TOP would be extremely higher. 


November 1st, 2010 at 11:55 AM ^

And seriously who gives a shit about TOP did you see Oregon vs USC?
<br>So we are 20th in scoring offense and only 60th in red zone.. Wow I'm sure that has nothing to do with a sophomore signal caller in his 8th start ever.
<br>Nah! Pitchforks!!
<br>(seriously if you dont acknowledge that the offense is good you're an idiot and anything you say afterwards is moot)


November 1st, 2010 at 11:57 AM ^

In defense of our offfense -- They never get a short field.  And by "never" I don't mean "seldom".  I mean "never".  The relatively low point total is a result of terrible special teams and abysmal defense. 

Does anyone know the last time that our defense gave the ball to our offense on the positive side of the field?  The answer -- the Notre Dame game.  The offense is tasked with overcoming a mind-boggling level of ineptitude by the other units.

NOLA Wolverine

November 1st, 2010 at 11:58 AM ^

Rich Rodriguez's offense at the conclusion of Pat White's first year as a starter:

Rich Rodriguez's offense at the conclusion of Pat White's third year as a starter:

I don't know how to embed. Regardless, it doesn't take any film study skills to see the evolution that offense went through. Everyone here has talked about how we will improve from year to year based on some sort of statistical normal they can find, and I've disputed a few. This is the first time there is a real chance for growth on this team, we are returning defenders, and more importantly Denard Robinson as QB. I want Rich here because I want to see this offense evolve.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:00 PM ^

if you thought they were important. Besides that, how about Oregon? How does their TOP stat look? The stats also do not take into account a sophomore starting QB with no prior starting experience prior to the season. It's not like he is doing this with a ton of experience in the backfield. The hope is that Dee Hart is the answer to the RB position. If he is, that makes our rushing offense much more lethal. Pair that with Denard making more progress in the pass game and you have an offense that is borderline unstoppable. If you want to say our offense isn't THAT good, that's fine because it is somewhat true in terms of scoring. The deal is, though, that our offense doesn't get a ton of possessions because of the defense not getting off the field. If Royster get's stopped on that 4th and 1 like he should have and we go score, that's a 14 point swing.

As for the defense: Yes it is terrible. If you throw in Warren and Woolfolk, however, they likely become much better. It takes the pressure of a bunch of frehamn and sophmores and creates a totally different mindset. If you can put them both in man coverage one on one then you have the opportunity to bring more pressure. Without decent corners you have very little flexibility and are forced to sit back instead of trying to make things happen. People generally think the defense will get better because there is barely any game experience outside of Martin, Van Bergan and Mouton. Roh had a year and Kovacs had a year. Other than that, you have T and C Gordan who have had none and C Gordan has had like 3 months of experience on defense as a whole. We all know about the corners past Floyd. Vinopal is a true freshman. I don't really see how someone can't see that as the main culprit behind the defensive struggles and be able to see an opportunity to improve.

I am on the fence in terms of RR. I think Gerg has to go. I didn't think that a week ago, but coming off a bye week against Sheridan, he had nothing. We should have been able to somewhat stop that team. If for no other reason I think RR has to get rid of his solely to show that he is making an effort to do something.



November 1st, 2010 at 12:29 PM ^

Our offense gets as many possessions as the other guys do...they just manage to score more points.  Then again, we have given up the ball on turnovers a fair number of times since MSU.

Then there is the excellent special teams play.  How many more years will that take to develop?


November 1st, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

look at the field position. Our offense NEVER get's a short field. So, say we start at the 25 and get stopped. Ok, so Hagerup bombs one back to their 25. Our defense then does something terrific and only allows them to midfield. They then get a decent punt off and we are at our own 15. The bottom line is that if we don't score, our offense get's screwed if the defense eventually get's a stop. My point was that we don't get a lot of possessions due to stops. It's because other teams score. If they don't score, they get around midfield and leave us shit for field position. Of course, kick off returners kicking it out at the 2 don't help this either.


November 1st, 2010 at 1:07 PM ^

Are a function of overall team depth, which we are still developing.  As our depth gets better, our special teams will get better. 

As of right now, we cannot afford to lose key players on defense to injuries on special teams plays.  Guys who should be redshirting are playing on special teams.  That's a problem.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:02 PM ^

you saying there will be no improvment on defense over the next 2 years is way off. We have 8-10 true freshmen and 4-5 redshirt freshmen playing! To me this IS the low point of the defense. I truley want RR back for one more year to see if this young defense can make the some jump our young offense did over the last 2 years. I think that is fair and if the defense is still this bad next year then I'm 100% on firing RR after next season.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

1.  Why is time-of-possession important?  I think you can make an argument about PPG being more important than YPG; we're average in the red-zone b/c we have problems with turnovers and kicking.  It's not a big secret that we have left points in the red-zone the last few games.

2.  I'm not sure that you can say that Rodriguez has ignored the defense; last year's class had many defensive players.  I'm not sure what to say about the "bad apple" argument.  Most of the players who would have been seniors or redshirt juniors this year on defense were recruited by Carr.  Maybe Rodriguez could have done a better job of kissing some ass and trying to get some of these players to stay (doesn't seem like his style though), but your argument that Rodriguez can't recruit defensive players who will stay with the program and contribute doesn't hold weight.

You're entitled to your opinion, but I'm not sure you can use the Penn State game as the breaking point; everybody knew this team was flawed in the off-season.  The problems we saw against Penn State are problems we have had all year.  I'm not sure what more you could have expected out of him at this point.  The defense is what it is; we need our young guys to get stronger and faster (you know, the type of thing you would expect a player to work on in their underclassmen years).


November 1st, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^


Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished.


A coaching change won't bring us any closer to the great affairs we seek!


November 1st, 2010 at 12:09 PM ^

Michigan's defense is skewing the offensive stats because they can't get off the field and get the offense back on.  This is resulting in less possessions for Michigan and more pressure to score.

I think the worst part about this season is that MSU picked a really bad year to actually be as good as their media sycophants say they are.  They are having their best season since Nick Saban was there.  A 6-2 Michigan team with losses sandwiched around a win over Same Old Sparty wouldn't be taking nearly as much shit from its so-called "fans" as a 5-3 team with three straight losses is.

Sadly, it now looks as though the fignting Zooks have picked a bad year to suddenly become a decent team again, too.  A game that appeared at the beginning of the season to be an auto-win is now a game that could easily be a loss.  I hope a lot of teachable moments from PSU become turning points for individual players on defense. 

I'll bet nobody in the locker room is throwing in the towel, though.  It would be nice if "fans" didn't, either.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

It is clear that he puts very little emphasis on defense, he has recruited bad apples time and time again on that side of the ball, either players who leave the program or don't end up being good anyway.

Wow, is that one very bad piece of creative writting. DId you get this nugget from listening to Valenti on 97.1?? RR is responsible for the 1st and 2nd year players.  He is partially responsible for some of the 3rd year guys, but at the point he came in he grabbed what he could, which admittedly wasn't much. Just looking at the DBs..

BooBoo? Carr JT Turner? Carr Warren? Carr Chambers? Carr Williams? Carr B Smith? Carr

So that leaves: Vlad..  A great kid that seemingly never recovered from his knee injury.

This topic has been covered and covered...  the D attrition is not mostly on RR. I am not going to blame his predesesor, as this stuff happens when dealing with 17-18 year olds.  It is just very unfortunate that it seemed to happen all at once.  But rather than cry about it fix it. Bring in more guys that can play (check), play them (check) and coach them to play better (TBD).



November 1st, 2010 at 12:19 PM ^

Turner was a RS Freshman this year. That means he is under RR. BooBoo, and B Smith had no development under Carr. That means that their failure is on RR in my eyes.

If you want to put Warren, Chambers, and Williams on Carr, fine, but at this point, RR has way more guys on this team that he has recruited that aren't showing improvement than those that were recruited by Carr.