An Open Letter to the Michigan Faithful (and Unfaithful): The Psyche of a Fanbase

Submitted by bouje on November 1st, 2009 at 9:54 PM
I had a lot to think about on my way back from Minnesota after our loss yesterday.  I decided to stop by MGoBlog to see the carnage and I was very happy to see Brian's ban on posts from "less trusted users".  I decided to check out some of the posts to see what the general mood was and was surprised to see some of the reactions by some of the "trusted users" who were calling for RRs head. 

I also think that my post is complimentary to Jamiemac's incredible post (, but I had already finished my post, so I figured I'd throw it up anyways.

Preseason Expectations 
Looking back on the preseasons expectations thread (…), the consensus was that most would be happy with Rich Rodriguez and the shape of our program if we were bowl eligible at the end of the season.  This would have shown significant improvement over last year's debacle and it seemed as though this would enough to keep the masses happy.

Early Season Elation

After our first 4 games starting at a surprising 4-0 many adjusted their expectations skyward even though 2 of the games were close against mediocre competition (ND who barely wins every game and Indiana who is 4-5 (1-4 Big Ten play) and with Tate playing with fire-but somehow not getting burned-on many plays.  His "guts" and "moxie" proved to be too much for every team and he seemed to have that "it" factor that many of us thought that we lacked.  I think that the extremely lofty expectations especially by the ESPN hype machine only helped inflate our egos even more that "Michigan was back!"

Mid-Season Deflation

Teams had more data points against our team and could key in on our weaknesses.  They knew what to expect from our freshmen as they weren't unproven commodities anymore.  I think that it is always easier for first year players to play well in the beginning of the year for two key reasons. Not only do expectations start to get the better of them after the early season honeymoon, but opposing coordinators can now plan against these youngsters and their lack of versatility and game experience.  Note that it seems as though the season has taken its toll on Tate as he appears banged up. 

Some have said that our offensive line has lost a lot since Molk has been sidelined with the injury.  I would have to agree with them-his injury has really set back our offense and our team as a whole.  I think that it is no surprise that our team has slid in his absence. 

As far as the Illinois game goes...yes, Illinois is not a very good team this yea.  But who thought that their team would be this bad?  No one.  This was a sleeping team that needed one play to really get its confidence.  The goal-line stand was that one play. 

It's not like Juice Williams is a bad player, or that Illinois has no weapons.  Some at the beginning of the season were saying that Benn and Williams were the best tag team in the league and that Illinois would have one of the best offenses in the Big Ten.  How they fell this far... well, I really have no idea.  I haven't paid enough attention to their team.  Illinois blogs lack the flair of our humble home. And if these past few weeks in the conference have taught us anything, it's that anyone can beat anyone in the Big Ten. Think Purdue beating OSU and then a few weeks later Purdue getting curb stomped by Wisconsin.  The game would not have gone nearly as poorly (and, dare I say, we would have won easily) if we had scored on that goal-line series, or if Roy Roundtree were a few steps faster. 

But as they say shoulda, coulda woulda.  Someone even said that this was one of the worst losses by a Michigan team ever-and all that I can say to that is you must have a very short memory.  Off the top of my head Oregon I, Iowa (same year as Oregon I), Oregon II, App State.


We are a young team that is prone to wild swings in play.  To give up on coach Rod, our team, his system at this juncture is, in my opinion, ridiculous and short-sighted.  I'm not saying that you cannot question the man and his play calling, because I would have liked to have seen a QB sneak on that goal-line series but anyone saying that I-Form was not the correct formation to run there is treading on shaky logical ground. 

Signs of Progress 

This team has made great strides in tackling, the offense has looked infinitely better than last year, the defense is showing signs of life, and when we can hang onto the ball in special teams, it's one of the most exciting units we've had in a long time.  When was the last time we blocked a punt, or returned a TD on special teams? 

Some people were even saying that our team cannot make half-time adjustments and again how quickly they must forget the beginning of the year where we made great adjustments at half time (particularly on the defensive side of the ball). 

Other Musings

There were several generic comments that I wanted to call out-but here are 2 of many after the game that I wanted to call out that should NEVER be uttered by a supposed Michigan fan:

1.  "Dick Rod" - This is your coach, this is what buckeyes, WV fans who are butt hurt, people who hate him call him.  This should not even be in your vocabulary.
2.  "He'll probably cry in the press conference because he knows he f'ed up the best job that he'll ever have"-no comment needed

These comments are getting out of control.  Question the man's play calling, his coaching, or his decision making but it is NEVER acceptable to personally attack coaches or players.  Grow up. 

Finally, Rich Rodriguez is a good coach.  Anyone saying "this isn't the Big Least this pussy type of offense will never work here he is in over his head" has apparently never seen the progression of coaches throughout college football.  Urban Meyer was from Utah (not even a BCS conference... and I wouldn't say that he is over his head) Jim Tressel was from Youngstown State (Not even a FCS school).  So to say that "this isn't the Big Least" is the most ridiculous thing to say and makes you look like an idiot (especially when the Big East looks like a better conference this year than the Big Ten).  He has a great pedigree, great resume and there is absolutely no one that we could get that would be a better coach for any team.  If we fired him he would be snatched up before we could even find another coach. 

There is nothing that this team and program needs more than continuity.  We need to recruit our asses off (especially on defense).  If you think that we will be able to recruit at all if RR would be fired, think how much negativity would surround our program.  Opposing teams wouldn't even have to negatively recruit against us.  With 70% of the team as underclassmen it is unfair to not give him time until they mature. 

In summary, let's keep in mind the big picture.  RR isn't the anti-Christ, this program needs continuity or else we will suffer the fates of other teams that changed coaches frequently and never really found their footing for years (see ND).  He didn't forget how to coach, turnovers were never an incredible problem under RR at WV, so what is the problem here?

I don't really know but I have the confidence in RR to know that he will sort it out.

I personally think that it speaks to the depths of the decline that our program had fallen to in the past few years.  If or when a normal amount of players on the team are upperclassmen and we have these types of seasons, by all means I'll think that enough is enough.  But right now, I think that the team needs and deserves our support now more than ever. 

Go Blue, Always!




November 1st, 2009 at 10:15 PM ^

So every coach moving to a more prestigious job or moving up a level is always as successful as they were at the less-prestigious or lower-level job?

Ever hear of the Peter Principle?


November 2nd, 2009 at 7:04 PM ^

EVERY coach who takes on a bigger job was doing a good job at his previous job. Or why would they be a candidate? For every Urban Meyer, there's a John L. Smith who was doing wonders at Louisville, and crashed and burned. I could come up with far more fail examples than successes, so could you.

Not saying Rich falls in the latter category at all. Just saying the meme that someone succeeding at a program before doesn't mean they will be good at every level and situation. It's not a valid defense.


November 1st, 2009 at 10:20 PM ^

Again, the level headed comments are greatly appreciated. I cannot stress enough how revolting it is for a fair amount of us to have already forgotten our expectations for the season. We will be bowl bound. That is a HUGE improvement from last year. RR is doing a good job in a tough situation. We have a lot to look forward to.


November 2nd, 2009 at 7:06 PM ^

If we're not, does that mean then you'll be disappointed?

In any regard, the OP point that we all thought that we would be 7-5ish doesn't mean we all said we'd be HAPPY with it, or even really thought we'd SHOULD be 7-5. Just looking at what was likely, not what we'd be happy with.

Kevin Holtsberry

November 1st, 2009 at 10:24 PM ^

If you have intelligent football criticisms or complaints, fine. But name calling and venting doesn't help and vulgarity and stupidity just reflect poorly on the person making the comments.

If you aren't upset by this loss you are not a football fan. Saying this team is about where we thought they would be is not that helpful right now. They just got absolutely shellacked by a heretofor very bad football team.

But fans want to know what is wrong and how it is going to get better. That is what I want to know.

And I think the continuity is critical. Constantly changing coaches is a recipe for disaster.

los barcos

November 1st, 2009 at 10:39 PM ^

maybe the team is where we thought they would be before the season, however, its not blasphemous if expectations changed throughout the course of the year. expectations are malleable.

im sure iowa fans didnt think they would have won as many games as they have, yet, if they were to lose out im sure those fans would be disappointed, even though they might of still finished beyond their expectations.

the point is, we were 4-0 and have basically lost every game since against real competition. we're tied for last in the big ten, with a tiebreaker keeping us from the cellar. a bowl game, at this point, is not guaranteed. and, perhaps worst of all, we seem to be slipping, as we've played our 2 worst games back to back.

at the start of the year we also expected to improve each week, which, IMO we havent done.


November 1st, 2009 at 10:42 PM ^

I'm basically behind Rodriguez as well, but one thing that bothers me is the way he reacts on the sidelines. I think he looks at times like he is letting his emotions get the best of him, and that can't help the players keep their composure.

I would have liked to have seen him, yesterday, after the goal line stand, look more like he was working to fire up his players then like he was as pissed as the fanbase.

The o-line play is also a disappointment. I know Molk is huge, but there is experience there and they didn't provide Forcier with protection on a number of big plays yesterday. I think the linebackers coach and o-line have the most to answer for at this point.


November 1st, 2009 at 10:50 PM ^

Coach Frey is one of the best coaches. We really do not have that much experience along the offensive line. Do you remember last year. We had NO ONE. Sure they are all pretty much 2nd year starters but as far as long term experience goes Schilling is the only multi-year starter on the line.

Arizona Blue

November 1st, 2009 at 11:18 PM ^

When things go wrong Rich Rod looks like the biggest ass hole in the entire world. The expression on his face always says the same thing. it says, "Why the fuck can you not run my offense. I am a fucking offensive genius and you kids are fucking this up for me"

A Case of Blue

November 2nd, 2009 at 2:40 AM ^

Carr was more or less a stoic guy on the sidelines. Rodriguez isn't - you can tell he puts his heart and soul into the thing - and I think not everyone is used to it.

That's the simple version of it, anyhow. I think it has a little bit to do with class, too, but I won't go into that.


November 1st, 2009 at 10:48 PM ^

Why wouldn't we be able to recruit if RR were fired? It's not like we would get a terrible coach who no one would want to play for. We're still Michigan. ND sucked for a lot longer than 2 years and they had Charlie Freaking Weis and still got top 10-15 recruit classes. I do agree with you on the rest though.

West Texas Blue

November 1st, 2009 at 10:52 PM ^

Feel free to provide examples of coaches with excellent resumes who would come to Michigan after the program fired its coach after 2 years and didn't even let him bring in 2 of his own recruiting classes. Did I mention negative recruiting? Other teams would have years of negative recruiting ammo to use against us if we eliminated Rod after 2 years.


November 2nd, 2009 at 4:15 PM ^

It may be despite our current win-loss record or because of our win-loss record, but we are still in the hunt for some pretty good 4 star defensive talent. There are two kids that are commits to other schools that are taking visits for the OSU game as well as some that have yet to commit. Talented high school athletes are looking at this program as a place where they could get early playing time and potentially significant playing time.
Remember that these guys are student-athletes, and although we may have hit a rough patch on the athletic side of things, there are very few places that can compete with the University of Michigan academically. Kids that can't make it through the clearinghouse don't care much about that, but many, many others do.
I'm not saying that it is going to happen, but I would imagine one win against a team from Columbus this year would make our season (and put us in a bowl game). All would be forgiven


November 1st, 2009 at 10:52 PM ^


I think the focus toward intelligent discussion is good. Much like JamieMac's needs to be said. There are times when all of us allow our desire for program success to overwhelm our common sense (like after hugely sucking losses, imho). At those times, or when drinking too much thereafter, it is not a good time to post.

Thanks for supporting some rational thinking.

Best wishes


November 1st, 2009 at 11:25 PM ^

I like the level headed "let's keep our cool for now" part of it. I, like you think that we as M fans can say some things that probably should not be said. When I am mad like I was yesterday I tend to say things that I don't mean (don't believe me just ask my wife). Things are going to be said about RR until he gets the team back. probably will still be some haters out the after we win 11 games but whatever.


November 2nd, 2009 at 11:14 PM ^

and even so, early in the season it looked like they couldn't get out of their own way, particularly against Boise State (who might actually be good) and Purdue (who most definitely is not). Hell, if Purdue actually recognized that it's legal for the quarterback to run the ball, they probably would have won at Autzen.

Sometimes even great teams have terrible games; doesn't make it suck any less when it happens, but it still happens. (And as an Ann Arbor native and Purdue grad, my God did Saturday suck.)

I believe that RR will bring success to Michigan. I wish it would get here faster, but coming into the season, there were simply too many question marks to expect it now. A lower-tier bowl sucks (and there will be one: I refuse to believe Michigan will lose at home to Purdue, the Boilers are a turnover machine, have no ability to throw deep, struggle to tackle on defense and special teams, and have trouble fielding kicks), but it's better than no bowl, and next year's bowl will be better than this one.

and for what it's worth, Youngstown State is an FCS school. Missouri Valley, to be precise. The I-AA title Sweatervest won there was in their first season in the MVC (they were a I-AA independent for years before that).


November 1st, 2009 at 11:43 PM ^

Rich Rod or the fans? He is as frustrated or moreso than any fan could be.

Why? Because he sees what happens in practice. He sees what goes on in meetings and film study. He knows these kids ahellava lot better than any of us do. He sees their potential and the positive strides they have made since he first saw them in pads.

No one wants Michigan to succeed more than RR. Granted, he has a more vested interest, this is his livelihood, but he is a competitor and obviously he cares about these kids.

Let the man do his job, he certainly is a better judge of how make this team successful than anyone on this blog.


November 1st, 2009 at 11:48 PM ^

We just have to watch these true freshman take their lumps. Most QB's don't have to start in Div. 1 until they are juniors. The ones that shine right away are few and far between. We all knew Tate would make some great plays and some terrible ones this year. I really think if he can calm down in the pocket, and learn to step up into it, he will find his open guys downfield. Right now he just wants to take off and make a play with his feet. He needs composure, and that takes time and experience.


November 2nd, 2009 at 4:54 AM ^

when everybody around him is losing theirs.

I have been a strong RR supporter since he was hired, but I have become a bit dismayed by his volcanic, almost spittle-flecked eruptions at players and assistants on the sideline during games. He went after Fred Jackson (after the goal line stand, I think) and it looked like his head was going to explode. Yes, I watched Bo get angry along the sidelines when I was attending games back in his heyday, but it never looked liked he had lost control of himself, and I don't ever recall him going after one of his own assistants like that out on the sidelines. I'm not so naive as to think he never bitched out his assistants in a major way, but it occurred behinds closed doors. Bo's rage on the field was almost uniformly reserved for game officials. There's a difference between getting nice and pissed and going vein-bulging nuts, and RR gives the appearance of the latter. I have problems with controlling my own anger, and I know the difference.

The real issue isn't if it bothers fans, but if it gives the players the impression that their head coach has lost control of himself, and that the staff is not unified. If that behavior becomes common during the times in the game when the pressure is most intense, it inevitably trickles down to 18- and 19-year olds, and not in a good way.

This has nothing to do with what goes on during practice; Boren was, is, and always will be a pussy. It has to do with how your leader behaves during the heat of the truly important moment, which for RR is game time. I am also not saying that outstanding coaches can't get really cranked off during games. There is a vast difference between letting a player know how he has screwed up in forceful terms that leave no doubt that you're really fucking pissed, and simply just losing your shit.

This disappointment is not rooted in crushed expectations. I stated here on numerous occasions going into the season that I thought we would finish anywhere from 5-7 to 7-5. After attending the Indiana game, I concluded that simply getting to 6-6 was going to be a struggle, and that the giddy predictions of 9-3 were ridiculous based on what actually was transpiring on the field.

And negging somebody for simply mentioning the Peter Principle? Nice work.


November 2nd, 2009 at 7:10 PM ^

Then why the negging? And you haven't looked around THAT much if you haven't seen the "give him 5 years, and we'll be a dominating machine" posts. I mean, those that love him are setting him up that if he "ONLY" wins 75% of his games, regularly wins Big Ten titles, and wins only one national championship, well, geeze, is that all? Where we should all kill to have that back at this point.


November 2nd, 2009 at 8:02 AM ^

I agree with Bouje. We have had a drastic change in expectations from this team after the first 4 games of the season. We were invincible and it seemed that the breaks were all going our way. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes the QB won't connect on the last play of the game to win it. Some of our wins weren't crushing wins, they were just wins. We need to keep that in perspective.

We already changed defensive coordinators this year. If we were to consider changing coaches some of these kids would have played for three coaches and potentially 4 DC's. If you want to see what frequent coaching changes does to a program just look at Michigan State.

No one is expecting people to be happy with our recent performance. People just need to know that this will take time. Rich Rod was a great coach when we got him, the only thing that has changed is that he is now at a University where he is not getting the same level of public support. He deserves better. You can't turn a battleship quickly. This behemoth of a program will definitely turn (for the better). Give this team time.


November 2nd, 2009 at 9:04 AM ^

..and I somehow missed the "DickRod" reference. The nickname/epithet and those who use it, though, are the absolute lowest of the low.

My suggestion for anyone who thinks it is appropriate to insult RR with that particular name is to go and post at one of the OSU or MSU boards, where you will find no shortage of people who resonate with such lazy, non-creative, bilious secretions.


November 2nd, 2009 at 12:43 PM ^

I dont know that I would classify anyone who uses it as the "lowest of the low." They just think RR is jerk and choose particularly colorful and inartful language to get their opinion across. This is not that uncommon and I'm sure you've never called someone a douchebag or another uncreative epithet at any point in your life.


November 5th, 2009 at 3:10 PM ^

Can everyone remember Lloyd's last year everyone was calling for his head at the beginning of the season? When Michigan starts losing, Michigan fans start going for the coach's throat. We should give RichRod more time, as in another year at least. Also, even if you don't like he, we still need to be rooting for him, not trying to chew his head off.


November 2nd, 2009 at 11:03 AM ^

What does it say about the current state of the board when bouje of all people is the one counseling others not to post crap.

Anyway, glad you have come around dude. The rest of you, STAY CLASSY.


November 2nd, 2009 at 11:45 AM ^

I largely agree with your assessment of the team, though I do take issue with the improvements in tackling. That might have been the case early in the season, but the last 3 weeks have been littered by an inability to tackle guys in space or to at least go low. There were at least 3-4 times in that Illinois game where LBs and Safeties tried to tackle high on the RBs/Juice, resulting in 3-4 more yards or breaking free and running for more yards. This is something that needs to be remedied soon - probably over the off-season - because it is turning 2-3 yard runs into 6-7 yard runs, which is just killing this defense.


November 2nd, 2009 at 2:37 PM ^

I'm all for showing emotion on the field, but whoever pointed out that RR's bile always seems to be pointed at a player or assistant is right. I was around when Bo was in his heyday and he was a screamer, but the times he yelled at a player were few and far between. He yelled at officials.

Having worked in environments where it was ok for bosses to yell (kitchens), I can tell you that it's NOT motivating. In fact, it makes you not want to work harder for the guy who just humiliated you in front of your co-workers/teammates/the TV viewing audience. It's at that point that you take your eye off the ball and lose your focus. You're too consumed with anger/fear/second-guessing that it's hard to keep your head in the game.

Except for that little personality quirk, I'm good with RR.


November 2nd, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

to rail into their people and while it sucks at the time they are trying to teach you something. And the yelling that they do at you is nothing compared to what will happen if you don't heed their advice you'll (in my case) lose a lot of money (which feels way worse than your boss could ever make you feel) or in a football players case (for example Tate) get crushed for holding onto the ball too long (Which I can assure you will hurt Tate far more than RRs yelling could ever do to him).

So while I don't approve of RR doing it that is how he works, some coaches yell other coaches don't yell as much (Lloyd). We went from a coach who doesn't yell to one who yells all the time so the change is extremely drastic. It obviously wasn't too big of a problem at WV since he did well so in sum I don't really know what to say.


November 2nd, 2009 at 3:43 PM ^

I hated the yelling, and told my boss to tell me what he wanted and I would do it. Period. No yelling needed. Maybe if it was occasional, I would be more square with it. Maybe it's just my own personal thing.

Did he yell as much at WV? I wonder how Fred Jackson likes it, considering that he came from Lloyd's watch.

03 Blue 07

November 2nd, 2009 at 10:01 PM ^

Did you ever play football? It isn't a kitchen, or a trading floor, or a law firm, or an investment bank, or even a basketball court. It's a different kind of thing. I completely agree that I, too, have been yelled at in the real world in multiple jobs, including 2 of the ones I just named, kitchen being one of them, and it did not have the effect intended. I have also played football and can tell you that, unlike being a lawyer or a cook, emotion is a MAJOR part of playing football, and, thus, when angered or yelled at, you often times play better/with more intensity. It is a completely different environment than any other environment I have ever experienced. However, that being said, a good coach knows which players have the type of psyche to handle it- some kids can't. I don't know enough about each individual player/coach and what their personalities are like as football players/coaches to comment on who should/shouldn't be getting yelled at.

As Dan Hawkins said, it ain't intramurals, brother.


November 3rd, 2009 at 10:29 AM ^

...played football at any level and claims to never have been yelled at is lying. It happens, it's part of the game. Coaches yell at players, assistants yell at assistants, players yell at players, waterboys yell at towelboys.

In the heat of the battle it happens. It's a common reaction. Watch Brandon Graham get after the defense...does that make him less of a beast? Less of a person?

We don't know what they're screaming down there. We'd be fools to guess the context from the 55th row or from our television view. And to think less of a head coach's ability or to compare his emotions to Bo's or to Carr's for yelling at his players is probably the most asinine critique yet. Very Boren-ish.


November 2nd, 2009 at 3:18 PM ^

Your point about continuity is critical. I have been a staunch supporter of RR since day one and found myself beginning to question him after Saturday's nightmare. However, taking a step back, we should all think about what the state of our program would be if we were to start over again...again! Recruits would avoid UM like the plague, there would be another round of defections of lots of young talent (yes, we have lots--see jamiemac's post:, and the same people who are bitching now would only be bitching louder about somebody else. We may have to wait longer than we all want to for our return to greatness, but it would be a hell of a lot longer if RR were to be let go.

Tha Stunna

November 2nd, 2009 at 3:24 PM ^

I opened your post expecting to hate it, but it was actually pretty good. Perhaps it was due to the more reasonable and positive tone that was missing from a lot of your recent posts. (I'm not trying to start a fight here, just pointing out what I see as a difference.) For what it's worth, I consider grudging compliments to be the most meaningful kind...

I would ask, what would be the line for you to decide that RR is not worth keeping? If we go 5-7 this year and 5-7 next year, would you show him the door, if it were your choice?

I do think that we should adopt "DickRod" as a positive name for our coach, because it could lead to all sorts of mildly amusing puns (come-from-behind upset = we DickRoded you out of a win, etc). Then again, I find the Mike Cox jokes to be hilarious, so maybe that's just me.


November 2nd, 2009 at 4:22 PM ^

I agree to a point. Rodriguez definitely deserves are continual support and should not be under fire as long as the team improves year to year. I do, however, think it unwise to compare him to other coaches who have proven themselves to be better almost in every way. I support M no matter what, but it's blind optimism to think our struggles don't come back to coaching in several areas.
Other spread coaches like the above mentioned Meyer as well as Brian Kelly have found ways to succeed regardless of circumstance and Meyer has done it against tougher competition. I'm not saying this to bash Rod, but comparisons like this are unfair regardless of the point made.
Rodriguez will continue to improve as a coach and it goes without saying that he must to have success at Michigan. That doesn't mean that we should be blind to the legit concerns with where the program is heading, but I agree that the one game ultimatum maniacs need to keep their nervous breakdowns of the boards (because after Saturday even the optimists where upset, they just do a better job of keeping perspective publicly).


November 3rd, 2009 at 12:29 PM ^

I do, however, think it unwise to compare him to other coaches who have proven themselves to be better almost in every way.

Huh? All he meant with that comment was that nobody is disparaging Urban Meyer or Tressel because the schools or conferences they used to coach for weren't "good enough," like West Virginia and the Big East apparently aren't. And he's right - we shouldn't be attacking Rodriguez for that, or using that as an excuse for what's happened in the games.


November 3rd, 2009 at 3:12 PM ^

That's why I said I agree to a point. Rodriguez has struggled more than both of those coaches mentioned within the same context. Those two coaches aren't disparaged because they haven't struggled like Rodriguez has in a way to legitimize those doubts. Hopefully Rod will be better for it and we will be a machine shortly, but the unknown in light of recent events is definitely a cause for concern.


November 2nd, 2009 at 9:10 PM ^

I wanted his head served up on a silver platter after last Saturday. There's a difference.

But, alcohol and a couple days to cool off have me feeling much better now. He can keep his head and his job, IMHO.