Reflections on RichRod

Submitted by stubob on January 14th, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Today, we fire up the MGoBlog Wayback Machine and return to December 17th, 2007: a day that will live in MGoBlog infamy. Specifically, Brian's Profiles in Heroism for RichRod. I thought it would be a good idea to look back at the last coaching change and compare the attitude and opinion around the previous coach to the current one, in the hopes of calming down the "Brian Hates Hoke" meme that's sprung up.

Remember that the situation was completely opposite last time: Michigan was striking out with big names, and we were preparing for Mike Debord-equivalent promotion from within the program. For what it's worth, the history starts around page 423, with the actual news happening on p. 422.The brief overview of the situation before the RichRod news was summed up in Adrift - basically internal guys or someone totally bonkers. Even at the time Brian was railing against the status quo from the AD, and that is what's being reflected in the current Hoke posts. Then RichRod blew up from out of nowhere.

Hindsight being 20/20 and all, Brian made this prescient comment:

RichRod was preceded by a coach somewhere between very good and excellent, though by the time Rodriguez arrived West Virginia was in a bit of a rut, coming off 7-5 and 4-7 seasons.
Rodriguez did not immediately fix said rut -- West Virginia bombed its way to an ugly 3-8 year in 2001 -- but after an initial adjustment period the program ignited in two phases. Phase 1: West Virginia ... hovers at the edges of the top 25 from 2002 to 2004, winning eight or nine games and losing four or five. Phase II: The White-Slaton rocket fuel era that features 10 and 11 win seasons, BCS berths and bowl victories, and one really ill-timed thumb dislocation.

and then added the following caveat:

the Big East got a lot easier in 2004 when Miami, BC, and Virginia Tech took off for the ACC. As far as back-to-back-to-back ten win seasons go, WVU's are somewhere between LSU's and Boise's in terms of impressiveness.

But it wasn't all roses, sunshine and puppies. Brian pointed out well-known issues with recruiting:

Maybe it's unfair to tar the coach when a couple of guys he got through school turn out to be world-class knuckleheads, but the idea of a Pacman Jones or a Chris Henry at Michigan is unsettling. ... Rodriguez also availed himself of JUCOs and academic risks that might not fly at Michigan. ...Michigan likes its high graduation rates and excellent APR numbers. If those start to come down he'll catch heat.

The conclusion wrapped up thusly:

the man does not have anything approximating the current Michigan staff's outdated philosophy. ...Rodriguez is everything a Michigan fan could want in a hire; to get him after the month-long disappointment train that was the coaching search is manna from heaven.


It certainly bears mentioning that at the time, Mallett was still on the roster, Pryor was still considering Michigan, and the QB rotation was not WalkOn/Death.

So we come here today not to bury RichRod, but to remember him. He struggled to meet the lofty expectations placed upon him by the fans, the media, and the Athletic Department. May he have future success at a program not encumbered by ghosts of the past, a rabid and bored press core, and a fanbase able to accept change (all of which snowball around each other).

If anything, the "outdated philosophy" comment is the source of whatever animosity is directed at Hoke - not at the man specifically, but what he represents. We must temper our opinions until we see the product on the field, and hopefully we can minimize the roster attrition that was a major source of our struggles for the last three years.


Isaac Newton

January 14th, 2011 at 3:03 PM ^

Was it Roundtree who said something to the effect that the upperclassmen were trying to get everyone to stay, because they're a family?  It was largely Rich who instilled that sense of family and togetherness on this team.  I hope that that becomes at least a part of his legacy.


January 14th, 2011 at 4:03 PM ^

...we act as if no other team in the nation has freshmen in important positions. He had 3 recruiting classes under his belt and had a boat-load of talent returning in 2008, but he pushed certain people who didn't fit his system away. Maybe if he didn't alienate and treat players like poop, we would have seen better results. I'm tired of hearing these excuses. Moving on.

His Dudeness

January 14th, 2011 at 4:26 PM ^

That "boatload" of talent he had coming back in 2008 had a few prominant members who quit on him (namely: Trent and Warren) to the point htat he had to create the All In expression... if you don't believe that Trent and Warren quit on him then you hadn't read the quotes from them (Trent w/ Bengals) and from their coaches (Warren w/ Jets) about how if they had played with heart at Michigan they would have been drafted higher.

RR didn't alienate anybody. He made the seniors compete for spots rather than just hand it to them. Something you can plainly see in the Hoke hire is his treatment of seniors (they got to eat first at the opening luncheon). RR didn't play that game. Everybody is the same until you get between the lines and then we shall see who gets to eat first...

EDIT: I am not saying this is wrong, it is just different. You can see how it could rub some guys the wrong way.


January 14th, 2011 at 6:08 PM ^

So, it's 100% the players' faults that the 2008 defense stopped playing for Rich Rod. If that's the case, why did RR fire Shafer? According to your theory, we just needed dudes who bought into what RR was selling.

And didn't you hear RR talk about the seniors over and over again the past two years? About how they were the ones the team played for? Please.


January 14th, 2011 at 11:06 PM ^

...when Cameron Gordon lines up improperly during the Gator Bowl...he signifies he's giving up on RR?......We had THREE timeouts....and I watched Gordon raise his hands for a good 10 seconds signaling he had NO IDEA where to be lined up....and not one coach called a timeout.....come on man....stop defending something that was a mess and completely unorganized. Don't you remember the argument in 08 on the sidelines against Ohio State? RR was afraid to step in the middle of it......he completely lost control and the respect of his players.


January 15th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

I think it's the coach's responsibility to get his players to play for him, regardless of who recruited them or what system they are used to.  This has been demanded of Brady Hoke, and so far he looks to be doing a good job.  Only next season will tell whether he is able to accomplish this.  RR did not.  The attrition he experienced was ridiculous.  I don't believe this can be blamed solely on the players.  Sure, there are people who will say that the players love of Michigan should outweigh their allegiance to their coach, be we're talking about college kids here.  I absolutely loved Michigan when I was a student there, but, as with most things, I didn't fully realize how great the place is until my time there had passed.

The bigger problem, I think, is that many of the players that parted ways with the program or "quit" on RR came to Michigan for the tradition and history that we take pride in.  RR didn't seem to give a rats ass about either, and that didn't sit well with a lot of people.  He didn't acknowledge the importance of the rivalries, and subsequently posted a horrendous record in rivalry games (ND excluded, as they were in worse shape than we were).  RR simply didn't do his homework before he came to Michigan (captains, #1 jersey, etc.).  As a result, we lost the players that wanted to be a part of the Michigan tradition (as opposed to the RR era).

I agree with you about RR's way of doing things.  He didn't favor the seniors - he made them earn their positions again.  I won't argue the merits or flaws of this philosophy, except to say that it did work.  But, it goes hand in hand with RR's seeming disregard for anything that happened prior to his arrival in AA.  I think this also correlates to his lack of success with the big time recruits he landed.  You say that RR didn't play that game (with regards to the seniors), which is true.  He also didn't play the game of maximizing his players' potential.  I don't think it's a coincidence.

On a side note, I don't think you could honestly say that playing with heart was a characteristic of the RR teams.  I'm not questioning whether the players played hard, just saying that many times the entire team looked to have given up.


January 14th, 2011 at 11:13 PM ^

.....must I do this again?? I'm not gonna go into this argument again. A GOOD coach utlitizes and adapts his system around the players he has. Plain and simple. Blah Blah Blah, "his guys....his guys....his guys".....I'm sorry but even if I ran a spread-option read....and I knew I had potentially one of the best pocket passers in the nation in my program (Mallett)....I would completely adjust to him....instead of forcing out Mallett and instead having Steven Threet, with his 7.6 60-yard dash time running a zone read option attack....I laugh at all of you who don't see realize this simple fact.


January 15th, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

RR "forced" Mallett out. Everything I've ever read on the subject suggests he was leaving regardless of whom the coach was. The lack of talent at the QB spot (and various other positions) in 2008 can't be laid at the feet of Rodriguez.


January 14th, 2011 at 9:34 PM ^

He had two full recruiting classes.  Te 2008 class was mostly Carr's except for the month that RR had to try to bring in his type of player.

He had two full classes and one partial to completely change the philosophy of Michigan football. 

Yeah.... That absolutely seems like a fair amount of time.



January 14th, 2011 at 10:25 PM ^

What that means is that his recruits were, almost entirely, freshmen and sophomores.  And, in case you didn't notice, most of his problems stemmed from the fact that there were essentially no junior or seniors or fifth year seniors starting for us this past year.


January 14th, 2011 at 10:59 PM ^

....better recruits in Carr/RR's combined recruiting class then either of RR's 2 recruiting classes so your argument doesn't make sense. Athletes are athletes. Speed is speed. Talent is talent. Any good coach utilizes talent. Don't say that they're not "his guys" doing so, you're vastly over-complicating the game.


January 14th, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

Come on.   The defense is going to improve if you and I were coordinators this year.  I know the meme is coming, but when you play true freshmen and then return 10 starters and have several more with playing experience improvement is nearly a given.  How much remains to be seen.   If Martin is healthy all year this thing can turn around real fast and it will have very little to do with coaching and a lot to do with kids maturing and getting healthy. 


January 14th, 2011 at 4:07 PM ^

....7 starters and numerous players in 2008, many of whom played a vital role on our defense in 2006 and 2007 and we finished 61st in the nation in total defense. I'm tired of hearing people making excuses. I wanted RR to succeed just like everyone else but watching this team argue all the time with one another or line up incorrectly or not have 11 guys on the field is upsurd. Accountability goes to the HC. Period.

His Dudeness

January 14th, 2011 at 4:39 PM ^

We returned... ....7 starters and numerous players in 2008, many of whom played a vital role on our defense in 2006 and 2007

And all of whom were recruited by a completely different man. I take it you have never played sports because there are very few times in your life where you can pick your coach. College is one of those times and to have picked the guy you trust and know he cares about you and your progress and have another person come in with a different style can be very trying. That new guy could be the best coach in the world, but you didn't choose to play for that guy. You could have, but you didn't. That's tough and given the nature of football I am not sure many 20 somethings would put their wel being on the line for a new guys they didn't really want to play for. Perhaps they were just going through the motions that season and doing just enough not to get hurt? Maybe they really just wanted to get to the NFL and couldn't transfer because they would have had to sit out a year? Maybe...




January 14th, 2011 at 6:11 PM ^

Unless you subscribe to the opinion that the 2011 Michigan defense is going to play for themselves and quit on Hoke, your postulate about the 2008 Michigan defense is about to get blown up.

Face it - Gibson and Tall and Hopson undercut Shafer. The players hated the coaches. The coaches treated the players like garbage. Why did Warren want to leave? Why did so many players actually LEAVE? Why couldn't RR fill out his defensive recruiting class before 2010? It's not all on the players.


January 14th, 2011 at 10:49 PM ^

....that's funny considering I played four sports in high school, two in college and now am a successful Division II Head Coach. Okay, allow me to school you on a few things....a Head Coach is RESPONSIBLE for the entire program not just one or two aspects..I took over a struggling program and instead of pushing all the current players away, I embraced them (kind of like BH is currently doing)..... If RR came in and used his head....he would have seen that he had a fairly decent defense with a decent offense, albiet not an offense suited for his system. If he knew his type of offense was going to struggle and not run his type of offense correctly, then being the Head Coach, he should have considered all of this. Instead he was selfish and arrogant and forced things on a group of players who were not going to succeed which, like you said, put considerable pressure on our defense. You can say what you want about the 2008 defense, but 61st is still 61st. You can't fake stats.  It is our jobs as Head Coaches to put our players in the bsst position to utilize their talents and to be consistent and successful.....RR failed at doing this.

I'll say it again....when there's smoke there's fire. It's alittle odd that all those players, both offensively and defensively, left the program knowing full well that many of them had a chance to start right away.... and it speaks volumes to me when the Athletic Director comes out and says his conversations with current players helped him out iimmensely his decision to make a change.

U of M in TX

January 14th, 2011 at 5:11 PM ^

ThreetSheridamnit at QB never put our 2008 defense in a position to succeed. Unfortunately the 2008 defense was the probably the best defense that Rodriguez had, and a lot of the accountability for not recruiting more/better/retention of defensive players in his TWO full recruiting classes falls directly on him.

In retrospect, if we had the 2008 defense on the 2010 team, Michigan probably wins 2-3 more games.


January 14th, 2011 at 10:54 PM ^

...statement...but it's the job of the Head Coach to know his weaknesses. Knowing full well that your offense was going to struggle with those current players in his systeem and put our defense in tough situations, then don't have Steven Threet running an option's common sense people. You have a QB who runs 7.5 60-yard dash but YET, we still having him run the ball......ummmmm am I taking crazy pills here? Seriously? Are you really going to defend this argument? A kid who runs a 7.6 60 and you think that by putting him in a zone option read offense is going to make the best of his abilitiy......really? REALLY?


January 15th, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

What offense should he have run in contrast? He didn't have the talent available to run any offense effectively. So why try to run one the players may know, but the coach does not? Doesn't make any sense. You're right, he could've fit his offense around his talent, if he had any to begin with.


January 17th, 2011 at 3:40 AM ^

Steven Threet Stats, per ESPN

2008- 200 attempts, 102 completions (51%) 1105yds, 9TD/7INT. 76 rushing attempts, 201yds, 2TD/ 2.6YPC

2010- 336 attempts, 208 completions (61.9%) 2534yds, 18TD/16INT. 59 rushing attempts, 19yds, 2TD/.3YPC

Looks a lot more like Threet was going to be Threet no matter what system. Great argument if you're talking about Chad Henne or Ryan Mallett, but else could you do with Threet in?

Looks like RR got most of the potential out of a freshman Threet.

Blue in Seattle

January 14th, 2011 at 3:19 PM ^

I don't think people should disagree with Brian just because he's critical.  But from what I've read from Brian I don't get an understanding of what facts he's basing his opinion that Hoke is a return to Lloyd Carr's Philosophy/Strategy for football.  I don't know enough to say his statement is wrong, but I do show up at this site to read his proof and justification.  Afterall it's not my site, I'm not going to do the analysis.

I knew nothing of Rich Rodriguez before I started reading MGoBlog.  What I found was writing that described and organizes the facts and made reference to them so I could check them myself if I felt the need.

Maybe we are starting to get their with Hoke, but from the beginning what I have read being put on the front page (and for a long time unable to login to comment, question, etc.) did not go much beyond, "Brandon is picking Hoke as the Safe Lloyd Crony to appease the rich alums"

But then again, I didn't understand Brian's fear about any of Lloyd's coaches being hired when Lloyd said in his press conference announcing his retirement, "(the hired coach) doesn't have to be a Michigan Man, Bo wasn't a Michigan Man until he was hired"

Now that supposedly John Bacon is publishing a book that states Les Miles was never even being considered, it puts all that subjective drama about Bill Martin being on a boat and screwing up his chance to hire Les away from LSU as just that, subjective unfounded opinion.

Where is the analysis of Hoke's recruiting ability?  Where are the charts of the change in the program or lack of it?

instead all I'm getting is "Hoke worked for Lloyd and Brandon is arrogant and weak"

and it's not really that entertaining after the first time.  It certainly is not informative.


January 14th, 2011 at 4:09 PM ^

"But from what I've read from Brian I don't get an understanding of what facts he's basing his opinion that Hoke is a return to Lloyd Carr's Philosophy/Strategy for football. "

I am not sure its a concern for the actual playcalling on the field that concerns Brian. I think it's a retreat from progression. I think It's an overall feeling that once again we will be consistently mediocre and ok with that. Lloyd was a good coach, but not great. We became complacent as a fan base. We never questioned Schembechler Hall or the inner workings of the program. The Big House remained unchanged, the kickers couldn't practice indoors and our program was slipping behind in every phase. We thought we could get by on the block M and a winged helmet. Bill Martin brought a lot of progression to the Athletic Department, some for the good, some for the bad, but the point was he recognized that we couldn't just be Michigan and compete with the teams that had us in their bullseye. I think Brian is frustrated with the "safe" option and fears we will revert to the mentality that our history is enough of a statement about who we are and that our history will take care of the present. I worry about that too. It's not a return to the state of "Lloyd Carr" it's a return to the "safe" option across the program.


January 14th, 2011 at 4:55 PM ^

If you think he should have been more vocal in support of Rodriguez, then I can't help you there. My guess is Lloyd did what he thought he should do in that regard.

It doesn't change anything about his success as the head coach at Michigan.


January 14th, 2011 at 9:58 PM ^

Every single person has things that can be considered positives and negatives depending on an individual's viewpoint.  This includes Lloyd.  I thank Lloyd for the first NC in 40 years.  I thank Lloyd for guiding a consistent Top 25 team.  I thank Lloyd for running a program a fan can be proud of.  I thank Lloyd for all the things he has done for the community.  I thank Lloyd for everything he has done for his players and the school. 

What I don't like was only one year after '97 when a NC was a realistic posibility. I don't like how the '06 campaign finished against tOSU and USC. I don't like his record against tOSU in his last 5 years.  I don't like "The Horror" and subsequent but whipping at home against Oregon.  All of these points are equally as legitimate as the records pointed out above. 


January 24th, 2011 at 10:21 AM ^

I think the point on Lloyd was not his overall record but rather his record over the last few years of his reign as head coach.  Started losing to OSU (1-6 over last 7 games vs OSU), 2005 season, end of 2006 season, 2007 season.  Feeling was that it was time for him to retire and yet we had no one from his internal staff that looked like a decent head coaching talent to take over for him both at the time (DeBord?  Ron English?  Eric Campbell?  Fred Jackson?  Scott Loeffler?) and in retrospect having seen what those candidates have done since leaving Michigan. 

Given what we have learned from the RR hire and the 3 years following, perhaps the concept of having brought in a head coach designate like Wisconsin did with Bielema and keeping Lloyd another year or having done this with Lloyd a few years earlier with keeping a significant portion of the experienced staff around might have been the way to go.  Guess we will never know, but the current Hoke hiring appears to be an attempt to do that only 3 years later.


January 15th, 2011 at 1:16 PM ^

If the RR era represented progress ... bring on the regress. The RR experient was a complete and utter Biff.  It's only the emotinal investment, bonding with our ordeal, that leads some to conclude that RR was right on the verge of leading UM to greatness, or he only failed because LC gave him the silent treatment. The defense wasn't just bad, it was HISTORICALLY bad. Don't even get me going on special teams. In 5 years no on will look at the RR perio and wonder, 'what-if?'. We will look back and wonder, WTF?!?


January 14th, 2011 at 3:33 PM ^

I'm kind of hoping people are smart enough to attribute part of that success not only to Brady Hoke but to Rich Rodriguez and his staff as well.  RR's defensive staff definitely stammered around, but it's not like they all twindled their thumbs for 3 years. The players loved RR and his staff too.



January 14th, 2011 at 3:34 PM ^

Too often, it seemed as if RR was our school's equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield - he just could not get any respect, even though it was at all times deserved based on every single aspect of his tenure except wins and losses.  While he was with us, RR always made me proud of every aspect of the program except the results; the kids were great and he seemed to emphasize every worthy attribute, especially including academics.  And, I always believed the results would come, at least until I saw the last three games of this season and, in particular, the bowl game.  When the right players were not in the right positions at the right time in the bowl game, it really made me wonder about how well coached the team was.  When blocking and tackling fundamentals had not improved by the bowl game, it also made me wonder about the coaching.  When even the offense could do nothing after the first quarter, it also made me wonder.  The five or six weeks to have everyone healthy and drilled on fundamentals should have produced something better than what we saw on January 1.  And, it was also very unsettling to see special teams do so poorly all year and again in the bowl game.  It may well be that we were too young on defense, but that should not have trickled over to kickoffs, punts, kick returns and punt returns, but it did.  If we were going to be atrocious on defense, one would think that a lot of extra effort would have gone into making sure we were really good on special teams (except FGs, where we apparently had NO kicker).  Does anyone have a broader appreciation as to why we would have been so consistently bad on special teams?


January 14th, 2011 at 4:22 PM ^

favorite teams. I find it a bit amusing to hear some of the former players talking about family without considering what the current team has been through. Yes, they know what they have enjoyed, but I'll bet they have nothing on these players down the road.

Here is to the Coaches, past and present. I hope Coach Hoke can lead us back to the top of the Big 10 heap. From there, time will tell.