"What If" on the coaching front?

Submitted by Will Trade Sou… on June 18th, 2009 at 11:45 AM

Now that the NBA finals are over and sports enters the dark period know as baseball season, I am trying to get back in the swing of Michigan football. There has been a lot of grumbling recently about our recruiting of non-blue-chip recruits. The 3-9 season with losses in the top-flight rivalry games, loss of actual or expected impact players via transfers, and (to a much lesser extent) the aspersions on Rodriguez's character (see, e.g., snake oil, lack of family values) have also caused some heartache for Michigan fans.

So here's my question, if you wound the clock back and could choose between Les Miles and Rodriguez (I'm not saying this was the situation we actually found ourselves in), who would you choose?

Personally, I am drinking the Rodriguez Kool-Ade. I am sold on the spread as an offensive system and think that it will pay dividends once we get the right personnel installed. I was a fan from the beginning of Barwis and the long-overdue revolution in the weight room. Rodriguez’s track record is obviously stellar even though he isn’t a Michigan Man in the traditional sense. I am confident that greatness will ensue in the next year or three.

I was also, however, intrigued by Les's 4th down gumption and success at LSU. I have no clue if the transition with Coach Miles would have been smoother. Would we have performed better last year and maybe lost fewer players to transfers if we weren’t installing the spread on the fly? Would we be recruiting four and five star players in droves right now? I don’t know. If it was your pick, who would you have at the helm of the leaders and best?



June 18th, 2009 at 11:52 AM ^

Both can recruit, both can win games. Les Miles has won a championship, RR has not. However, RR has proven he can build a powerhouse, Les Miles hasn't to the same extent, though he did well at OSU.

Long-term, I'd stick with RR. Miles would have been an easier transition though.


June 19th, 2009 at 12:10 AM ^

Les Miles has won a championship, RR has not.

Both coaches went 10-2 in the 2007 regular season. Miles's team had the dumb luck to lose its second game one week before all the other contenders, and thus got an invite to the title game. That's all that really separated his team's season from RR's. (Does anyone doubt that WVU would have beaten OSU in the championship game?)


June 18th, 2009 at 11:59 AM ^

Part of me says Les, because of last year's Northwestern game. People always bring up Toledo, but if you stood through that whole Northwestern game, you know what I mean.

But I'm still a huge Rich Rod advocate, and I loved that my first year at school was the first of the new era (despite its current stimga). I'm excited for the next few years of watching kids like Tay Odoms and Roy Roundtree, who wouldn't be in Ann Arbor without Rich.

Call me masochistic, but I would still choose Rodriguez.

Will Trade Sou…

June 18th, 2009 at 12:22 PM ^

ND was the loss for me last year that hurt the most. I think we outplayed them for the vast majority of the game, but the mistakes we did make were catastrophic in their impact. I remember sitting in the rain - a TON of rain - and thinking "any other day, we would come back and win this game. Please, just stop raining. Please."

Will Trade Sou…

June 18th, 2009 at 12:28 PM ^

I could go on forever about baseball. It's slow, boring, and non-contact. Even the most impressive athletic feats are not that visually satisfying (home-runs, diving catches) and dilute the quality of SportsCenter's top ten plays. Dominant defensive efforts in basketball get you highlight-reel blocks or great, exciting fast-break opportunities on offense. Dominant defensive efforts in football give you bone-jarring hits and turnovers that lead directly to hard-to-come-by points. Dominant defensive/pitching performances in baseball are just not that amusing to watch. I just think the sport is vastly overrated and it's a shame that we have no other sports to entertain us all summer when it's raining outside.


June 18th, 2009 at 1:07 PM ^

You just don't appreciate the pitcher's honor du-el. It is one the hardest and most beautiful and most suspenseful occurrences in sports. No sarcasm, I'm serious. I have always been a sucker for the most mental of sports.

His Dudeness

June 18th, 2009 at 2:05 PM ^

It is the perfect game. No clocks, no timing system to force the pace of play. The intricacies are incredible to watch. The manager signals, the third base coach signals, the runners signal, the catcher signals, the pitcher signals and tha batter signals. You can only put lefties at certain positions (1st base, pitcher, catcher, OF). The hand-eye coordination needed to touch a bat on a ball going over 90 MPH with movement takes more skill than any other action in sports. The guessing game in different counts between the batter and pitcher is a thing of beauty. Baseball is the single greatest sport in the history of the planet in my humble opinion. I still enjoy Michigan Football the most and am most passionate about it, but to just call baseball boring and wash your hands of it is is more than slightly ignorant, again in my opinion.

Will Trade Sou…

June 18th, 2009 at 4:01 PM ^

Clearly baseball is a difficult endeavour. There's no denying that. But it doesn't make it exciting or fun to watch. Chess is a mentally demanding activity - that doesn't make it fun to watch. Golf is certainly a very difficult sport to perform at a high level, but it's hard to call it exciting. Doing an iron cross on the rings is extremely difficult, but it doesn't make me want to watch men's gymnastics.

Certainly football is a start-and-stop game, but you have over twenty people on the field at a time and they're usually all doing something of import on each play. Each down is important. You can't foul off five straight screen passes in a football game. Plus, the action itself is more exciting. While a home run might be majestic, how much more entertaining would an hour-long Barry Sanders highlight reel be than an hour-long Barry Bonds highlight reel?

If you enjoy the mental duel or can admire an activity for its difficulty alone, then more power to you. Have fun with your baseball game. I just think that excitement counts in sports, and baseball just isn't that exciting.


June 18th, 2009 at 3:17 PM ^

Ken Griffey Jr. hit a grand slam in a game I attended once. I don't think I've ever actually witnessed something quite that majestic in person before. Everything about it...the ball hung in the night sky for what seemed like an hour. Watching him with his classic bat flap and slow trot to first...amazing.


June 18th, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

If you condense a baseball game to only the parts where the ball is live (pitches, hits), you get about 10 minutes.

3 hours or whatever it is, for roughly 10 MINUTES!!!

There's nothing wrong with baseball???


June 19th, 2009 at 3:21 PM ^

Thanks to the magic of TiVo, I have actually done this. And let me assure you, an entire football game condensed into ~45 minutes is INTENSE.
But honestly, I prefer my football games full length.


June 18th, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

In the short term, hiring Miles would have made the transition much smoother. I don't think we would have contended for a NC by any means, but we would not have had the attrition we experienced. Probably an average season would have resulted. I do believe that we would have had an immediate uptick in recruiting and the level of excitement would have been pretty high. The negativity we are currently experiencing would have been much lower under a Miles regime.
However, we hired RR. He is our man and I support him. Jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride.


June 18th, 2009 at 12:12 PM ^

I think Les Miles is overrated as a coach.

He did not handle a poor QB situation last season all that well on the field and I dont think he would have been able to handle being hamstrung with the whole Threet/Sheridan dynamic.

I think a kid like Mallett was gone either way. His unhappiness in Ann Arbor was the worst kept secret on campus that fall.

Maybe some of the other attrition does not happen, but he still had more talent at LSU last season and had no coaching answers for his sub par QB play. I dont see how that manifests itself into anything other than a disappointing first season at AA if he had indeed been the coach.


June 18th, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

I'm disagreeing with this, we don't know how that kid would have done, he was a true freshman. He probably learned a lot during the 13 games. I mean, he could have been put in maybe after 8 games or w/e, but we're splitting hairs here. I hate second guessing a coach when it involves an unknown quantity, especially at a skill position.


June 19th, 2009 at 3:39 PM ^

true freshman excelling at that position is largely the exception, no? (I'm hoping for a lot of exception in Ann Arbor in the fall).

I have no evidence of this, but in addition to learning the playbook, how to read sophisticated defenses, etc., the QB needs the backing of the guys on the field to be successful. Pryor, I'm guessing, with all the hype and his physical tools, came in with some built-in credibility. Or at least lived up to the hype in practice. I'm wondering if this didn't make the Boeckman benching easier on the team.


June 21st, 2009 at 11:04 AM ^

Obes, I know that you have some source of knowledge on these things past the interwebs, but do you really know what the OSU football team as a whole wanted?

Further, even if what you say is true, there is a difference between Les Miles sticking with Jarrett Lee-levels of incompetence (53.2% completion, 116.9 rating, 7 ypa, 14/16 TD/INT) and Tressel deciding to stick with Pryor (60.6%, 146.5, 7.9 ypa, 12/4 TD/INT). Lee had 5.5 YPa against Florida, 5.3 against Alabama, 4.1 against Mississippi. He kicked the shit out of Troy, though.


June 19th, 2009 at 3:18 PM ^

Who knows what was going on in practice, how much of the playbook Jefferson could execute effectively in September, and so forth. Difficult to second guess an offensive coaching staff that's right there evaluating on a daily basis.

I think the jury's still out on Miles on whether he's a good coach or an elite coach. He's certainly had the type of success at both Okie St and LSU that a lot of coaches hope for. If he consistency has his teams in the hunt for SEC championships, I think it will be pretty hard to knock him.

Happy with the RR hire, tho I think I would have been fine with LM too. His tendency to say embarrassing things (ala Dubya), however, would have had me cringing a lot during press conferences, I suspect.

gpsimms not to…

June 18th, 2009 at 12:54 PM ^

He won a national championship with mediocre qb Matt Flynn (who was way less good at qb than Tebow) and mediocre running back Jacob Hester (who was way less good at running back than Tim Tebow).

I agree his performance last year was not that impressive, but do you really think he could have handled the Sheridan/Threet "dynamic" any worse than Rodriguez? (Not saying RR's handling was necessarily bad, I just don't think there was a good way to handle it).

Anyway, that NC team put up a lot of points with maybe one guy that would have started at a skill position for Michigan that year (Doucet).


June 18th, 2009 at 1:05 PM ^

Well, that is kinda my point....meaming, I dont think he would have handled the situation any better than RR. There are plenty of folks out there who think he could have, be it keeping Mallett or calling a better offense with Threet. There was no good way to handle it and Lester would not have done it any better than RR, regardless of how much he tries to make his voice sound like Bo's.

As far the MNC he won in 2007, he was way over reliant on Hester, wasting a lot of talent on the bench, Flynn is earning an NFL paycheck, so he's not a scrub....and they had a uber talented defense with star power and NFL draft picks all over the field. Yet, with all that defense, he had no strategy to stop Kentucky or Arkansas from scoring at will on them.

We all focus on those thrilling fourth down plays, and thats nice, but he has laid as many coaching eggs as the next guy. My favorite being when he lost after being outscored by almost 40 points once in the second half when his team had a 21-point lead. OSU vs Texas, 2004.

I wonder how many self-righteous Michigan fans would have felt had Miles pulled the Ricky Jean Francois shenanigans in Ann Arbor? Of course, thats just an aside, not a commentary on his coaching.

gpsimms not to…

June 18th, 2009 at 1:19 PM ^

I was leaving defense out of my first post on purpose, because it really seemed like that team underachieved (if its possible to underachieve and win the NC) defensively.

I was pointing out one thing only: that offense, which to me seemed way less talented than Michigan's that year, put up a lot of points.


June 19th, 2009 at 12:27 AM ^

2007 LSU is the only team in history to lose two regular-season games and still get voted the national champion. Not that they should apologize for finishing #1, but they are one of the flukiest champions ever. If they had not gotten invited to the title game (which looked like an impossibility after their second loss), a lot of people would have criticized him for "underachieving" with that group.


June 18th, 2009 at 12:13 PM ^

The whole Michigan man thing is interesting. Not because of the taboo of what it is but because if we wanted to split hairs, RR is a Michigan man. Don Nehlan coached with Bo, correct? Yes, you could come with the, "well, my cousins' dog's brothers sister played for Bo", argument but you get my point. RR played for a Michigan Man so there has to be some instilled values there.

I like the Michigan Man thing becuase it is sentimental, but it is way over done.

As for the Miles V. RR thing. Miles would have kept us at a steady 9-3......RR gives us a chance at a title. That is what I believe.

Its kind of like the two girls you dated in high school. The good girl who you could count on to go out with and maybe get lucky here or there on a good night(miles), or the freak that when you got your chance with her you knew there would be no socializing.(RR) Wow, did I just make that metaphore? Something........anything.........???? I got nothin'. I'm bored and on my lunch break. Maybe someone with a better way with words could refine what I am trying to say.


June 18th, 2009 at 1:12 PM ^

If Miles had become the head coach the offensive system would not have changed so dramatically.
I think that would have kept Mallet from leaving and kept Aarington from going into the draft. Add in the rest of the team who would have bought in to him in a moment, a national championship and won it over OSU!, the season would have looked much different.


June 18th, 2009 at 2:50 PM ^

Last season was going to be a struggle for any coach. Les Miles has proved to be a fine HC, but his first season at LSU was much more akin to Weis's at ND to logically compare to RR's at M. Les had a talented group of recruits behind his starters, not to mention a talented Saban defense, not to mention a full pantry of top-flight recruits behind his starters.

So say Les comes to a Michigan program with no offensive line, an interception/fumble prone QB with a huge ego, a HR threat X receiver but no reliable Y receivers, and a defense prone to giving up long drives and tiring out in the 4th quarter. What are the expectations?

I'd say you have to look at Miles' record not at LSU, but at Oklahoma State, during seasons that forced him to really dig in and coach fundamentals. Then you look at his offense style - Gary Crowton, OC, likes a lot of quick slants, quick timing patterns, options..."razzle dazzle" as it was called when he coached OC for the 1999 Chicago Bears. True story.

Mallet's strength was his strength, not necessarily his excellent timing. We're looking at interceptions, sacks and Fumbles McGee.

Maybe Les knocks off OSU in his second or third year (as he knocked off Oklahoma in consecutive years 2005, 2006). But just as likely, he takes a powerful drubbing (as he did against Stoops in '07, 52-9).

At my most optimistic, my expectations for year one are 2 more wins on the basis of two more pieces in an offense not so fundamentally shaken up. But realistically, I'd expect plenty of interceptions, plenty of sacks, giving up huge defensive scoring drives in recovery. Zoltan is on the field just as much. I think it's just as likely we go 3-9.

Maybe as a Les Miles Michigan team started shaping up with his recruits, Michigan would look like a Gary Moeller coached team, the coach whom Les had the closest Michigan ties outside Bo, and whose style Les' is most similar - that's enough to keep us in the top 3 perennially, eventually stopping the drought against OSU, but probably not enough to leapfrog OSU consistently. Illinois also immediately becomes a much more interesting team dynamically.

I honestly see more upside with Rodriguez as his system takes root; I think he'll adapt to the strengths of the team (once there are strengths with which to adapt), and in a few years he'll catch up to his protege, Urban. Having said that, Les' recruiting of Russ Shepherd is nothing if not intriguing, and I'm eager to see how he adapts his offense to the kid's strengths. If the offense electrifies, mucho credit to Miles.

I do find it interesting that at the same time Urban is reigning in his spread offense and installing pro-style characteristics at Florida, Les seems to be going the opposite way at LSU. However, I think with Crowton as the OC, fundamentally they'd want the option to be pass first, meaning Russ will likely be keeping defenses honest with the play-calls (but when the kid takes off, look out mama). If Russ becomes mechanically sound, that sounds like a future Heisman candidate for sure. I'm looking forward to seeing who comes out on top.


June 18th, 2009 at 6:20 PM ^

Baseball is sports purgatory. It is there to cleanse you of the glut of spring championships and purify you through suffering to be ready for football in the fall...

...if you are desperate for a football fix...any football fix...the CFL is in pre-season...the field is like ten yards wider and ten yards or so longer and it is like almost all spread football...

Michigan Arrogance

June 18th, 2009 at 4:10 PM ^

of somethign that is inherently subjective IS THE DUMBEST F*CKING THING EVER. just say you prefer football to baseball. don't try to convince me how 'right' you are to think that way.