Is it the rest of the staff (Basketball vs. Football) ?

Submitted by Blazefire on December 20th, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Alright, legitimate post time.

Brian's post on the front page regarding the progress of the basketball team since the essential reformatting of the squad, namely the axing of the entire coaching staff by Beilien and the willingness to let two experienced guys walk has gotten me thinking. The basketball team has clearly benefited via addition through subtraction. They are playing better with less experience, and, one could argue, no substantial addition in talent. (Yes, we've got some exellent young guys, but the guys that are gone weren't too shabby).

So the question becomes, was it the changeover in staff that has created the bulk of the positive change this season? Is it Bacari Alexander and the rest that are to be most credited with this solid success?

If so, I want to know what you all think that means for the football team. We've already tried changing D-Coordinators. Didn't work. However, there is some consensus that the initial change was simply because fans, alumni and everyone else needed a sacrificial lamb after that attrocious 2008 season. I'm not sure if we can count the inditial D-Coordinator change when we try to decide if replacing more staff will help the team this time.

The other factor to consider is that, as opposed to the Basketball team, we're not looking at a fresh bevy of talented but inexperienced faces for next season. For the first time in a while, we're going to finally return an experienced, established squad that is familiar with their position coaches and scheme and so on.

Keep in mind that this is not just defensive either. Though the offense was clearly killer this past season, it also had its share of problems. Most notably, turnovers (fumbles) and, in the later season, substantial red zone issues (kicking game withstanding, because I don't even want to get into that).

Obviously, some changes in the coaching staff need to be made. I guess at the heart of the matter is this question:

In light of the basketball team's early season success after a wholesale staff changeover, assuming Rodriguez remains as coach for the 2011 season, and considering both the returning experience of the team AND the problems that plagued a variety of position groups this past season, exactly how much of the staff do you think Rodriguez should replace? Is D-Coordinator enough? Should he gut the defensive side of the ball and bring up position coaches from all over? Do any offensive guys get it?

I don't care so much WHO you want to see brought in as who you think, ideally, needs to be replaced to see the squad perform at a much higher level next season.



December 20th, 2010 at 6:53 PM ^

Keep all offensive coaches and get rid of all defensive coaches.  Start from scratch and stay hands off.  Let's beef up the defense and run a 4-3/3-4 base with an experienced staff.  That's my two cents anyway...


December 20th, 2010 at 7:17 PM ^

I have this vision of you scanning casually over my post, getting about halfway down, and suddenly, a muscle in your eyelid pulses involuntarily. You cannot help it as your eyes jump back a couple of sentences and seek intently until they find that horrible, vile offending consonant. With furious focus, your gaze locks upon it. Somewhere inside your mind, something begins to heat, like a filiment in an old toaster, until it breaks under the thermal stress of anal-retentive anger. That consonant must be fixed, or SOMEONE will pay...

*also: fixed.

Maize and Blue…

December 21st, 2010 at 8:33 AM ^

He didn't start disappearing until he was illegally chop blocked against Sparty.  He braved on, but lost the ability to get a quick jump off the ball.  Then Wisconsin did the same thing to him.

I do prefer a four man line, but Martin's disappearance was due to injury not him not being a true NT.

Monocle Smile

December 20th, 2010 at 7:06 PM ^

I think basketball and football have enough differences coaching-wise that this analogy doesn't carry enough water to draw a conclusion.

It's also not as simple as just firing and hiring coaches. I personally think the position duties split between GERG and Braithwaite is a little awkward. Part of that is the overload of S/LB tweeners on the team, but I feel splitting up linebackers between multiple coaches regardless of their hybridity (is that a word?) puts them at a disadvantage towards working as a cohesive units. Same goes for safeties and corners.

Bruce Tall has done a fine job, especially when you consider the personnel. RVB especially has blossomed beyond expectations. Jibreel Black is improving fast.

In short, I feel coaching reassignment (at least among position coaches) might be more effective than cleaning house.


December 20th, 2010 at 6:57 PM ^

But there's nothing to say that the team wouldn't be succeeding with the previous coaching staff!!!!  There's a logical falacy at the heart of your argument and it verges on completely discrediting Beilein.

The hoops team's early success is the result of many, many factors.  Not just the coaching changeover.


December 20th, 2010 at 7:01 PM ^

But take, for instance, the Man to Man that hoops has been running. Beilein hasn't put anything like that on the court that we've ever seen. Don't you figure that has to have some basis in the staff he has assembled, and their input on how to work best with the players available? My feeling is that we may have more talent on the defensive side of the ball than the performance would indicate, but that the current defensive staff is so set in what they have been doing that they're not able to see the best ways to use it.

Without the new staff, the team very well might still be running the 1-3-1, which may or may NOT work with these players.


December 20th, 2010 at 7:16 PM ^

I posted this in Brian's thread, but I'll re-iterate here.

It's a common misconception that Beilein ran the 1-3-1 as much as people think he did.  In the majority of possessions over the last 2 years Michigan ran man-to-man.

In fact, many people, including Dylan at UMHoops thought we'd go back to seeing the 1-3-1 much more often this year because of the additional length.  But that's not the case.  And while Michigan didn't run man as exclusively as they are this year, they ran it quite a bit.

There's many reasons the team is doing well, but I don't think the coaching changes are one of the major reasons.

  • Darius Morris has made a nice jump in his soph year and finally gives Michigan a PG that can handle the offense and distribute.
  • For as talented as Manny and DeShawn were, often they were black-holes that stagnated the offense.  We've replaced that with the combo of Morgan, Smotrycz, Hardaway, and an improved Morris.
  • Morgan has exceeded expectations and is providing some much needed defense down low - this has allowed Michigan to run more man-to-man.
  • Morgan (6'8"), Smotrycz (6'9"), Hardaway (6'5"), Novak (6'4") and Morris (6'4") provide much, much, much more size than we're used to, resulting in our much better defensive stats. 
  • Stu has been able to take a much more comfortable role off the bench and been a spark.  His 3pt % is much improved.

So, many reasons for the success, most of which are because of the players on the court


December 20th, 2010 at 7:34 PM ^

I think it's an interesting comparison to try to make, but the Hoops roster is structured so differently this year, it's hard to look anywhere but at the players to judge team improvement.

I do think, however, that Rodriguez's teams could value much more from a coaching change, for several reasons.  The biggest one is the football is much more of a personelle management task for a coach.  Basketball swapped out 4 players for 2 and it made all the difference.  Football would need a much bigger personelle change to make the defensive improvements we've seen in basketball.  As such, a coaching and philosophy change may be more effective.

Also, the misconception about the 1-3-1 just leads to further confusion on the subject.  Beilein has even in the past alluded to the fact that people, for some reason, think he runs it 10x as much as he does.  The funny thing is Thad Matta is the one who's been running it the most lately.


December 21st, 2010 at 12:47 AM ^

To go along with your point about Manny and Deshawn being black holes.

I also believe that because of this factor, the defense started a good percentage of their possessions at a disadvantage because the offense ended a possession out of the flow of the offense. In such that people were out of position as the offensive possession ended. This year, as it seems the offense is flowing much more smoothly within the framework of the offensive structure, I think that mirrors itself with the defense, as well, allowing them to be in position and get back to effectively defend.


December 20th, 2010 at 7:01 PM ^

I personally think that RR is too loyal to the 3-3-5 guys he brought over from WV to let them go by choice.  The only way I see a total change happening is if DB orders him to clean house.


December 20th, 2010 at 7:34 PM ^

when Carr let Hermann go under pressure. Rodriguez should be forced, by pimp hand, to get rid of GERG and Gibson, minimum. I'd also like to see him have to dedicate somebody to special teams, since it's shown no improvement in three years. I want Rodriguez to stay, but only if that is what happens. While I don't doubt that his offense can work in the Big Ten, I cringe every time I see a three man front on defense. It's time for Rodriguez to admit defeat on that front and let somebody take over that side of the ball with authority.


December 20th, 2010 at 7:10 PM ^

RR doesn't want to be fired. If blind loyalty means that the defense continues to flail and fail, resulting in his firing, I think he will see the writing on the wall and change his coaching staff. DB will give RR enough freedom to both succeed and fail.

Now, it is possible that RR & Gerg think they are really close to succeeding on defense. As much as I like RR, I'm willing to let him make that call, good or bad, even if it eventually leads to his demise. From the outside, it doesn't seem to make sense, but hey, I'm not a coach, and I really don't know how far from success the defense is.


December 21st, 2010 at 5:16 PM ^

What if DB forces RR to change the defensive staff and next year, the defense is not that much better.  Will we hear the excuses that they were getting use to a new scheme as an excuse.  My memory is horrible but haven't some D players mentioned getting use to new schemes.  That would be 3 DC's in 4 years for some of the guys. 

IMHO, you rode with the horses that brought you.  You either keep or fire RR with his staff.  If you force the staff changes and next year we don't get better, it would seem that there might be more room for excuses.  This year RR had some legit excuses for the D being so bad. 


December 20th, 2010 at 7:20 PM ^

Its definitely the defense, don't know that robinson himself would necessarily have to go, but him being allowed to bring in his own coordinators and running his system (or at least something he looks comfortable running) could provide enough change to think of 2011 as a successful season for UM.  I don't see changing the DC alone as being capable of bringing about the change UM needs on defense, if that is all that changes I expect RR will be in the same position of limbo next season.


December 20th, 2010 at 9:21 PM ^

I just personally don't see Greg robinson as being the guy to run the defense..


His track records seems to prove this..  He won a super bowl on a very talented team, and won at Texas for one year with a loaded roster..  Every other team he has been at has been pretty poor defensively.


I can't remember what team he was the D coordinator on in the NFL, but the year after he left they improved from 28th on defense to 14th..



December 21st, 2010 at 5:07 PM ^

When a guy is handcuffed to a system, and given his assistants it leaves very little room for him to work to his potential.  I wasn't unhappy when Robinson was hired, but I do think he is better than what has been on the field.  

I don't think its a guarantee of any kind that he could do better with his own coaching staff, but I think there is a ton more potential there than to bring in a new DC and again lock ball and chain to his ankle.


December 20th, 2010 at 7:43 PM ^

You say that Beilein "axed" the entire coaching staff, but that's not anywhere close to correct.  I won't go down the entire list, but just to list a couple...he didn't fire his son, Patrick.  He also didn't fire MIke Jackson, who chose to leave and moved on to Purdue, where he puts himself on possibly a faster path to a head coaching job.

The main "addition by subtraction" was in Manny's departure.  I love Manny's game, but the friction he caused within the program became a problem.  Manny might have "decided" to go pro, but I have it on excellent authority that he wasn't exactly encouraged to return.  I think the removal of a problem player, combined with Coach B's flexibility in stepping away from "his system" has greatly benefitted the team.

Monocle Smile

December 20th, 2010 at 7:49 PM ^

Beilein isn't entirely stepping away from his system. We're still raining down a hailstorm of three-pointers.

I guess maybe I've managed to glean a possible parallel with football here...maybe merely a change in defensive philosophy (not even necessarily coaches) is the only thing holding us back.


December 20th, 2010 at 7:53 PM ^

You're correct that he hasn't entirely stepped away from his system, but he isn't so stubborn as to stick with something that isn't working well enough.  He's reduced the reliance on the 1-3-1 and we're seeing a solid change in the team's D.  I hope it holds up as we move into the Big Ten portion of the schedule, but we're doing so much better than expected.  It's nice to see.

As for the "only thing holding us back" in football...unfortunately, we have had so much defensive attrition that a new philosohpy is only one necessary element to turn things around.

Monocle Smile

December 20th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

From day 1 I have said that personnel matters more than scheme, even though I'm still unclear on the proper proportions. Your post made me contemplate that, but with guys like Morgan, Smotrycz, and Hardaway Jr. getting their first real playing time, the change in defensive scheme is only a part of the success.

Greg McMurtry

December 20th, 2010 at 8:16 PM ^

the whole defensive side of the ball needs a performance assessment.  Each individual coach should be graded.  I don't know what the grades would be, but we know what areas are lacking.  I feel that Gerg is gone.  It's his defense.  It may not be his scheme of choice, but he's the DC and needs to take responsibility for that side of the ball.  I think sweeping changes need to be made similar to when RR was brought in.  Michigan hired him and he chose to retain Fred Jackson only.  This should now be done on the defensive side of the ball.  A new DC comes in and gets to choose his new staff.  This could include some of the old staff, but most likely not all.  The scheme is then tailored to the players.  At this point, I believe a 4-2-5 or similar fits the current players.  The D will have a good amount of experience in 2011 and I would hope for an agressive style of play.  The youth excuse is out the window in 2011 and it's time to stop playing bend but don't break and letting teams steamroll the Michigan defense.  Looking at the 2011 roster, a full defense can be fielded with zero freshmen and many juniors and seniors.  By then it's time to start playing some man defense because clearly there is some sort of disconnect with the zone coverages.  I digress slightly, but you get the point.


December 20th, 2010 at 9:40 PM ^

In football, more than basketball, there is no substitute for having older players on your team.  The Fab Five proved long ago that a starting lineup consisting of all freshmen can get a basketball team to the Final Four.  There is no way that a football team could start all freshmen and even win a game in the Big Ten.


December 20th, 2010 at 9:54 PM ^

Basketball is not football. Nor vice versa.

I also think the hoops team has seen a talent addition. Top to bottom, the lineup/rotation is more talented this year than last year. Thats helping.


December 20th, 2010 at 10:00 PM ^

If you want to compare seasons, could it just be that Michigan Basketball at 9-2 is like Michigan football at 5-0?

There's still a lot of season left before we can consider this year a success.  Although if we make it to .500 in the conference, given preseason expectations, I'd say we succeeded.

And then we'll pull a Michigan Hockey '10 and go into the tournmanet 7th seed and win it.


December 20th, 2010 at 10:01 PM ^

A couple comparisons that have been touched on in the responses could be promising for the D (in reading this, remember, I know basketball, I enjoy football):

- Coaching changes: Forced or unforced.  Beilein has publicly stated the improvement in D is a direct result of the addition of the new coach from Butler.  He has also publicly commented on the benefit of the new S&C coach.  Not publicly said, but from what I have seen, Bacari has had a great impact on the development of post play. D & O. 

- Let the football experts comment, but from my years of watching college football, a change in defensive coordinators can make an immediate impact.

- Personal development (coaches play a role here, but...) The one thing Beilein has stressed is that he now has enough  depth of quality players that if someone isn't working hard, they will go to the bench.  No matter how good a kid is, they always try harder if they truly believe they could lose playing time. 

- The football team should see a similar impact.  There will be much more quality depth on the D next year to go along with continued development.  This should lead to a bigger impact than just another year of development.

Hopefully all of this speculation leads to real improvement next year.


December 20th, 2010 at 10:16 PM ^

I took four years of German in high school. I had four different teachers, not because my high school had such a large German program, but for various reasons. I learned some things four times, and some things not at all. As a result, ich kann nicht sprechen sie deutsch, or something like that. There is something to be said for continuity. I really questioned what GERG was doing out there sometimes, but he had a very inexperienced cast to work with. I suppose he's got to go, but I'd like to see some guys retained so we're not starting over every where on the defensive side.

Blue in Yarmouth

December 21st, 2010 at 8:22 AM ^

However, after watching a defense struggle through two seasons under a DC and show very very litte (if any) improvement I have come to the conclusion that continuity in this case would just mean continuing to show no progress whatsoever.

It has been demonstrated (and posted on this board multiple times) that the "continuity" arguement is somewhat overrated. We have seen evidence of this in the big ten this year where a new DC made great strides with a horrible defense in Illinios during his first year.

Basically, history doesn't support the theory that a bad defense will improve more with continuity (for continuity's sake) than it will with a change from a bad coaching staff to a good one. Continuity is great if what is being continuted is a solid a proven entity. That isn't what we have on the defensive side of the ball (as far as coaching goes).

I do agree with the Tall love though. If anyone deserves to stay it is him.