OT: 2017 outlook for U Arizona and RichRod

Submitted by blueheron on May 6th, 2017 at 9:06 AM

It's off-topic season, and this piece from the "Arizona Desert Swarm" blog (their Maize 'n Brew) might be of interest to some here. It's a preview of the 2017 football season for U Arizona and (of course) RichRod.


It sounds like he's a goner. I didn't find anything in the piece unfair even though Arizona is a more challenging job than most. It's been interesting to see what he's done with a largely clean slate there.



May 6th, 2017 at 9:10 AM ^

"Arizona regressed in all three phases of the game off their 2015 rankings and finished as the second worst Power 5 team in America, save only Rutgers. "


May 6th, 2017 at 9:23 AM ^

Richrod seems like a nice enough guy, but I think his fame came on getting good at the spread before everyone figured it out. Now that everyone has figured out how to a) run the spread better than him and b) defend the spread better, Richrod's star has really faded since leaving WVU. It doesn't seem like he's got the offensive chops to stay out in front of people nationally like Oregon or Urban Meyer or some others have been able to do where they are adapting and evolving.

I don't know where he finishes out his career. Maybe an OC for a good P5 team? HC for a mid-major like the Tommy Tuberville route? I'll bet his next landing spot is for a P5 team that sucks on offense and is trying to get a little more spread-y. Maybe Nebraska if Mike Riley survives?

Mr. Yost

May 6th, 2017 at 2:23 PM ^

And yet there were talks of firing him even after last season.

So how is his job not in jeopardy? He's a college football coach and his team isn't winning. If they continue not to win his job will be more and more in jeopardy.

He's also go a new athletics director, that doesn't help the cause because this guy didn't hire him.



May 7th, 2017 at 10:43 AM ^

Don't particularly care about Arizona football or Rich Rodriguez at this point. That said, pretty sure the conversation of RR's 'hot seat' status is not limited to the MGoBoard.


COACH ON THE HOT SEAT: Arizona's Rich Rodriguez (The Oklahoman, 11/18/16)



Friday Five: Coaches on the hot seat entering the 2017 college football season (CBS Sports 3/24/17)


These are just a few national pubs, didn't even link things like bleacher report or chat sports. Again, I don't really care about this topic, but pretty sure there is an active conversation about RR's hot seat status going on independent from this board.



May 8th, 2017 at 10:00 AM ^

A lot of the hotseat stuff is coming from UA blogs. They basically think he squandered decent talent when they were decent and now they are regressing to the mean.

I think RR will be gone sooner rather than later and will end his career at some kind of mid-major.  


May 8th, 2017 at 10:17 AM ^

because Arizona is not known for football and when you look at his entire body of work there it has been very good. Winning records and bowl wins, which almost never happen at Arizona.

One loosing season is not going to put him on the hot seat yet. I expect an improved year from them this year and people there will be thrilled.


May 7th, 2017 at 7:21 AM ^


WVU under RR was merely a good-ish team when the Big East was still a viable BCS-level conference. It wasn't until after the the league got watered down by the departures of Miami(YTM) and Va Tech, the major falloff at Syracuse (hard to believe they used to be a good program) and the additions of such football powerhouses as Cincinnati and UConn, that RR's WVU teams finally appeared elite. WVU was basically playing in the MAC at that point, so winning double-digit games wasn't really that much of an accomplishment.

I sometimes wonder how the football landscape would have unfolded in an alternate universe where RR took the Alabama job. No RR at UM, so we probably never lose the consecutive non-losing season streak and don't experience Stretch-gate. No Saban at Bama, so they don't get off the mat (they had been pretty "meh" since Stallings left) and become the new dominant program in CFB.


May 6th, 2017 at 9:45 AM ^

He may prove to not be a great or even very good head coach, but if he got fired I would hire him as an OC in two seconds, no matter what team I ran. And it's not really true that "everyone figured it out," as an explanation, the real reason is talent, the lack thereof. He is a very creative offesnsive mind, every serious observer that has studied his offenses agree with that.


May 6th, 2017 at 10:07 AM ^

If he was a creative offensive mind, all of his offenses at every stop wouldn't be identical regardless of the players involved. A good, creative coach would adapt his offense to optimize for the talent available. Very thankful for UMs current staff and their ability to do this (see: more spread concepts due to inexperienced o line that will struggle in pass pro, lack of dominant blocking tight ends, a very talented running back that thrives in space).


May 6th, 2017 at 12:44 PM ^

It is true that I haven't watched more than 3 or so games with Rodriguez's wildcats, but the offense looked awfully familiar to me.  And why should I dismiss watching every miserable game where he tried to run an offense in 2008 with Threet and Sheridan that they were completely unsuited for?  That team was never going to be a world-beater, but a good coach would have been able to get them 6 wins if they altered their system to better suit the team's talent instead of using his square peg-round hole approach.

Most convincingly, as someone who does follow the Arizona football team very closely, the article's author appears to lament Rich's tendency to be as stubborn as I observed and presented in my post.

Telling quote from the article:

"Arizona lost most of its production at receiver and they are especially thin on the outside where they have not recruited well at all. Rodriguez would be smart to get his tight ends more involved, but that talk is as annually regular as it is annually unfulfilled."




May 6th, 2017 at 5:30 PM ^

Not watching them play while appealing to the authority of a random sportswriter using a blurb about tight ends doesn't make for a very convincing argument.  Saying pretty much nothing more than, "If he'd just use a goddang fullback they would have won the PAC12 by now,"  doesn't make it so.


May 6th, 2017 at 8:14 PM ^

OK, I am open to being educated.  Maybe he is better at adapting to personnel and evolving his offense than I think, and I am happy to hear why you have your perspective.  

His offensive FEI numbers since he took over at Arizona are below.  

2011 (pre-RR): 31st

2012: 9th

2013: 24th

2014: 34th

2015: 32nd

2016: 44th

It can be dangerous to draw conclusions from data in a vacuum, but I have formed notions about his coaching from previous experience and this data supports my opinion.  I am seeing a decreasing trend of offensive performance that could be explained by opponents adjusting to RR's offense better than he is adjusting to their respective defenses over time.  I acknowledge that I am reaching that conclusion because I choose to see data in a way that supports my already formed opinion of his offensive coaching aptitude.  That is one interpretation of these numbers - there could be many others that you may be aware of and maybe you can convince me that my conclusion is way off base.

None of these are terrible offensive numbers, but I am still struggling to agree with anyone's conclusion that he is an 'offensive genius'.  Maybe calling out his lack of adaptability is the wrong argument to lean on re: his genius status, but I have yet to be convinced that isn't his most fatal flaw.  Others may point out that poor defensive & special teams performance and poor recruiting are the primary factors that have led to his lack of success, which is why he would be a great O Coordinator.  When I remove those factors I still see underwhelming offensive success (anecdotally and statistically).




May 7th, 2017 at 11:56 AM ^

I am using a trend in Offensive FEI rankings (an advanced stat that rates offensive output per drive while taking out garbage time and adjusting for strength of opponents' defense) to support my own observations of his offenses' mediocrity, especially when facing good defenses. How am I not refuting his offensive chops?


May 6th, 2017 at 8:27 PM ^

I disagree that R^2 was not creative.  Two years ago he got a team to the PAC 12 championship game by throwing the ball to big receivers which was a complete departure from spread & shred and billions of tiny slot receivers.  R&2's biggest problem is Zona is just not a football hotbed.  No one has ever won there.  Zona has three career 10 win seasons and R^2 has one of them.


May 8th, 2017 at 9:59 AM ^

Zona has one nine-loss season in its history; that's RR's too. It's easier to get to ten now than it used to be; if you're having a good season you'll probably play 14 games. Smith and Tomey had to make do with 12, maximum.

Since Arizona joined the PAC they've had six coaches (I'm going to include the interim records of Kish and Hankwitz under the coaches they replaced midseason). Here are their conference records:

  1. Larry Smith        30-21-2  .585
  2. Dick Tomey        60-49-4  .549
  3. Tony Mason       7-7           .500
  4. Mike Stoops      30-41      .423
  5. Rich Rodriguez  19-26     .422
  6. John Mackovic   4-20        .167

Somebody might try to make the case that the program was in bad shape when RR got there but it was nothing compared to what Stoops was facing when he took over from Captain Queeg. I don't see any evidence that Rodriguez's squads are any better than Arizona's historic baseline; "just as good as Mike Stoops" is a pretty weak claim for a college football coach.

Decatur Jack

May 6th, 2017 at 10:56 AM ^

if he got fired I would hire him as an OC in two seconds, no matter what team I ran.

No thanks. I'll stick with Harbaugh and whatever MANBALL version he wants to run.

He is a very creative offesnsive mind, every serious observer that has studied his offenses agree with that.

Rich Rod is the Al Borges of the spread. His offense depends on an experienced, talented QB who fits his system. (Last year he was trying to work with a true frosh; guess how that turned out.) His playcalling is equally stubborn as Borges's was, and he'll refuse to abandon plays that aren't working, all in the name of it not being his "philosophy." He struggles to adapt to different personnel, and for evidence we need look no further than his 2008 season in Ann Arbor.

Nearly every fan base who spends time with the guy ends up disliking him. West Virginia thinks he's a sellout. (Most) Michigan fans see him as a failure. Arizona thinks he's overrated.

I think Rich Rod is perfect for Arizona and they'd be idiots to let him go. It's a basketball school and no matter bad how things get for football, at least Rich Rod keeps it interesting. His recruiting is struggling because Rich Rod has never been a stellar recruiter, but what coach is realistically going to turn Arizona into a destination? Arizona fans should slow their roll a bit.


May 6th, 2017 at 2:01 PM ^

Your post reminds me of my favorite MGoMyth.

"He struggles to adapt to different personnel, and for evidence we need look no further than his 2008 season in Ann Arbor."

Many (not necessarily you) believe that 2008 (IMO the least talented Michigan team in the modern era) was all about not adapting to the strenghts of Threet and Sheridan.

Ron English (one of the alternatives at that time, believe it or not) probably wouldn't have gone 3-9 with that crew, but 6-6 wouldn't have surprised me at all. That was going to be a mediocre season at best.


May 6th, 2017 at 2:25 PM ^

RR screwed up by putting all of his eggs in the Pryor basket... when he didn't land him Feagin was his plan B and the guy played in 1 game (2008 Minnesota, Hi Tim Brewster) & then got booted for selling coke... I believe that if he would have just gone out and got some HS QB that ran his style of offense and let him start from day one things might have been far different... first year would have still sucked, but year 2 that QB would have had a better grasp of what was going on and then Tate and Denard could have sat for a year and learned the offense...

rob f

May 6th, 2017 at 8:42 PM ^

had any real "strengths" as QBs.

In an effort to be as charitable as possible towards each of them, I'll put it this way: they were average at what they each did best (Threet: passing, and Sheridan: running), with obvious glaring weaknesses in certain other desirable & valuable QB skills.

But neither of them was well-suited for RichRod's spread option, and this became painfully obvious as the season unraveled.

In retrospect, with the amount of talent our defense had, I think 6-6 was a realistic expectation with a ceiling of 7 regular-season wins plus a craptastic bowl game. And that would have also required RichRod's offense to be better tailored to the limited skillsets of his offensive personnel AND leaving the defense alone rather than forcing Scott Shafer to install the 3-3-5 @Purdue.


May 8th, 2017 at 10:09 AM ^

...was his ability to grasp the offense, make the read. He didn't have the physical skills to do anything with it but at least he was able to get the play started, put the ball where it was supposed to go.

RR was basically burning a season to acclimate his personnel to a new scheme; I can see why that was the most important attribute to him.


May 6th, 2017 at 11:13 AM ^

I don't think he runs the type of spread that you can win championships with. Urban Meyer, Cam Newton, etc. have a huge qb and a powerful RB not a bunch of small midgets. It might even the playing field to some degree for small schools that are never going to get the 4 or 5 star palyer.


May 6th, 2017 at 11:42 AM ^

When we hired him I expected him to be this super creative offensive guru that we seemed to lack for so long. We all had visions of wide open guys running down the field like that hamblasting he gave OU in the Fiesta Bowl I think

Instead, we got 3 years of stubborness and very little creativity. I remember Terrance Robinson (dream shake!) getting wide open against UConn and a few Denard QB Oh-nos but otherwise his offense was utterly flaccid vs anyone with a pulse. Harbaugh's staff shows far more creativity and thoughtfulness than Richrod ever did

Richrod has very good talent here and just didn't do anything with it. Saying he's a very creative offensive mind is something that made sense 10 years ago, but the time since then has shown that he's just an ok spread coach at the P5 level


May 6th, 2017 at 11:37 AM ^

I don't think he isn't good at doing it...I just don't think he gets the same players that he used to. Being the first, he was able to get players that fit what he wanted, but now, there are, what 50 teams or so that run the same scheme that getting those optimal players is more difficult. This is even more exascerbated in the low talent bed of Arizona

State Street

May 6th, 2017 at 9:20 AM ^

Rich Rod made a fatal mistake by turning down the South Carolina job.  He stayed largely out of loyalty to Greg Byrne.  Byrne bailed (Alabama), and now he's stuck in an untenable situation.  Where does he go when he inevitably gets canned?  OC somewhere?  Eesh.


May 6th, 2017 at 9:25 AM ^

I dunno, I feel South Carolina is an even worse position than Arizona. Historically, the Pac12 south teams are fairly soft except for USC. South Carolina has to recruit and compete against the best of the SEC. You can usually bet on 2 out of the 3 of Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida being pretty good at any given time, and recruiting for USC is no easy task with all their neighbors