Other examples of coaches turning programs around?

Submitted by Wendyk5 on October 31st, 2010 at 9:15 AM
I'm curious whether there have been any coaches in recent college football history who have taken on this kind of program turn around and have succeeded. This has turned into a major program overhaul that seems to be never ending. Is history on our side?



October 31st, 2010 at 9:40 AM ^

...you could be right that the offense is "turned around." The only problem I have is that we have a "once-in-a-quarter-century" athlete running the offense right now that can turn a game around on his own. We won't always have that (no disrespect for Tate and Devin). Plus, Denard is resilient, but only one nasty hit away from being sidelined for an extended period.

IMO, RR needs to thank his lucky stars that Denard is playing outstanding football, or we'd be looking a lot less impressive offensively. Right now, Michigan football reminds me of the Detroit Lions of the 90's. A poor team with one outstanding Barry Sanders-like player who keeps us in games, but can't put us over the top by himself.

I'm completely flummoxed about our situation. Three consecutive years like this just isn't Michigan football. Our reputation is being damaged. Can we afford a fourth year of mediocrity? A fifth? Will a coaching change help? Hurt? Dammit, I just don't know the answer.

I think if we somehow manage that elusive 6th win, RR will be back for at least one more year. My quarter says another 5-win season means he's gone. Brandon may be earning his salary with a tough decision at the end of the season. Either way, I'll bet dollars to donuts he's putting together a list of potential candidates even as we type...


October 31st, 2010 at 9:40 AM ^

The only reason the offense has turned around is Denard's unique talent.  We and RichRod both got lucky when he came on board.  Unfortunately, there are two other parts that comprise a team and we are so far off the mark with respect to the D and special teams that it is simply not excusable.

You don't need the greatest talent in the world to have a functional D, you need coaching. IMHO, that is what we lack, pure and simple. With good coaching, our D might have have even been in the top half, but it could have been better than it is. Ultimately, the buck stops with RichRod.  Gerg was his hire.

I don't see a coaching change as being the disaster that some people do.  A good coach will take the players you have and work them into his scheme.  There is always a place for someone like Denard and for other talented players.


October 31st, 2010 at 10:01 AM ^

good luck exists in your universe but not bad...that makes sense... its not a good job for him to have found denard, taught denard to play QB and develop him..it was luck...


its not bad luck that turner, cissoko flamed out and woolfolks ankle exploded and warren jumped off the NFL draft cliff...it was clearly RRs fault. He should have sprinkled pixy dust on these players to make sure they kept it together and stayed on the team.


the defense is horrible, yes. and i am near the end of my RR defending...HOWEVER, one can't be "good luck" and the other be "his fault."


Blame him for what's his fault and credit him for what he's done right. Some people around these parts paint him out to be some monkey in a clown costume who's done nothing right. He's had some successes....just not enough of them.


October 31st, 2010 at 10:36 AM ^

You are right...emotion, not reason, is governing my posts.  After a less than good night's sleep when I went to sleep thinking about last night's game and woke up right where I left off....you get it,

Denard's talent was recognized by a lot of good programs, although he has turned out to be way beyond expectations, at least mine.  Realizing that he is a sophomore who has only started eight games, his passing stats against B10 competition are....OK.  Against B10 teams, he is 51-86 (59.3 %), with six touchdowns and 4 interceptions, with three of the T's against Indiana. But then there is this little thing called rushing yards.  Some of that is RichRod, much of that is Denard.


October 31st, 2010 at 10:29 AM ^

Denard is a very good athlete who has made leaps and bounds as a QB, but lets not say that the team's success is because of some transcendence on his part.  RR's offenses have worked with the likes of Pat White, Woody Danzler, and Shaun King, amongst others.  So unless you think RR has just had great luck with QBs, at least some credit needs to go to the system and his coaching ability.

I get why people are pissed, but a coaching change now wouldn't make this team better - having non-first-year players on defense would.  I'm not against a new DC, but lets not forget that the reason last year's offense struggled so much was because the offensive line was young and inexperienced.  Fast forward a year, the line is playing much better and suddenly the offense is scoring in bunches against some elite defenses.  That's called timing and experience, not "luck."  I fully expect next year's defense to make strides going forward just because the talent will have a chance to improve and grow.   


October 31st, 2010 at 12:25 PM ^

Let's not forget our offense last year play pretty good against inferior opponents. Our defense this year sucks against everybody. You can say our offense was young and inexperienced and needs some more time to work and there were flashes of greatness in there, but this defense is just bad. What makes you believe next year will be better? Just getting older is not enough. At this time those players look nowhere close to what some 3, 4 or 5 stars recruits should look like. People here are confusing experience with fundamentals. You gain experience when you have the fundamentals down and you make a mistake or get burn on one play and that will teach you what to do or not do next time. Playing like this will teach you nothing. It is like going to an exam unprepared and hope to learn something that will help you next time you take it. Guess what. If you don't study hard you will never pass that exam no matter how much experience you have taking it. All you learn is how to lose.


October 31st, 2010 at 10:54 AM ^

So you're saying Urban Meyer was just lucky Tim Tebow fell into his lap (metaphorically)? Great players come out every year. The argument that somehow RichRod was lucky that somehow Denard both came to Michigan and became an amazing dual threat QB is kind of a cop out. Coaches are out evaluating talent and part of their success is due to the development achieved under the coaching staff.

No one was saying this about Denard this time last year.


October 31st, 2010 at 11:27 AM ^

In Denard's case, I don't think it's luck. RR took raw talent and coached him. Look at Denard last year. I'm sure we all had our doubts as to whether he could pull off an entire offensive system. He worked hard, and was coached hard. The issue is, RR has to focus on other things besides just getting his quarterback and his offensive guys, and how long will it take. 


October 31st, 2010 at 11:36 AM ^

Eh, I mean, people made the same argument that RR couldn't succeed without Pat White was and then Denard came around.  RR will always be able to find his QB and run a successful offense.  Maybe not top 5 offense in the country every year, but certainly to do well.  It's his defensive recruiting and oversight that I think is the huge problem.


October 31st, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

Brandon has said that he wants to see progress. While a bump from 5 wins to 6 is technically progress we will still be a bottom feeder Big Ten team with 6 wins (2-6) and only 1 more win that last year is limited progress. I think 6 he's fired, 7 it's a toss up and 8 he is back for sure. We can continue to beat up on OOC teams but Rich Rod's Big Ten record will be his death sentence.


October 31st, 2010 at 9:20 AM ^

So far, RR has overhauled the offense, so my point was, his coming in as HC has turned into an overhaul. First offense, but now he must do the same for defense and special teams. 


October 31st, 2010 at 9:21 AM ^

Barry Alvarez, Gary Barnett just to name 3 right from the Big Ten.  All inherited programs in a crappy place.


Save for 2006's defense, Michigan has been pretty below average since at least 2005.


October 31st, 2010 at 11:35 AM ^

The people who want RR or GERG gone don't think we were in a crappy place simply because the team went 9-4 the year before Rodriguez got here.  It doesn't matter that all the key players on that team left to graduation or the NFL, then the best o-lineman and the 5-star QB transferred.  Rodriguez was basically left to build an offense around sophomore Steve Schilling, and in year 3 we have one of the top units in the country. 

Now the same people who concluded "the spread won't work" when the 2008 offense was terrible, don't think the defense will ever be good because a team full of underclassmen is playing like one.  They say stupid things like "there is no progress week to week" as if that is how teams develop.  As if the 2008 offense got better throughout the year (they were terrible in every game save for a blip against Minnesota) or the 2009 offense got better (they were still incapable of taking care of the ball against OSU at the end of the year).  Progress and leaps occur from year to year.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that this is the case, people want to bitch because JT Floyd hasn't gone from "oh crap, that guy is starting" to competent Big 10 defender in 9 games.  It just doesn't work like that.  The defense will be much better next year and probably pretty good in two years.  We can either wait for it to happen (and enjoy the wins that come with a competent defense paired with this offense returning 10 starters) or we can bitch and moan.


October 31st, 2010 at 11:58 AM ^

They say stupid things like "there is no progress week to week" as if that is how teams develop.

This is a fantastic point!  It is totally stupid and unreasonable for people to expect ANY discernible improvement from a team and its players over the course of a season.   (Which means of course, the coaching staff is doing a great job, because there has been no identifiable improvement this year.)  Or for the coaches to make any attempts at adjustments.  That's just not how ot works. 


October 31st, 2010 at 12:14 PM ^

Did the 2005 defense improve from week to week?  Was the 2006 defense awesome the next year?  It just isn't how teams develop.  I'm sorry if that messes with your notion that coaches are all-powerful, but it is reality.  The other teams are practicing and getting better too.  Any improvement relative to competition comes on a year by year basis. 

It takes time.


October 31st, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

Even if your premise that it is unreasonable to expect any sort of improvement over the course of a season (and I don't believe that it is), the problem is that the defense clearly appears to have regressed since the start of the season, with the nadir being last night, in which the D gave up 450 yards and 41 points to a crappy PSU offense playing its second-tring QB.  Is it also unreasonable to expect that the coaches will prevent the team from playing WORSE as the season progresses?  If that's your position, then your expectations for the coaching staff are far, far lower than most people's.

Going into last night's game, we were all aware of the defense's limitations, yet most of us predicted a Michigan win because Penn State's offense was also terrible.  Yet the defense underwhelmed us despite our incredibly low expectations, with PSU running the same plays (counters, screens) over and over again without the team adjusting. 

I guess your opinion is that GERG has performed well as the DC in his 1.5 years here.  I strongly disagree. 


October 31st, 2010 at 1:41 PM ^

With Mike Martin.  He is by far our best player and wasn't in last night.  This team has been terrible at defense all year.  If you haven't noticed, then you are not paying attention.

My opinion is that any defensive coordinator would perform terribly with this unit, and it isn't really even an opinion but rather the way of the world we live in at the moment.  If the defense struggles next year with all these guys all coming back, I will be the first to criticize Robinson.  At the same time, I don't think his efforts to plug holes on the sinking ship that is our current defensive depth chart has any relationship to his ability to coach a defense.


October 31st, 2010 at 1:51 PM ^

Your rebuttal to my suggestion that the defense is regressing is that the defense actually played worse against UMass.  Wow.  Well played. 

And yes, your takeaway from my prior post that I hadn't noticed the defense was bad, and that I expect them to be world beaters, is totally accurate.  Your reading comprehension is masterful.

GERG was a crappy DC and head coach in his prior job.  Many people (myself included) thought he was a totally underwhelming hire two years ago given his recent track record.  And guess what?  His tenure has completely lived down to expectations. 

Like I said, I am wiling to deal with the defense being bad, because the talent limitations have been well-dcoumented on this blog.  But the fact that the players are playing WORSE as the season progresses is much much harder to swallow.


October 31st, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

First off, you claimed the defense is regressing.  That means they are getting worse.  To get worse they would have to have been better in the past.  Getting torched by UMass, Indiana, and Notre Dame is to me no better than what we saw last night (PSU even with injuries has more talent than those teams). 

I don't mind you not thinking GERG is a good coordinator based only on the negative outcomes in his career.  He did win two Super Bowls and had a top-15 scoring defense at Texas with a team that won the Rose Bowl so I think it is more of a toss up.  But either way no coordinator would have succeeded with our defenses the last two years, so I'm willing to reserve judgment on his performance at U-M.  If the D struggles next year, he should shoulder most of the blame.  But it seems like you made up your mind before he got here (and I heard the same criticisms of Rodriguez's offense during/after 2008). 



October 31st, 2010 at 2:24 PM ^

I wonder about how much credit Robinson gets for those defenses at Texas since they were even better the year after he left, I think around 1 in the country. And this was despite losing their best player in Derrick Johnson.
<br>Thing that concerns me is that I don't think the defense will be that much better next year. The way this season has gone, even if RichRod is retained, I don't see any way Robinson stays. Someone is going to have to take the fall for the defense (whether it's his fault or not) and Robinson's probably going to be the sacrificial lamb.
<br>If the defense does end up being this bad next year and RichRod is still the coach, that's exactly where the blame will lay.


October 31st, 2010 at 4:12 PM ^

It matters because you can make the argument that Texas underperformed whe Robinson was the coordinator, top 15 finish or not. Finishing with the 15th best defense is not encouraging if you actually had the talent for a top 5 defense. The talent level at Texas was pretty consistent across that time period defensively and the offense was Vince Young. Schedule was probably harder the year after as they played @OSU and USC.


October 31st, 2010 at 12:35 PM ^

Nobody is going to question that Rodriguez is an offensive guru, but there have been enough head-scratching problems on defense to question whether Rodriguez is capable of fielding a competent defense. Our defensive issues date back to '08, when we returned 8 starters but still couldn't manage any better than 9th in the Big Ten in total defense. In the Purdue game that year, Rodriguez forced Shafer to use a 3-3-5 stack, despite the fact that neither he nor our players had any prior experience with it. The result: an offense led by a third string QB gashed us for 500+ yards and 48 points. Shafer was (essentially) fired, and this year his defense at Syracuse ranks in the top 20 two years after they ranked 101st under Greg Robinson. That's telling.

turbo cool

October 31st, 2010 at 9:37 AM ^

Bama wasn't great in the years prior to Saban. Florida was mediocre with Zook prior to getting Meyer. USC was the same prior to Pete Carroll. And, a little closer to home, Ohio State was competitive but nowhere near where they are now prior to having sweatervest. And even if dantonio has been so-so in his last few years until this season, any UofM fan would trade their record during that time for ours.


Many coaching staffs have been overhauled and succeeded. Unfortunately, many, some too close to home, have also failed on epic levels.


October 31st, 2010 at 9:49 AM ^

This might not be a perfect comparison, but look at what Paul Johnson has done at Georgia Tech.  Same timing since RR and he was able to win the ACC (although they ]got spanked by Iowa in the BCS game.)

The Barwis Effect

October 31st, 2010 at 9:51 AM ^

The OP's question sort of implies that RR had no hand in the current state of affairs U-M finds itself in.  The real question should be: Besides Ferentz, are there any other coaches that completely shit the bed in their first three years and then rebounded to at least contend for conference crowns?  I was going to say contend for national titles, but the thought of a national title any time soon seems completely laughable.


October 31st, 2010 at 9:53 AM ^

I would like to see us install a "Pro" style defense.  There is a reason they do not run the spread in the Pros (I am ok running our offense, but not this defense).  If you can install a creative Pro style defensive coordinatory who understands the size of Big Ten we could do some serious damage.  One has to wonder if the problems with recruiting defensive players has to do with the guy in charge of them.  There were times last night where our Head Coach seemed less thrilled with his defensive coordinator.  

As for the question:  Pelini is an obvious one as stated (and has been successful), Randy Shanon on some level, Saban helped turn around an Alabama program that was in coaching disaray.

It can be done, but it appears that usually a coach is fired with a team primed for going off big or there are multiple coaching changes before someone is able to step up and make it happen.  Hopefully we are not the group where it takes multiple head coaching changes to get "our" guy.


October 31st, 2010 at 10:23 AM ^

The issue is not the offense.  It scored 31 points last night, 28 vs. Iowa, 42 vs. Indiana, and 17 vs. MSU (and left about 21 points on the field).  Those are similar numbers to what UM used to drop on B10 foes under Carr and co.  The issue is that the defense gives up over 30 points per game in B10 play, and features about 8 RS or true freshman on the 2-deep. 

People need to stop with this "Spread doesn't work in the B10" crap.  Purdue's passing-based attack killed for years with competent QBs at the helm, Juice Williams and the Illini took a form of the spread-and-shred all the way to the Rose Bowl, and PSU had their best seasons running the Spread HD offense with mobile, accurate QBs who could run.  But when you field a defense that struggled against IAA talent, you are going to lose. 


October 31st, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

I guess you missed the part about a "pro" style defense and not the offense.  I said that the offense was fine.  There is a reason the spread offense hasn't worked in the nfl and that is because defensive coordinators have been successful at stopping it.  Keep the offense, change the defense.  This 10 yard cushion is killing us.


October 31st, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

Sorry - I thought I read the offensive change.  My apologies for that.

I still don't think the "pro" defense is the issue - the issue is basically fielding a very good HS defense (based on playing time) against legit B10 talent.  Yes, the coaches definitely deserve blame for apparently not making many adjustments against the PSU offense, but they are somewhat hamstrung by the limited talent to work with. 


October 31st, 2010 at 10:56 AM ^

If what you means is that the pros don't run the zone-read (much), then you're right, but they don't because a) they're afraid of getting multi-million quarterbacks hurt, and b) there is absolutely no imagination in the NFL (I know this is a meme, but I can easily go a Sunday without watching football, whereas I'm glued to the tv on Saturdays even when I should be working). The shotgun, spreading out the field, the Run-and-shoot all have elements of the spread.


October 31st, 2010 at 9:56 AM ^

Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, and Bob Stoops to name a few

USC pre Carroll
1996 6-6
1997 6-5
1998 8-5
1999 6-6
2000 5-7

After coaching change:
2001 6-6
2002 11-2

Oklahoma pre Stoops
1994 6-6
1995 5-5-1
1996 3-8
1997 4-8
1998 5-6

After coaching change:
1999 7-5
2000 13-0

Texas Pre Brown

1993 5-5-1
1994 8-4
1995 10-2-1
1996 8-5
1997 4-7

After coaching change:
1998 9-3
1999 9-5


October 31st, 2010 at 10:37 AM ^

in 2008.  While the program had stalled somewhat, 2006 and 2007 were hardly disasters. To the contrary.  Not to mention the 30 years before that. 


October 31st, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

I'd like to point out that 2007 was in fact a disaster.  We still get to see the reminders of that whenever the discussion of "upsets" comes up.  We had a great bowl win, yes, but the rest of the season was a disaster.

2005 was also a disaster.  7-6.  Two wins of 3 points or less agains sub par Iowa and Michigan State teams.

2006 was great until we ran into the offensive juggernaut that was Brady Hoke's Ball State team.  Our defense was exposed, and Ohio State & USC proceeded to torch us like a couch in East Lansing.

I'm all for revisionist history, but lets not act like we were world beaters when RR came to town.


October 31st, 2010 at 1:12 PM ^

There was exactly one game in '07 that could be called a disaster. And we went 7-5 in '05, not 7-6. And we beat Penn State that year, which was their only loss. And Ohio State beat us by a field goal in '06.

We weren't world-beaters, but we weren't missing bowl games and we weren't routinely giving up 500 yard of offense, either. 


October 31st, 2010 at 2:14 PM ^

Are you remembering the same '07 season I watched? 

Which game is the only disaster?  Appalachian St. or Oregon the following week?  We started out '07 ranked #5 in the nation.  (yes, I know pre-season polls).  But following 'The Horror', the Ducks walked all over us to put us at 0-2.  The Oregon game was one of the worst in terms of being totally dominated at home I have seen in 30+ years of watching M football.  Yes, Henne was hurt early but still the D looked terrible that game too.  That 0-2 start was pretty humbling.

I could also note the Wisconsin game was not pretty and we don't have to review the ugly game vs. OSU do we?  Personally, I think Tressel just sat on the ball once he got a lead in that one because he was trying to show some respect for Lloyd and knew he had the game.  It could have easily been much worse.

Honestly, there were some ugly performances in '07 that we probably tend to gloss over because of a wonderful bowl win.

But yeah, your main point does make sense.  Lloyd did win Big 10 games that year and the D played better after the Duckwalk.  Bowl games?... I miss them too.   /nod


November 1st, 2010 at 4:07 AM ^

First off, I have posted this before and I'll post again, the Oregon game was nearly as bad as the Appy State game. When a starting running back tells the press that by the end of the game he was joking with teammates in the huddle and trying to pick out which UM defensive lineman would give up next, it is a bad game. Secondly, Henne didn't get injured until the end of the 1st half. At that point, we were already down by 4 scores. You read that correctly....we were down 32-7 at the end of the 1st half. Lets not kid ourselves here, Henne being in that game didn't mean much.

Tha Stunna

October 31st, 2010 at 2:07 PM ^

The level of obnoxious bias here is amazing.  Why don't you throw in our defensive rankings at the end of the year, after we were "exposed" and compare them to now.  Is there a benefit to being "exposed" in the third game of the season, instead of later?