RR and the defense

Submitted by Ziff72 on April 5th, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I'm treading lightly here, because I know the 2 letters are a powder keg.   No hidden agendas here just looking for some insight, actual facts or good rumors.   Hopefully Bacon's book will clear all this up, but in the mean time I need something clarified that keeps getting thrown out there in these arguments that I'm not clear about.

What is the source of the thought that RR meddled in the defense with Greg?    Just curious if I missed an article where RR discussed this or if this was generally accepted insider info or just the internet saying RR used the 3-3-5 at WV so he must have forced it on Greg because Greg never ran it before.

Like I said I don't want to stir anything up just looking for some info, because the only thing I think I really know over the past 3 years is that Schaffer, the assistants and the players were all on seperate pages that 1st year and that RR went with the players and the assistants wishes at the end of the year and Schafer was soon gone.

I hear this brought up a lot and for me it just doesn't add up that a guy that professes to concentrate most of his time on the offense, would keep  meddling with the defense especially after seeing the results.   I could see a scenario where he became so frustrated and desperate that he meddled midstream and made it worse, but I'm curious if we know this or just speculated enough to make it true.

Any good info would be appreciated.


Kermits Blue Key

April 5th, 2011 at 1:15 PM ^

You can ask Gerg yourself.  Simply place a "Coach Needed to Run 4-3 Defense" ad on Craigslist and wait for him to reply.  Once you ask him why he's looking for a new job, I'm sure he'll be more than willing to divulge what really happened.


April 5th, 2011 at 1:37 PM ^

I feel badly for through this entire debacle because anytime I see him the only vision I have is that stuffed beaver attacking his neck!



April 5th, 2011 at 1:58 PM ^

I can understand why people think RR discussions need to stop: it's a headache thinking about the last few years*, we have a new coach who's taking us in a new direction, and RR will never step foot near this program again.

 (*as a fanatical senior at UM who had high hopes for football as a student, I understand this as well as anyone)

But, in defense of Brian and others on here, please stop telling us to "get over it," or to stop talking about it because it's irrelevant now. It's not.

Hopefully after Hoke has a good season, RR discussion can be anecdotal not argumentative, but we're 3 months off of an RR season, so it is completely relevant. A few months into Obama's term, Bush's just-completed term did not become completely irrelevant. Bush made his mark on the executive branch and judicial branches of the federal government (just like RR did on the program and the depth chart), but I didn't hear anyone saying discussing Bush's term is irrelevant in 2009 because Obama desired another direction.  (Putting no value on either president, or comparing their value to the coaches)

As far as thinking we're complaining when we wonder what went wrong, I think that represents a difference in fundamental beliefs about RR as a coach. What I think, and what I'm pretty sure Brian and many posters here think, is that we hired a truly elite college coach who came into a fucked up situation, with fucked up people surrounding (read: covering) the program, and fucked up a little himself. Others here (correct me if I'm wrong) seem to believe we made a "sexy" hire in RR, that he got lucky at WVU with great players and a great D-coordinator, and when he came here he was exposed for who he was.

I'm not saying either side is right, but just understand these different modes of thinking. If you believe the former it is completely relevant and interesting to discuss what went wrong, if you believe the latter it is not. So, please just let us in the former category discuss what went wrong because there aren't many better places to do it, and stay out of our discussion if you have nothing to contribute other than oversimplified played-out arguments.

That is all.



April 5th, 2011 at 4:18 PM ^

It's not so much that RR's tenure is irrelevant now that rankles people, so much as the continued "How dare anyone speak ill of RR" attitude.  You could have argued that that kind of "circle the wagons" attitude was justified when he was the face of the program.  I don't think you can argue that now.  He is an ex-coach and there is no point in now glossing over his deficiencies.  

As for whether RR is "truly an elite coach," if he is one, how do you explain the chain of events that took place on the defensive side of the ball?  1) Hiring Shafer, only to basically strip him of duties halfway through one season and then shove him out the door; 2) hiring a proven failure in GERG; 3) bringing him back despite a defense that was worse than 2008's and 4) asking him to run the 3-3-5, a defense he'd never run before, all the while (by RR's own admission) hardly even supervising him.  This has the distinct whiff of a guy who didn't know what he was doing on defense.  


April 5th, 2011 at 9:23 PM ^

I think you're right about this (I don't agree with 3, because it's hard to fire a guy for having a worse defense with worse personnel, and make the decision to have your third coordinator in three years--BG and company's 4th in 4 years). RR didn't know what he was doing on defense, or at least had too blind of a trust in his assistants, and not enough trust in his coordinator(s).

My argument that he's an elite coach is that he gave us the best chance to have a perennially elite program. I'm sure many would argue against this, but I believe he could've been a truly elite recruiter if he ever got the program on solid grounds (and that he did pretty well considering he never did). Continuity on the defensive side of the ball, and a serviceable kicker would've had this ship righted. Easier said than done, I know. We were all impatient.

My point wasn't about whether or not he is an elite coach, but that some of us believe he is, and could've been here if there weren't so many circumstances working against him. It was a strange thing that happened here, and I think we have a right to discuss it.


April 5th, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

when was it determined that RR was a control freak about the defense? I don't recall any article in the past  implying that RR was soley determining the defensive scheme.


April 5th, 2011 at 3:00 PM ^

If you need someone to find you exact evidence in this situation then you are just being ridiculous.  If you walked into your home and heard moaning from your bedroom, then found your wife naked with another man, would you deny that they were cheating until you saw actual penetration?  COME ON.


April 5th, 2011 at 3:07 PM ^

My theory is that Michigan never had a true defensive coordinator under Rodriguez; Bruce Tall and Tony Gibson were his real coordinators. Shafer was forced out because he refused to be a figurehead for Tall/Gibson. Rodriguez' undoing wasn't so much his meddling with the defense, it was his unchecked loyalty to Gibson and Tall in allowing them to essentially run the defense without actually promoting either of them to coordinator. 

When Rodriguez was assembling his first staff back in '08, he simultaneously asked all of his defensive assistants at WVU to join him in Ann Arbor. Most of his position coaches decided to follow him before Casteel made up his mind. When Casteel decided to stay at WVU, it put Rodriguez in a quandary: he had to find a new DC who could work with the position coaches he had already hired and start out with the entire defensive staff on the same page. That clearly didn't happen. Instead of just promoting Tall, Gibson, or Hopson to DC, he went after a DC with coordinator experience at a BCS school and hired Scott Shafer. By the end of '08, it was clear that Gibson/Tall/Hopson had mutinied against Shafer and that Rodriguez sided with them over his DC. Robinson was hired when he called Rodriguez out of the blue (or perhaps out of desperation, after having been fired by Syracuse) and lobbied hard for the job. Robinson was a good candidate on paper but wasn't in a position to exercise a lot of authority over the position coaches who (with the exception of Hopson) had been with Rodriguez since WVU. As someone who was just happy to be employed, he was fine with being a figurehead DC who implemented the will of Gibson/Tall/Hopson and later Braithwaite (another former WVU guy), but the inherent flaws of that model doomed his defense from the start. 



April 5th, 2011 at 8:36 PM ^

Go ahead and use it then.  Just know that you'll be viewed as uneducated by people who actually understand grammar.  There are lots of things in the dictionary that sound stupid.

Mitch Cumstein

April 5th, 2011 at 9:57 PM ^

"Just know that you'll be viewed as uneducated by people who actually understand grammar.  "


I'm not standing up for his use of "irregardless", but come on man.  Understanding grammar and being uneducated are very relative.  I think you could have said that in a much nicer, and more accurate way.


April 5th, 2011 at 4:26 PM ^

In my opinion if you do not have players it does not matter if your running a 3-3-5, 4-3, 3-4, or even 5-2.  UM did not have the players to run any defense in my opinion.  There was a reason why the world seemed to end when Wolfolk went down.   UM played the entire season in my opinion without a functioning CB.  We started a converted redshirt freshmen receiver at one safety position, and had a walkon safety at another.  We had no functional depth on the Dline or LB'er. 

If any one of the following does not happen R^2 still might have a job.  Warren declaring early, Woolfolk having a season ending injury, Campbell being motivated, JT Turner being motivated, Jones not having a season ending injury.  Everything went wrong.

People ask about the 3-3-5 verse the 4-3.  If UM were to run a 4-3, who would the 4 down linemen be?  I think we can state as fact that Evans, Sagasses, and Patterson were extremely limited. Campbell was a bust.  If it was easy to fix him, he would not be the focus of spring ball.  I believe Ash and Black have talent but they were very young last year.  You have starters in Martin, RVB, and Roh.  But a small problem is not only did we have a black hole at DE, we had no functional depth.  Every time one of those Carr recruited seniors had to play it was a huge advantage to the opposing offense.  Nothing against the players.  I am sure they are fine individuals.  But they were not Big10 atheletes.

Now lets look at the secondary.  At one point we had a true freshmen starting at one corner, a 5th year journeyman who could not start in the MAC at another corner, a true freshmen playing FS, a former walkon playing another safety position, and a redshirt freshmen former receiver at the last safety spot.  Your not going to win very many games with this combination of talent and youth.  If C Gordan and Kovacs were 5th year seniors surrounded by 3rd and 4th year players, I think they do fine.

We have not even gone into the linebackers and it is getting grim.  What coach on this planet could work with such a deficiency.  Maybe Robbinson did not have the motivation he once had 20 years ago.  But I challenge anyone on this list to name a coach and a scheme that would work with the personel we had.  If you blame R^2 for not bringing in enough defensive talent in his two recruiting classes, show me a defense made up of freshmen and sophmores. 

In my opinion R^2 got hit by a perfect storm.  Anything that could go wrong on defense went wrong.  Much of the fan base was rooting for him to fail. The previous coaching staff really came up lame on recruiting.   He had no room for error.  Worse for him a new AD came in who had made up his mind the day he took the job regardless of what he says.  Lastly I think R^2 knew it and paniced and tried some crazy stuff midseason that blew up in his face(PSU).  I think your going to see R^2 get another coaching gig and he will do just fine.



April 5th, 2011 at 5:52 PM ^

Sagesse could have been a serviceable defensive tackle.  I'm not quite sure why he didn't play more, to tell you the truth.  Even if you move Van Bergen inside to the 3-tech position on third downs, you would still have Roh and Black as your defensive ends.

I still think a 4-front was the way to go, but it might have been the difference between giving up 35 points a game...and giving up 34 points a game.


April 5th, 2011 at 10:06 PM ^

Still as bad as the defense was, if the offense had been consistent and many times scary in meaningful games, he'd probably still be coach. It wasn't. So we weren't left with much to hang our hat on going forward.   

I don't buy for a second that most of the fan base wanted him to fail. Still, it isn't relevant.  Cowboys fans laughed at Jimmie Johnson when he was 1-15 and they mostly DID want him to fail.  

The fan base here tired of watching Michigan not be Michigan. In other words, losing in embarrassing fashion to our rivals. Rodriguez could have won everyone over with a signature win early on. To give the fans a taste of what he was building That isn't a lot to ask for a coach who never shied away from the genius label.

The fans were largely against him at the end because we weren't playing well and it was getting worse. It was no more a conspiracy by prejudiced fans as it is for any other coach who loses.


April 5th, 2011 at 6:20 PM ^

.....the English alphabet didn't have an "R" in it sometimes.......

Is it possible to make some sort of rule that all "RR" threads must immediately be virtually TP'd and a potato placed in the muffler pipe of the offending individual? Could we maybe focus on what's happening now?


April 5th, 2011 at 7:53 PM ^

Yeah sure.  Let us not talk about anything that generates controversy and be done with it.  The Greeks argued their philosphy in the symposiums of old.  The French argued politics in their cofee shops.  Webster, Clay, and Calhoun waxed eloquently about slavery.  We of MGOBLOG have more important things to do which is to disscuss anything and everything about Michigan sports, particularly football to ad nauseam!  I pity the poor fools who think they have a life and scream "Enough Already" 

To discuss and debate what we think will happen, should happen. could have happened, would have happened, what really did happen, is half the fun.  And if it takes 600 hours and 14 trillion posts, the better.  Is that not the definition of football fanatics?  Nonfanatics, why are you reading this?  ;)


And Sagesse should have changed his last name to Molasses and his middle name to Cold.  I am sure he is a lot faster then me.  He was really slow.  Black was a freshmen who played, well like a freshmen.  I think he will be good, but got eaten alive sometimes because he just did not know what he was doing yet.


April 5th, 2011 at 8:28 PM ^

It seemed to me that Michigan played better against power running teams with its 4-front than its 3-front.

Also, I realize Sagesse is slow.  I do not expect 300+ pounders to be fast.  But if putting Sagesse on the field means that one of those freshman defensive backs is being removed from the field, then I think that's probably a better option.  I said he was serviceable, not great.


April 5th, 2011 at 10:37 PM ^

No matter what the reason RR had the worst win% of any M football coach, and there was no real reason to believe he'd turn it around the way the D was going.


April 6th, 2011 at 9:41 AM ^

I believe UM's defense would have been better.  If R^2 had stayed I projected out 10 wins.  I'm not an eternal optimist as I had projected out six wins for 2010.  If your are going to change everything you do it is a 4-5 year project.  Imagine UM basketball if Belein had been fired at the end of last year.  After 3 years your looking at a complete rebuilding job going into year 4 and a team with two pretty good starters in Harris and Sim's did pretty crummy.  Were going into year 5 and UM can talk about competing for a Big10 championship.

We see this much more in the NFL where even more clueless owners make knee jerk coaching moves.  A system takes 4-5 years to put into place.  In some cases the NFL it is easier to make changes because you can hire/trade/draft where in college you can only replace about a quarter of your team a year.  The exception might be a power program where if you have a preponderance of talent you can do anything you want.  If your a USC in it's heyday, your defense is going to be pretty good regardless of the scheme you choose if you can pick 10-15 of the top 150 players every year.

Back to UM I believe Ash, Washington, or Black would have been good enough so that we could at least field 4 starters.  Of course we still would have been hurting for depth.

So in summary I can respect the firing if Brandon's decision was that spead and UM is not allowed.  He gave the basketball coach a 4th year.  R^2 was working against such odds.  I am sure the Cleveland Browns felt pretty good about themselves 15 years ago when they fired a pretty good coach who went on to win a few SB's.  We know what Cleveland has done since.