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.


Fresh Meat

April 5th, 2011 at 11:27 AM ^

Thank you.  I haven't taken the time to neg or up vote anyone since the points don't matter, but I appreciate your constructive criticism.  All I can do is take it, and do my best.

But seriously, I'm sick of this.  Can we just move on from RR.  I wanted him to stay, he didn't, lets move on.


April 5th, 2011 at 11:19 AM ^

One of the hardest things to do when you are the boss is delegating tasks to your workers and trusting them to carry them out without your direct involvement.  The inclusion of the 3-3-5 is one sign Rodriguez got involved with the defense, especially when it suddenly showed up mid-season.  Additionally, from everything I've read, the teams personel was more suited to a 4-3 than the 3-3-5 so there's no way a coach without 3-3-5 experience would logically transition to it. 


One other form of medling I've read about is the defensive position coaches were all "Rodriguez coaches" while the DCs were outsiders.  If you really trust your DC, you should give them some say in who's on their "team".

Section 1

April 5th, 2011 at 11:26 AM ^

Because after the question, "What is the evidence that RR interfered with his DCs?" comes the question of "What is the evidence that Shafer or Robinson felt undermined by Michigan's staff of defensive assistants and position coaches?" 

I'm aware of no such evidence, for either question.  And yes, I expect that John U. Bacon's book will be enlightening.

Section 1

April 5th, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^

It seems like every other guy on MGoBlog has a theory about how Rodriguez either ignored the defense excessively or else meddled with it to the point of disaster.  Without so much as a quote or a statement from anybody who counts. 

Those notions have been repeated and restated here enough that they are now being accepted as fact.  That is what passes for content-filler on sportstalk radio.

And I'm not even arguing the point with anybody!  All I am doing is asking the question:  What's the basis for that?  If it is unprovable, beyond the capability of human understanding, fine.  We then know where we stand.  That's all.  I'm not claiming superior knowledge.  I don't know.  All I ask of anybody who makes any assertion is; How do you know?



April 5th, 2011 at 1:30 PM ^

Yet you're perfectly happy to put out there that the savior-that-got-away, Jeff Casteel, was a Bill Martin signature on a fat paycheck away from coming here and turning our defense into the 1985 Bears without even the slightest bit of circumstantial evidence indicating that it was the case.

All I ask of you is How do you know?

BTW, I enjoyed your Lion Kim interview last week.

Section 1

April 5th, 2011 at 4:37 PM ^

I've probably posted something to that effect a dozen or more times.  I always write something like, "I presume," or "presumably," or "it would appear."

But the specific case of Casteel is highly quantifiable.  We know that he was asked by Rodriguez to join the Michigan staff, from the beginning.  We know that Casteel said, "Yes," and then changed his mind when Stewart got the WVU job.  We know what Casteel said at that time, and it sounded totally believable, reasonable and non-conspiratorial.  He said that given that he now had a chance to stay in Morgantown where he was settled with his wife and daughters, he would do just that.  And so we got Shafer instead.

We also know what Casteel was getting paid at that time, and what his contract was for.

Then, we go through the year with Shafer, and he is done.  There is no doubt (though I can't find a handy quote) about Rodriguez's then going back to Casteel a second time, to try to get him to come.  Again, we know what everybody (Casteel, Shafer, Greg Robinson) would eventually have in their contracts for the relevant years.

What I suggest -- that we never offered Casteel enough money -- is at least quantifiable.  I haven't relied, despite the fact that I think it credible, on the Morgantown-based rumor about what Casteel wanted, what Michigan offered, and how close they got.  Both in 2009, and again (third time!) at the end of Dave Brandon's "process."  

I don't like to speak for Brian Cook, but I think I can pretty confidently say that my own take on the whole situation was indistinguishable from Brian's: Look at what Casteel was making at WVU.  And look at what the big boys in the world of DC's were making.  Yeah, we know all about what Casteel said about keeping his family in West Virginia.  But does anybody think that doubling or even tripling Casteel's pay to get him to come to Ann Arbor wouldn't have worked?  Given what we paid Shafer, Robinson and all the others, does it not appear that the offer to Casteel was close to what Casteel was already getting at WVU, and not close to what was later offered to Greg Mattison?              


April 5th, 2011 at 4:38 PM ^

I've posted something to this effect a few times before, but there is no way you are a real person.  You have obviously created a bot that sees key words and automatically responds with either this exact post or something about Michael Rosenberg.


April 5th, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

There actually is fairly clear evidence that RR mismanaged the defense - at least, as clear as you'll ever find.  Rich Rodriguez, by his own admission, didn't spend much time in a typical week working with the defense.  He said so in a few weekly press conferences.  I believe one of these was after the Indiana game last season (or maybe it was after MSU).  At the same time, there is the incredible coincidence of both Scott Shafer and Greg Robinson running the 3-3-5 as a base defense for the first time in their careers - a defense that RR's teams had used at WVU.  And there are Shafer's post-mortem comments in 2008, where he strongly implied that his hands had been tied.

It's not that there isn't evidence.  It's that some posters are so firmly convinced that RR excels in all areas that they just plain refuse to believe it.  (OTOH, they have zero difficulty pulling a "Bill Martin prevented Casteel from coming here" conspiracy theory out of thin air.) 



April 5th, 2011 at 12:59 PM ^

Bacon's book might be enlightening, as long as he doesn't say (or actually think) more things like this (emphasis is mine):

“[The Fab Five] stirred up a lot of controversy, but at the time the two most sympathetic figures were head coach Steve Fisher, a truly nice guy who seemed to be a hapless victim of his own recruiting success, and Webber, the most polished of the bunch, due partly to his private school background. To many fans, the rest of the Fab Five were just a bunch of clueless, classless clowns who didn't belong on a college campus.”

Really?  Are you kidding me?

Did anyone else think this?  If so, I was completely out of touch with the dynamics of the Fab Five as a 19-y/o student-fan.  For my money, I wanted the ball in Jalen's hands in crunch time, Juwan was the most "polished," and I occasionally thought that Webber, with arguably the most God-given talent, was the most prone to inconsistency and lapses in judgment.  But that's another discussion altogether.  My point is, I hope Bacon is more in touch with the dynamics of the RR era than he was with the Fab Five (as suggested by this ridiculous quote).


April 5th, 2011 at 1:27 PM ^

It's clear you didn't travel in a lot of alumni circles back then.  His comment was common from senior alums who thought Michigan should have been able to "find talent that wasn't a side show".

BTW - I was and still am a fan of the Fab Five, but I wanted to clarify that Bacon was right about a certain segment of fans.


April 5th, 2011 at 3:36 PM ^

This is true; I was a sophomore when the Fab Five hit campus.  The hate mail angle is new and shocking to me, and I'm ashamed that we have alumni who felt (and/or feel) that way.  I mean, to go to school at one of the most liberal, diverse schools in America, in one of the most liberal-thinking cities in America, and still think that way.  I guess I was naive.

However, for someone to say that the surrounding talent was a sideshow is simply ignorant.  I'm too lazy to do a lot of research on this (I'm going to rely on this article, which I assume is appropriately substantiated by accurate recruiting data...from 1991), but Howard was the #5 ranked H.S. player in the country that year (with a polished post game), Rose was #8, King #18, and Jackson #48.  I don't see how even the most ignorant, racist fan can call that a sideshow.  Much less, could they hold onto that belief when Jalen was running the show most games.

In the end, I guess I'm not so surprised that we have a faction of ignorant, racist fans, but that Bacon extended this to include "most" fans.  To me, "most" implies the majority or more.  I need more convincing before I believe that's true, because no one in my circles -- student or otherwise -- conveyed such a belief.


April 5th, 2011 at 2:20 PM ^

Didn't the ESPN documentary show the volumes of hate mail sent to the players and/or to the administration/athletic department saying exactly that?  Didn't occur to me that in this [that] day and age such racism/classism could be associated with UofM and its fans.  I was an innocent Fab Five fan too, and had no idea that kind of hatred was circling the program. 

We all know that sometimes [always?] the haters are the most vocal, but even a few is too many when it hits so close to home.


April 5th, 2011 at 3:50 PM ^

I believe that Bacon addressed this on one of his recent Friday segments on the morning show w/ Sam and Ira.  I recall that he was reflecting his thoughts at the time of the Fab Five and has now done a 180.  Also, I believe that these thoughts were more general and not about who needed the ball at crunch time---more like who you would invite to a dinner party.


April 5th, 2011 at 11:25 AM ^

I'm confused.... is the horse the 3-3-5, or is it the no-blitz-defense, or is it playing Obi at MLB, or is it forgetting to recruit a free safety, or is it not knowing how to coach-up Big Will at DT, or is it......


April 5th, 2011 at 11:24 AM ^

I've never seen any good evidence, either, but the explanation makes too much sense.  I don't know how else to explain all the adminstrative disasters on defense.  It's not hard for me to imagine Rodriguez being stubborn and siding with his buddies.

Related: Has anyone considered that RichRod was just plain lucky when he hooked up with Casteel at West Virginia?  As crazy as it may seem to some, he might still have a lot to learn about being a head coach.  His next adventure in that role might turn out differently from his one at Michigan.


April 5th, 2011 at 11:40 AM ^

I remember asking if anyone found it alarming, or at least odd, that RR's defensive staff and Gerg didn't even use the same defensive terminology. No one seemed to be worried!

Whosever fault it is and whatever happened, it sucked and I'm happy it's over.



April 5th, 2011 at 11:29 AM ^

just blame them both(Greg Robinson and RR) and move on. I'm really no longer looking for an explanation of anything over the past 3 years. We have a new coach and need to support him and his staff and go on with our business.


April 5th, 2011 at 11:31 AM ^

It's not really a dead horse if Brian still has it as the top post on the front page... That being said, this probably is a question best left in the comments on that post, and not its own thread.

The idea that it was forced is entirely conjecture as I can tell, but there are a lot of signs that indicate not everyone was on the same page.  This was a bit of a red flag for me:



April 5th, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

I remember that article all too vividly.  I got to the part about "suspectible to the power run" and remember thinking "Well I'll just go ahead and pencil in Wisconsin, Iowa and tOSU as losses."    I have nothing against the 3-3-5, but installing in a conference where the Power I is king is just dumb.


April 5th, 2011 at 11:55 AM ^

You used to be good for a THOUGHTFUL reply, even when I disagreed with you. It's a little nuance the OP is after and--for my money--the notion that Gerg was so at odds with/ill-suited to the D he was forced at gunpoint to install is garbage. . . of the hacknied kind that starts to ooze pus when too many people repeat it. It's completely belied by the likes of the article cited above, for example. 

It's much more likely that RR wanted it, Gerg acquiesced, insisted that was no problem, then proceeded to F it up royally, don't you think? That doesn't mean RR isn't/wasn't ultimately responsible. 

I will never get why people come on here to argue DON'T THINK! BE A HOMER! Aren't there duller places for that? 


April 5th, 2011 at 12:00 PM ^

The terse replies are meant to discourage Ziff72 from pondering such issues publicly when a little critical thought of his own should surely be able to do the job.  These issues have been discussed at length, and the very idea that Rodriguez is not to blame for Michigan's installation of the 3-3-5 is mind-boggling.  Ziff72 is a frequent reader/poster on this site, and frankly, there's no excuse for another thread being created about the topic from someone who is so involved in the site.

If he were a newbie, it would be understandable.  He's not.


April 5th, 2011 at 12:23 PM ^

I'm just trying to get some info.  Obviously RR has input on what defensive scheme he wants to run, but you have been around football long enough as well Magnus to know that head coaches don't always have that much input to the defense.   I feel like we're Michael and Kate talking in the Godfather...who's being naive Magnus?

Mike Ditka for the 85 Bears was told to get the fuck out of defensive meetings, Mike Tomlin came to Pittsburgh with a Tampa 2 background and the Steelers told him we're running Dick Lebaus 3-4.  You think Harbaugh was telling rex Ryan how to run the defense in Baltimore?  Mack Brown was meddling with Will Muschamp on a daily basis at Texas?  You think Bill Stewart was really meddling with what Jeff Casteel was doing at WV?  Doubt it.  

There is a difference between setting your overall schemes and meddling.   Here's my version.

RR and GR talk in December and January they look at their personnel and tape from last year and they see what worked and what didn't, RR gives his input on things he would like to see, GR either agrees or they have a conversation and come to a decision  on what they want to run.  From that point on I assume RR has little input other than player development and general gameplan notes for the week.

Internet Version

RR tells GR to install defense he doesn't want to run.   GR doesn't like it and doesn't research it and comes up with a defense no one has ever seen before.   My logic meter tells me this.   If RR wanted to run a 3-3-5 like he had at WV why didn't we ever run it?   That's the question I can't answer for myself based on the prevailing theory..  You know better than most that we never ran the 3-3-5 like WV ran it.  So what exactly was RR trying to do if he was meddling with the defense.