RR sit down interview with Mitch Albom

Submitted by NorthSideBlueFan on August 29th, 2010 at 5:57 AM

Sunday edition special and Rich seems pretty candid with his responses:



A couple of highlights: (Sorry no text boxes, still learning that.)

M: Do you hear a ticking clock on your time here?

R: Oh, I know there's the talk out there, because we get it used against us in recruiting. But do I have a heightened sense of urgency? I don't know if it can get more heightened than it always is. Sure, we need to win and we need to have success. But I've always felt that way


M: What would be a failure in your mind this season?

R: If we're not in the conversation as far as competing for a Big Ten championship and if we're not playing top 25 football by the end of the year.


M: Why is Tate Forcier not further ahead than the others, based on games he started last year?

R: It's really been the other things with him. From a football standpoint, he always works hard. But to advance, certainly at this level, you've gotta do all the other things right -- academically, off the field. ... And if you're always in our doghouse, so to speak, because of (those) other issues, then it's gonna slow your progress down

M: Was that an assumption you now regret?

R: Well, I think, the class that graduated ... Chad Henne and Mike Hart and Shawn Crable ... that class ... that's a special group. Those kind don't come along very often. And so for me to assume that the guys behind them would have been at that level ... that was a mistake.

Overall, a really good read.



August 29th, 2010 at 6:39 AM ^

...informative interview.  RichRod fills in several of the blanks and sheds some light on things we've been arguing about.

M: So what went wrong?

R: A lack of communication ... the old saying -- what we have here is a failure to communicate? And there was a huge failure to communicate on a lot of levels, but it was almost like a perfect storm. ... It wasn't any malicious attempt ... somebody keeping something from somebody. ... What bothered me the most and what was so regrettable is that it could easily have been avoidable. Just pick up a phone -- or go see each other -- or talk about it, and the problem would have been fixed in literally minutes, not hours. So there is a lot to learn from that. I've never been an e-mail guy ... I never e-mailed until a couple of years ago. ... I've learned now you'd better be on the paper trail, too.

M: What part of it then do you kick yourself most over?

R: Uh ... that's a tough one there. Probably ... don't ever keep anything from me that I'll be ultimately responsible for. I probably should have stressed that more often. And then I probably should have followed through on things to make sure they were being done. ... The worst thing you can do sometimes is assume things.

M: Did you do that?

R: Yeah ... and not only in the NCAA stuff, but I made assumptions before I took this job. Hey, this is Michigan. We just roll 'em out there we're gonna win eight, nine games ... you just assume you go in there, even with a new system, and you're gonna have enough talent ...

M: Was that an assumption you now regret?

R: Well, I think, the class that graduated ... Chad Henne and Mike Hart and Shawn Crable ... that class ... that's a special group. Those kind don't come along very often. And so for me to assume that the guys behind them would have been at that level ... that was a mistake.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to read that RichRod knows now that he inherited a decimated defense and offense.

But I knew after the first spring that we were gonna have some struggles on the field, and it wasn't going from one scheme or another ... it was the transition from guys never playing to having to play. People said, "Why don't you run the same system that they're used to (at first)?" I said, "Offensively, they haven't played in any system, because they haven't played."

We had one starter back on the O-line ... no quarterbacks with any experience ... the running backs and the other skilled guys had very little experience. So it didn't matter what you did. ... You might as well go ahead and put your stuff in and teach it.

RichRod seems alternately weary and positive. It's hard to even imagine the level of stress he's under.

M: With the NCAA thing still hanging over you, does it feel like you've been asked to coach with one hand tied behind your back?

R: Yeah. I think there has been that ... but I try to compartmentalize those things and not let it affect our players and our staff. I always tell the guys -- let me handle that stuff. But I think what it's done -- the extra drama, so to speak -- has made it not as enjoyable. I should be able to enjoy this a whole lot more -- coaching at Michigan -- than I have.

M: Have you talked with Rita about that?

R: Yeah. No question. And the people that know us know we like having fun. ... I love coaching and I love being around college athletes. I love being in a college town. And people still say, "Why are you laughing?" They look at me and say, "Gosh, you got a smile on your face!"

Well, yeah. I'm healthy. My family's healthy. We got a great job. We're in a great place. I'm as happy as I can be. Rita and I talk about how much happier we're gonna be when all this other stuff is gone and we're winning and we're having success. ... Boy, it's just gonna be terrific, you know?

Indeed it will.


August 29th, 2010 at 7:27 AM ^

this line "People said, "Why don't you run the same system that they're used to (at first)?" I said, "Offensively, they haven't played in any system, because they haven't played."....

in 2008 i tried to explain this very point to people when they would bitch about how bad they were, and no one cared to listen... the uninformed people just wanted to believe that michigan shouldn't have issues like that, and no matter who they put out on the field would win 8 games...


August 29th, 2010 at 9:45 AM ^

I agree 1000%.  However, while I know we shouldn't play this game, I can't help but wonder how things shake out if RR took over in the '07 season.  Particularly i'm curious to see what happens at the QB position.  Does Chad Henne stay? (I think the answer is yes.)  But, I don't see RR recruiting a guy like Henne.  How does this offense perform with that personnel? Offensive line?  No judgments, just simply curious.



August 29th, 2010 at 11:29 AM ^

Can't quite picture Henne leaping over a couple of Indiana linebackers or torching the entire WMU defense.  I was re-watching some of the '05 PSU game, and right before the last play with the ball on the 10, the announcer said "Well, Henne doesn't run,so you don't have to worry about the quarterback there..."  I don't know about you, but I love the fact that we don't hear that from announcers anymore.


August 29th, 2010 at 12:36 PM ^

It's nice to finally have a guy that's a burner and could torch the D like what has happened to us in the past.  At the same time, guys like Chad Henne are special, and to think we could lose out on players like him going forward is a little unsettling; but, you bring up a good point, the players that we'd potentially be getting going forward, also make it a lot easier to accept.


August 30th, 2010 at 10:44 AM ^

Goddamn it, I like Rich Rod.  I have yet to walk away from hearing/reading him speak and think he was anything other than a hellova good guy.   Props to Albom for asking good questions, and props to the Freep for running an article that implicitly attacks the Freep's poor coverage.

Swayze Howell Sheen

August 29th, 2010 at 7:16 AM ^

albom knows RR has turned the corner, and hence albom is now going to play "the good guy" reporter who pitches the "other side" of the story on RR. smart guy, albom. get on the bandwagon now! get access to RR and the program. and watch your buddies (who punch dolphins) get left behind trying to find some stories to write when the season goes well.



August 29th, 2010 at 8:03 AM ^

Interesting interview.  Also noticed on the bio piece (end of the print version) that they seemingly attempt to highights his ties to Michigan.  Mentions his hometown as "5 miles from Fielding Yots's birthplace" and re. college "played for Don Nehlan, an assistant coach under Bo".  I also got the sense that there is some attempt at repairing some of the relationship with the Freep.


August 29th, 2010 at 10:16 AM ^

info always seemed to disappear in the discussions about RichRod being an "outsider."  Early on I got the impression that would have been one of the reasons Rodriguez was so excited about coming to Michigan.  Bo came from Woody, not from Michigan, but then Nehlan came from Bo and infected Rod with affection for all things maize & blue.  Plausible? 

So not a big deal that this article highlights the connection, but that most others let it slip into shredder.  You know, keep out the facts that might disprove your hypothesis.  Or agenda.


August 29th, 2010 at 6:45 PM ^

Not only is it plausible, it's obviously the case.

Anyone who remembers Rich's introductory press conference will remember the moment he said "Don Nehlen had a saying... 'those who stay will be champions'" and was subsequently told that it came from Bo. And Don Nehlen came out at the same time saying he'd told RR to go to Michigan because it was a special place.

Clearly the dude is a part of the greater Bo/Woody coaching tree, regardless of what offense he runs.


August 29th, 2010 at 8:53 AM ^

Albom has been largely silent throughout the jihad.  Is this why he was given access for the interview?  I can't imagine Rosenberg et. al. getting it.  Also, why wasn't Angelique or Wojo called to do the interview?  It's not like Albom is known for doing at length interviews in print.  He usually spins his talks into... well, Mateen Cleeves type stories.  Seems like Rodriguez and the AD want the exposure of Albom for this article.

Also, is it just me, or does Rodriguez's talk about the empty cupboard in 2008 sting a little less than it has in the past?  Less controversial and more matter of fact.  Not that I've ever disagreed on this point, but the pill seems a bit easier to take now that Lloyd is officially retired from the program.  Maybe time heals all wounds.


August 29th, 2010 at 10:12 AM ^

Seems like Rodriguez and the AD want the exposure of Albom for this article.

Exactly. An Albom interview gets far more attention, both in its placement within the paper, and by other media types around the nation, than interviews with any of the others. This is an attempt by RR and the AD to change the media narrative surrounding his tenure here. It's a smart move to give the interview to Albom, and to the freep. Albom carries a lot of weight there.


August 29th, 2010 at 4:36 PM ^

And several of the very calculated statements made by the Athletic Dept lately make me feel fairly certain that they fully intend to keep RR around after this year, no matter what. Barring 3-9 of course.


August 29th, 2010 at 5:12 PM ^

This article is a break for the program, a self-made break to some extent...It seems very likely to me that Michigan will be 6-6 at the end of this year but obviously on the upswing.  My guess is that Brandon knows this and that he will have no intention of firing Coach Rod in that instance. 


August 29th, 2010 at 5:52 PM ^

I'm starting to fall into this camp as well. Brandon is very pro-Michigan Man. It would be unbecoming of a Michigan Man to not give a Michigan coach enough time to succeed. And due to the magnitude of the change that came with the RR hire, 3 years is not enough time to succeed. Three years is at the bottom of what is reasonable for a coaching change when the magnitude of the change is small. And the huge magnitude of this coaching change is on Martin (and is symbolically tied into the Michigan institution), not RR. Thus, the Michigan administration must honor what it enacted by hiring RR. It would be poor management to enact such massive change and then cut its stabilizing time short. Brandon has to exemplify what it means to be a Michigan Man and be fair to RR. He must get more than 3 years.

This is, of course, barring another 3-9 season, which is outside the realm of what a reasonable Michigan Man should excuse.


August 29th, 2010 at 12:14 PM ^

Also in the paper today, predictions.

Writer             U-M   MSU   B10 Champ

Rosenberg    6-6     10-2     OSU

Sharp           6-6      7-5       Iowa

Shelton        5-7      8-4       OSU

Snyder         7-5      7-5       OSU


August 29th, 2010 at 12:57 PM ^

(And bye the way, there's a Dos Equis commercial playing in the background while I type this...)

Picking MSU to win 10 games sounds crazy. But this should be Mark Dantonio's deepest and most talented team, and there are two things about it that I love: QB Kirk Cousins and the schedule. With Notre Dame coming to East Lansing, I think MSU will start 4-0. And with Ohio State off the schedule, I like the Spartans to win six Big Ten Games...

Goes without saying, we REALLY need to beat MSU this year, for a variety of reasons.


August 29th, 2010 at 12:54 PM ^

Another Sparty grad and all that. Kinda Jemele Hill, but not quite as snarky. But alway ready to downgrade us.

With so many player departures in the preseason, the Wolverines will struggle because of their lack of depth at key positions. Michigan could have at least three wins before the Oct. 23 bye, but a tough final stretch that includes games against Wisconsin, at Penn State and at Ohio State will put U-M one game short of bowl eligibility.

So, um, yeah...


August 29th, 2010 at 7:53 AM ^

I am one of the listen-very-closely-to-Rich-and-what-he-says-between-the-lines-about-the-upcoming-season crowd. To hear him answer:

[Failure would be] If we're not in the conversation as far as competing for a Big Ten championship and if we're not playing top 25 football by the end of the year.

Phew. OK. Still young, but young and experienced. Let's see it in action!


August 29th, 2010 at 8:45 AM ^

I logged in just to agree with you.  I noticed that comment and I was happy to hear it from someone who knows about the team more than anyone else.  I don't think he would throw it out there if he wasn't confident in it.  Otherwise, I would just be another spike to hoist him on if the team doesn't do it.


August 29th, 2010 at 11:07 AM ^

I certainly hope Coach Rod sees these goals as attainable this year, but doesn't everyone (coaches, players etc.) say competing for a Big Ten Championship is a goal every year? I want to emphasize that I hope you all are correct, and this is a prediction specific to this season. But I think it could easily be interpreted as these are what the normal expectations are. I guess the real question for Coach Rod is were the last two seasons a failure or did he have lower expectations because of the decimated defense, inexperience etc?


August 29th, 2010 at 11:24 AM ^

Last year he would say stuff like while our objective is always the Big Ten title, we'll be good enough to win it when we have enough guys we can win with ... or we'd be disappointed if we don't make a bowl game, but ....

Unless Mitch cut the disclaimer or moved it (like the know we're good when we can play badly and win, and we're not there).

But the vibes out of Rich this year are much less pained statement then disclaimer, and more "I think I can" confident. This comment is the latest that gives me hope.


August 29th, 2010 at 12:17 PM ^

He couldn't full Brandon by saying they expect to win a National Title.  I got the meaning that "playing like a Top 25 team" didn't mean they had to be in the Top 25, but that they improve as the year goes on and are developing and playing their best football at the end of the year. Which, after the last two years, would be a victory all it's own.  But I didn't take that to mean he was expecting a Top 25 team, even if he's always shooting for it, and more.


August 29th, 2010 at 12:37 PM ^

We always hear about poll voters agonizing over whether their votes are based on "Where is this team right now?" or is it for a body of work during the season.  I think RR is saying he wants to be a top 25 at that point in time despite the polls representing a body of work for each team, for the most part.  Great launching pad for next year.


August 29th, 2010 at 12:44 PM ^

To be playing your best ball at the end of the season. Something we actually haven't seen for awhile....but Bo's teams usually did it like clockwork.  Often a much better team in November than September.


August 29th, 2010 at 7:56 AM ^

M: What about your defense?

R: We've been disappointing the last two years defensively. Frankly, we have not had the numbers defensively to even compete at this level. We were at 23 scholarship kids. And now we're gonna at least have the numbers there. And if we do our job developing them in the next couple of years, we're gonna be pretty good there.


M: Did you think last year when you were 5-2 that you were over a hump?

R: Not really, because I was really worried defensively. We were just hanging on early in the year ... I'll know we've gotten there -- or at least gotten over the hump -- when we're good enough to play poorly and still win. But we're not there.

Read more: Mitch Albom: Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez: 'I've got thicker skin now. I've got alligator skin' | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20100829/COL01/8290419/1054/SPORTS06/Ive-got-thicker-skin-now.-Ive-got-alligator-skin#ixzz0xzldQqcc