A Theory of Coaching FAIL

Submitted by el segundo on November 1st, 2010 at 3:51 PM

After reading a variety of things about the reasons for the horrific FAIL in defensive coaching, and, most of all, after watching dismal performance after dismal performance this year, I've noticed one common theme in the defense's problems -- consistently bad decision-making by almost everyone on defense.  Defensive linemen and linebackers don't fill the correct gaps; linebackers overrun the play (often, this is a variation of the first problem); defensive backs aren't in the correct zone or decide to cover the less dangerous receiver in their zone; defensive backs and linebackers take bad pursuit angles.  Etc.

I find it endlessly frustrating to watch the same mental mistakes made over and over again, by the same players and, even more disturbingly, by different players.  It's one thing if Obi Ezeh is a really bad decision-maker.  But the bad-decision disease seems to be spreading to the whole defense.


Although GERG bears a lot of the responsibility --probably most of it -- I don't think it's all his fault.  I think Rich Rodriguez has shown an insufficient tolerance for bad decision-making.  In some respects, this is the principal flaw in his coaching at Michigan.

It's not just bad defensive decision-making that hurts the team.  Other parts of the team are infected.  Look at Jeremy Gallon.  He has made bad decisions from the beginning of the season on kick returns, but he's put out there again and again.  Players on both sidess of the ball make the same kinds of dumb penalties week after week.  The kicker puts two consecutive kickoffs out of bounds at crucuial times.

I know the team is young and that young players make mistakes.  But should they always be making the same ones over and over again?  It would be one thing if the defense was thwarted by poor decisions on backside contain one week and by poor decisions about zone drops in another week.  But the team keeps making the same bad decisions over and over.

This kind of problem is really attributable to the head coach.  He could make it clear that he won't tolerate stupid mistakes made over and over again.  But I have not heard anything from Rodriguez along those lines.  He just seems to keep blaming his team's inexperience.  And he allows his coordinators and position coaches to put the same guys in the same situations where they've made bad decisions before -- and then they keep making them.  I'm sure that the coaches are telling the players about how to make the correct decisions.  But the message does not seem to be getting through.  Only the head coach can really do anything about making sure that his coaches are communicating effectively.

If this really is a flaw of Rodriguez's, firing GERG or even the entire defensive staff is not going to solve it.  I like Michigan's offense.  I think there are few coaches who could have seen the potential in Denard Robinson as a quarterback and then brought that potential out of him, with spectacular results.  I want Rodriguez to succeed.  But I'm really starting to wonder if he can -- especially if he's not doing enough to prevent bad decision-making by his coaches and players.




November 1st, 2010 at 3:57 PM ^

Gallon, Smith, the 3-3-5, the entirety of the defense...What is most alarming to me is that we are no better than we were last year, and our offense is vastly improved.  Progress on the field must be obvious, and sometimes that doesn't always manifest in wins and losses.  However, for the first time in Rich Rod's tenure here at Michigan, I feel as though we lost a game we should have won.  Even Toledo 08 was a coin flip to me, in regards to our talent level.  This sucks, especially because Rich Rod's resume leads you to believe he does more with less.   Looks to be less and less the case.  He needs to beat Illinois and HOUSE Purdue to stay, imo.


November 1st, 2010 at 4:02 PM ^

What in the hell does this even mean?



He could make it clear that he won't tolerate stupid mistakes made over and over again.


Do you think Jeremy Gallon returned that punt because he thought "oh whatever man, coach rod doesn't really care that much either way"?


Mistakes happen because we are inexperienced. Get over it. Cliches and proverbs are worthless.


El Scorcho > El Segundo


November 1st, 2010 at 6:53 PM ^

I agree that a coach just saying he won't tolerate mistakes is unlikely to you know, actually make mistakes intolerable and less likely to happen.  However, when a team makes similar mistakes repeatedly that speaks to a failure of coaching will or acumen.  On defense right now we should be simplifying everything and trying to run 3 or 4 (literally) schemes out of the same package correctly.  Just focus on doing a very small number of things right and drill those things repeatedly until we are technically sound.  The fact that our linebackers (two of them seniors) still cannot tackle or get proper depth on a zone drop speaks either to supremely dumb, passive players or a coach who doesn't believe in teaching fundamentals (lack of coaching will).   Every practice for us should be running: 1. a cover 2 shell; 2. a cover 3; 3. some man/blitz variation; and 4. one zone blitz variation  No substitutions to match the other team, just four defenses that we perfect our execution of. 

When your team is young, you simplify and create confidence one technique, one play, one formation at a time.


November 1st, 2010 at 8:52 PM ^

Were these guys 'inexperienced' when they were somewhat dominate at the HS level? Or JH? Or Pop Warner?

The game gets increasingly faster as the players move up, yes. But is the argument these players have never been in cover 2 or 3? They've never returned kicks before.

"Never in front of 100K fans!"

Ok, are they thinking about how many fans there are in the stadium or "I'm on national TV" while they're doing 'x'? Of course not. Before the game, warming up there maybe some butterflies (rightly so), but please stop the argument, "They're inexperienced". Perhaps at 'this level' against speed they've never seen before, but not because they've never played the b gap, or played press coverage or cover 3 or the spur or the bandit or contain or weak side backer.


November 1st, 2010 at 4:17 PM ^

That's depthinitely one of our main issues -- depth leads to competiton at positions, which leads to practicing harder, which eventually leads to results on the field, or else. I'm not saying our players aren't practicing hard (I'm also not saying they are working hard though; I don't know one way or the other) but if you know that you've got to work your tail off because there's someone else just waiting for you to mess up so they can play, then that drives players to be better. At most of the positions right now, we simply don't have that luxury.


November 1st, 2010 at 4:10 PM ^

Have you seen RR on the sidelines?  Does this look like a guy that tolerates mistakes with a hohum and a hug.......tell that to Tate, B. Gibbons, Obi etc...  Guys get pulled for mistakes all the time.  The problem is we only get 85 scholarships  and most of those are handed out to frosh and sophs.   You can't pull everyone. 

el segundo

November 1st, 2010 at 6:37 PM ^

Yelling at players for mental mistakes doesn't guarantee that they will learn how not to repeat them.  A coach can tell players that they should not make mental mistakes until he's blue in the face.  But that's useless unless he can teach them how to avoid them.  From the outside, Michigan looks like a team that has not learned from its mistakes.

Something is not working in the way that the coaching staff addresses mental mistakes.  Ultimately, it's Rodriguez's job to figure out how to prevent mental mistakes, by having his coaches do something different or by doing something different himself.


November 1st, 2010 at 4:14 PM ^

I am no longer a RR defender.  I do not believe that he is the man for the job.  But, I do not agree with THIS criticism of him.  I think that the players know that they shouldn't make mistakes.  I think that a kicker knows not to kick it out of bounds.  Gallon knows what he should be doing.  The tolerance for mistakes is not the reason for the mistakes.  If you want to blame RR for anything, blame him for not coaching / developing these guys better so that the mistakes get less and less over the course of the season.

Indiana Blue

November 1st, 2010 at 4:14 PM ^

but I had my Live Radio listening to Frank Beckman while at the game on Saturday and he said that Hagerup is now kicking off ....  so I guess the coaches did make the change.

I honestly never even looked at who was kicking off.   Maybe someone else know ...

Go Blue ! 

Wes Mantooth

November 1st, 2010 at 4:15 PM ^

I don't necessarily disagree.  It is extremely frustrating watching the same mistakes over and over.  But some of the people starting on defense & special teams just aren't good at football or were playing in HS a year ago.  So if they make a mistake, what do you want to have happen?  Pulling a linebacker from the game and replacing him with a true freshman who's going to make even worse mistakes isn't an option.  

My complaints have to do with roster management and attrition.  I find it completely unacceptable that 3 years in we're still starting Freshmen and walk-ons on defense.  Vlad Emilien transferring due to a lack of playing time just boggles my mind.  We have one of the worst defenses in the country.  If putting him on the field a little bit will keep him around and provide us with a bit more depth going forwards, what do you have to lose?


November 1st, 2010 at 6:34 PM ^

I don't know if this is a coaching problem or lack of talent, but the #1 problem I see with the defense is they get blocked too easily.....or in coach speak, they aren't getting off blocks. 

Opposing lineman just seem to have their way with our d-line and linebackers.  I hope to god the coaches are teaching the players techniques to shed and/or aviod blocks.   

 I don't blame the players.  I'm sure they are trying their best out there.  Just right now the defense just isn't good enough to stop any Big Ten team. 



November 2nd, 2010 at 12:43 AM ^

We all know about the youth and inexperience.  However, there should be some difference between their performance in the seventh and eighth games versus that in the first two.  I don't see individual or group progress on the defensive side of the ball.  A mediocre defense would have ensured a victory Saturday night.

Aren't we better off being aggressive on defense instead of dropping off seven yards and then immediately retreating?