Monday, November 29, 2010

Attention to Detail

Note: This is not my work. I did not do the research, I did not voice the opinion, I did not tell the story or transcribe the narrative. I just happen to agree with it wholeheartedly and believe that this is the most logical, most even-keeled, and overall best representation of our present situation.

If you are a subscriber to Michigan's Rivals site, you can find this under the post titled "What was, what might have been, what is, and what could be.... (long)." I have received permission from both the poster of that topic and the actual author of the words therein to post this here in an effort to spread the message it contains, not just as an effort to sway the opinion of those who still disagree, but to articulately explain and describe our collective point of view and why we hold it.

So, without further adieu:


Subject: What was, what might have been, what is, and what could be.

(Jonathan) Chait made a point recently that Rich Rodriguez inherited a "hollowed out" roster.

Is this really the case? Let's look at who the starters were for the second game of the 2008 season.

QB: Steve Threet
RB: McGuffie/Brown/Shaw (with Minor on double-secret probation)
LT: Ortmann
LG: McAvoy
C: Molk
RG: Moosman
RT: Schilling
TE: Butler
WR: Stonum
WR: Odoms

DE: Graham
DT: Taylor
DT: Johnson (with Martin making early contributions)
DE: Jamison (with Van Bergen making contributions)
WILL: Mouton
MIKE: Ezeh
SAM: Thompson
CB: Warren
CB: Trent
FS: Brown
SS: Harrison

That offense was young. You had a redshirt freshman QB, two true freshman WR's, and three new starters on the OL.

Conversely, the defense was a solid unit. Not hollow in the least! The DL should have been the Big Ten's best that year, or at least close to it. You had a senior Thompson at SAM, a returning starter in Ezeh at MIKE, and Jonas Mouton ready at WILL - and he played some good football in '08. Warren and Trent were a solid duo at corner. Harrison was a senior at safety, and Brown was a junior.

What could we reasonably have expected had Lloyd or DeBord continued to coach the team?

In 2008, we would have surely played the type of football that many of Michigan's faithful wanted to see go away: conservative, three-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust, ball control football, keeping a stout defense fresh and making just enough plays throwing over the top to beat most teams.

Justin Boren would have still been here in 2008 and 2009, and Manningham and/or Arrington might have been around for 2008 as well. (I am assuming Mallett and McGuffie were gone regardless.) But Steve Threet would have had a fighting chance in a passing offense behind an OL of Ortmann-Boren-Molk-Moosman-Schilling with Manningham and Arrington at WR, and Stonum and Hemingway behind them. Certainly a better shot than he did running read-option and throwing to freshmen.

When you look back at 2008, think of all the games that were there to be won: Utah, Toledo, Purdue, MSU... even PSU and ND. Under Coach Mike DeBord, that team probably goes 7-5 or even 8-4 (and DeBord gets skewered by fans for doing so).

Due to some recruiting misses at safety and on the offensive line (which resulted in some shaky play on the right side for the last few years of the Carr Era), and a perfect storm of Henne, Hart and Long all graduating at once, Vince Lombardi could not have done better than 8-4 in 2008. 3-9, however, was a fail under any coach.

Now play the tape through.

In 2009, you lose Jamison, Taylor, Johnson, Thompson, Trent and Harrison off the defense. Martin and Sagesse step in at tackle (and in hindsight, we know Martin was ready to be an impact player, with Van Bergen at DE. Fitzgerald and Demens battle it out at the SAM. Kovacs and Brown make up a shaky safety duo.

But on offense, you would have had all five OL starters returning. Minor and Brown as seniors at RB. Steve Threet in his second year starting in the passing offense we have since learned he could flourish in. And you may well have had Forcier backing up Threet. Jason loved it here and only transferred for a chance to play - the old staff probably recruits Tate and lands him.

Look back on the 2009 schedule. MSU, Purdue, Iowa, even OSU... there were a couple of more wins to be had there beyond the low-hanging fruit we picked up. Probably another 7 or 8 win season. Imagine the flak Mike DeBord would have been taking! There wouldn't have been a DeBord "apologist" on De Board, despite maintaining our bowl streak and winning several more games over two years than Rodriguez did.

The 2010 roster gets harder to project. But we would have certainly had Molk and Schilling starting on the OL, probably with Huyge and Dorrestein. It's difficult to project the other OL's because the rest are Rodriguez recruits - and this is one area where he and his staff have done a bang-up job (better than their predecessors). It's also difficult to project who the running backs would be - but this was not a stellar year for our RB's, so you can at least assume that whoever Carr & Co. brought in would be no worse. But instead of a first year starter in Denard, you'd have had a fourth year junior Steve Threet at quarterback, now in his third year starting in a pro-style system. He'd have been throwing to a well-seasoned Stonum and Hemingway, with probably Kelvin Grady as the 3rd/slot receiver. Toney Clemons is probably still hanging around somewhere, perhaps making more rap singles with a 5th year senior Coner.

On defense, we know the anchors of the line would have been Martin and Van Bergen, and we'd have had Ezeh, Mouton, and Fitzgerald/Demens together for a third straight year under the same system, and probably getting better coaching than they have under the Rodriguez regime. That may well have been a really good linebacking corps had things been different. Donovan Warren would likely still be here at corner with Floyd and Rogers and whoever else Lloyd might have recruited competing across from him. Much better than the mess we had this year. I couldn't even begin to tell you who the safeties would be. Teric Jones and one of the Gordons? Rogers or Floyd at FS? Couldn't be any worse than what we had.

Had the Bo/Mo/Lloyd program continued under DeBord, it's a good bet the last three years would have averaged about 8-4, and people would be very dissatisfied with that. Gary Moeller was ostensibly fired for the Southfield incident, but in reality he was fired for losing four games in 1993 and 1994.

It would have been perfectly fair to be disgruntled with the state of the program had things continued on their old course. Almost any organization, be it business, education, whatever, can get stale without new ideas coming in from the outside. And it was frustrating to be able to see the top of the mountain from where we were, only to continue coming up short. The 2004 and 2005 OSU games that LITERALLY slipped just through our hands... the calamitous starts to 1998 and 2007... the Rose Bowl losses to USC in 2003 and 2006.

Some, however, cautioned that a wholesale dismantling of the program means you are throwing the baby out with the bath water. And those people who so cautioned turned out to be spot on. Almost every year, under Lloyd, we woke up the morning of the OSU game knowing that we would have a shot at at least a share of the Big Ten title. We NEVER woke up on any Saturday assuming Michigan would lose. Many if not most people took that for granted, and assumed that anyone who came from the outside and took over after Lloyd would automatically have that and just add to it. But that's not how it works (as we have very painfully discovered).

By electing to completely throw away everything that Michigan was and start with a blank piece of paper, we ended an historic streak of non-losing seasons, the longest active bowl streak, and at many points over the next three years became a national joke.

Now, were there people who didn't accept Rich Rodriguez from day one? Hell yes. Many fans had reservations. You had the Rosenbergs of the world. And you had some people internally. But the fact of the matter is, this is no different from transitions at any big football program - and it's not even unprecedented at Michigan. There was great resistance to Bo Schembechler when he took over for Bump Elliott. For the rest of his life Bo maintained that he never could have gotten off the ground without the support he got from Bump during the transition, and this was a "lasting lesson" that Lloyd did not take from Bo. It wasn't enough to stay out of Rich's way and resist actively undermining him. If Lloyd wanted to do what was best for Michigan, he should have been Rich's loudest, most visible fan. And behind the scenes, he should have been telling his former players who were not "all in" to man up and f*****g GET all in!

Now... Rich was not blameless, either. The special joy he took in dismantling the program in order to fully rebuild it in his own image was something that would have sickened Bo. When Bo took over, there was absolutely a new sheriff in town, but he came to the job with an acute awareness of the brand he was inheriting. He had his own way of doing things, but he was not trying to fashion a "Bo Schembechler program" or recreate any past success. His job was to do the best he could with MICHIGAN - it was bigger than he was. And he knew it. Rich doesn't seem to understand that quite so well.

Further... many insiders will tell you that Rich was like a bull in a china shop within the walls of Schembechler Hall. While he said the right things publicly, inside he routinely disparaged what he had been left by Lloyd and criticized Lloyd's program, apparently too dense to realize that most of the people still involved with the program were former colleagues and admirers of Carr. He established a tone from the start that all but invited the skeptics to actively undermine him, and he did little to earn the respect that he very much needed from Lloyd Carr. In short: don't portray Rich as merely a victim of a stodgy blueblood establishment. There's plenty of blame to go around for why this marriage didn't work out, and that includes Rich. He had his own "faction".

And none of this political intrigue cost Michigan a single win under Rodriguez.

What DID cost us wins?

I agree with those who are believers in the Rodriguez offense. It works, and has the potential with an experienced, talented group to be absolutely explosive. He's an elite offensive mind. It's easy to say, "all we need to do is improve the defense a little and we'll win 10 games!"

But there's a reason that fixing the two phases at which we are historically bad is not likely, and it goes deeper than X's and O's and star gazing and all the directly observable factors.

Whether it's the New England Patriots, Ohio State, Google, Apple, Hyundai, GE.... some programs are able to build a culture of attention to detail. It's a common denominator in high performing organizations in sports, in business, everywhere.

In a game with 22 players on the field, with that many moving parts, everyone doing their job is critical, and it's about more than just "making plays". Breakdowns in execution, breakdowns in fundamentals, breakdowns in concentration, breakdowns in ball security... when it happens week after week after week, you may not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of the pattern, but it IS a pattern that DOES have a root cause.

When Denard puts the ball on the ground like clockwork EVERY WEEK, when Lewan picks up a personal foul EVERY WEEK, when Jeremy Gallon makes a bad decision or fumbles the ball EVERY WEEK, when Roy Roundtree drops passes EVERY WEEK... it all falls under the category of "attention to detail". That culture of attention to detail simply is not there under Rodriguez.

Look back at the fumble stats for Rich Rodriguez teams. Fumbling has been a problem all three years here, and it was a problem on four of his teams at West Virginia. Maybe it's that his teams consistently have the ball in the hands of small players who can't absorb a hit and hold onto the football as well. Or maybe ball security isn't worked on enough (and actively enforced through the withholding of playing time). But West Virginia fumbled away a shot at the National Championship against Pitt in 2007, losing three and having one or two others kill drives. On 7 of Rich's last 10 teams - different programs, different players - fumbling has been a major problem. There is only one common denominator: Rich Rodriguez.

Attention to detail.

West Virginia ended up with the nation's #3 defense this year (Catseel, without Rodriguez), and Syracuse ended up #6 (Shafer, without Rodriguez). Greg Robinson, with two Super Bowl rings in his trophy case, presided over the nation's #109 defense - the bottoming out of a three year trend. The difference in competition between the Big East and Big Ten cannot account for that kind of disparity - especially when West Virginia and certainly Syracuse don't have near the level of recruited talent that Michigan does.

Attention to detail.

The utter cluster*** that is our kicking and return game - despite three years of recruiting ideal kick/punt returner prototypes and having a US Army All-American kicker AND punter on the roster - is another area where attention to detail (or the lack thereof) is painfully evident. Special teams is ALL about coaching and attention to detail. Ohio State and Virginia Tech have great special teams every year. Their preparation and attention to detail allows them to be better in this phase than we are.

At Tulane and Clemson, Rich was only responsible for the offensive scheme and play calling - a job at which he is nothing short of exceptional. And at Glenville State and West Virginia, the level of competition allowed offensive scheme alone to carry the day - along with catching lightning in a bottle in the form of Steve Slaton and Pat White (who in addition to great speed had exceptional instincts and timing on the read option - something Denard and Tate do not possess).

When he got to Michigan, Rich was not only responsible for the whole enchilada, but the weekly level of competition - on the recruiting trail and on the field - got ratcheted up a couple of notches, as did the expectations. His offensive thought leadership was no longer enough. Factors like management and leadership skills, and ATTENTION TO DETAIL, are the difference between success and failure when you graduate to the grownups' game as Rich did when he took this job.

That's why it's not a random occurrence when Denard coughs up the football at the end of a long drive against Ohio State. It's what Denard does! His 10 fumbles this year are less than only Taylor Martinez (11) and Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn (12). He's fumbled as many times this month as Mike Hart fumbled in his entire career, and it's criminally negligent that the problem hasn't been coached out of him in two full seasons. Historically, it's what Rich Rodriguez teams do. Attention to detail. And a microcosm of the offense under Rich: brilliant enough to move you all the way down the field, mistake-prone enough to not finish the job against the real good defensive competition. The scheme works beautifully. The execution all too frequently derails it.

On balance, there were plenty of reasons why Rich Rodriguez might not have been able to replicate his WVU level of success at Michigan. The Big East is a BCS conference in name only. WVU was Rich's alma mater, and as a favorite son the leadership challenge of getting everyone pulling in the same direction was not nearly as daunting. Morgantown is a small town that doesn't provide the media scrutiny of a big market like Detroit. Michigan is simply a bigger, tougher job than West Virginia was for him. While Rich is an offensive thought leader - unquestionably one of the top offensive minds in the game - the challenge of being the czar of this particular program appears to be beyond his management and leadership abilities.

Here's the real distillation of the arguments over the relative fullness of the cupboard and what Rodriguez could have or should have accomplished:

Lloyd had left us in a position where we were going to be in a football "recession" for a couple of years. But Rich came in and turned it into a full-on Great Depression.

Just as economic tweaks and a New Deal were not enough on their own to lift America out of the Depression, defensive tweaks and a New Coordinator will not be enough to lift Michigan out of this quagmire.

Rich Rodriguez will someday come to be viewed as the Herbert Hoover of Michigan football: a man not lacking for technical knowledge, but too much of a tinkerer and not a strong enough manager and leader to cope with the events of the day and halt a critical downward spiral.

Ending the Great Depression required World War II to get everyone to work and energize the economy. Michigan football needs its own galvanizing event to end our Depression.

Michigan football needs its FDR. NOW.

Just as another great Michigan football player, Gerald Ford, said after a famous transition of power that "our long national nightmare is over"... when this nightmare hopefully ends in the coming days and we have our own transition of power, Michigan Nation must turn its lonely eyes to Jim Harbaugh.

He resume belies the thoroughly moronic notion that Michigan fans only care about him because he played here.

He was a Heisman finalist in college, and played for fourteen years under many different offensive systems in the NFL. He played for some coaching giants, starting with Bo Schembechler, and then Mike Ditka. He played for one of the most noted offensive minds in NFL history in Ted Marchibroda when he was with the Colts, and a fairly accomplished college offensive mind in Mike Riley when he was with the Chargers. Harbaugh has studied under some big time football acumen, and since his own father was a college football coach, he was probably a more keen observer of the coaching chops of his mentors than the average player.

He cut his teeth as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, serving in an unpaid capacity under his dad, Jack Harbaugh (who was Michigan's DB coach under Bo Schembechler from 1973 to 1979). Despite playing at a big time college program and starting at QB in the NFL for many years, Jim went back to school and learned his craft as a coach from an old hand - and he did it for no money in a college football backwater. He didn't have anything handed to him. He put in his time.

As a head coach, he started off at the University of San Diego - a non-scholarship program in a scholarship league. He went 7-4 his first year, then 11-1 the next two, winning the Pioneer League both times.

At this point, you could have made an argument that Harbaugh was an intriguing candidate for a Bret Bielema-style transition year under Lloyd. Yes, some guys like Miles and Rodriguez were more accomplished at bigger programs, but Harbaugh was by no means a "small school" guy given his Michigan and NFL experience, and Miles and Rodriguez both carried with them questions about a cultural fit - questions that were raised at the time (and turned out to be very prescient with Rich).

In any case, Harbaugh took over a Stanford program that was 1-11 the year before, and was routinely recruiting classes that were not even in the top 50. They were the doormat of the Pac 10. They were Indiana. Except worse. Talk about a "hollowed out roster", Mr. Chait!

In four years, he has beaten USC - the 'roided up, player-paying Darth Vader of college football - three times.

In his third year, Stanford made their first bowl since 2001.

This year, his fourth, he has flipped that 1-11 to 11-1 and has Stanford in position to possibly go to a BCS bowl. Their only loss was on the road at AP #1/BCS #2 Oregon. They have shut three teams out defensively and have a top 25 defense to go with a top 10 offense. This defense is nothing to sneeze at when you look at the offensive ranks of Oregon, USC, Arizona, and Steve Threet's Arizona State - all offenses in the top third of the nation. And Notre Dame, who was also on Stanford's schedule, is in the top half. They lost a Heisman finalist, Toby Gerhart, and it affected them not a bit. Finally, Stanford is about to bring in a top 20 recruiting class - their best since Rivals has been around - and if you don't think that's an accomplishment, look through the academic numbers of Harbaugh's recruits. You'll find a whole lot of them who could get into Michigan on academic merit, and I guarantee you that "we'll find out in August" are words that you will never hear uttered on the Stanford message board with regards to whether a kid will qualify.

Let's look inside the numbers at exactly what Harbaugh has done to elevate Stanford's program:

Scoring Defense - Improved by 13 points per game over four years (31 to 18)
Scoring Offense - Improved by 29 points per game over four years (11 to 40)

Ponder the enormity of this for a moment: a positive point differential of 42. Six touchdowns a game Harbaugh has added to that program!

And he did it without trying to sneak academically-deficient felons through the back door.

Strength of Schedule (Per Sagarin)

2007 - 10
2008 - 12
2009 - 29
2010 - 8 (YTD)

This is not the Big East. In fact, Stanford has had a stronger SOS than Michigan each year. Harbaugh just went 11-1 against a top ten SOS.

Recruiting Classes (per Rivals)

2007 - 51
2008 - 50
2009 - 20
2010 - 26
2011 - 11 (YTD)

You cannot do a better job at either San Diego or Stanford than Jim Harbaugh has done. Given his playing pedigree, the fact that he comes from a coaching family and studied under numerous big time coaches, that he put in his time to learn the craft, then put it into practice at two different levels and was wildly successful at each, Jim Harbaugh is unquestionably the hottest coaching commodity to be ready for the big time since Urban Meyer was set to leave Utah.

When you then consider that Harbaugh was a rug rat on the Michigan sidelines while his dad coached under Bo, and then starred here as a player... outside of bringing in someone who has been winning national championships elsewhere and is just ready for a change, you could not design a better candidate for the Michigan job than Jim Harbaugh. He is significantly more qualified than Rich Rodriguez was when we hired him, let alone after three years of Rodriguez failure.

If Harbaugh had this same resume three years ago, Rich Rodriguez would not have even gotten a courtesy listen from Michigan. Harbaugh may have been ON the boat with Bill Martin!

As it is, it's probably now or never if we want to bring Harbaugh home, and every indication is that he wants the gig. Rich has not accomplished nearly enough for us to pass on this opportunity.

Now, let's address Harbaugh's controversial comments from 2007.

"I would use myself as an example. I came in there, wanted to be a history major, and I was told early on in my freshman year that I shouldn't be. That it takes too much time. Too much reading. That I shouldn't be a history major and play football."

Was this true? Strictly speaking, yes. But there's a major lie of omission there. Harbaugh has mild dyslexia and a reading-intensive major is a difficult choice whether you're a football player or not. This was bad, and Harbaugh would be a better man for walking that one back.

It's also worth noting that Harbaugh was honored on the Big Ten All-Academic Team as a player - so there is some indication in his background that he does take academics very seriously. He had this to say on that:

"Most avid college football fans, unfortunately, just think about how exciting it is to watch college players play and not think about what happens when the football comes to a screeching halt. They need to get a degree - a quality degree - and develop a skill set that helps you for the next 60-70 years."

Frankly, I like the idea of someone who takes academics seriously beyond the lip service that virtually every coach pays to the classroom.

The meat of Harbaugh's thoughts were this:

"Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline kids in, and when they're in, they steer them to courses in Sports Communications. They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them."

This is hardly "taking a dump on the university", as many have characterized it. In fact, he made sure to delineate between the school and the football program.

Michigan DOES take kids who just barely qualify, which Stanford does not. While Lloyd used to get his one or two exceptions a year for borderline kids, we take more of them under Rodriguez than we did under Carr - one more piece of evidence of a problem with cultural fit. Now, unlike SEC programs, you do have to meet those Clearinghouse requirements for real to get into Michigan, as Demar Dorsey found out. You can't fudge it at the 11th hour through correspondence courses which anyone can take for you, or senior year grades and test scores that are bizarrely inconsistent with your entire academic background.

But the fact remains that most of these academically borderline kids, while some may get their sheepskin in one of the athlete-centric majors, are not going to be qualified for the types of jobs that a normal Michigan student who took a normal curriculum in college would be. When Harbaugh says these kids couldn't get hired by the people who adulated them... he's right! You probably won't see Jeremy Gallon and Mike Shaw and Jake Ryan going to work for Wall Street banks and Chicago ad agencies and Detroit auto makers if/when they graduate. (Although it does appear you can get elected to Congress in some red districts with that academic background at Michigan. The qualifications there are a bit lower.)

You may not like what Harbaugh said - just as many didn't like his brashly guaranteeing a win over OSU when he played here. But just like he did then, Harbaugh backed up his arguably ill-conceived words with action and got it done, winning in a big way with a higher caliber of student than the NCAA requires. (You also won't see players fitting the profile of Gallon, Shaw and Ryan on Stanford's commitment lists.) There aren't that many schools that legitimately set a higher bar than the Clearinghouse, but Stanford is one of them, Harbaugh said he would win there... and he did, with a whole team full of players who could be academic all-americans. That's just bad ass.

And let's be honest here: running your mouth, sometimes inappropriately, doesn't have to keep you from being beloved at Michigan. (See also: Hart, Mike.)

But why did Harbaugh say it in the first place?

"My motivation was positive. I see how it's done now at Stanford, and I see no reason it can't be the same there. I have a great love for Michigan and what it's done for me. Bo Schembechler was like a second father. Michigan is a great school and always has been, and I don't see why they can't hold themselves to a higher standard."

There is no reason Harbaugh could not do at Michigan what he has done at Stanford. There is no reason, as he said, that Michigan can't hold themselves to a higher standard and still win at the level we expect. Harbaugh has already gone to a challenging conference and built a culture of toughness and attention to detail and winning football, and done it with a higher caliber of student. He has also shown he can recruit at a high level at a program known more for academics than football. Hell, he has already laid down the gauntlet for himself at Michigan- just as he did in 1986 when he guaranteed a win over OSU.

"It ain't bragging if you can do it," said Dizzy Dean.

There is every reason to believe Jim Harbaugh would be more successful here than Rich Rodriguez has been. This is not about what is "fair" to Rich. The team, the team, the team, right? Michigan football is bigger than Rich Rodriguez - just as Bo knew it was bigger than Bo.

This is a results-oriented business, and Rodriguez has not achieved anything close to the expected results - despite attempts by many of his proponents to retroactively lower the bar. 1-13 against the top five programs in the Big Ten, 5-5 against the bottom feeders. A loss to a MAC school for the first time in school history. A defense that has gotten worse each year and has transcended "bad" into a full meltdown in many games. A kicking and return game in year three that is an embarrassment. Recruiting in decline - both in terms of average rank of player and rank of student.

When Lloyd Carr went 7-5 in 2005 with an injury-ravaged team playing against the #1 or #2 toughest schedule in the nation, depending on which ranking you look at, this was considered incomprehensibly bad, and the fan base was apoplectic. Yet now 7-5 under Rich Rodriguez is considered by many to be a sign of progress? We need one more year of progress just to get back to the level that many were dissatisfied with under Carr! There is no reason to believe an overhaul of the defensive staff - after two other competent coordinators failed here - will fix the problem.

The common denominator is Rich, himself, and his approach to the role of defense on a football team. Rodriguez views the defense, as Denard told us a week ago when he offered up his truly bizarre opinion that Michigan has one of the best defenses in the country, as a sparring partner for the offense. They are there to get our offense ready. Stopping other teams is the secondary objective. This will likely not change with a new set of coaches. Nor will the lack of a culture of attention to detail - the foundational deficiency of all other deficiencies.

All Dave Brandon owes Rich Rodriguez is the buyout as specified in his contract - a clause which Rodriguez, as we all remember, knows about all too well from when he tried to avoid paying his after dumping WVU.

Karma's a bitch, I suppose.

It's time for us to move on, to bring a very successful native son home, and to let our current coach try again in a situation that better suits him.

19 comments:

James said...

There are a couple of factual errors. Carr didn't get "one or two exception a year for borderline kids" - the vast majority of the athletes Carr recruited (like those of every other sport) would never have gotten admitted under our normal academic standards. And the point about Dorsey not getting in here but being able to get in at an SEC school is wrong; they don't take non-qualifiers, either.

And on the history analogy, if the New Deal didn't get us out of the Depression (which is correct), why do we need "our FDR"? The New Deal was FDR's baby. In 1940, he actually ran on a platform of *non*-involvement in WWII. He basically did everything to avoid getting in the war as long as he could (while discreetly aiding Britain). It's just a weird analogy.

But I agree with the larger point. It's just not happening with Rich, and you can just feel the negative momentum accumulating. We need a shake-up.

(BTW, just a nitpick - it's "without further ado," not "adieu.")

Michael said...

Thanks for posting this, Brian. I've been reading your blog for some time now and have enjoyed reading your thoughts on a variety of things. I run a small (by design) message forum called The Seven Sisters and we've been discussing this for a long time now. Whoever the author is, he's certainly done his homework. I definitely appreciate that. I already parsed out a lot of what he said in a synopsis in our very long RR thread (with a link back here of course).

I've definitely had similar concerns about the execution not righting itself as the season progressed. We actually had a debate about what the expectations should be for how a team can *improve* intra-year. To me, execution on fumbles and things of that sort absolutely qualify.

Thanks for your thoughts on this and your continued writing. If you're ever up for some spirited debate -- and some people who stir the pot a bit -- we'd love to have you.

Jim15032 said...

Thanks for this very nice piece. I have taken the liberty of sending it to my friends who have been M fans since Nixon was in his first term as president (as have I)

But the expression is "without further ado."

http://peevesandrants.blogspot.com/2007/10/without-further-adoprunellas-first-post.html

mcscholt said...

This isn't even keeled, it's completely fantastical. I think it's laughable that this guy projects 8-4 seasons with DeBord as coach, with basically the same players magically being better. People hated DeBord when he was OC, and he had already failed as a HC.

I agree that some of the details need to be cleaned up, but there's a finite amount of time they're allowed to practice and when you're playing a ton of young players mistakes are going to happen.

Matt said...

This is an amazingly well written post. I said after the OSU game that I was 52% in favor of bringing Rich back and 48% in favor of bringing in Jim. This article has flipped those %'s.....

Ed said...

I keep hearing from a lot of Michigan fans, "Wait till next year, they are going to be much better". My question is how? The 2 and 3 star players this year that are undersized, will still be undersized next year. The front 7 were not filled with young players... so what excuse do they have? It wasn't the back end that was being bulldozed, game in game out.

People then say, "Well it's the scheme... all we need is a new DC". As if a new DC will solve everything. You can bring in a new DC, but the same issues will be there. People got on Rich Rod for not spending enough time with the Defense. Actually the problem is he spent to much time with them. Instead of letting GERG bring in his own people and run his own scheme... he saddled him with mostly bad coaches, and made him run something he didn't know... and something he didn't believe in.

So GERG becomes the scapegoat. Rich Rod gets a new DC, and makes him run this inept whatever it is... with this same staff...and we are right back were we started from. These 2 and 3 star players, who will still be small next year... as compared to the rest of the conference... will be adjusting to a new DC running the same garbage... oh joy. Yeah this is a recipe for success.

People are holding on to the hope that the great Jeff Casteel, the guru of the 3-3-5... might be coming to save the day. As if he will wave his magic wand, and the defense will suddenly compete against Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Lets talk about the Chernobyl that is special teams. Again... how exactly are special teams going to get better? Rich Rod kept sending the same player out to return kicks and punts... why? Every time that kid was back there, doom was waiting. How about putting in somebody else, like a kid whose red shirt you already blew... like Dileo. A simple adjustment was needed, yet none ever came. Could it have been worse?

Rich Rod kept trotting out the same kicker, game after game. He said, "well... he makes them in practice"... yeah great. Guess what... he can't make them in games. How about this... why not try the other guy? You know the one... the one you have on scholarship. Let him try to make a chip shot. Again, though... no adjustment came. It would have been a simple change. Could it have been any worse? (Interesting how that phrase, is being used with Michigan football more and more)

The supporters of this current train wreck say... did you see what the offense did against Wisconsin? Look at all the points, the yardage. As if empty stat totals equated to wins. Wisconsin could have have named the score against Michigan. They could have thrown TD's at will, but they chose instead to humiliate Michigan. It wasn't about style points, it was about sending a message.

This vaunted offense commits more mental errors then any I have ever seen at Michigan. People keep blaming youth. They cite Denard, and say he is going to be much better next year. Lets see... Denard turned the ball over last year. He turned the ball over this year. Somehow, during the course of one off season, and during this season... he apparently learned nothing about ball security. So next year, I guess the light will come on, and he is going to learn to take care of the football in year 3.

Of course, with the arrival of Demetrius Hart next year, everything will be terrific... oh wait, he will be a freshman. Get ready for that excuse.

I am amused by the people that say with Harbaugh, Michigan will not be competing for National Championships, rather only B10 Titles... unlike Rich Rod who has his sights on higher goals. Exactly how is Rich Rod supposed to win a National Title... when he is getting killed in the conference?

Every week you hear players and coaches say, "We need to watch film and correct mistakes". "Everything is correctable". If that's the case, then why isn't it? The body of work the last three years, suggests they can't... and that's why a change needs to be made.

Ed said...

I keep hearing from a lot of Michigan fans, "Wait till next year, they are going to be much better". My question is how? The 2 and 3 star players this year that are undersized, will still be undersized next year. The front 7 were not filled with young players... so what excuse do they have? It wasn't the back end that was being bulldozed, game in game out.

People then say, "Well it's the scheme... all we need is a new DC". As if a new DC will solve everything. You can bring in a new DC, but the same issues will be there. People got on Rich Rod for not spending enough time with the Defense. Actually the problem is he spent to much time with them. Instead of letting GERG bring in his own people and run his own scheme... he saddled him with mostly bad coaches, and made him run something he didn't know... and something he didn't believe in.

So GERG becomes the scapegoat. Rich Rod gets a new DC, and makes him run this inept whatever it is... with this same staff...and we are right back were we started from. These 2 and 3 star players, who will still be small next year... as compared to the rest of the conference... will be adjusting to a new DC running the same garbage... oh joy. Yeah this is a recipe for success.

People are holding on to the hope that the great Jeff Casteel, the guru of the 3-3-5... might be coming to save the day. As if he will wave his magic wand, and the defense will suddenly compete against Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Lets talk about the Chernobyl that is special teams. Again... how exactly are special teams going to get better? Rich Rod kept sending the same player out to return kicks and punts... why? Every time that kid was back there, doom was waiting. How about putting in somebody else, like a kid whose red shirt you already blew... like Dileo. A simple adjustment was needed, yet none ever came. Could it have been worse?

Rich Rod kept trotting out the same kicker, game after game. He said, "well... he makes them in practice"... yeah great. Guess what... he can't make them in games. How about this... why not try the other guy? You know the one... the one you have on scholarship. Let him try to make a chip shot. Again, though... no adjustment came. It would have been a simple change. Could it have been any worse? (Interesting how that phrase, is being used with Michigan football more and more)

The supporters of this current train wreck say... did you see what the offense did against Wisconsin? Look at all the points, the yardage. As if empty stat totals equated to wins. Wisconsin could have have named the score against Michigan. They could have thrown TD's at will, but they chose instead to humiliate Michigan. It wasn't about style points, it was about sending a message.

This vaunted offense commits more mental errors then any I have ever seen at Michigan. People keep blaming youth. They cite Denard, and say he is going to be much better next year. Lets see... Denard turned the ball over last year. He turned the ball over this year. Somehow, during the course of one off season, and during this season... he apparently learned nothing about ball security. So next year, I guess the light will come on, and he is going to learn to take care of the football in year 3.

Of course, with the arrival of Demetrius Hart next year, everything will be terrific... oh wait, he will be a freshman. Get ready for that excuse.

I am amused by the people that say with Harbaugh, Michigan will not be competing for National Championships, rather only B10 Titles... unlike Rich Rod who has his sights on higher goals. Exactly how is Rich Rod supposed to win a National Title... when he is getting killed in the conference?

Every week you hear players and coaches say, "We need to watch film and correct mistakes". "Everything is correctable". If that's the case, then why isn't it? The body of work the last three years, suggests they can't... and that's why a change needs to be made.

Productive Sweatpants said...

I do like the post and started to reply in the comments, but it got to be too long so I turned it into a post of my own: http://www.productivesweatpants.com/2010/11/in-defense-of-coach.html

tecknogyk said...

Gotta admit, this brings up some valid points. I hate what was done to RichRod and believe he is a good coach that made some bad choices in regards to the defense, but, at this point I'm starting to believe that Harbaugh would be a better option. It would definitely unite the fanbase as well as any disgruntled staff. My only concern is any attrition that might occur with another transition, but if he's going to be a lame duck next year(a distinct possibility because of the hole the defense is in) then it would be better to just get Harbaugh this year.

Wes said...

I've got to say, I've seen the light and it's glorious. Singlehandedly shoved me off the fence.

sarcasMike said...

I'm not a Rivals subscriber so I wouldn't have seen this. Very well done. I sincerely hope Brandon has already worked out the "after your bowl game" deal with Harbaugh.

Thunder said...

It's interesting that the author touts Harbaugh's excellence by saying that in his third season, he took Stanford to a bowl game, and in his fourth season he's gone 11-1.

That's good, right? Sure it is.

And yet Michigan has its own Heisman contender (Denard Robinson > Toby Gerhart), made a bowl in Rodriguez's third season, and has yet to see his fourth season. What's to say that Rodriguez wouldn't enjoy a similar amount of success in 2011 as Harbaugh did in 2010 with Stanford?

By the way, I'm not sure what good it does to ponder WWMDD (What Would Mike Debord Do). He was run out of MOUNT PLEASANT because of his failures as a head coach there. His successors, Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, parlayed their success into higher profile jobs at Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

If you're bashing Rodriguez by essentially saying "This ain't the Big East", then imagine the ranting against Debord, who couldn't even succeed in the MAC!

Blue-in-TX said...

The entire argument about what Carr would have accomplished in 2008/2009 is moot to me because it's hypothetical and meaningless.

Mentioning RR's loss to a MAC school as being UM's first is disingenuous by not mentioning Carr's loss to Appy St as being UM's first to a Div II school. RR did not do that!

Let me make this clear. I'm torn on whether to keep RR or not. But, I believe this article is grossly inaccurate and hypothetical in its argument to fire RR.



Harbaugh's recorde his first 3 years is virtually identical to RR.

SCS100 said...

Anyone who states that Harbaugh does not do anything questionable is absolutely kidding themselves. While this is an intriguing piece, it undervalues too much and eventually makes itself look idiotic by leaving out the other side of the story. Too many holes to be taken seriously.

SCS100 said...

Anyone who states that Harbaugh does not do anything questionable is absolutely kidding themselves. While this is an intriguing piece, it undervalues too much and eventually makes itself look idiotic by leaving out the other side of the story. Too many holes to be taken seriously.

Constantine said...

Great Article. You hit on all the points being argued and effectively deflected the other side's rebuttal. Great read, I appreciate the time and effort you took to create it. Hopefully Brandon is on the same page, opportunities like this don't come along very often.

Igor said...

If this doesn't get you fired up enough to ditch Rich, I don't know what will.

John A. said...

very good stuff...well thought-out...i do have one semi-major complaint...let me first say that i have nothing against people who are pro-schembechler...my beef though is that anytime somebody writes an anti-RichRod piece that raises a toast to bo, they never ever ever ever ever ever ever point out the FACT that rodriguez has coached UM to E-X-A-C-T-L-Y the same number of national championships that schembechler did...that's my only point...i DON'T want another bo...i DON'T want another 20+ year era of being agonizingly "this close" over and over and over...i want a guy BETTER THAN BO!!!...let's hope out boy harbaugh is that man...no more getting run over by a bunch of fat east dakota badgers AT HOME!!...i don't wanna see the big house so empty that you can parks rows and rows of semi trucks in the stands like you could at camp randall in the 80's

Zip Goshboots said...

As you know, I've been banned all over the Michigan blogosphere for echoing these sentiments, nay, not "echoing", but yelling them out since Day One of this hire.
It's a disaster. Rodriguez has the longest list of apologists thw world has ever seen,and I cannot believe he has ANY support at this point.
It is sickening==and I don't even believe in his offense at this point. Nothing has been proven, other than the guy is out of his league and belongs at a school like WVU or UNLV.
Get rid of him now.
Thank you, Brian--and I don't think I'll lose any sissy points ala MGoSISSYBlog for saying this.