Gladly, Michigan football’s season is over. I took no solace in telling everyone I knew at the time that the start of the season was as expected and that all this hype surrounding Denard Robinson winning the Heisman was a joke. Lo and behold, we run into Sparty, they make the offense one dimensional, the defense is exploited and the downward spiral ensues.
But this article isn’t about the spiral. I want to focus on the 2009 Michigan football team, as Rich Rodriguez sees it.
From the start, you realize that having that big block M will get you some recruits never before seen at a place like Morgantown. This is great news, let’s use it to recruit as many offensive weapons as possible, understanding that a complete overhaul of the previous system is inevitable. Forget defense, forget special teams, if our offense produces like it’s supposed to, we’ll win in a shootout.
Fast-forward three years. You have that dynamic QB that’s needed in this offense but he’s 180 lbs soaking wet, still has poor throwing fundamentals and can’t physically get through the grind of a Big Ten season. Rich Rodriguez can get through this; he has at every other place he’s ever coached.
So now you have one of the most electric players in college football. What do you do? I know, run him 15-plus times a game, quicken the pace, call the same plays over and over regardless of whether it’s effective or not. One of these zone reads will produce a 50-yard touchdown scamper. Quick, it’s not working, throw in Tate. OK, now we’re in trouble, let’s hope our defense can make a stop.
Wait, I was so busy drooling over Devin Gardner and a few three-star receivers that I forgot about the defensive side of the ball all together. No worries, that’s what I hired Greg Robinson for. What Greg, you don’t know how to run the 3-3-5? Come on, it’s easy and no, you can’t run a 3-4 or 4-3, stick with what I know.
Starting with MSU, now we’ve lost our last three games, 113-76, maybe we can’t win these shootouts. Sure we can, keep the no-huddle, quicken the pace, forget that when the offense doesn’t click, our atrocious defense is given barely a minute to regroup. Just keep running the 3-3-5 with our corners 10 yards off the receivers, they’ll figure it out.
Tackling? Not my problem. If they can’t tackle at this point in their careers, they shouldn’t be wearing the maize and blue. Down 31-30 vs. Illinois at the half, let’s make some adjustments; scratch that, we’ll win in a shootout.
Off the heels of a mediocre win versus the Illini, they scrounge out an ugly win versus a horrific Purdue squad, only to get blown out 137-49 the rest of the way. The fact of the matter is a good coach doesn’t continue to run a defensive scheme his D-coordinator is uncomfortable running and one that hasn’t worked for two-plus years.
You also try to minimize the time the defense is on the field when you know they can’t stop an offense run by a walk-on QB (see Penn State) or my Aunt Sally. Lastly, when you know you’re FG kicker can’t kick his way out of a wet paper bag, you don’t continue to run plays that gain two or three yards when inside the 30.
To summarize, here’s the Rich Rodriguez Michigan Football Coaching Philosophy 101:
Run one-dimensional offense: When said one-dimensional offense doesn’t work, switch QBs. When star QB gets hurt, switch QBs. Otherwise, run the zone read.
Make no adjustments: When opposing defenses crowd the box, try the zone read. When opposing offenses show varied looks, keep with what hasn’t been working, the 3-3-5. Make no changes at half.
Practice poor fundamentals: Tackling can‘t be coached, even the late Vince Lombardi couldn’t help that. Staying gap sound on D is an archaic formula, the scheme is what’s most important. Play 10 yards off the receiver, even though the hitch routes are killing us. Blocking and catching can’t be coached, just make it happen.
Special teams are unnecessary: we will just outscore teams and win. Field goals are for losers. Punting is for Tressel. We score six points here, not three.
The Rich Rodriguez experiment is over. We need a new guy at the helm—one who is innovative, humble and can see things for what they are (or aren’t).