“Rich Rodriguez is way too stubborn.“
“Rich Rodriguez has a humongous ego.”
“Rich Rodriguez always has to do it his way.”
“Michigan won’t give him another year of failure to get his spread offense going.”
I have heard a lot of these kinds of statements in recent weeks and a one-word response immediately comes to mind: foolish.
Let’s examine three of the more popular arguments of Rich Rod’s opponents:
“Rich Rod had the personnel to run a pro set and by stubbornly sticking to his spread he cost Michigan the chance at a bowl game and a winning season.”
There is no arguing this team is more geared towards a pro-set, personnel wise.
And I agree, they could have won six games had they used one, maybe even eight.
This Michigan team was recruited by Lloyd Carr, and therefore was recruited on its ability to win the Big Ten. This of course indirectly means beating Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.
So naturally, the offensive guards were over 300 pounds, the running backs were 5’10” 220, and the wide receivers were recruited as much on their run blocking abilities as they were on catching the football.
No argument here that they would have done better using the traditional offensive scheme.
But where my opinion differs is the part where people say he is too stubborn to use the scheme that fits the personnel.
Maybe I should start by letting all of you in on a little info about why Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez:
UM didn’t hire Rodriguez to go 8-4 this year.
Michigan hired him to go 12-0 in 2010.
Some of you may be thinking “yeah but Rich Rod could’ve used a pro set this year and waited until he had the personnel to run his spread”
And while this is insightful to a degree, you guys gotta think a little more about it.
Yes, they could’ve won more this year, and yes the offense might not be so anemic given the right players.
But what happens next year when they have a QB who can run the football?
All of a sudden, all their problems are gone?
What happens when they have a faster, more athletic O-line?
The problems that plagued the team this year won't be there?
Don’t be ridiculous.
What was Rodriguez supposed to do?
Wait until all the Carr recruits were gone?
At what point was he going to be able to switch offenses?
Not to mention the fact that had he used a pro set this year, that is what the freshmen would have learned, and they are going to be here longer than anyone else.
So then we get to next season and we are right where we left off, with a team that only knows how to run a pro-set. What happened this year was inevitable. Where's the sense in teaching a system this year only to throw it away next year?
Let's say he used a pro set this year and they won eight games. Then next year he overhauled the system once he had the players he wanted.
Are you really going to actually try and tell me that they would have been vastly better on offense once they had a bunch of really fast freshmen?
Would those freshmen also come in knowing the spread too?
So Rodriguez waits to teach his system until next year and the same exact thing that happened this year happens then. They make a ton of mistakes because they they are being used in a system that asks them to think more than they have ever thought before.
If Rich Rod waited to use the spread the only difference would be "An Outsider's View of Michigan Football" would have been written a year later.
There had to be a season where a bunch of players were going to have to learn a new system.
There had to be that season where everything was overhauled.
Better do it now than later. Why put off that losing season?
For some bowl streak?
For a chance to be second place in the Big Ten?
Or would you rather be a top 5 team and championship contender in two years?
I know what you are thinking:
“But this is the worst Michigan team ever! They have had coaching changes before and didn’t struggle this much.”
Yeah, but when did they switch from a pro set to a spread offense? Never.
Sure they used to run the option, but there is no switch more drastic than going from a traditional power-I formation to a spread offense.
EVERYTHING is different about the two, and therefore you cannot compare this coaching change to changes in the past.
The reason why they struggled so much this year is because they CHANGED SYSTEMS. Running the spread effectively puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the thought process and decision making responsibilities of not just the QB, but every single offensive player.
There are an incredible amount of decisions to make, most of them split second ones.
You’re going from a system where you had one assignment with maybe one or two options to a situation where all of a sudden you could make six different choices on ONE PLAY.
Think about it for a second.
Who is going to surround those “spread players” that come in next year?
Exactly. Players who have had a season’s worth of experience running the very system that our recruits will learn.
You must remember that the spread is an offensive scheme, and while it works better with more athletic quarterbacks, the system has to be learned first.
I point to a well known problem plaguing the offense this year. Steven Threet’s fumble-itis in the shotgun set.
This is way too novice of a mistake to make as many times as he did this year. I directly attribute this problem to the fact that the kid had to make so many decisions all the time that he started making simple mistakes that should never happen.
He had to think much more than he was accustomed to doing.
Those mistakes will be gone next year (or at least there will be fewer). And the reason is because they had this year to make them.
Rich Rodriguez is not a pro set mastermind. Michigan didn’t hire him to come in and run a pro set.
Michigan hired him to do what he has done so well everywhere he has been head coach: RUN THE SPREAD.
“A place like Michigan that has the winning tradition that it does won’t stand for this mediocrity, especially not for long.”
While I think anyone who is calling for Rodriguez to get fired is an imbecile for many of the reasons I outlined above, the unfortunate scenario is that there is a bit of discord in the Michigan football community.
However, the only person whose opinion matters is on my side.
David Martin, UM’s athletic director, is a very intelligent man. He is well aware, and is on record saying this, that a new coach has to be given a fair chance.
Oftentimes, that means at least three years (at Michigan, at least).
One season is simply too small of a sample size to gauge any kind of effectiveness and directly attribute problems to the head coach.
There are way too many variables involved in team sports, especially one that requires as many players, coaches and staff as football, to be able to confidently scapegoat a coach in his first year for team failures.
This is not to say this doesn’t happen, it happens in the NFL all the time. But college football and the NFL are two completely different worlds, with way too many differences for me to even begin listing.
And let’s not forget it wasn’t like Rodriguez was known for running pro sets and he came in and went 3-8. This is completely different for the obvious reason that he changed offensive schemes.
Luckily for me and the Michigan football team, David Martin understands these things and has shown tremendous patience before (see Tommy Amaker).
“This Michigan team had way more talent than a 3-8 team”
This is by far the fairest criticism I have heard in recent weeks. And for the record, I completely agree. At the same time, what good is talent if the system isn’t being run properly?
The answer is that it is not worth a thing.
And for those of you that question Rich Rod’s motivational skills, see last week's game for your answer.
Michigan played a Minnesota team that had a lot to play for.
Michigan had nothing to play for.
And Minnesota got DOMINATED.
Terrence Taylor and Brandon Graham have NFL careers to look forward to. They could have easily given up on the team. But they didn’t. These coaches have the kids playing still, and to me that is an extremely encouraging sign.
Yes, there may be several things that could have gone better this year, but the most important was Rodriguez coming here and doing what he has become famous for: overhauling offensive schemes and running his spread.
Every other place he has coached at has endured an awful season in his first year. Every team he coached at also had vastly improved seasons in his second year. He turns programs around lightning quick.
And luckily for me and Michigan football, it’s because he doesn’t listen to critics who are ready to write him off after one losing year.
Building dynasties requires a degree of patience.
I just wish some Michigan fans could have the insight to have a little patience of their own.