Rich Rodriguez: A Proven Winner Who Needs Time

Anthony OrlandoCorrespondent INovember 21, 2008

Has something ever just rubbed you the wrong way so much you feel compelled that you have to address it, and in the proper light? 

This is how I feel about the recent stream of anti-Rich Rodriguez articles, which I feel are immature, premature, and unintelligible on the writers part. 

First off let me say this, because I know some people would look to call me out on it. 

I knew of RR before he came to Michigan. I have always been a hardcore football fan, and have become enamored with the spread offense. However, I did not know everything about RR, his teams, or West Virginia football. 

I am not a RR expert. I started following him closely when he became Michigan's head coach. 

Now that that is addressed, let me tell you what I know and have learned as of recently. 

People want a quick fix. People want to win immediately, and if you don't you will be ridiculed and criticised. This is fair. It doesn't mean it is justified. 

Bill Martin, the University of Michigan's Athletic Director, hired RR because he is a very good coach (and because Les Miles didn't want to come home). 

Bill Martin, however, was not so naive as some people that he expected RR to have Michigan winning a Big 10 Championship this year, or even have Michigan in a bowl game.

Why is that?

Because when Martin interviewed RR, RR made it clear that drastic changes were about to occur. We are talking about a shift from a traditional pro style offense, to a spread. 

A system that requires a completely different kind of athlete, from quarterback to receiver. 

Even if Lloyd Carr stayed, Michigan was going to have a tough year because they lost a lot of players, and they were young. 

Bring in RR to instill a completely different system on top of that, and disaster was bound to happen. And it has. 

Michigan is a three-win team right now, and more-than-likely after Saturday when they play Ohio State, they will remain a three-win team. 

They will not make a bowl appearance for the first time since 1974. 

They officially have had their worst season in the history of this historic program,  one of the 10 best there are. 

It is tough to accept when all these things happen to such a traditionally great, unmatchable program. 

Well, for the first time in its long history, however, this program is undergoing a massive face-lift. And if you thought with a snap of the fingers, the spread offense was going to be a success to this traditionally old school football program, you were wrong. 

I've heard "well, they haven't showed enough improvement." And "he should tweak his system to his players better."

My response to that is a). How do you know they haven't showed enough improvement?Improvement doesn't always translate to the outcomes of games. Improvement translates to the players and how they are improving individually. And one thing is a fact, RR has not lost this team; they love their coach. They trust their coach. 

They have no quarterback. RR was not hired to run a pro-style offense, and if that is what you expected him to do to get more out of Steven Threet, well, sorry, you are off base. 

Threet will not start next year. Nor will Nick Sheridan.  Michigan was going to have a rough offense with either of these two no matter what system they were running because they are both freshmen. Threet came from Georgia Tech, expecting to be with coach Carr and his pro-style, run-first offense. 

Sheridan was a walk-on. 

The offense is only as good as its leader. Why's the running game weak? Their O-line is also young, they lost their heart and soul to the draft this year (Jake Long), and another transferred to OSU (Justin Boren).

Running back is even weak for Michigan after losing Mike Hart. Sam McGuffie will be a good back, but he is a true freshman, folks (he's not ready) he was forced into playing, because Michigan's depth was awful at that position this year. 

Carr didn't exactly leave RR sitting pretty at many skill positions. 

Young QB's, young RB's, young receivers, and O-line. Young defense. And all these young guys never expected to have to learn the college game (which is much more difficult than HS football) and a completely different system in which they wern't recruited to run/learn. 

Many of these players will either learn the system or be weaned out, because RR can't be fully successful until he gets his players, which is when he should be judged. Not now. Not under these circumstances. 

To point b) and the notion that he should tweak his system to his players. 

With such a young team that will be with you for not just one year, but three or four years, you don't tweak your system, you run what you want to run now, so these young guys can learn the system now and be better off next year. 

This is not a high quantity junior- or senior-laden team. The talent is young. If they are going to stay, they need to learn what will be instilled here for years to come under RR. There's no better way to learn than executing what you are trying to learn during an actual game. 

Not in practice. In a game. 

RR is teaching these guys that you have to persevere. That's what champs do. 

You call him stubborn. I say it is teaching and not compromising your beliefs. Coaches instill their system to the players and the players learn it. Not the other way around.

At the college level, you find what kind of player fits your offense,in this case the spread, and you recruit him. That's also what RR is doing. 

He is not a dumb man. He sees where they are weak, and next year there will be a lot of new players playing. But they are guys that can run a spread. 

But one thing is for sure: starting or not next year, all the players on this current team will be better off for going through what they did because of RR not letting up on them. 

Bill Martin knew it. The fans didn't want to believe it. 

It's easier to believe RR just got dumb, isn't it? It's easier to believe that his previous track record was just a fluke, isn't it? I mean, after all, my God, if you can't win at Michigan, nothing else matters. 


This isn't the old Michigan. This is a new Michigan. The type of team the Athletic Director wants now. Martin doesn't want the old Michigan anymore. That's why he hired RR. 

He saw the spread was taking over, how the SEC was getting all the hype. He wants to be a step ahead of the game, and RR was the perfect piece to instill that part. 

With Carr, at best this year, this was a seven-win team. At best, if RR said "to hell with everything I know and believe" and he ran a tweaked system, they would be a five-win team. 

Either way, a bowl game was nothing more than a pipe dream. Accept that Michigan fans. 

And those who think RR is not a good coach, I tell you learn the situation before you speak. See how drastic the change is, and see how much work it really takes to teach a bunch of kids something they know nothing about. 

He has a top 12 recruiting class. Next year, he will have his quarterback and a returning group of young players who are now better off for going through the growing pains of learning a new system in a game-day situation. 

Excuses will deteriorate. Rightly so. 

But look at the mans history, see how wherever he has been he has always turned it around. And embrace the change. 

It's hard to accept losing when it comes at the price of change on top if it. 

But the University of Michigan football program is changing. And change is not a one-week process. It takes time. 

RR does it quicker than most. He's proven it. 

It's easier to believe he got dumber. But what's easy isn't always what's right. 

Rodriguez's Head Coaching Record

1990Glenville State1-7-1 
1991Glenville State4-5-1 
1992Glenville State6-4 
1993Glenville State10-3, WVIAC champion 
1994Glenville State8-3, WVIAC champion 
1995Glenville State8-2, WVIAC champion 
1996Glenville State6-4, WVIAC champion 
2001West Virginia3-8, 1-6 
2002West Virginia9-4, 6-1Continental Tire/L, 22-48 (Virginia)
2003West Virginia8-5, 6-1 Big East championGator Bowl/L, 7-41 (Maryland)
2004West Virginia8-4, 4-2 Big East championGator Bowl/L, 18-30 (Florida State)
2005West Virginia11-1, 6-0 Big East championSugar Bowl/W, 38-35 (Georgia)
2006West Virginia11-2, 5-2Gator Bowl/W, 38-35 (Georgia Tech)
2007West Virginia10-2, 5-2 Big East championFiesta Bowl (Oklahoma)

NAIA/Division II (8 seasons): 45-36-2
Division I (7 seasons): 60-26
TOTAL (15 seasons): 105-62-2


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