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Stadium and Main: December 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In Rod We Trust

As is often the case in these types of situations, I haven’t had enough time to let everything sink in. But it’s fair to say that I’m very excited. It’s somewhat odd that my last post was about West Virginia. I took an unannounced “leave of absence” during this coaching search because the frustrations (Ferentz?! MILES!! Ferentz again?!?! Huh? The “choppin’ wood” guy?! MILES AGAIN!! Please no Brady Hoke…) were getting to me from day one. It probably would have been nice to vent online, but you guys put up with enough of that crap already.

On Tuesday night I was out to dinner with my girlfriend, and for some reason she started asking about football formations, plays, defenses, etc. (yes, she is the coolest girl ever). At that point Rich Rodriguez was not on any of the lists being put out by the Detroit papers and Michigan websites, and it appeared that he (along with Brian Kelly) was being given the cold shoulder by the Michigan brass. But in that conversation with my girlfriend, I talked about his spread option offense, and how he arguably invented many of the intricacies of that scheme. I also talked about the 3-3-5 defense, and how I was not a big fan. Just a handful of days later, he is our head coach. Weird.

Things I’m happy about

With Rodriguez, we get a guy who is clearly a great X’s and O’s coach (heck, even Senator Tressel visited WVU this past offseason to get some tips). Rodriguez can and has re-tooled his systems to fit his personnel. If you think he’s a run-first-only type of guy, check out his work as OC and QB Coach at Tulane with Shaun King in 1998. 183.3 passing efficiency rating?! 36 TDs, 6 INTs?! We might shift to a dual-threat QB soon, but Rodriguez will know what to do with Ryan Mallett.

Rodriguez seems to be a great developer of talent. WVU has not had much recruiting success under Rodriguez, which is a bit disturbing, but he has taken plenty of off-the-radar players and made them successful contributors.

He’s young (44), and he left is alma mater to come to Michigan. There will be some debate over whether he would jump to the NFL, but I don’t see it - at least not yet. And if he does head for the pros, that will likely mean he had a very strong run at Michigan. If that’s the case, so be it.

Things I’m concerned about (but might not need to be)

As mentioned above, the 3-3-5 defense. I think it’s a system for lesser-talented teams, designed to cover up potential weaknesses. The Wikipedia gnomes say that “[t]eams that run the 3-3-5 generally use it because they are a fast but sometimes smaller unit….” I’m fine with it in certain situations, but if it’s our base defense, I’ll be a bit worried. I don’t think the 3-3-5 will fit in the Big Ten, and I think Rodriguez is smart enough to realize this.

I’m also a bit worried about how much control “Coach Rod” will actually have over assistants and the strength & conditioning program. It has long been rumored that Mike Gittelson will be retiring at the end of this season, taking his antiquated methods with him. But over the past month or so, some informed parties have stated that he might be sticking around. If Rodriguez, who is known to have a great S&C program, is handcuffed in any way, I will be upset. Similarly, current word on the street is that Rodriguez was told that he would have to keep certain assistant coaches from Michigan’s staff. Again, this is disappointing. Our new coach needs to have free rein over all facets of his coaching and training staff.

The Les Miles situation

As many others have said, there is no such thing as a fairy tale ending. If there was, Les Miles would have beaten Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game then accepted the Michigan job the next day. Now, you can argue that Michigan (Bill Martin) never wanted Miles. You could even argue that Miles was miffed at Michigan after the soap opera that was the past two weeks. But some informed people believe that Michigan would have gone after Miles after the LSU-OSU game, and that Les was still interested. However, the Rodriguez situation might have been a “bird in the hand” type of thing. So don’t feel too sorry for Michigan, and don’t feel too sorry for Les Miles. Michigan got a great coach who many would argue is a better football mind than Les Miles. And Miles has a great program at LSU, where he will undoubtedly continue to be successful. I will always root for Les, and it would have been nice to have seen him in Ann Arbor – it just wasn’t meant to be. Blame it on the BCS Championship, blame it on Lloyd Carr, blame Canada - whatever. Life will go on.

Is this weird for you? I thought you hated West Virginia?!

Hate is too strong of a word, but I have made a few posts that were critical of WVU and the Big East. The main reasons for these posts are because I don’t think that WVU and the rest of the Big East have a lot of talent/depth, and teams like WVU, Louisville, and Rutgers have benefited from the departures of Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College. Point #1 is based on recruiting rankings, which are arguably flawed. Point #2 is based on common sense: 3 good teams left the Big East and other teams rose up to replace them. It’s not that I think they play crappy football in the Big East, I just wonder if their success has been accomplished with smoke and mirrors.

That being said, I can certainly separate the team from the coach. Rodriguez has forgotten more about football than I will ever dream of knowing, and top-notch coaches consistently sing his praises. Even if I think his WVU teams have been overrated at times, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t coached his butt off. Coach Rod is clearly a guy that will give Michigan a schematic advantage in most of its games. We have great talent, now we have a great coach. There’s reason to be excited about Michigan football again.

Bottom Line?

"Bottom line -- Michigan stepped up to the plate," said SuperPrep recruiting analyst Allen Wallace. "They've gone out and stolen one of the elite coaches in the game. If I were a Michigan fan, I'd be having a party tonight." And with that, I’m outta here.

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