Brady Hoke, Wolverine (again)

Tag: Rich Rodriguez

11Jan 2011
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Brady Hoke, Wolverine (again)

Tony Siragusa Brady Hoke will be the new Michigan football coach

Athletic director David Brandon released a statement on Tuesday announcing that Brady Hoke, the San Diego State head coach, will replace Rich Rodriguez as the head coach at the University of Michigan.  Hoke was a defensive line coach at Michigan from 1995-2002 and has since spent eight seasons as an FBS head coach at Ball State and SDSU.  He’s married with one daughter.

Hoke’s results at Ball State . . .
2003: 4-8, 3-5
2004: 2-9, 2-6
2005: 4-7, 4-4
2006: 5-7, 5-3
2007: 7-6, 5-2
2008: 12-1, 8-0

Hoke’s results at SDSU . . .
2009: 4-8, 2-6
2010: 9-4, 5-3

Totals . . .
47-50 overall
34-30 in conference
1-1 in bowl games (Hoke did not coach in Ball State’s 2008 bowl game)

The 2010 version of San Diego State finished 16th in total offense, 19th in scoring offense, 43rd in total defense, and 36th in scoring defense.

I am not a fan of this hire.  At all.  The all-time winningest program in college football history just hired a guy with a 47-50 career record, a .484 winning percentage.  The all-time winningest program in college football history just hired a guy who has three winning seasons in his career, or 37.5% of the time.  The all-time winningest program in college football history just hired a guy who was probably Michigan’s third choice – at best – behind Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles.

I said after the 2010 Ohio State game that I thought Michigan’s coaching ranking should be:

1. Jim Harbaugh
2. Rich Rodriguez

If David Brandon was going to wait until after the Orange Bowl to make a firing/hiring, then he should have sewn up Harbaugh immediately or retained Rodriguez (and forced him to fire Greg Robinson).  There shouldn’t have been a third option, like Miles or Hoke.

I don’t care if Brady Hoke is a Michigan Man.  He’s not a proven coach.  He loses more than he wins.  It took him five seasons to get the exact same record (7-6) at a MAC school as Rich Rodriguez earned in his third season at Michigan.

Meanwhile, Hoke runs a pro-style offense whose two quarterbacks in 2010 were 6’4″-6’5″ and between 210 and 215 pounds; Denard Robinson will probably either agree to change positions or transfer to Pitt.  Meanwhile, Hoke had better hope that sophomore/redshirt freshman Devin Gardner can play quarterback fairly well, because . . . well . . . choices are slim.  Well, “choice” is probably too broad of a term there.  I know David Brandon can’t make a decision about a program based on one player or one position, but when you go with a losing coach who also probably plans to totally revamp the offensive and defensive systems, that’s kind of a double blow.

Hoke isn’t all bad.  He had two 1,000 yard receivers in 2010.  He also had the 10th leading rusher in the country.  He went 9-4 and won a bowl game.  By all accounts he’s a nice guy, a solid recruiter, and a fiery leader. 

By the way, I’m keeping my Rivals account to follow recruiting, but not for the inside information.  Chris Balas, the “insider” over there charged with following the coaching situation, originally implied that Harbaugh would be hired, then he switched his pick to Hoke, then Miles, then Hoke again.  I said after the bowl game that I expected Harbaugh to be the next coach, but after that, I quit guessing.  You get one chance to be right.  If you screw it up, you just throw up your hands and say “I don’t know what the hell is going on.”  Not Balas, though.  I guess you’re bound to be right if, once you’re wrong, you get to change your answer a bunch of times.  I wish the ACT had been like that back when I was in high school.

6Jan 2011
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Top 10 Failures of Rich Rodriguez

1.  Losing games.  This is obvious, but it belongs on the list.  Rodriguez finished his three years at Michigan with a 15-22 record.  That winning percentage (.405) is the worst in Michigan history.

2. Losing to rivals.  Rodriguez was 0-6 against Michigan’s two biggest rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State.  If you want to include Penn State, he was 0-9.  He was outscored by a total of 317-140 in those nine games.  It’s unclear how much a couple victories against Ohio State or Michigan State might have affected Rodriguez’s tenure, but wins against Indiana and Purdue don’t carry the same weight.

3. Neutering Scott Shafer.  Shafer has proven to be a solid defensive coordinator at every other stop – Western Michigan, Stanford, and Syracuse.  The former two were prior to Shafer’s hiring at Michigan.  But Rodriguez’s other defensive assistants were proponents of the 3-3-5 and seemed to undermine his authority.  Late in the season, Rodriguez even authorized a mid-season switch of defensive schemes from the 4-3 to a 3-3-5; Michigan subsequently allowed 42 points to Purdue, a team using a converted running back to play QB.  Shafer could have been a good coordinator at Michigan and helped Rodriguez keep his job, but he was fired after the 2008 season because, well, someone’s head needed to roll after a 3-9 season.

4. Hiring Greg Robinson.  Robinson had intermittent success as a coordinator in the NFL and in college.  But just like Shafer, Robinson was a 4-3 or a 3-4 guy.  In my opinion, the defense showed some promise in 2009, when Robinson used safety Steve Brown as an outside linebacker and freshman Craig Roh as a rush linebacker.  However, Rodriguez used the 2009-10 offseason to convert to the 3-3-5, and Robinson was obviously uncomfortable and inexperienced with running that defensive set.  That resulted in 458 points allowed in 2010, an average of 35.2 points per game.

5. Not retaining holdover players from the Carr era.  Michigan was extremely short-handed in 2009, fielding a team of 69 or 70 players who were given scholarships right out of high school.  Some of those players were bound for a career of anonymity, I’m sure, but others were not.  Quarterback Ryan Mallett was vaguely in Heisman contention this season.  Justin Boren became an All-Big Ten guard at Ohio State.  Adrian Arrington chose to enter the NFL Draft (and became only a 7th round choice) a year early.  Rodriguez can’t shoulder the blame entirely for these departures, but there’s no question that a guy like Boren would have been helpful in 2008 and 2009, the former season featuring a starting guard (John Ferrara) that was a mid-season position switcher from defensive tackle.

6. Stretching too much.  The Detroit Free Press reported some trumped-up charges regarding Michigan’s practice schedule, and that sparked an NCAA investigation.  While the charges were blown out of proprtion, they were a black mark on the Michigan program and resulted in probation and some lost practice hours.  Rodriguez wasn’t responsible for everything that went wrong in the compliance department, but his staff did fail to keep track of its countable practice hours accurately and a graduate assistant watched some voluntary 7-on-7s, which is a no-no.

7. Not finding his Steve Slaton.  Pat White got a lot of hype at West Virginia, but running back Steve Slaton was almost as important as White.  And prior to White’s arrival on campus, Rodriguez used running backs like Quincy Wilson and Kay-Jay Harris to great effect.  Rodriguez never found “that guy” at Michigan, partially due to injuries and partially due to recruiting.  Therefore, the offense wasn’t as spectacular as it might have been.  The lack of a running game cost Michigan a couple games throughout his tenure.

8. Not developing top prospects.  Rodriguez seemed to have an abnormal number of high-end recruits bomb out of the program.  And it’s probably a coincidence, but most of them seemed to come from the defensive secondary.  Four 4-star players recruited by Rodriguez never made a significant positive impact at Michigan (Demar Dorsey, Boubacar Cissoko, Justin Turner, Vladimir Emilien), which resulted in five true freshman defensive backs seeing significant time in 2010.  Furthermore, arguably Michigan’s best prospect in the last few classes (William Campbell) has yet to make an impact at Michigan and just switched from nose tackle to offensive guard in the middle of the season.

9. Handing out the #1 jersey to J.T. Floyd.  Before Rodriguez ever coached a snap at Michigan, he tried to give the #1 jersey to true freshman cornerback J.T. Floyd.  He was either unaware of the jersey’s significance or chose to ignore that aspect, but it was nonetheless a mistake.  Nothing seemed to highlight the fact that Rodriguez wasn’t a “Michigan Man” more than the #1 jersey snafu, which pitted some alumni and fans against him from the start.

10.  Poor player personnel decisions.  Part of the heat falls on the assistant coaches, but Rodriguez shoulders most of this blame because he has the final say: Rodriguez didn’t put his players in their best positions to succeed.  Running backs Sam McGuffie and Vincent Smith played far too much when there were more productive and explosive backs on the roster (Brandon Minor and Michael Shaw for starters).  Obi Ezeh should have been an outside linebacker starting back in 2008; and at least according to their play on the field, Ezeh should have been replaced by Kenny Demens much earlier.  Cameron Gordon – who has linebacker speed – spent half the 2010 season playing free safety.  William Campbell spent two years toiling on the defensive line before making a permanent move to the offensive line, and he didn’t even redshirt to allow for a fifth year of eligibility.

5Jan 2011
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Rich Rodriguez, ex-Wolverine

Rich Rodriguez was fired from Michigan on Wednesday

After a Tuesday rife with rumors that head coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired, the real thing actually happened on Wednesday.  According to athletic director David Brandon, who met with Rodriguez on Tuesday afternoon, the AD promised to “sleep on it” before making a final decision.  When Brandon woke up, he obviously hadn’t changed his mind – Rodriguez and his assistants were relieved of their duties Wednesday morning.

Back on November 30th, I wrote a post in which I projected that Rodriguez would be fired.  I have to say, going back to December 2007, I was not a fan of the Rich Rodriguez hiring.  I rooted for Rodriguez to succeed because I love the University of Michigan and its football program, but he was not the best fit for Michigan.  That’s obvious now.  Michigan alumni weren’t exactly fair to Rodriguez when he was hired, but regardless, the two parties didn’t mesh well.  Personally, the reason I didn’t like Rich Rodriguez was because of his attitude.  By all accounts he was a hardworking individual and welcomed players into his home.  He created a family atmosphere.  He ran a pretty tight ship with regard to player behavior, unlike that coach down in Columbus or up the road in East Lansing.

But it irks me when coaches make faces on the sideline.  It irks me when they complain about things in the media.  As a head coach, I think one has to know how to roll with the punches.  Maybe it’s because I grew up watching legendary stoics like Lloyd Carr roam the sidelines.  It’s not that Carr didn’t get a little fiery once in awhile, but he didn’t grit his teeth or roll his eyes or put his head in his hands or sag his head or droop his shoulders. 

None of this is to say that Rich Rodriguez’s system can’t or couldn’t work at Michigan.  That’s a load of uneducated bulls***.  The spread offense can work in the Big Ten.  It works everywhere, including the vaunted SEC, the Pac-10, the Big 12, the Big East, etc.  The 3-3-5 defense can work anywhere, too; there are fewer examples of it being used, but the proper coaching and deployment of personnel can make any defense work in any locale.  I grow tired of fending off arguments that “The spread just can’t work in the Big Ten” from my co-workers or people at the gym.  I just smile and nod, because really, Joe Schmoe at the gym doesn’t care about the specifics of the zone read option or the 3-3-5 stack.  He reads the headlines, jumps to conclusions, and makes up his mind permanently.  And he is a fool.

I am not begging for the reincarnation of Carr.  I know he’s not coming back, and very few coaches are like him in the sense of being a curmudgeonly grandfather who happens to know a thing or two about football.  But the discrepancy between Carr and Rodriguez was extremely apparent, and it was a culture shock for Michigan fans, even those who fully supported the Rodriguez hiring.

I appreciate the things Rich Rodriguez did at the University of Michigan.  He was a good ambassador for the program at Mott Children’s Hospital.  He embraced the Mealer family after their tragic car accident.  His players did an excellent job in the classroom.  He recruited quality student-athletes.  One of his players, Denard Robinson, was thrust into Heisman contention in 2010.  Rodriguez’s accomplishments were numerous.

Unfortunately, those accomplishments were mostly limited to developments off the field.  On the field in three seasons, Rodriguez was 15-22.  His defenses gave up 405 yards and 30+ points per game.  He had the worst winning percentage of any coach in Michigan football history.  His defense gave up more points than any Michigan defense in history.  He was at the helm for Michigan’s most lopsided bowl loss, this year’s Gator Bowl defeat at the hands of Mississippi State, a mediocre SEC team.

I won’t speculate much about who Michigan’s next coach will be.  The guys at The Wolverine (Michigan’s Rivals site) have been way, way off during this entire “search.”  Brian at MGoBlog has stated several times before that Brady Hoke wouldn’t be considered for the coaching gig, but now Hoke is the seeming front-runner.  However, a few days ago, that title belonged to Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh.  Bloggers and message board posters have tossed out names like Les Miles (LSU), Chris Petersen (Boise State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Tommy Tuberville (Texas A&M), Jon Gruden (former Raiders and Buccaneers coach), Tony Dungy (former Buccaneers and Colts coach), and Mike Trgovac (Packers defensive line coach and former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator).  And keep in mind that Rodriguez himself was a surprise choice back in December 2007, when everybody thought the new Michigan coach would be Ron English, Mike Debord, Kirk Ferentz, Greg Schiano, or Les Miles. 

Nobody knows what will happen next except, perhaps, David Brandon.  So I will save my reaction until something definitive happens.

But in the meantime, I would like to thank Rich Rodriguez for his efforts at the University of Michigan.  As much as I disliked his attitude, I know that he poured his heart and soul into the program.  I would have liked to have seen him succeed at Michigan, but unfortunately for the players, the university, the fans, and himself, it just wasn’t meant to be.  I wish Rodriguez well wherever he ends up next.

Go Blue!

4Jan 2011
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The Status of Rich Rodriguez

You will notice that I haven’t put up much about the status of Rich Rodriguez.  That’s because I don’t know anything for sure, and neither does anyone else.  Some say he’s been fired, some say it hasn’t happened yet, names are being thrown about carelessly, etc.

What’s the point of me speculating at this juncture, because it would be a waste of time and words.  If and when anything happens, I’ll offer up my opinion.  Until then, I’m sure you’ll be cruising the internet and refreshing certain websites just like me.

Enjoy the madness of college football!