The Rodriguez Redemption

By Johnny Ginter on December 17, 2012 at 5:00p

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary ♬ When troubles come and my heart burdened be ♪ Then, I am still and wait here in the silence ♫ Until you come and sit awhile with me ♬

Oh happy day!

Two years ago, Rich Rodriguez stood at the end of season banquet for the Michigan Wolverines and did two weird things. The first was to effusively talk about his reliance on Josh Groban to get him through the hard times. Which was pretty weird in a goofy sort of way, but keep in mind that was the year that Greg Robinson revealed his stuffed animal fetish, so it doesn't rank super high on the weirdometer.

The other weird thing that Rich Rod said was this:

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez fought back tears, talking about the toll his job has taken on his family, and used passages from the Bible and a Josh Groban song during an emotional address that closed the team's banquet.

"I truly want to be a Michigan man," he said Thursday.

Why? Was it the implied jowly lethargy? The 1970s sense of malaise? The completely unearned smug sense of superiority?

If I, at any point in my life, utter the phrase "I truly want to be a Michigan man," it will likely be followed by the words "because I have lost all will to live and hate both myself and everyone around me."

It is ridiculous to me that a coach who took West Virginia football to two BCS games, winning both, and showcased some of the most dynamic offenses that the country had ever seen would be reduced to groveling at the feet of an imaginary ideal that only exists in the minds of old people who still remember being really skeptical of "this whole microwave oven business."

No, Rich Rodriguez was never the mythical Michigan Man. He is a backwoods hick with a goofy style of football that was fun and exciting (two words one must never associate with Michigan football or Michigan in general), and after being summarily dismissed by a group of people who never really had any inclination to allow him to succeed in the first place, he's now doing pretty well for himself in Arizona.

So now you have a choice, Buckeye fans. Do you root for the guy, knowing that each successive victory angers the Wolverine fanbase in a vague, irritating way? Or do you root against him, forcing him to walk the earth as a shadow, forever branded with the mark of Cain that is Michigan football?

I go for the former approach. You can't just hand wave away stuff like his less than amicable split from West Virginia, the (relatively minor) NCAA violations, or the Borens' attitude toward him in general. But I look at a guy who walked into an already extremely difficult situation and did everything within his power to make at least a semi-decent team out of what was essentially Lloyd Carr's table scraps, while simultaneously getting the business from alumni and a new AD that had no part in his hiring.

He failed, but as far as failures go, it was a semi-noble one. Let's be realistic: any coach that was going to have to take over after Michigan's Earle Bruce up and left for the fjords was going to have a difficult time, given the massive expectations of their fans. For Rich Rod to perform as poorly as he did, especially against the Wolverines' two biggest rivals (he never beat OSU or Michigan State), pretty much sealed his fate even before you get to the "he doesn't understand OUR CULTURE" stupidity.

Yeah, I waited five years to make this joke SO WHAT

That sucks. Rodriguez isn't, and never was, a bad coach. We here at 11W like to poke fun at Brian at MGoBlog, but he was an ardent defender of the guy, offering up justifications such as the cupboard being bare personnel wise, the lack of support that he had from the administration and alumni, and a general lack of patience from the fanbase in general.

All true, although that doesn't really negate some of the boneheaded and baffling moves that Rich Rod also made during his tenure. The most notable of which was the hiring of Greg Robinson and the defensive issues in general, but there were several other moves that were made that didn't exactly elicit the kind of confidence that Bill Martin showed in him while floating in the Atlantic on a skiff.

So he was fired. The Michigan faithful got to breathe a sigh of relief through their oxygen masks as the toddled their way to their living rooms for another Lawrence Welk marathon, happy in the knowledge that soon they could hire a REAL Michigan Man that would lead their program to glory.

And Rich Rodriguez, though he didn't know it at the time, got to shed himself of the unfair burden of having to be someone that he isn't.

Everybody got what they wanted! Brady Hoke yabba dabba dooed his way into the Michigan job, and Rodriguez now finds himself with an Arizona program that just won a bowl game in almost hilariously dramatic fashion and looks poised to be a very dangerous team in the very near future.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines are coming off a disappointing season that saw them lose to almost every decent team on their schedule, and have now just suspended three players, including their starting punter and a cornerback, for their bowl game against South Carolina.

I'm not trying to imply that Rodriguez shouldn't have been fired, or that Hoke was the wrong hire, but rather that bad situations, bad luck, and random chance can make a good coach look far worse than he actually is.

So anyway, I'm rooting for they guy. Not because I love his playstyle (he's gotten away from the mostly run-based offense which made him a star at West Virginia) or because he's a genuinely great guy or something; no, I want Rodriguez to be successful because the guy got a bum rap from Ohio State's biggest rival, and because I know that in 5-7 years the Buckeyes will be faced with the same dilemma that Michigan was dealing with in 2007. I just hope we handle it better than they did and don't fool ourselves into thinking that our next coach has to conform to some silly ideal.

Because Urban Meyers don't fall into your lap every day.


Comments Show All Comments

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I'm happy for Rich Rod's success.  I wouldn't say I go out of my way to root for him, but I ain't gonna hate.  He never really met their ideal to begin with, so he shouldn't have to carry that mark with anyone.  Of course he wanted to when he had the job.  What else would he say? 

Class of 2010.

otrain2416's picture

If Rich Rod wants to be a Michigan Man and coach them again I'll welcome him back with open arms

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.


He was my favorite TSUN coach. I never once feared he'd beat OSU. How can I hate him?

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

AndyVance's picture

I saw a few minutes of the Bowl game the other night, and felt this strange urge to root for the goofy S.O.B. that I couldn't quite understand... Thanks, Johnny, for letting me know that there isn't something seriously wrong with me.

CowCat's picture

Rich Rod showed class to Tressel during tatgate. And the more he suceeds and Hoke fails, the more we can troll TTUN fans ...

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

What did he say?

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

M Man's picture

One thing that Rodriguez said was that in the midst of Michigan's getting shaken down by the NCAA after the demonstrably false Free Press reporting, some Big Ten coaches were doing some nasty negative recruiting against Michigan.  And he quickly added that Jim Tressel was not one of them. 

M Man's picture

First, your are right.  Rodriguez was a standup guy for Tressel and I am glad he was.  And Rodriguez's graciousness came after Tressel had been a standup guy for Rodriguez and the bewilderingly dramatic things alleged by the Detroit Free Press preceding the NCAA investigation of Stretchgate.
I wrote about John U. Bacon's book, Three and Out  here.
You could send MGoBlog into a complete meltdown with this post.  Not because it is in any way inflammatory; it isn't.  But because anything related to Rodriguez now seems to divide Michigan fans.  Through no fault whatsoever of Brian Cook (always fair to Rodriguez, and sometimes critical of Rodriguez such as when Brian Cook was about the first person anywhere to doubt the wisdom of Greg Robinson), the mostly anti-Rodriguez MGo readership -- with many notable exceptions -- sort of convulses in a denial of service attack whenever Rodriguez's name comes up.
Ohio State no longer has anything to prove, in relation to 21st century football coaching searches.  You folks passed that one, with flying colors, when Urban Meyer came in and took charge with unwavering support form the whole university.  

CowCat's picture

I won't do any actual trolling of Michigan fans, but it's funny to think about it.
One could make an argument that Michigan hired Rodriguez in order to get the closest thing to Urban Meyer (who had just beaten Tressel badly in the NC).
However, I don't think the Michigan administration truly grasped how big of a change that would mean for the program in terms of style, personnel, coaching philosophy, etc.
So in a strange way, with Urban Meyer coaching at TOSU and the more traditionally-minded, pro-style Hoke at Michigan things have come full circle.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

 A Stadium official assigned to greet opposing team buses offered his hand to Dantonio and welcomed him after Dantonio’s brush with a heart attack a few weeks earlier.  “Get the hell out of here” was Dantonio’s response.

Wow. If this is true, my respect for him has dropped.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Really? I love it. But I'm kind of a dick.

Menexenus's picture

If I, at any point in my life, utter the phrase "I truly want to be a Michigan man," it will likely be followed by the words "because I have lost all will to live and hate both myself and everyone around me."

Nice!  <stands up, commences slow-clap>

Real fans stay for Carmen.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

It would be great if he beat M*chigan in a bowl game next year.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

DetroitBuckeye's picture

Rose bowl i'm calling it.

JozyMozy's picture

"Brady Hoke yabba dabba dooed his way into the Michigan job"
Glorious. Ohio's young minds are in good hands. 

larzdapunk's picture

After reading Three and Out, I can't help but root for RichRod.  Insane that a school would try so hard to sabotage their own coach.  If the man could get himself a somewhat respectable defense, he could make a lot of people in the Pac-12 scared.

MediBuck's picture

Well, he's been reunited with Jeff Casteel, his former DC at WVU of 3-3-5 lore in Tuscon. The man's no Dick LeBeau, but knows the difficulties of working with a spread offense semi-autistic wunderkid and all the headaches that come with salvaging failed 4th-and-5s and keeping a defensive unit on the field for 40 minutes.

He's a guy like Oregon's Nick Alioti--doing the best job possible in difficult situations. For reference, Casteel left WVU following their beatdown of Clemson. Then, this happened. Obviously, the former DC was doing something right with the same personell and similar schematic groupings.
Arizona will never be a defensive powerhouse under RichRod, but they won't be Michigan bad.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

CowCat's picture

Good points.  Running the 3-3-5 is practical, but it kinda indicates you don't have elite talent up front.
We're lucky that our flavor of the Spread offfense is predicated on power running concepts.   Unlike Oregon, Arizona or Air Raid teams we can protect a lead and slow down the pace, or grit it out when zone read / spread concepts aren't working.
We had our own struggles with defense for sure, but Urbz understands what footall in the B1G in November is about.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

DetroitBuckeye's picture

Aside from the pace, our offense isn't all that different from oregon's.

MediBuck's picture

Surprisingly yes. Both teams run the inside zone read as the bread and butter, though I think we're a little more willing to run the inverted veer given Braxton's elite legs. Our passing concepts are more disparate, but the base spread-to-run is similar.

I would say that where we differ is personell. Chip Kelly prefers scatbacks and speedsters as his ballcarriers, while our halfback has been a sledgehammer. Though that means we net fewer explosive plays on handoffs, we can grind it out when we want to. Also, I think Mariota is more composed on dropback passes, while Miller is more confident in his running ability (hence why we'll run more inverted veer and counter trey).

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

CowCat's picture

(posted in the wrong place)

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

razrback16's picture

I hold nothing against Rodgriguez, myself and have a lot of the same feelings as the author here. I think I remember hearing that Rodriguez really wants Arizona to schedule Michigan. I really hope they get a home and home scheduled as I'd love to see Rodriguez blow them out if at all possible.

popeurban's picture

No way Michigan does this.  IMHO 

bukyze's picture

I too hope that Rich does well at Arizona.  I could never really bring myself to hate him at TSUN, b/c in all honesty, I kind of felt sorry for him - knowing that he really never had a chance to succeed.  If he had been able to hire a coach like Mattison for his D, they would've had a ridiculously good team.  Now they're just ridiculous.

BoFuquel's picture

Hoke will be makin' that speech this time next year.GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

CowCat's picture

Urbz mentioned that one of the key lessons he learned over his year off was to get complete alignment of the coaching staff in terms of what they teach.
That is, even with 100% backing of the Michigan administration, Rich Rod could still have failed just by hiring an assistant or two that weren't aligned with him.  

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

yrro's picture

This. No matter the culture differences, the Free Press, or the support of the administration... he still hired Gerg and Schafer. And yes, in an ideal world he would have gotten the cash to hire Casteel, but in the non-ideal world he actually was in pretty much every other head coach in the Big Ten managed to pick someone better than Gerg.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I never had anything against Rodriguez, other than my typical feelings about the head coach at Michigan. I always thought he got something of a raw deal, and there always seemed to be a reluctance on the part of his haters to admit that the program bottomed out in his first season on the job in Ann Arbor, not the last. 
The whole "Michigan Man" thing seems nutty and provincial, but if folks are being honest, it's not much different from the way a certain segment of our own fanbase treated John Cooper. He had his faults to be sure, and his time had clearly run out by 2000, but Cooper was never going to win over some people here--he wasn't "one of us," and he was too stylistically different from Woody Hayes (a much bigger deal in 1988, just after Woody's death and less than 10 years after he left the sidelines, than it is today). 

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

bhardy22132's picture

I liked rich rod. Thought he was a good hire for scUM if they would have let him do his own thing and get his style going. Thought he def. got a bad rap while there. Glad to see that he was able to obtain some success his first year back with Arizona and I def. think that team will be one in some sort of spotlight in the near future.

nickma71's picture

I don't root for or against RichRod. He is irrelevant. I guess you could say you mean something if you hold Oregon under their 1 point per minute standard in a 0-49 loss...

DetroitBuckeye's picture

Why would I root against the guy, I wouldn't.  I love rich rod but not just because we beat his teams to a pulp.  He seems quite honestly like a pretty decent dude, plus his tirades on the sidelines are hilarious.  I hope he does great things at Arizona.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Carr never did him any favors. Best thing that ever happened to RR was to get out of that good ol' boy network.

CowCat's picture

While RR did get a raw deal mostly, he also did have a raw style and ticked a lot of players off.
Maybe some of the kids were acting entitled, but it says a lot when the Boren family (whose dad played for UM) chose to let their oldest son lose a year of eligibility, then never sent another son to UM, and those kids played lights out for the Buckeyes.
Or that their two starting receivers and Ryan Mallett decided to leave ...

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

BlueBayou's picture

For the Boren's, it is said that Rich Rod would not be offering a scholarship to Zach to play at Michigan despite Carr having promised that they would.  That is what apparently lead to Justin leaving and the now infamous "Lack of family values" quote.  I don't really blame either party for that.  Rich Rod shouldn't be forced to take a player he felt wasn't a high need or fit and the Borens were underhandedly upset that a promise was broken.  Michigan's loss had to be someone's gain.

CowCat's picture

True, but not offering Zach if a promise was made was probably a mistake. Great coaches adapt to the type of program they're given, rather than exclude good players so they can run "their system".
Even Chip Kelly, the poster child of the 70+ point spread offense said in an interview that he would run an I formation power running game if that's what his players did best.
In a similar way I think Mike Leach will see the same fate -- he's chasing away players and he's hell-bent on running the air raid offense in Pullman, WA, which is like the North Pole in the winter.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

BlueBayou's picture

I agree with everything you said.

BlueBayou's picture

RR did get screwed over, but at times he also seemed to get in his own way.  I think from the time he took over Arizona you could clearly seen that he learned from his time at Michigan and won't make some of the same mistakes or see any of the same friction, unless he starts losing, which I don't think will happen.  He will be be More successful and I will be glad to see him succeed at Arizona.

bassplayer7770's picture

It seems every time I watched an Arizona game, the announcers would mention their undersized LBs.  I do hope Rich Rod understands the need for Defense in the future.  I looked at their current recruiting class, and they do have several defensive commits, but none of them seem very highly rated (unless one of the highly rated "Athletes" is going to play D).  Then again, I suppose Arizona isn't a preferred destination in D1 college football, so landing elite talent probably isn't an easy task.
Just fyi, the current recruiting class is sitting at #36 on ESPN with 26 commits.  They have four 4-star players, and the rest are 3-star or lower.  They only have one player in the ESPN 300.

BearDownUofA's picture

In defense of our defense, Coach Stoops left the cupboard bare when he was fired. We were lacking in depth, we had several players leave the program during the offseason and injuries really troubled us all year. Our defense was a patchwork job with guys playing new positions and at least one player (FB Taimi Tutogi) playing two-way football to fill a gap. RichRod hasn't had as much time to recruit a defense as he needs. Once he can get us on our feet recruiting-wise after a couple of years, our defenses will be better. Of course, the Pac-12 is an offense-first conference, so that has to be considered.

buck i's picture

Somewhere in the distance, a symphony of jingling keys can be heard...

ArTbkward's picture

I have no problem rooting for RichRod.  Let him be to Michigan as Bill Belichick was to the Browns.  I read Three and Out and I would think it's impossible to have read that book and not at least somewhat like the guy.  I would highly recommend reading that book and at the very least, read M Man's review.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

MAVBuck's picture

I hated Rich Rod from the second he took the job at UM. Not because he was the new guy in charge at the school I hate but because after he turned down the Alabama gig he said he wouldnt leave WVU and did exactly that when the next "great" offer came along. I know coaches do this all the time and they promise recruits, fans, & administration that they are there for the long haul but something about it just rubbed me wrong. With that being said how is it possible that I somehow find myself rooting for him now as well? I turned on the game this weekend and seen him in that same style winter coat looking as goofy as he did in Michigan blue. I watched contently in the 4th quarter & did a small fist pump when they threw the game winning touchdown all while shaking my head wondering what Im doing. Somehow I dont see myself doing this for Hoke when he's coaching UNLV or some other bottom feeder D-I school in 6 years.

Oyster's picture

You secretly like RR because of what he did to those people during his 3 years.  The great savior was going to come in and show the B1G what football was all about and it never worked.  You like him because they had to endure the Josh Groben night, the time he tried to decline a dead ball foul (one of my personal favorites) and so on.  Two losing seasons, getting the team on probation, burning Gardners redshirt out of spite because Tate was pouting.  It was a grand 3 years and now that he has been run out of town it is all the more sweet that he is now winning somewhere else.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Doc's picture

I never disliked RichRod.  I actually hoped he coached at AACC forever.  Now, I do hope he does well.  He was a stranger in a strange land while he was in AA.  I hope he has success in AZ.  I hope he plays TTUN in a bowl and blows them out of the water.  That would be hilarious.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

BearDownUofA's picture

As an Arizona alum who was in the stands as a student for the high point of the Stoops era and then watched it all crash down on television, I am absolutely elated with how well Rodriguez has started his time at the UA off.
This year really couldn't have gone much better. Four of the five teams we lost to were very good teams. Arizona State is a whole different story, as we were the only FBS team with a winning record that they managed to beat this season, and for that reason they had no business beating us, but we managed to give the game away. Quite appropriate, really, since the home team hasn't won the Territorial Cup since we won it in Tucson in 2008.
The change in offense from the standard huddle-up spread/air raid that Stoops ran is a real breath of fresh air. You could definitely see the effect that running the no-huddle had on opposing defenses. I'm really excited for what's to come with RichRod in the future. We'll probably take a step back on offense next year since our starting quarterback will have, at most, one FBS start under his belt (unless Jesse Scroggins has FBS starting experience, IDK) but we will have most of our defense back, 3/5ths of our starting o-line and all but one receiver from this year's team will be back, assuming that Terrence Miller gets a medical redshirt which he should. And then of course there's the fact that we'll have a preseason Heisman contender at running back.
All in all, I'm happy with year one of RichRod. He tied the record for most first-year wins by an Arizona coach and both went to a bowl game and had a winning debut season for the first time in his career. There isn't much to complain about. The future is bright.

CowCat's picture

Good commentary, welcome.
Rich Rod is one of the innovators of the zone-read spread-to-run offense.
But, from what I noticed during his time at UM, he undervalues the type of player you really need to win a NC -- the type of player that can just win the game, no matter what the scheme.
Similarly, he didn't seem to value the defensive side of the ball, or special teams for that matter....
Maybe he's different now at Arizona.  Dunno.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer