Saturday, October 11, 2008

Where Can I Return My Defective Rodriguez?

I was angry. For about 6 minutes (instead of 6 weeks). Which may be the most telling of signs about how far and how fast Michigan has fallen.

We were forgiving, almost as an entire fanbase. We have chastised fumbles, and pointed out poor strategy decisions by Rodriguez, but here, and most everywhere, the Michigan fanbase has treated Rodriguez with kid gloves during this "rebuilding" period. We have trusted that the "rebuilding" was a necessary evil to institute this spread thing which Rodriguez brought with him.

The kid gloves are off. Our trust has ended.

In one half season, with the most difficult part of the season left, Rodriguez has managed:

1. to lose as many games as Lloyd Carr ever did in a regular season;
2. to lose to a Mid-American Conference team for the first time ever;
3. to accumulate the worst record through 6 games since Bump Elliot's 1967 team, which went 1-5 and finished 4-6.
4. to amass one of the worst performing offenses in the nation: 109 of 119 (Offensive Genius??)
5. to be dead last in fumbles lost (the ncaa doesn't track fumbles not lost but is there any doubt Michigan would be last there as well?)

Some have compared the transition we're seeing to Bo's start in '69. We've heard about swearing by coaches, and we reminded that Bo was no angel. We're reminded about how the practices under Bo and Rod have both been tough. We're told that the players run, run, run in practice, all of the time under Rod, and that Bo also had his team running crazily during practice. We've heard that players quit between 68 and 69 because practices were so tough, and see the comparison to the players who left early or transferred.

But, Rodriguez doesn't appear to be anything like Bo. Not even Bo's first year as Michigan head coach did Michigan get blown out as badly at home as they did by Illinois. In 1969, Bo's squad lost by 23 to Missouri in Ann Arbor. The score was 17 - 40. But, Missouri was also damn good, ending as co-champions of the Big Eight and going on to an Orange Bowl berth. Illinois will not be a champion of any type this year.

The Missouri loss was a turning point for Bo. After being crushed at home by Missouri on October 4, 1969, Bo's teams went on to win every home game played until November 22, 1975. 41 games. 6 years. 72 months. 2,240 days. Michigan won 4 big ten championships and finished in the top 10 every year. It took Rodriguez all of 6 days to lose his next game.

When Bo's team next lost at home, they lost to Ohio State, which was ranked 4th in the nation coming into the game, won the big ten, and was ranked number one in the country at 11-0 until they lost in the Rose Bowl to UCLA. Rogriguez lost to Toledo. The first ever Michigan loss to a MAC team. And a team which will likely finish in the bottom half of its mediocre conference.

There may still be Rodriguez apologists after today. Those who claim that Michigan lacks offensive talent. That we don't have the players to fit the system of this offensive genius.

I suppose apologists could argue that fumbling is merely random and that players fumbling have nothing to do with coaching. Some have. They are wrong. Fundamentals are taught. Holding onto the ball is emphasized. You won't hear me or anyone else say coaches can prevent fumbles altogether, but when that frequency of fumbling is so far above the average over six games, there is clearly a coaching issue. But, hey, it does take a player to fumble.

But, it doesn't take a player to botch clock management. Against Wisconsin, Michigan ran a hurry up offense on it's 10 yard line with about 2 minutes left in the half. They could have run, huddled, and ran the clock out. Instead, Rod runs a hurry up offense which forces a punt.

Or woefully fail to see clear audibles. Versus Illinois, in the third quarter, Michigan was on the goal line, going into score. The Illinois defense lined up with nobody over center. Threet took the playcall from the sideline. Instead of the coaches noticing the obvious qb snea which looked like it would have ended with Threet running clear until Section 8 row 7, Rod calls a pitch sweep which started 6 or 7 yards deep.

Or to call an atrocious game. In Michigan's last drive against Toledo, Sheridan led Michigan to the 10 yard line with about 40 seconds left. After a 9 yard gain on first down, it was 2 and 1 on the 10. The next to playcalls were passes. Why not run the ball and get a first down. There was pleny of time left. There was no reason to hurry up to kick a game tying field goal. Take advatage of time and the situation and the downs. Michigan likely would have won the game had it run the ball once or twice in that last 40 seconds, picked up a first down and managed the clock.

Toledo. Wow.

So. . . . how'd that volleyball team do?