Monday, December 17, 2007

Above the Fold - Say yes to Michigan!

There's two big stories in the D today, but one completely overshadows the other.

Sunday was a tale of two football teams, teams heading in opposite directions. One appears to have a very bright future, thanks to their hiring one of the best young coaches in the business. The other? Well, their future looks as bleak as bleak can be, thanks to another disturbing, embarrassing, fiasco of a loss.

After a month of fans being on the verge of hysteria, Michigan soothed the savage beast known as the Michigan Mafia, by officially sealing the deal with WVU's Rich Rodriguez. The other story, that's been thankfully pushed to the backburner, is the Lions moving that much closer to the abyss of another 10 loss season, with their 51-14 loss to the Chargers. Srew 'em, I spent all day yesterday blogging those jackasses.

So let's talk some real football, the only football team that truly matters in SE MI, the Michigan Wolverines.

The Wolverines are finally moving forward, and with all due respect to the late Bo Schembechler, and his coaching linage, it's about time. The Bo era was great, but nothing lasts forever. It's 2007, not 1977, or even 1997. Winning the Big 10 title is not the be all, end all. The opposition is no longer intimidated by the winged helmets. The "Michigan Way" won't keep the Wolverines in their accustomed place as college football royalty.

Their hiring of Rodriguez, the father of the spread option, an offensive guru, one of the best X's and O's coaches in the business, will finally shove a long staid and stale program kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

The Little Fella says as much at the Freep, that the "Bo-Mo-Lloyd era is gone for good" at Michigan.

But U-M can claim no purity anymore. It cannot act surprised if Rodriguez bolts a few years from now for something shiny and new (perhaps the NFL?). It cannot pose as if above the brutish shopping of this business. Michigan went out and plucked someone else's coach the way Frieder once was plucked from it.

Oh, and Rodriguez had a $4-million buyout clause. So, presumably, Michigan is paying dearly for the privilege.

Such is the nature of college football coaching these days. It is a cutthroat, ugly business, and things have been ugly the past month in Ann Arbor, largely because the Wolverines haven't had to deal with this junk since 1968.

It's about time the Wolverines stopped playing the "Michigan man" card. The head coaching job shouldn't stay "In the family" only because that's how it's always been done. Instead, Captain Billy, after very public several missteps, got the best man for the job, rather than hire someone who's main calling card was that he played/coached at Michigan.

At the News, Wojo sees a brave new world in A2, and the shake up of a tradition filled program will reverberate throughout the Wolverines' fanbase for some time to come.

When something that worked for 40 years gets changed, jittery tremors reverberate, and the ground in Ann Arbor will shake for a while.

Michigan football won't be the same, but we already knew that. Carr is retiring, and a $226 million renovation of Michigan Stadium, complete with fancy luxury suites, has begun.

The most startling changes in four decades are happening, slightly more than a year after program patriarch Schembechler passed away. There's no turning back now. Michigan showed it's willing to play by college football's updated rules, and if that makes you a little nervous, it also should make you excited.

We've seen the end of the Bo era, the Big House changing from a huge hole in the ground to a state of the art stadium, new football facilities are being built, and the "3 yards ands a cloud of dust turf" offensive philosophy is gone for good. Talk about culture shock for the blue hairs in the Wolverines fanbase! The old Blues, who think loud cheering and standing up during the game is unbecoming, won't know what hit them...

Mlive's Jim Carty says that the likes of English and Hoke probably would have won their fair share of games at Michigan. But that's no longer enough. Not at Michigan. The school and fanbase, in his mind, "deserve more."

Brady Hoke and Ron English and all the other names that would have driven folks crazy if they'd been hired could have brought good kids to campus and finished in the top half of the Big Ten.

Heck, that's what Lloyd Carr's been doing for five years now, and the only reason he's gotten away with it is the 1997 national title.

Michigan fans wanted more.

Heck, they deserved more.

Sunday, they got it in Rodriguez, an outsider who's pretty much the polar opposite of Carr, an outsider with no real ties to Michigan or Bo Schembechler, an offensive coach and a self-made innovator.

There hasn't been a change like this around here since Schembechler himself arrived in 1969.

No, he won't be Bo, nobody ever will, but it's a bold move, the kind of move nobody thought Michigan could pull off. As good - or better - than hiring Miles.

Compared to the somewhat funereal tone in the MSM, the blogosphere, who has been screaming long and hard for change at Michigan, is celebrating.

MGoBlog, who's byline of "Throwing rock since 1969" will now have to change, it's "Peanut butter jelly time!" Brian also touches on the more aggressive play calling approach we can expect to see from RichRod.

One of this blog's main complaints against Carr was that his fourth down strategy -- which can be summed up in one word: "punt" -- was uncreative and suboptimal. One of the things that was exciting about Miles was his balls-to-the-wall approach in the Florida game, during which a series of fourth down conversions, one of them a fake field goal, turned 9 LSU points into 21 LSU points and defeat into victory. Rodriguez didn't have such an obvious come-to-Romer moment... or did he?

In the 2006 Sugar Bowl, West Virginia faces fourth and six with around two minutes to go. They lead 38-35; Georgia has burned their timeouts. Result:

"But the Mountaineers saved their biggest surprise for the end. Georgia was poised to get the ball back when West Virginia dropped back to punt on fourth-and-six at the Bulldogs' 48. Phil Brady hauled in the long snap but took off running, gaining 10 yards on the fake and a game-clinching first down."

Obviously this is not the sort of thing that can become a pattern, but a game-sealing fake punt is most decidedly not in the Carr playbook.

Risky play calls? Going for it on 4th down? Gambling that your team can execute under pressure? AT MICHIGAN? This does not compute!

The Blog that Yost Built is thrilled beyond belief!

I can't help but be absolutely thrilled with the outcome to this coaching search--thank you Mary Sue Coleman. Rich Rodriguez is one of the top coaches in the game. He's pioneered an offense that many of the top programs use. He's built West [freaking] Virgina into a kind of sort of national power. And now he's here, to take our offense out of the stone age. As offensive coordinator, he went 12-0. At Tulane. With Shaun King at QB. Read those last 3 sentences again. He made Shaun King the most prolific passer in college football history. It's hard to not get excited about this one. Especially when Terrelle Pryor might follow him to Ann Arbor.

Michigan Sports Center give the Rodriguez hire an A, and that's not grading on a curve...

I will give it an A. It could have been an A+ had it happened before all of the national embarrassment, but Bill Martin did a good job in the end. The saying about a "W" being the only thing that matters at the end of the day works in this situation as getting a great coach at the end of the day is all that matters, and Michigan did just that.

Vasity Blue says fans should apologize to Captain Billy (I'm so sorry Bill! But you shouldn't have been on the God damn boat!), and recommends they should also be calling their stockbrokers ASAP...

Names like Jim Grobe and Kirk Ferentz sound very weak in comparison now. All those who have criticized Bill MArtin should offer an apology. Let me clarify. Saying "Bill Martin should have hired Les Miles when he had the chance" is acceptable. Saying "Bill Martin is the worst AD ever because even though he hired John Beilein and kept Rich Maloney and had turned around the Athletic Department's budget for the positive and got the stadium renovation through, he likes to sail" is not acceptable.

Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork stockholders, sell now.

Motown Sports Revival, long crying for change at Schembechler Hall, says to expect "the end for Michigan football as any of us has ever known it." As someone who has only known Michigan football as the program that Bo built, which is most any Michigan fan under the age of 50, I have to say that's as true a statement that you'll ever hear. It's actually a scary thought...

The addition of Rodriguez spells the end for Michigan football as any of us has ever known it. Rodriguez will undoubtedly slowly implement the spread offense into the program. The day after Ryan Mallet graduates, expect Michigan to resemble Florida or West Virginia offensively. Rodriguez is lauded for his ability to attack defenses at their weak points which is something “M” fans have been clamoring after for years. Don Nehlen--Rodriguez’s mentor and former college coach--said, "His offense is a no-huddle, get-after-you-real-fast, different-tempos offense. They attack you where you should be attacked."

Gorilla Crouch reminds us that another legendary Michigan coach was bred in West Virgina...

West Virginia provided the University of Michigan with Fielding Yost; Michigan provided the Mountaineers with Don Nehlen; and now WVU sends Rich Rodriguez to Michigan. If the new football coach can at least be reasonably compared with his two predecessors then he will have been an excellent hire by Bill Martin and Mary Sue Coleman.

Maybe we'll see a return of the "point-a-minute" teams too! Rich "Hurry up" Rodriguez has a nice ring to it...

I'll close with Quo Vadimus, who calls the hiring of Rodriguez "a great day for the future of the Michigan Wolverines." I think all fans of Michigan will agree.

Today is a great day for the future of the Michigan Wolverines. At only 44-years-old, Rodriguez has already amassed an impressive resume, and if successful, he could be the Michigan coach for the next 15-years (though, that may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves). We certainly will see a change from the traditional and conservative offense which has defined Michigan for decades, but it's a change Michigan needs to make if they will continue to be an elite program in college football. This coaching search may not have started on the right note, but it certainly finished on one.

More than anything else, I'm just happy the coaching search is over. I've never seen the Wolverines fanbase more divided, stressed, or concerned as they've been this past month.

That's "Above the Fold" for Monday, 12-17-07!


  1. Judging from this past season, I guess I don't blog about Michigan football anymore, but if I did, I'd write that I'm really excited about this choice.

    I like that Rodriguez is on the younger side of 50, I like that he represents a break from the "Michigan Man" school of thinking, and I love that he's a creative offensive mind who's going to bring a different style of football to Ann Arbor.

    I'd become so used to the idea of Les Miles going to Michigan that any other coach looked kind of inferior in comparison. Rich Rodriguez doesn't make me feel that way. All of a sudden, I want it to be September again.

  2. I love this hire but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Michigan went 8-4 this year, they lose a ton of offensive weapons and I've seen nothing to suggest that what they have returning on defense will be particularly stout. I think RR will be good in the long run but Michigan fans should be prepared for a down year next year based on the returning personnel.

    And the Lions really suck. Why couldn't they have been this bad earlier so I wouldn't have had to waste so much time and money going to sports bars to watch them this season? I don't even have the energy to waste time talking about firing Millen. Lets just solve this problem once and for all. Contract the Lions!

  3. Battleship, you may be right in that there may be some growing pains. Can RichRod adapt the spread to fit Ryan Mallet? (If Mallet even stays) Mallet is mobile for a Michigan QB, which means he can outrun John Navarre. We may have to wait for the first full recruiting class to accurately judge RichRod.

    I'm with you Ian. I was dreading the thought that they'd hire English, Debord, or Hoke. I was preparing myself to be disappointed by the result of the coaching search, then Captain Billy had to hit one out of the park.

    I'm suddenly looking forward to watching the 2008 Wolverines. If they ever get the God damn Big 10 Network on my cable system, that is...