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The One (or Two) Dimensional Coach.

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September 21, 2010

The One (or Two) Dimensional Coach.

Here is a trick question: How many Michigan quarterbacks are starters this year? The answer is at least three. There is, of course, the fabulous Dennard Robinson. But Steven Threet (speaking of three), who left Michigan after being a starter some of the time in Rich Rodriguez's first year if memory serves, starts for the Arizona State team that just defeated Iowa, and the strong armed Ryan Mallett, who left Michigan as soon as Rodriguez was named its coach, starts for the Arkansas team that just defeated Georgia. Their presence on these other teams is a tribute to the havoc caused by Rodriguez when he took over Michigan. (Some major lineman whose name escapes me also left and became a starter for OhioState -- not exactly a small time team.)

But so what, you say. It took Rodriguez awhile to recruit his kind of players, now he has done so, and look at the results. Well, the results are a marvelous offense, at least so far, and I would think that success likely to continue even when Michigan starts playing Big Ten teams. But the defense, oh my God, the defense. Perhaps the best way to describe the defense is to ask, what defense? Not to mention what appears to be the complete absence of any kickers whatever.

The defense has been awful ever since Rodriguez began at Michigan, and it remains awful. One has to believe that, notwithstanding its offense, Michigan is going to lose a number -- even a lot -- of Big 10 games because of the sheer horribleness of its defense. Even given the likely continued excellence of the offense, how can Michigan beat, say, Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, PennState or perhaps MichiganState, with a defense that stops nobody. And what if, heaven forefend, Dennard Robinson were to be injured and unable to play, so that there might be little offense because his backups are not nearly as capable as he, at least not at this point and maybe never. If that were to happen, Michigan might be lucky to win any Big Ten games.

And who did Rodriguez hire to run his defense. Greg Robinson, a guy who compiled such a bad record as head coach at Syracuse that he got fired after four years there. Now the defense is in its second year under Robinson and should have learned something, but apparently is worse than ever.

If you want to really grasp the unbelievable coaching ineptitude of the guy hired to run Michigan's defense, listen to this: Robinson was the head coach at Syracuse from 2005-2008. His wins and losses, and the points scored by and against Syracuse, are posted on the Syracuse Athletic Department's website from 2005-2007. (For some reason 2008 is not posted but we found the 2008 won/lost record elsewhere.) Robinson's record was one win and ten losses in 2005, four and eight in 2006, two and ten in 2007, and three and nine in 2008, for a total of ten wins and 37 losses. Equally to the point since this coach with such a terrible record was hired to be Michigan's defensive coach was the record of points scored by Syracuse compared to the points scored against it. Here the totals from the website in 2005, 2006, and 2007 respectively were 152 by Syracuse and 295 (almost double) against in 2005, 219 by Syracuse and 285 against in 2006, and 197 by Syracuse and 418 (more than double) against in 2007. And Robinson is the guy who is in charge of Michigan's defense? Oh, my God!!

A few years ago, when the underperforming Lloyd Carr was still head coach, I heard the panelists on ESPN's college football show -- particularly the highly accomplished ex-coach Lou Holtz -- do something that such panelists rarely do. I heard them criticizing a head coach, in this case Carr. But that may have been as nothing compared to what Holtz and the adroit Mark May (didn't he play at Notre Dame?) said about Michigan's defense this Sunday, right after the UMass game. They both savaged Michigan's defense, which they found abominable, with Holtz saying, among other things, that this is not the Michigan defense he used to warn his teams about. And it was May, I believe, who specifically blamed Greg Robinson for the problem, saying he had installed a new defense -- if, as I say, Michigan's defense can even be given that name. (Maybe it should be called "Michigan's non defense," or "Michigan's porous").

And who is it that hired Robinson after he was fired at Syracuse because he had performed so ineptly -- and had so many more points score against his team than it scored -- and who is it that put him in charge of the Michigan defense? Well, it was the West Virginia genius, Rich Rodriguez, who now has a great offense but no defense -- and is likely to pay the price in the Big Ten for having only half a team in his third year. And who allowed Rodriguez to hire Greg Robinson? Why the Michigan athletic department, of course, thereby showing no sign of competent thinking.

So Michigan's football future does not look too bright in the Big Ten this year, unless a miracle happens and Greg Robinson somehow teaches Michigan's porous to play defense within, say, less than two weeks, when Michigan plays Michigan State.

And lest one forgets, let me reiterate that Michigan has no kickers. It simply cannot make field goals and, perhaps with some exaggeration, I would say it seems hard pressed to kick kick-offs more than two thirds of the way to the end zone. How could Rodriguez have failed in three years to recruit even one player who can kick off and kick field goals? You can bet your sweet bippy, as I think Artie Johnson or somebody or other used to say on Laugh-In forty years ago, that in the Big Ten Michigan will pay the price for this ineptitude at kicking.

Humorously enough, Michigan's best kicking play of the season was a pooch kick on a punt, (not, of course, on a kick off or field goal attempt) that ended up on the opponent's five or seven yard line if I remember correctly. Although, few media personnel commented on this marvelous play in view of his running and passing, will it surprise you to learn that the pooch punter was Dennard Robinson? He must be Michigan's best all around player since Tom Harmon (or at least Ron Kramer or Charles Woodson).

So, considering everything, it has to be said that Rich Rodriguez has thus far proven himself the one dimensional man, or maybe the two dimensional man. In his first two years he proved that he excels at losing. Michigan never before had a coach so successful at losing, not even Chalmers (Bump) Elliot, God help us. Now he's proven that, given time, he can build a terrific offense, at least if he gets a smashingly great running and passing quarterback like Pat White at West Virginia or Dennard Robinson at Michigan. But so far at least, he also has shown that he knows nothing about and cares not a whit about defense, kicking or hiring competent assistants. And all he ever seems able to come up with when reporters ask him about his team's deficiencies on television is "We have to work harder."

Oh boy. It could end up being another long season for Michigan fans.*

 

Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.

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Steven Threet and ASU lost to Wisconsin. They did ... by larry wolf on Wednesday, Sep 22, 2010 at 10:35:15 AM
OEN now has a sports page? Shouldn't this article... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Sep 22, 2010 at 6:12:59 PM