Rich Rodriguez’s first year as Michigan’s head football coach was … how can we say, ah yes, abysmal. At 3-9, the Wolverines finished with the worst record in school history. They lost their first game to a MAC school when Toledo took them out at the Big House, and they looked almost apathetic in a season-ending loss to archrival Ohio State.
(Andy Warhol does Rich Rodriguez, as seen by THE WIZARD OF ODDS)
Well, as bad as it was, it’s getting even worse. In the aftermath of the program’s misery, RichRod has been happy to pass the blame, all while opposing coaches like Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio have been piling on Rodriguez himself.
What did Dantonio have to say? Well, after being housed at Penn State, Dantonio quickly brushed off questions about being embarrassed with his team with the retort, “… embarrassing would have been to come into this game at 3-9.”. Ouch.
Rather than strike back at Dantonio, RichRod has been quick to subtly toss his own players under the bus, openly questioning the leadership of his junior and seniors by referring to the underclassmen as “his guys”, at least while doing interviews with THE DETROIT FREE PRESS:
“By the time you get to the third and fourth year, your players become an extension of your staff and they help coach,” he (Rodriguez) said. “Right now, even today we’ve got upperclassmen that make a mistake or two. … We’ve gotta do a better job as coaches. As Bill Parcells says, ‘You are what your record says you are.’ That’s not very good right now.”
Double ouch. That can’t be comfortable for seniors … or juniors, in the Michigan locker room this offseason. Sure, Rodriguez was dealt a pretty paltry drawer of quarterback talent, but there were plenty of athletes wearing maize and blue. So how was Michigan possibly so atrocious? According to running back Brandon Minor, one of the aforementioned upperclassmen (he’s a junior), the team just never bought in to RichRod’s philosophy.
“Everybody on the team didn’t buy in like they’re supposed to,” Minor said. “We’ve got a couple guys not going hard, but we’ll correct that. Most definitely. It ain’t happening on my watch next year.’ … It’s like some people don’t even believe in themselves when they step on the field,” he said. “When you step on the field, you gotta believe you’re the best player on the field, that nobody can mess with you.”
Sounds like Minor, who was speaking to THE ANN ARBOR NEWS, is saying that Rodriguez failed to A) give his team confidence (funny thing about going 3-9), and B) failed to convince his team that his spread option attack would work in the Big Ten (funny thing about trying to get power-rushing players to start running downfield to block on the run).
Maybe Rodriguez is right. If the entire program lines up the way he thinks it can, Michigan might even win a few games next year. And if “his guys” don’t come through because recruiting lags after the worst season in school history? Well, then RichRod and Michigan could be in big, big trouble.
One thing is certain: If they play like they did in the clip below, Ann Arbor will probably have to brace for another long year in 2009.