No Man Is More Important Than The Team

Let me preface this article by saying at the outset that this piece is not about rehashing or re-prosecuting Rich Rodriguez. No one wants to move forward and concentrate on the present and future more than I do. With that said, it is critical to take a look at the past in order to provide perspective on the current situation and what to expect in the future.

Several of the comments made by Brady Hoke (watch video) during last week’s Big 10 Media Days highlight an issue that has received little attention. While much has been made over the issues that led Dave Brandon’s decision to remove Rich Rodriguez, one factor has largely gone unmentioned by the mainstream media. While the sub .500 record, annual losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, and embarrassingly bad defense all played a major role, the single biggest factor was likely Rodriguez putting himself and his coaches ahead of the football program. This is not to suggest that Rodriguez did not care for his players. Contrary to popular opinion Rodriguez is not an uncaring individual or an evil person. Throughout his 3 years at Michigan, Rodriguez displayed a high degree of concern for both his players and their families. The attention and support given to Brock Mealer by the football program is just one illustration of who Rich Rodriguez is as a person. Going above and beyond for several of the families at Motts Children’s Hospital provides yet another example. Juxtaposed to the selfless Rich Rodriguez is the football coach who was as interested in selling himself and his system as anything else. Rodriguez’s approach in public appearances and recruiting was grounded in self promotion. From the pep rally designed to garner support for the coach instead of the team, to public events and fund raisers with fans and alumni where Rodriguez sold what he, his system, and his coaches could do for them and the football program. A similar approach was used in recruiting where kids, especially on the offensive side, were primarily sold on the advantages of playing for a “master of the spread.” While academic prowess, personal development, and the University as a whole was used a recruiting tool, those attributes served as tertiary pitches to recruits. Kids were sold less on the University and what a Michigan experience could do for their lives going forward and more on the ability and personal profile of Rodriguez and his staff.

The way Rodriguez approached his job is something that must have weighed heavily on the mind of Dave Brandon when it came time to make a decision. Above annarbor.comeverything else Rich Rodriguez was in it for himself, ahead of the University and ahead of his players. Having a coach who put the players and the University above everything else was something that likely influenced both Brandon’s decision to remove Rodriguez, and who Brandon decided to pick as the next coach. While Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles were both contacted by Brandon, neither coach ended up taking the job. Like Rodriguez, both coaches project the image of a coach bigger than the program at their respective schools. Neither coach showed a willingness to put Michigan above themselves or their careers. Harbaugh’s interest in the NFL was well known even before Michigan made contact. Miles showed only a passing interest in the job, taking the interview with Dave Brandon on advice from his agent. This is not to suggest that either coach was unworthy of the job or unable to succeed at Michigan. There are many coaches who have succeeded while running their program on a cult of personality. Coaches like Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino have always put themselves out in front of their programs and each has enjoyed a high level of success. The critical thing to understand is the thought process the guided Brandon’s decision and what he was looking for in his next coach.

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Hoke Cleaning Up In Ohio

Marcus Hartman from recently interviewed Cincinnati St. Xavier H.S. Coach Steve Specht about the impact Brady Hoke is having on a daily basis in Ohio high schools. Here is what Specht had to say:

“I don’t think Ohio State’s football program is going to suffer. They’re going to continue to get the pick of the litter. I think a bigger issue for Ohio State is what Brady Hoke is doing now. He’s really hammering southwest Ohio. I think he’s really hammering Ohio in and of itself and doing a really good job of recruiting it. I don’t know if his approach would change if Jim Tressel was there or not, but there’s a renewed interest in Ohio football from Michigan’s perspective because of Brady Hoke’s history with Ohio football players. You’re seeing a lot of kids looking harder at Michigan because Michigan spends more time here. Now that they’re back, they’ve been down here a lot. You see a lot of southwestern Ohio kids that have already committed to Michigan, really quality players, and I think there’s going to be a renewed interest that Michigan lost over the past couple years since they brought in Rodriguez. They didn’t recruit us as hard as they had in the past. I think recruiting is more about being able to develop relationships and sell your product. Obviously, if you’re an Ohio guy, it makes it easier because you’ve been here and understand the kids a little better, but good recruiters just understand kids. They know what kids are interested in and can sell their program based on what they know kids like and dislike.”

Specht coaches at a high school that has had several Division 1 football players in the past few years.  ‘11 BC Commit Sean Duggan was recruited by Rich Rodriguez and we even knocked out a profile on him which shows the Specht has first-hand knowledge in the difference Hoke has made in such a short amount of time in Ann Arbor:

Year Rivals Caliber Player College
2011 rating rating rating rating LB – Steve Daniels Boston College
2011 rating rating rating LB – Sean Duggan Boston College
2010 rating rating rating rating OL – Matt James Notre Dame
2010 rating rating rating QB – Luke Massa Notre Dame
2009 rating rating rating DE – Pat Muldoon Wisconsin
2009 rating rating rating LB – Luke Kuechly Boston College
2008 rating rating rating RB – Darius Ashley Louisville
2008 rating rating rating LB – Fred Craig Stanford

Adam Braithwaite on RR and his time at Michigan

Adam Braithwaite was promoted last season to Safety coach after spending the previous two seasons as a staff assistant.  After the Rich Rodriguez was let go, Braithwaite moved on to Christopher Newton University to be their new defensive coordinator.  In a recent interview Braithwaite spoke about his time at Michigan:

Q: Michigan (where Rodriguez went 15-22 in three tumultuous seasons that included allegations that the program exceeded NCAA limits on practice time) being a case in point. What was that whole experience like for you?
A: Like everything, it’s a learning experience. It was a delayed reaction. I’d say we may be the only staff ever to get fired after a bowl game (the Wolverines lost 52-14 to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl). So that was difficult in a lot of ways, from dealing with our players to dealing with recruiting and then the actual job search once you were without work.
Q: Things seemed to go so quickly from the optimism that surrounded Rodriguez when he arrived at Michigan (in 2007 from West Virginia) to the turmoil of his last months on the job. How did you deal with that as a member of his staff?
A: There were a lot of expectations going into that, and a lot of excitement in going to a place like Michigan. It just goes to show you that coaching is not an exact science, and there are a lot of factors that go into winning and losing, and the difference between winning and losing can be some small things. There’s a lot of moving parts in football, and you have to have the majority of them working together, or things aren’t going to go right. We were disappointed with the ending. We felt like things were going in the right direction, but that’s the way it goes at that level.
Q: You also worked with Rodriguez, from 2005-06, at West Virginia (which on Friday accepted sanctions, including two years’ probation, after the NCAA ruled that ex-head coaches Rodriguez and Bill Stewart failed to monitor their staffs). Is Rodriguez (now a CBS analyst) someone you still believe in? Do you think he’ll coach again?
A: I think you’ll definitely see Coach again. He’s the ultimate competitor, and he’s not going to be out of coaching for long if he can help it. I do believe in what he did and respect him a lot and am grateful for everything that he’s done for me.

You have to appreciate how much Braithwaite truly cared for Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Football team last season, but the question that can’t be avoided is whether or not the position came to him to fast to soon.  When the spot on the staff opened, fans clamored nationally for many highly regarded coaches.  But with Rodriguez clinging to his spot as head coach, no top assistant would come to Ann Arbor.  How hard Rodriguez actually tried to go outside his current staff to hire a new coach is a debatable issue to say the least.  We here wish Adam Braithwaite and Rich Rodriguez the best in their future endeavors.  And please no more awkward Brady Hoke signing day interviews by Rich Rodriguez.

Fox Sports Ohio Reporter Destroys O$U

Bruce Hooley, Fox Sports Ohio, has covered the conference’s sports teams for 23 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland,, and WBNS-FM in Columbus.

The following is a summary of what he said in an interview on The Really Big Show in Cleveland yesterday:Bruce Hooley

Kalis can’t be blamed for decision he made, brought back some starch in the rivalry.

Only fans that will rip on Kalis are delusional, he made the right decision.

Michigan is a great academic school with a great offensive coach in Al Borges and a proven head coach in Brady Hoke.

I started the Cleveland Plains Dealer and Michigan used to win recruiting battles in Ohio, I still remember Pierre Woods picking to go to Ann Arbor. Cleveland used to be open for business, then all of a sudden, players starting going to OSU.

Rich Rodriguez got 11 guys out of OH, but he wasn’t really competing with Ohio State. He recruited players they didn’t want anyway.

Mike Vrabel isn’t what Luke Fickell needs as an assistant. He needed a coach with head coaching experience and should have pursued former Minnesota head coach Glen Mason to help out on the offensive line.

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The End-Around

On ESPN’s College Football Live, Desmond Howard said: "Out goes RichRod, in comes Brady Hoke. I think last year, especially in that bowl game, the Gator Bowl against Mississippi State, the thing that jumped out at me, they weren’t tough. Brady Hoke’s going to bring an attitude adjustment and with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the guys on defense won’t be out of position every play now."

Dave Brandon has announced that Michigan has partnered with TS Sports/Lighthouse for new state of the art scoreboards in Crisler Arena, Michigan Stadium & Yost Arena.

Charles Woodson’s Rare All-White Green Bay McFarlane Figure is going for $19.99 on EBay.

The Michigan Daily has released their photos of the year; including a few Michigan Athletic shots.

MGoBlue has posted a Denard Robinson interview from last Friday:

A solid article on Bleacher Report about Greg Mattison entitled, Teaching vs. Scheming.
An article on USCHO about Michigan’s seniors and their drive to the Frozen Four.