Apple's Seedlings
Note: This is independent of the other RichRod at Michigan posts so it is not necessary to read those in order to understand this one. Those who desire a fuller sense of continuity may want to read How to Fire a Head Coach, Journey Into the Abyss, Westward Ho!, Circling the Wagons, and Shootout at the Big House.

Dear Coach Rodriguez,

You have now been the Wolverines coach for a little over a year. Your apologists have asked that we wait one or two more years before assessing your effectiveness at Michigan. It will take that long, they say, to know whether you will be successful. Nevertheless, as early in your tenure as it is, there are some things which are even now apparent. Looking back on your first year in Ann Arbor, there are two general questions involving your performance worth examining.


How effective are you as a football coach?

Your first year at Michigan wasn't all that successful. But that seems to be your pattern. We are assured that after a couple more years we will like what we see. And yet, no first year coach in Michigan's history (or any second year coach, or third year coach, or coach with greater tenure for that matter) has done as poorly as your 2008 team.

You say that you need time to get the players who can play by the system that you are installing? That may be true. But one measure of the effectiveness of a coach is how much he can get out of the players he has. No one expected you to have an undefeated season in 2008 - that hasn't happened to Michigan in over ten years. But neither did anyone expect a winning percentage of only 0.250. Even some of the most inept coaches in Michigan's history haven't done that badly. The players may not have been that good, but surely they were not that bad either. Other coaches at Michigan - and elsewhere - have been able to institute new offensive systems without going through such a poor initial season as you have had. I think it unlikely that the fates would have ganged up on you to the extent that you had such reduced talent.

Perhaps you will be able to post a superior season in 2009, or even 2010. If so, you will have only demonstrated that you are a good one-dimensional coach. What have you really accomplished if you need three years to implement your style, even if you make it a winning program then? Is this "spread offense" so rare? It is my understanding that many other college football programs, including several BigTen schools, have implemented variations on it. Most of them did not have to go through such a bad "rebuilding" year as the Wolverines have just done. Is your style of offense really so special that the program must take such a bashing in the first year? Further, does this mean that your successor will need three years to configure the team to his/her desires when you leave? If so, let us hope that you and all future coaches either stay on the job for considerably more than three years or are never hired in the first place.

In other words, Coach Rodriguez, it may yet be possible for you in the next year or two to show that you are a good coach in your one area of expertise. But by concentrating on only one style of offense, you have demonstrated that you do not have the flexibility or adaptability to be a great coach. Will your coaching abilities be enough to "get by" on into the future? Marginally, perhaps. You may end up winning significantly more games than losing. But that is not good enough for BigBlue.

In summary - even if you should win all your games for the next five years and bring home five national championships, you will only have established that you are a good coach ??? not a great one.

Are you a good representative of the Michigan football program?

On this issue we do not have to wait years - the returns are already in. You have chased players out of the program. You have shown disrespect for Michigan's traditions (such as the use of the #1 jersey) and to Michigan's supporters. You have downplayed the importance of traditionally important games - with Notre Dame, Michigan State, Minnesota, and especially Ohio State. Former players have criticized your arbitrary coaching and lack of respect for the program. You have engaged in name-calling of alumni and other supporters. You have acted like a spoiled brat when criticized, spewing verbal diarrhea when you are unable or unwilling to deal with a difference of opinion.

Oh, those remarks you made were taken out of context? "Get a life" only referred to those who posted hate blogs or who made obscene and threatening catcalls from the stands? "What about the economy?" was only meant to educate Michiganders who, (unlike West Virginians?) were unaware of the financial woes of the rest of the nation? In fact, there is no context appropriate for your remarks and how they applied when you said them. Even if you had won every game in 2008, you would not be justified in making these kinds of statements - under any circumstances - in any context.

We have accepted people with very different attitudes, personalities, and backgrounds into our family. The Michigan family is perhaps the largest and most diverse in the US, perhaps even the world. And we are open to change when debate and reflection indicate it is proper. But we are not open to disrespect of each other - on the part of members of the family or of those who have chosen to remain "outside" the family like you have done. Those who disrespected you were wrong. You were wrong for returning comments in kind.

If there is reason for changing a tradition, give us the reason and let us participate in the decision to change. There is an old saying, "Tradition should be a rudder and not an anchor." Apparently to you, tradition means neither.


So the two questions are answered respectively:

Are you a good coach? Maybe - partly.

Are you a good representative of the Michigan football program? No. You are an embarrassment to Michigan and a liability to its future. You are not a Michigan man, on the field or off it.


     Appleseed (a member of the Wolverine family).


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