Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Thoughts on Rodriguez

I've had a few days now to read up on Rodriguez, watch the full press conference at Michigan yesterday, and digest it all. Bill's foreboading warm fuzzies for Rodriguez and Michigan aside, I've gotta say I find this a more intriguing hire with each passing day. It seems the rest of the Michigan nation would agree. I have yet to see anyone in the media, from the program or from the blogosphere slam the hire. Other individuals with past ties to him have been equally full of praise.

My gut feeling is that Rodriguez will be good for the school. Michigan has struggled mightily the last few years to keep up with other programs from the perspective of on-field innovation and off-field facilities. That's finally starting to change. The team will soon, finally, have its own practice facility. Michigan stadium itself is getting an upgrade. And under Rodriguez they'll soon -finally- have stuff like strength and conditioning coach whose program doesn't consist entirely of heavy lifting. Make no mistake, Michigan has fallen radically behind in recent years at developing players and that will start to change under Rodriguez.

It also helps that every account I've read from people who don't have a vested interest in a strong WVU athletic program, is that Rodriguez is a good man. He's certainly personable and fast enough on his feet. When asked about being Michigan's third choice (which presumes Miles was a choice and that Ferentz was not) he said something to the effect of also being his wife's third choice. More importantly, he was honest and direct in answering questions. When asked about being the job needing to go to a "Michigan Man" he replied, "Gosh, I hope not. They hired me."

While honest, I actually think that's the wrong answer. I know it's cliche, and the Wolverine haters are free to roll their eyes at any point, but being a Michigan Man isn't about where you came from. It's about who you are and what you do once you're there. Bo wasn't a Michigan Man when he rolled into town. For Rodriguez, sure, he's got to have success on the field, but he's also got to run a clean football program that's above reproach. Passion for the institution itself will come in time. Of that I have no doubt.

Though, it would've been nice if he'd had a stronger answer ready for the inevitable Ohio State question. He was being sarcastic when he answered, "Big rivalry, huh." But still. He moved so quickly past the question, into an easily remembered recitation of the axis of evil (Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State) and onto the next question that you have to wonder if he gets just how seriously he needs to take that rivalry. One thing Tressel made clear at Ohio State when he was hired was that he got just how big the big game is. He got it and I'm not sure Rodriguez does... yet. One thing is for sure, if he doesn't, Tressel will education him both quickly and painfully.

As for the games played on the field. I'm not concerned about the spread option stuff as it pertains to Michigan's offense. They'll get that stuff nailed down and adapt where they need to. Michigan's real problems with the spread are on defense. They've got to get that figured out, without losing the ability to slug it out in the trenches with teams like Penn State and Wisconsin.

It will, without question, be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few years. I think it's going to work out well. Of course, my idea of working out well won't match those of others. I'm not looking for the farcical notion of national championship contention every single year. Maybe every other year. For me, he's got to be able to win the Big 10 with regularity and post at least *AT LEAST* a .500 record against Ohio State and in bowl games, while consistently winning at least nine games per season. (The occasional eight-win season is permissible, but not condoned.) If he can do that, and do it while running a clean program that doesn't embarrass itself, he'll have done okay in my book.