Coaching Grades

Back in November, The Blue-Gray Sky made a post evaluating Charlie Weis, whether he had reached his ceiling, etc. While not particularly interesting to the non-ND fan on the whole, there was an interesting idea contained within, and that is giving a coach grades in several key categories. Those chosen by Jeff were Offensive Mind, Defensive Mind, Recruiting, Fundamentals, and Motivation. Their comparison was between Charlie Weis and Lou Holtz, which ended up looking like this:

Category Lou Holtz Charlie Weis
Offensive Mind B B
Defensive Mind C C+
Recruiting A A
Fundamentals A D
Motivation A++ C

This is a pretty good representation (though Weis’ offensive mind is clearly overrated – see games against Boston College, Syracuse, San Diego State, USC, etc. – all in his fourth year and with his own recruits). However, I’m obviously not here to talk about Notre Dame coaches, I’m here to apply this concept to Rich Rodriguez.

Offensive Mind – A-

Of course, Rich came to Michigan as an offensive genius, the father of the zone-read offense, engineer of the West Virginia Spread n’ Shred, etc. So how do I not give the man at least an ‘A,’ if not an ‘A+?’ Rich is a very good offensive mind, but he’s very much married to his offensive system, and while he can adapt it somewhat, I don’t see in him the creativity that someone like Chip Kelly brought to Oregon’s (very similar) offense. Maybe down the road, when he gets the personnel he needs, he’ll be a little more creative. however, I’m not sure there was tons of evidence for that in his time at West Virginia, and it remains to be seen if there are many tricks up his sleeve.

Defensive Mind – D+

Rich has never really worried much about defense. He’s put his focus into offense, and hired a defensive coordinator he trusts (or doesn’t trust and fires after one year) to be the “head coach” of the defense. This can be construed as a negative if it doesn’t work out, or a strong positive if it does. Coach Rod does have a reputation for being loyal to his friends from West Virginia, rather than surrounding himself with the best assistants available, so it is something of a weakness.

Recruiting – A-

When you take into account all the media-fueled “turmoil” around the Michigan program, and the negative recruiting that has stemmed from it, Rich has had a great pair of recruiting classes. He’s been able to pull down a pair of top-10 efforts with all the uncertainty around Michigan and the headhunting in the press. Just that alone is worthy of a grade in the A-range. If he’s able to start pulling in annual top-5 or top-3 classes once Michigan starts winning, this grade certainly has upward potential.

Fundamentals – B-

The coaching staff stresses fundamentals, and from everything we know about Rich’s past, he’s very very into teaching fundamentals. However, with Michigan’s play on the field last year, how can he get any better a grade than this? The offensive line in particular improved over the course of the year (and indeed, Greg Frey has the biggest “fundamentals guy” reputation among the coaches), so maybe as the system is installed more, and as the coaches settle in, the fundamental focus will improve.

Motivation – A

You’ve seen the Barwis video. I’ve seen the Barwis video. Barwis may not be Rodriguez, but the two are definitely an inseparable unit, and the motivation that Barwis brings is amazing. Rodriguez himself isn’t such a bad motivator (though, from the sounds of things, he was a little too focused on the stick, and not the carrot at times last spring), and the tandem is amazing motivationally.

When broken into units, it’s easy to see why coach Rodriguez is considered one of the top football leaders in the country. As long as he has a good defensive coordinator to take care of that side of the ball, he should be able to build any team and any program to success in due time.

Anything you don’t agree with? Debate in the comments.

Posted under Analysis, Coaching, Football
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13 Comments so far

  1. cfaller96 says...

    First, this is an interesting concept, and it made for a good post. It’ll be interesting to revisit these grades as time goes by.

    But…I absolutely, positively disagree with your grade on RichRod’s offensive mind. I would put it as a straight up B, and even then I’m worried I’m being a bit of a homer.

    Rodriguez did create an innovative offense, and for that he receives enormous credit. But there are several weaknesses to his offensive mind, which you’ve already noted:

    1. His protestations and our best wishes aside, I’m unconvinced that he knows how to tailor his offense to the players he has.

    2. His offense has become familiar to defenses, and thus has become stale. Smart Football talked about this awhile ago- his passing game doesn’t seem to have a cohesive identity or concept.

    3. His offense seems excessively reliant on having the right pieces in place.

    You’ve already noted a lot of this, but I think this all adds up to a harsher grade than A-. Give him a B.

  2. Bob says...

    Not sure I would give Rod an A in motivation. Pat White didn’t like how Rod basically would curse him out in practice, and its sort of come out that Threet didn’t like it either. That style works with some people, but others not. I’d give him more like a B in that category.

  3. Matt says...

    I would argue every offense needs to have the right pieces in place. If that were 100% true I would make the same argument for OSU, USC and schools like that, because their pieces are in the right place. Also I would say, that with the lack of experience of our players (everybody was basically a freshman with the offense) he couldn’t run the whole playbook. We were predictable last year no doubt, but WVU was hardly predictable under rich rod. Yes he had a great mobile qb, but how do people count that against him? he recruited him, developed him (i believe White was a 3* safety). The best coaches in college football is more based around the ability to recruit than scheme in a lot of senses look at Carrol (Weis is a surprising opposite thus far). Based on last year I would give him a B on offense, but as the years go on I think he will prove he is an A. Although i do agree he doesn’t really know how to tailor his offense to his players, but again i argue most coaches i have seen don’t either they recruit players that fit.

  4. Ann Arbor 1879 says...

    With those grades you have given him a 3.1 GPA which is around a B/B+

    I would actually rate him lower as one of his major strengths is recruiting and at Michigan, the recruiting isn’t exactly tough.

    I was very disappointed with RR’s “creativity” with the offense, but that was just because I had expectations that RR could make the offense fit the players because local media attempted to pound that into our heads wehn that is clearly inaccurate.

    I would give him a C- average if I were giving out grades.

  5. Chris says...

    Reading Bob’s comment brings to mind this infamous quote…”It’s division I football!!!!!! This ain’t intramurals!!!” If a player can’t handle a f-bomb here and there then how on earth can he have the intestinal fortitude to lead the winningest program in DI football? I’m with cfaller though….a B for his offensive mind might even be “homerish” for this past year. Howeva – give him another year or two and it will be an A++.

  6. cfaller96 says...

    Matt, you’re right, but I think RichRod’s offense is excessively dependent on the right pieces. When he doesn’t have those pieces, the offense is unduly harmed. That’s offset by the times when he does have those pieces and the offense is inordinately good.

    Think peaks and valleys, where most other offenses are rounded hills.

  7. Wolverine in VA says...

    The point of this exercise was not to grade RR on this year’s performance only. It was to grade coaches on their body of work overall. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to say RR is a C- coach. If he were, he would not be our head coach.

  8. BenAZ says...

    I like how he says ‘above all be physical’

  9. Tim says...

    1879, keep in mind this is an overall coaching score, not just a 2008 score.

  10. Grob says...

    I agree with some, and disagree with others.

    1. I give Lou Holtz an A- for offense, and RRod a B. Had the guys done better last year it would have been a A.

    2. I give RRod, though a higher grade for defense, a C. Prior to last year his defense held up pretty well except in zone coverage at WVU.

    3. Recruiting for RRod is B to B+. I’m tired of hearing the snake oil story and I want to know the players best interests are at heart. I don’t see that from some of the players quotes I’ve read, and not just Boren. You have to recruit not only new players, but get the old players to buy into what you are doing–that’s recruiting

    4. Motivation? I haven’t seen enough halftime speeches to know. So I’ll give Barwis an A- (Don’t like the swearing), and RRod, if the above video is an indication, about a C. (He ain’t Bo or Woody, that’s for sure).

    5. I haven’t seen enough practices to give a fair fundamentals grade. The O-line improved, but the defense went backward, and he has to coach on both sides of the ball,not just a O-cordinator. So I’ll give him a B-/C+.

  11. Braylon1 says...

    Wow, pretty harsh guys.

    Offense- Rich Rodriguez gets a B+ here and will stay there until he proves different at Michigan. Between last year and the dependence on the run game at WVU I can’t give him higher than a B+ for right now. What I can tell you is Forcier is a pass first QB, and Coach Rod is recruiting pure WR’s and pure slot WR’s, not just blockers. If he can get them the ball he gets an A to an A+. Will he? Well he has the best opportunity to have his best most multi-faceted offense since he’s coached football here at Michigan.

    Defense- F. for now.
    Unless we have a lights out defensive class for 2010 then we’re in big trouble. Coach Rod hasn’t coached against top offenses for any consistency during his coaching career. His last 2 classes have been top heavy with offensive recruits when Michigan has needed defense almost as bad. WVU played some good d towards the end of his tenure, but what will happen at Michigan? Three problems here, too loyal to staff, not recruiting good enough d thus far, and other problem is leaning on coordinator to be a good enough head coach of the d.

    Recruiting- B thus far.
    It’s Michigan. Who couldn’t recruit here? If he can keep the guys coming it will be because of wins, more multi-faceted offense, and top defenses. Rodriguez still has a lot to prove here.

    Motivation: B
    Man it must have been hard for the Michigan players to see Bo pass away, Lloyd retire, Mike Barwis scream in your face, and Rodriguez say Go Michigan with tang in his WV accent. Michigan’s team/program have been through so much BS. I think between the big losses, staff change, and the scheme change that it was a lot to deal with. Rodriguez meant well coming in but he arrived at Michigan and couldn’t sing the fight song. He was an outsider that dealt with more flak than Tressel has ever had to in his career, and Tressel cheats. Remember, Bo was an outsider too. This will be an A when Michigan starts making BCS bowls. It’s just hard to motivate under these circumstances imo.

  12. Joe says...

    Most grades seem pretty close. Did you factor the massive amount of fumbles and difficulty catching/holding on to very easy balls in this category? If so, based only on last year I think the grade should be considerably lower condsidering M lost at least 3 games as a direct result of their maddening ability to fumble at seemingly random times.

  13. Mike says...

    Nit sure anyone would care, but to give Weis the better defensive mind over Holtz is simply ignorant. Holtz was raised as a db coach, was instrumental in developing the d gameplans for some of the biggest upsets in college football history…not sure Weis has ever say in a defensive meeting.

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