Returning from Obscurity  

Posted by Frazier

Wow, I was trolling through Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback (always a good read in a not-college-football kind of way) when I noticed a comment about Rhett Bomar and the Senior Bowl. I guess I had forgotten that Rhett had finished his college eligibility and so was heading to the draft. It turns out that he might even be the top senior quarterback out there. (Not exactly saying a lot, but still). Let's give a quick recap:

Rhett started 11 games at quarterback as a freshman for Oklahoma. He had a pretty successful year, and ended up being the MVP of the Holiday Bowl in a win (wait, a bowl win for Oklahoma?!) over Oregon. People were pretty excited about his prospects, and predicted that he'd be leading a potent Oklahoma attack for three more years.

Then Rhett got caught accepting money for doing absolutely no work for a local car dealer. He was kicked off the team, and lost a year of eligibility.

He astoundingly transferred to Sam Houston St. so he didn't have to sit out another year. It was kind of assumed that he would simply transfer to another big program, wait awhile, and become a huge star. Instead he toiled in utter obscurity, apparently having excellent statistical seasons. Still, his team went 4-6 last year.

Basically, it's a story about a kid making exceptionally stupid decisions, and the NCAA punishing him grossly for those decisions. Taking money for not working is bad (although probably not uncommon in NCAA football circles). However, people do a lot worse things and get suspended for a game or two. Rhett never hurt anyone, threatened anyone, broke a law, got in a fight, abused a woman, or endangered others by drinking and driving.

Of course the NCAA came down hard on him (because Oklahoma dropped him partially out of fear of sanctions) and basically wanted to force him to lose 2 years of eligibility to allow him to play at the highest level.

Then Rhett compounded the problem by choosing to play in a college football wasteland.

Now, the NCAA has ridiculous eligibility rules. It is incredibly unfair that kids have to sit out a year to transfer, even when all parties agree it's the best decision for everybody, but the university immediately gets to fill the scholarship with someone else. Furthermore, schools are free to poach coaches left and right, and the coach owes absolutely nothing to kids who travel across the country to play for them.

It's absurd to hold 18 year old kids to higher standards than college presidents, and adult coaches. It's ridiculous that schools can exploit these kids for incredible financial gain, but accepting some money for a BS job basically screws you over for two years. Look, Rhett broke the rules and had to accept the consequences. I just think maybe we should re-examine some of those rules. Furthermore, Rhett did himself no favors by making a bad situation worse, not initially owning up to his responsibility, and choosing to transfer to a no name school.

All that said, I hope he has a good combine. I hope he learns from those decisions and still has an opportunity to prove his ability in the NFL. I'm kind of excited for the redemption of Rhett Bomar. It's got kind of Disney feel to it. Maybe we should buy the movie rights. Or maybe I've just been in LA too long.

More on Michigan  

Posted by Frazier

I'm not entirely sure the point that my esteemed colleague is trying to make here. I mean, I understand that he believes that Michigan should only be hiring "the best". That said, I'm pretty sure that Robinson has a sterling resume. Let's look at your points:

1 (Overrated as NFL coach): He has coached four defenses in the top ten in the NFL (the big man has counted 3 years, I came up with 4, but whatever) and won a pair of Super Bowls. And as much as the big man may say those were offensive teams, it probably didn't hurt that they sported top ten defenses, including the 1998 squad that gave up 25 points in their 3 playoff games, and forced 13 turnovers. Not quite sure I have to argue that he was RESPONSIBLE for a pair of Super Bowls to still make the point that he was the coordinator of a very good, championship winning defense.

2 (limited ties to the college game): He was also the coordinator at Texas, which is not exactly a joke of a job. If he doesn't leave for the 'Cuse he's the guy running the defense in the national title season instead of Chizik. I'm just saying, if he was a good fit at Texas (and I'd argue that he was) is he suddenly a bad fit at Michigan?

If we're going to hold a guy sucking as a head coach against him after being the DC at Texas, I'm pretty sure Chizik would fail that test as well.

The guy he coached under with the Jets? Pete Carroll, you've probably heard of him.

I know the big man says he doesn't have deep roots for recruiting, but I'm pretty sure I'd be open to playing for a guy rocking a pair of Super Bowl rings. Especially if that guy has tons of NFL ties. Don't overlook this. Guys like Al Groh are terrible coaches, but use NFL ties to recruit very good players. Or guys like Carroll, or guys like Butch Davis or Charlie Weiss or Saban. Elite players are interested in coaches they think can help them get to the next level.

If you can find me another college coordinator who has a pair of Super Bowl rings, and coached 4 top ten NFL defenses, then I'm all ears.

3: (firing English was a mistake): Now, I agree 100% that firing Ron English was a colossal mistake. But, he's gone now. I guess I'd argue that Robinson might not be the sexiest name around, but he's never lost a bowl game, he's got a pair of rings, he put together an eventual national championship defense and he has strong NFL ties. But you're right, he is not, in fact, Ron English.

4 (ten best coaches): Not quite sure what to say here. He has probably as good as resume as just about any college defensive coordinator not named Monte Kiffin. I mean, he has a lot more accomplishments than a guy like Heacock, or even Venables. Also, the only team that seems to be able to draw NFL guys back to college is USC, hiring someone like Bates. (And once again, Kiffin, who is coaching for his friggin son). As far as I can recall, Tennessee is the only other team sporting a Super Bowl winning DC as their current DC. Point is, there isn't a flood of NFL guys bolting to the college game, no matter how much money is on the table. Name another college team that has gone out there and done that.

I think you can have issues with how Rick Rod has run things. I think you can argue that Robinson is not the best fit in the world. But I think it's a little short-sighted to say that this is a "bad" hiring in any way. I think Michigan has hired an experienced, knowledgable, successful and well-connected DC.

The Michigan Mess Cont'd  

Posted by Walter

I actually have a theory on why things have gone so sour so quickly for Michigan, but I won't bore all you readers with that right now......that's coming in a big, collaborative piece later. But I have to take issue with my faithful compatriot's take on the Greg Robinson hiring.

In my view, Greg Robinson's hiring at Michigan is at best a step backwards but at worst its an unsightly omen of the impending doom that will continue to be wrought on that program until Rich Rod is gone. Again, I strongly believe that Rich Rod's schtick will never, and I mean NEVER, work at Michigan, but that argument is for another time. For right now, here is why Greg Robinson is a bad hire for the Wolverines:

1) Frazier is right that Robinson is somewhat illustrative of the Peter principle. Nobody can doubt that he was a better DC than HC. That said, his stint at Cuse was so disastrous that this isn't anything near a compliment. In fact, I am here to make the argument that Robinson simply isn't that good of a defensive coordinator. Lets take a look at his DC resume:

1994 - NY Jets
1995-2000 - Denver Broncos
2001-2003 - KC Chiefs
2004 - Texas

Undeniably he's got some championships in there, but lets look a little deeper. In 1994 he was DC for a 6-10 Jets team. That year they gave up 320 points and finished in the middle of the pack in total defense. In his years with the Broncos, the highest a Greg Robinson coordinated defense ever finished was 6th in 1997. Twice they finished in the bottom half of the league (17th in 1995 and 23rd in 2000), but mostly they were middle of the pack. Yes he won 2 super bowls with the Broncos (1997-1998), but it is undeniable that those teams won because of OFFENSE not defense. In 1997 the Broncos finished 1st in the NFL in total offense, in 1998 they finished 2nd. In fact, if you look at the Broncos' records for the years Robinson was there, the records directly reflect how good the offense was, not the defense:

1995: 8-8, Offense 9th, Defense 17th
1996: 13-3, Offense 4th, Defense 7th
1997: 12-4, Offense 1st, Defense 6th (Super Bowl)
1998: 14-2, Offense 2nd, Defense 8th (Super Bowl)
1999: 6-10, Offense 18th, Defense 11th
2000: 11-5, Offense 2nd, Defense 23rd

There is no denying Robinson had some solid DC years in there, but to even suggest that he was the reason for the Broncos' success is laughable.

2) Robinson has very limited ties to the college game, and no ties to the Midwest. Sure Robinson spent some years as an assistant at UCLA, and he was the DC for a single season at Texas, but for now and forever Robinson will be known in the college game for his debacle at Syracuse. His ugly tenure in upstate NY is not going to help him one bit on the recruiting trail, especially since he is completely unfamiliar with the territory. Sure he might have some good contacts in CA or TX from his time there, but outside of what he did at Cuse Robinson is a completely unknown quantity in the Midwest. Is he the guy to go into kids' houses in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and convince them to come play for his defense? I think not.

3) Michigan has already had, and fired the guy that should be coaching their defense. Ron English was brought to Michigan to perform a miracle. He did, transforming a subpar Wolverine defense into a monster in his first season. In his second season they took a HUGE step back, during a forgettable season in Ann Arbor that ultimately led to Lloyd Carr's dismissal. Still, English deserved a better fate based on his track record, and what he had already done at Michigan. He was scapegoated, and Michigan is now left scrambling to hire retreads like Greg Robinson. As for English, I think he proved me right (and Michigan wrong) by transforming what was a TERRIBLE Louisville defense into a solid unit in his first and only season at that school. In fact, English's tenure was impressive enough to earn him the head coaching gig at Eastern Michigan. English was the guy Michigan wanted, and they fired him unfairly. Greg Robinson is not a step up.

4) You're Michigan and Greg Robinson is a retread! I say this all the time....Schools like Michigan should not ever, EVER have to "settle" for a 2nd or 3rd tier coach. You are Michigan! The all time winningest football program. You need a defensive coordinator, fine. Here's what you do: You make a list of the 10 best defensive coordinators on the planet. You start at the top and work your way down offering each of them a ton of money to come and fix your defense. If Michigan were to make that list, Greg Robinson would be nowhere near the top ten, and would fall somewhere between Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin's 8 year old grandson. I just don't get it. The easiest way to fix a problem is to throw money at it. Michigan has the money, it makes no sense to settle for a Greg Robinson of the world.

The Michigan Mess  

Posted by Frazier

One of the things that may have driven us back to the blog was the disaster in Ann Arbor this year. It's stories like these that we would have a ball with. The whole Rich Rod thing was going to be a fascinating experiment in trying to mess with the ingrained style of a whole conference.

Turns out, Michigan played smashmouth, slow, grinding football forever because that's the style that allowed them to win football games. Maybe it wasn't so much a failure of imagination than playing to your strengths. Next year will be even more interesting as Rich Rod has had a full year to start getting his own recruits, and figuring out how to win with what he has.

If the Bear could you his'n and beat yours'n and take yours'n and beat his'n, then Rod proved he could take yours'n and lose to just about ANYBODY (including, miraculously, Toledo).

Anyone who complains that he didn't have his "personnel" is just making excuses. You play the hand you're dealt. Great coaches scheme to their strengths, and minimize their weaknesses. It was always going to be a down year, but a truly great coach would have found a way to make it work. Now you have to wonder if Rich Rod will ever figure it out up north.

All that said, he's taken a step in the right direction. By hiring Greg Robinson, Michigan is taking a step in the right direction. Robinson is a great example of the Peter Principle. He was a total and unmitigated disaster as a head coach. However, he's been a very good defensive coordinator for a very long time. Also, he never seemed to lose the respect of his players, who fought hard for him, even pulling the stunner against the Domers when it was clear his job was lost.

After surrendering almost 30 points a game last year Michigan needed to mix things up defensively. That effort was abominable, and Robinson should turn things around in short order. There's no guarantee that the Rich Rod experiment will work, but it looks like the Wolverines may actually be able to stop someone next year. That'll be a step in the right direction.

Don't Call It A Comeback!  

Posted by Frazier

Did you miss us?

I can only imagine your lives haven't been the same since The 323 went into hibernation last year. Well, the long nights of crying yourself to sleep are officially over. The 323 is back.

Why the return? Well, a couple reasons.

1: We missed writing about this stuff. The 323 is just plain fun.

2: We have been having the same conversations we would have had on the blog via e-mail. It's not like the big man and I stopped talking college football.

3: Turns out we can manage doing it despite school/work. Although it will probably be slightly more sporadic. Still, it's a pretty good outlet.

4: Projects. We have a couple of exciting ideas lined up, and we decided that this is the right forum for getting them out into the world.

5: Because you begged.

6: Because I found a bunch of old comments on our posts that I had failed to mediate telling us we were morons for saying the Big 12 South was far superior to the North. I miss being right about these things.

Anyways, welcome back to faithful readers who had given up hope. And a big welcome to anyone checking in. Hopefully we won't suck.

The Team

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