The CBS College Football Blog wrote multiple times last week that Michigan 's visit to Penn State was a make-or-break game for Rich Rodriguez and his much-much-much -maligned defense, which couldn't ask for a better scenario than having a bye week to prepare for the Big Ten 's bottom-ranked offense playing without its starting quarterback. As you know by now, the Wolverines broke in spectacular fashion , giving up 435 yards and 41 points to a Nittany Lion attack that barely scored that many points total (46) in games against MAC cupcakes Kent State and Temple .
Naturally, this was the cue for yet another round of recriminations and rumormongering out of Ann Arbor Sunday, with most of the whispers centering on the continued employment of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and the rest of Rodriguez's defensive staff. So loud had the rumors become by Monday that Rodriguez had to be asked about them directly , and responded as you'd expect:
That's not what Michigan fans hoping for Robinson's head -- or anything that might signal a change-in-approach from the current disaster -- would want to hear, but Rodriguez's next comment might be even more bone-chilling:
Rodriguez said he has not made any changes to his defensive staff. He said he first heard of the rumors about a half-hour before meeting with the media.
"Laughed," Rodriguez said. "We've dealt with quite a few (rumors) over the last few years, haven't we? That happens in sports and life in general. You deal with it, so I don't mind answering the question ..."How does this happen?" Rodriguez said of the rumors. "I don't know how these rumors get started. Everybody is frustrated on defense, our staff is frustrated, but it's always a collective effort when you win, and a collective effort when you lose, collective effort when you play well and a collective effort when you play poorly."
This would make sense if Rodriguez had more experience (does he have any?) in coaching college defense from something more hands-on than the head coaching position. Multiple Michigan bloggers have noted since the disaster in Happy Valley that the Wolverine defense's problem likely isn't that Rodriguez hasn't been involved enough; it's that he's been too involved, asking Robinson (as well as previous coordinator Scott Shafer , now enjoying a highly successful season under Doug Marrone at Syracuse) to run the unusual 3-3-5 defensive scheme operated by Jeff Casteel under Rodriguez during his West Virginia tenure. Neither Shafer nor Robinson had any prior experience with the 3-3-5 before being asked to run it by Rodriguez, however, and the results have been predictably muddled.
Rodriguez said Monday he intends to spend more time on defense the next few weeks.
"Because I probably should do that because we have more inexperienced players over there," Rodriguez said ...
"I have a critical view of everything — every coach, every player, everything in our program every day," Rodriguez said. "That's what we do. That's what head coaches do."
If this is indeed the root of the defense's problem, Rodriguez may be better served by going in the opposite direction, by fully ceding control of the defense to his coordinator and allowing Robinson to run whatever scheme and make whatever playcalls with which he feels most comfortable. No one can blame Rodriguez for making moves out of desperation at this stage, but Michigan fans have to be worried that in this case, Rodriguez's cure could prove to make even worse an already program-wrecking disease.