"Michigan Will Be Just Fine"

Rich Rodriguez reflects on his team's 21-10 loss to Ohio State. Michigan's headman discussed the play of his quarterbacks, the problems that plague his team, how to correct them, the timeline for winning, and more


Question:  Rich to sum up the season and the game.  It was filled with mistakes and turnovers…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah real proud of the effort.  I love these kids.  They've been through a lot.  We had opportunities.  I thought our defense did a really nice job.  Offensively, we moved the ball but the turnovers, certainly giving them seven points.  A couple of times we had scoring chances and we didn't get it done.  We played a good football team, that's what cost you."

Question:  Brandon Graham said it was a humbling season.  Was it humbling for you as well?

Coach Rodriguez:  "How much does a man got to humbled.  Got humbled last year, been humbled before, be humbled again.  You get in this profession there is enough humility to go around for everybody.  I'm tired of being humbled."

Question:  Tate's (Forcier) turnovers, was it being a freshman or is it…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Turnovers.  He's a young guy.  He's a freshman and sometimes he makes a freshman mistakes.  He's got to learn from it.  He's upset about it and he'll learn from it.  There's never one reason to love a game.  There is always a multitude of turnovers and beating yourself if somebody doesn't help but there is a multitude of reasons why you don't win."

Question:  What can you say about your two quarterbacks?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Well they got experience.  I think they got a very bright future.  Let's be realistic and as I told them most true freshman don't play at this level let alone play at that position and usually if they do play at that position their surrounded by a lot of experience around them.  So it is a rarity for them to get that but they got that valuable experience and they'll grow from it for the future."

Question:  Do you see better things from this season than you saw from last season? 

Coach Rodriguez:  "I do.  Maybe some of you ya'll don't and maybe some people don't want to paint that positive picture because they like to be negative but I've seen it every day.  I saw positive signs even in stretches last year and I've seen a whole lot more this year.  Offensively we made some strides.  Defensively there was some good moments and today was a positive day for the most part, but I see it more than what you all see on Saturday.  I see it daily.  I see it in all the things that we require in the program.  I think there are a lot of moments where people would try to divide the team or tear the team apart or try to find something that won't allow our guys to stick together.  I'm here to tell you.  This team is close and they will remain close.  There is nothing that will divide this program and divides this team.  Our kids won't let it happen.  I won't let it happen.  I saw us grow closer in the last nine months then I could maybe have even hoped and it will continue to be that way in the future."

Question:  Is it fair to say that you are defined by Saturday's?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Are we?  Are we?  This is what we do, this is not who we are."

Question:  I mean as a coach.

Coach Rodriguez:  "This is what we do.  This is not who we are.  If I'm a bad guy because I lost some games and that's what people perceive then I can't help that.  That's their own opinion but it is what we do.  I think we can be a good guy.  I think you can maybe have a bad day as a player but you're still a good guy.  As coaches a lot of times that's all fans judge you on, is results on Saturday.  I'm a big boy.  This is a big boy business.  I've won a few in the past and we're going to win more in the future.  This is what we do."

Question:  Do you have a time table for winning?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, right away… but how much.  When we have a team that has a majority of the guys that are probably juniors and seniors starting and a handful of freshman and sophomore backing them up then you got every year the next group of wave comes in and all that.  That's when you know you arrived.  When you play this many true freshman, this many young guys, there is a gap somewhere in experience.  We're building the program that way.  We think we're doing it the right way.  It takes a little bit of time.  I've said this a bunch of times.  We have to identify our problems.  That's my job as coach.  I think we've been able to identify a majority of them but some of them didn't occur overnight and won't be solved overnight.  I like our guys.  We've got a small senior class coming up again, but I think they'll be great leaders following this year's example.  I like our young group.  I like the way recruiting is going.  I think we'll have an outstanding recruiting class.  I think the base of what we are wanting to do to have a championship program that keeps building and building and never takes a dip down is on its way."

Question:  Don't you think the time for patience is over?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Everybody's got an opinion.  Everybody's got an opinion of how long it is."

Question:  Can you talk about the affect of not having Brandon Minor today?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah, you miss him.  You're going to have injuries and I've said it all year that we're a different football team when he's (Brandon Minor) is in there because of his physical presence.  He'll run through some arm tackles.  I don't want to underestimate his importance in pass blocking.  He's the most physical pass blocking running back I've ever had.  Yeah we miss him.  I felt bad because he really, really wanted to play but other guys got their chance and they did okay."

Question:  As you've watched quarterbacks develop over a career, do you think all things being equal a year now from now this same game, Tate under normal development may not make the mistakes that he made today?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I certainly would think that Mitch.  You'd expect that.  You'd except that as a coach and I'm sure that every player, Tate included would expect the same thing that you learn from it.  Tate has the ability to extend the play but sometimes you have to be careful as well.  There were some moments earlier when he got away with it – today he didn't."

Question:  How much different would this season feel if you guys had beaten Illinois or Purdue and got to the six wins?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah it would be nice to go to a bowl game.  That's not our ultimate goal.  Our ultimate goal is to win the Big Ten Championship.  When you're short of that, you can maybe be a little happier but you're not going to be fulfilled for sure."

Question:  Given the passion and the scrutiny for college football, what do you think has been a fair criticism and what do you think has been an unfair criticism for this season?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think if I answered that, I'd probably get more of it one way or another.  Why give any more ammunition.  It seems like there has been enough drama, I guess or whatever without me having to say something and give more.  Listen, I understand the business.  Everybody wants instant gratification.  They all want to win right now.  I think you have to look at what the true issues are and what we are trying to do in this program.  The last three February's or last four February's have hurt us a little bit.  The next two or three February's, first Wednesday in February are going to be very, very critical to our program.  That's where it starts.  I'll say this and you guys have followed us, the beat writers; there is not a magic formula to winning championships on the college level.  Listen, I've been humbled enough, but I do have a pretty good idea of what it takes to win in this league and every other league.  I came here a little bit knowing about that, having won a league and playing SEC schools and ACC schools and B12 schools in bowl games and all that.  The formula is the same.  It's about recruiting the right quality student-athletes and developing them.  It's pretty simple.  We recruit the right quality student-athletes that have success here, academically and athletically and then developing them to the best they can be.  Like Mitch says look at quarterback, I would hope that we'd do a great job of developing Tate and Denard (Robinson) or whatever you say and they won't make them again.  They'll make a few.  There always going to make mistakes, they're human but not as many.  That's what we are committed to doing and I believe the University of Michigan is committed to doing that and the staff is committed to doing that and I wish I could tell you that it is going to happen overnight.  We're not…because we're Michigan we've got a great brand name does not exclude us from having to have that same formula."

Question:  When you were walking off the field and you looked back, was there something you were looking for?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No.  I was just looking for a few of their players, some of the Ohio State players.  The seniors, you try to find a couple of the seniors just to wish them luck in the future and all that.  That's all that was."

Question:  What have you been told about your job?

Coach Rodriguez:  "What I've been told?"

Question:  Do you have any fear about your job situation?

Coach Rodriguez:  "No."

Question:  Do you just release the players now and they come back after Thanksgiving or are you guys going to meet…?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Yeah.  They have class.  Most of them have classes.  I don't know some of them may not have classes on Monday and Tuesday.  We have a team meeting a week from Sunday.  We'll have the seniors there and everybody and we'll make sure that everybody is on course to graduate.  We've got a few guys that are going to graduate in December.  Give them the schedule for the rest of the semester and obviously academics are important and move on."

Question:  What is your message to the fans after this game, since 2004 it has been the same outcome, what is your message after this game?

Coach Rodriguez:  "The only thing I am talking about is this year.  I don't know if you can go back and talk about last year or the years before.  We've got to get better.  We'll beat Ohio State when we're better than them.  When we have a better team than them, we'll probably beat them.  It is pretty simple as that.  The only thing I can tell you is that we're committed to building trying to build a better team.  That's coaches, players, everybody involved with the program."

Question:  Do you have any sense of guys that are younger in terms of whether they will get their draft status or any of those things?

Coach Rodriguez:  "None of them have come talked to me about it."

Question:  Do you feel that you now have a grasp on exactly what you need? 

Coach Rodriguez:  "It didn't take me two years to figure out what we needed and what we needed to do.  To be honest with you, I knew it probably after a couple of games.  I had a pretty good idea of what we needed to do.  It's hard work.  It takes a great commitment from a lot of folks, players, coaches and staff members and you've got to have a plan and believe in the plan, have everybody buy into it and then hope that everybody has the patience as we follow through that.  I'm here to tell you that I know, maybe some folks try to stir up negativity, but I think our fans have been terrific.  I went to a pep rally last night with students and it was unbelievable.  Look at our crowds this year.  We had a beautiful day today, unfortunately we didn't play well.  Our fans are the absolute best.  They are totally committed.  They are All In for Michigan.  The only time I get a little upset, is maybe people who try to say ‘whoa is Michigan.'  The University of Michigan will be just fine.  Our fans are All In.  The players are All In.  The staff is All In.  The University is All In.  We're going through a growing process that we're not accustomed to here at the University of Michigan.  I'm not accustomed to it either but I've been through it before and we'll get it done."

Question:  Is this the toughest professional challenge you've had?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It's a tough challenge.  You all might not want to hear this, but 20 years ago when I went to little Glenville State College in West Virginia and took the job, they had not scored 20 points the entire year, the year before and there were only 35 kids on the team and 10 of them didn't play in high school.  They got shut out eight times the year before.  That was a bigger challenge to get them to believe in winning and doing all that.  Here, it's a challenge because it is a very, very competitive profession but there is nobody on our staff and I don't believe there is anybody at our University that is daunted, over daunted, whatever you want to say about the challenge.  We just got a lot of work to do.  We got to do our job – just let us do our job and we'll be okay."

Question:  You mentioned identifying issues and you kind of alluded to recruiting; what else have you identified as missing?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Again, it is recruiting the right student-athletes and making sure that they are developing in the way you want to do it.  There should be a difference between 18-year-old college freshman and a fourth year or fifth year senior that has been in the program, strength wise, mental wise, maturity wise and all of those things.  You should see your young men grow and keep getting better each year.  We certainly have not had on field success like we've wanted to and everybody wants to.  I think individually our seniors have grown in two years.  I think Brandon Graham is a better player now than he was a couple of years ago, a better student.  Those guys have grown.  I know I'm judged on wins and losses.  That's what they judge head coaches, that's fine – our time will come."

Question:  Did the 4-0 start raise expectations unrealistically?

Coach Rodriguez:  "I think it probably hid a few of the warts that we still had.  Again, it is our jobs to get a few more wins out of it.  I think our team stayed hungry after that.  We lost a couple of close ballgames right after that.  I think our team's focus the last 12 weeks, really the last 16 weeks has been really good.  We've just made a few critical mistakes in certain games and we're not good enough this year to overcome them."

Question:  Are the guys "All In" or what are the chances we see a mass exodus?

Coach Rodriguez:  "Did we see a mass exodus in the last off season?  Again, I'm not a revisionist.  Who left?  There was a whole mass exodus?  Troy's still here.  I believe that everybody is All In, in our football program, every man.  Every player, coaching staff member, University and a large, large vast majority of our fans.  Our student section, which has been absolutely terrific.  I believe they are all in.  I just think there is a faction and certainly I wouldn't accuse any of you all, of creating a negative type of environment that wants to create drama and wants to see people – he's pointing fingers.  I'm here to tell you and you can ask Troy (Woolfolk) or any of the other players.  There is nobody in that locker room that is going to point any fingers.  Everybody in that locker room is in All In and this year's team – in particular, this year's seniors helped create that.  So it'll be our theme every year despite all the other whatever."

Question:  What did you think of the crowd today?

Coach Rodriguez:  "It was tremendous.  I've only been here a couple of years but to have this kind of weather in late November and to have this crowd that was into the game from the time we showed up for the Victor's Walk and the opening kickoff.  Again, we've got the greatest fan base in the country, 110,000 and our students…this is an early game for these students.  They're not used to getting up 11, 11:30 on a Saturday and they were there. I'm proud of them."

Question:  If you could be specific, it would be helpful Rich, this faction that you've talked about that wants to create friction and division; can you specify that?

Coach Rodriguez:  "You all have to be specific in that.  Again, I'm sorry, I know all of you that have dailies, and blogs, and radio shows, and TV shows, I don't watch them or read them.  I just hear an overtone.  I get messages from Bruce or somebody saying hey coach this or that.  That's why I hope and I hope our players are the same way.  You go over to Schembechler Hall and watch these young men work.  You see them interact with each other.  You see the player to player relationship, you see the player to coach relationship.  You see the coach to coach relationship – it's all good.  We're moving forward."

 


The Michigan Insider Top Stories