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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Q & A with the The O Zone's Tony Gerdeman

One of my favorite weekly reads about Michigan football isn't from a Michigan site at all - it's "Michigan Mondays" by Tony Gerdeman of The OZone.  Each Monday he takes a look at the Wolverines' previous game, sizing up U-M as it heads toward its seasonal showdown with Ohio State.  For U-M fans who've never read it, it's an honest and much fairer assessment of where Michigan stands week-to-week than you might first expect considering it comes from deep behind enemy lines.

And although I would never admit it in certain company, Tony is a friend of the MZone, having linked to us numerous times and appearing as a guest on the Internet radio show we used to do during the Original M Zone days.  In addition, as many with an audience did on the Michigan side, he helped rally the Buckeye faithful in order to keep the Michigan-Ohio State game in its rightful place at the end of the season.

So with Michigan locking up not only a bowl bid but its first winning season under Rich Rodriguez, I wanted to get an outside perspective on the State of the Program in A2.  Specifically, with even Michigan fans still seemingly split on the subject, I wanted to get an opinion on Rodriguez and his future from someone who follows Michigan more closely than some Michigan fans (even if it is for an evil purpose).

Thus, Gerd was kind enough to tear himself away from the OZone - where they plot the overthrow and the destruction of all that is good in the world on a daily basis, hoping to replace it with a Scarlet and Gray darkness - to answer a couple questions with us here at the MZone.

MZONE:  Now that Rich Rodriguez has secured Michigan's first winning season and bowl game since he took over, speaking as unbiased as you can as an Ohio State fan, do you think he has earned a 4th season?  Why/why not?

GERD:  I think this has to be looked at from two different perspectives.  Has he earned a fourth season relative to his first two seasons?  Yes.  Has he earned a fourth season relative to Michigan football?  No.

If somebody put together a "Rich Rodriguez Fact Sheet", much like NDNation did with the Ty Willingham Fact Sheet (which is probably still googleable), and just collected all of the "records" Rodriguez has set at Michigan, and you just stood back and looked at the accomplishments on a piece of paper, is there ANY way you would say, "Hey, THIS guy has earned more time."

But you probably can't look at it that way because of what is invested.  And as I've said repeatedly, Bill Martin and the University should have seen these struggles coming with such a change, and because of that, I can completely understand if Rodriguez is given more time, even if he hasn't necessarily earned it in relation to past Michigan coaches.

MZONE: What do you like about Rich Rodriguez's program/coaching/what mistakes do you think were made?  Is the foundation there to compete for Big 10 titles with the Buckeyes or is something missing?

GERD: When Rodriguez was hired, I wrote a magazine article about what I saw with the future of Michigan football.  And one of the questions I had was with his recruiting and player development.  I believe he had ten players drafted in his seven seasons at West Virginia.  In that same time frame, Louisville had 24--and they were only in the Big East for three of those seasons.  In Don Nehlen's final seven seasons, they produced 21 draft picks.  Basically, he wasn't producing as many NFL draft picks as similar teams.

So my thought would be that since he isn't producing NFL players, high school players that Michigan normally targets wouldn't be as interested in playing for Rodriguez because he just doesn't put enough players into the NFL.  And I think we're seeing that to some degree.  But the biggest problem I see in this regard is that he still seems to be recruiting like he's at West Virginia.

He reaches on players from out of state like he has no choice.  Like Purdue and Indiana do.

I just don't think he appreciated or understood the affect the logo on his shirt could have had when he was recruiting.  And now it's too late.  At least for this year or so.  But then, as I said, he's not really interested in recruiting the way Michigan did in the past.  And I think the results you're seeing aren't coincidental.

You ask what has he done that I like, and I'm trying to find something.  I really don't want to be a hater (like you are!), but it's hard to come up with something.  I will readily admit that I never saw this coming from Denard Robinson.  And I like some of the way he is used.  And I definitely believe he is a dynamic weapon, and could be in any other offense as well.  But as I've said since week one, Rodriguez can't use Robinson the way he did and expect to have him healthy all season.  And I'm not sure that changes next year even with a more experienced stable of running backs.

As far as competing for a Big Ten title, I think he definitely can.  Northwestern has won the Big Ten as many times as Penn State has since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.  Purdue has won it.  Illinois has won it.  Michigan State is on the verge of winning it.  There's no reason Michigan can't do the same.  But I never see them competing with Ohio State year in and year out.  Unless Rodriguez is at Michigan for the very long haul, and the next Ohio State coach is a bad hire.

I never felt his West Virginia teams would have dominated in the Big Ten either.  The teams in this conference have too many solid defenses too often.  (And yes, I'm aware of the 2010 statistics.)  That is why I thought that maybe if he recruited Michigan-level players in a West Virginia system, then maybe he would have something.  Fortunately, that never really happened in my opinion.

And I haven't even touched on his defense.  But then, I want to keep this friendly.

MZONE: As a Buckeye fan and assuming he's kept around, do you think Rich Rodriguez can get the game back to The Game?  If not, who can/is there a hire that you think would make Ohio State fans sit up and take notice?

GERD: All it will take is one win to get the game back to The Game.  I'm not going to sit here and say Michigan can't win this year.  And I definitely think next year could be a possibility.  But I don't know when Michigan would likely be favored again.  2013?

The hire that would make fans go berserk--and because of their love of the rivalry the guy that most want to see get the job--is Jim Harbaugh.

Buckeye fans are ready to hate again, and Harbaugh would instantly be put right up there with Bo, Mo and Lloyd, because there's no way he wouldn't say something to torque them off at the first opportunity.

It's a love-hate thing though.  And also a case of 'be careful what you wish for'.  But I think people are willing to risk it for The Game.

And I don't think Rodriguez really enjoys this rivalry all that much.  Whereas Harbaugh revels in it.  And we HATE when Michigan coaches do that!

Can you imagine the scene next year if Harbaugh is on the sidelines in Ann Arbor and Ohio State comes in at 11-0 with a senior quarterback?  Tell me there wouldn't be flashbacks of 1969 floating around amongst all you hippies.

I think Michigan is limited under Rodriguez.   I don't see that same limit for Harbaugh.  He's a tremendous recruiter, and you've seen the coaching results on the field.  He's beaten teams that his team shouldn't have.  How often has that happened for Rodriguez? 

Lastly, for the offense lovers, Stanford is scoring 39.8 points per game this season.  Michigan is scoring 37.7.

Detente: The OZone and MZone talk football

29 comments:

whetstonebuck said...

Wow! I told you Harbaugh is the Prince of Darkness from our perspective.

Andy said...

I have no doubt Harbaugh could come home to Michigan and get this thing turned back in the right direction.

I made my mind up about the need to change out RR during the Penn State game. I have to admit, after the Illinois game - I had a few moments of hesitation as I dreamed about our unstoppable offense matched with a mediocre defense.

But I really believe we will be doomed to a non-stop roller coaster if RR stays as the coach.

Mikoyan said...

I'm still on the fence in regards to firing Rich Rod because that means another rebuilding season or two. But I have this feeling deep down that if we don't get rid of him after this season, we're only pushing the inevitible to next season or the season after.

Do I think he's a good coach? A reserved yes. And I say a reserved yes because it seems like he wants to peg players to his system rather than making tweaks to his system to fit his players. I'm not sure I buy the line about recruiting though.

I think the fundamental question that has to be answered...Is Rich Rod the guy for the long haul? And my answer is that I'm not sure.

surrounded in columbus said...

Yost,
Great piece. I’ve read Michigan Monday’s for some time. They deserve credit for making an earnest effort at objectivity.

That said, I couldn’t help but think about the coincidence of this running today, the same day as GM’s IPO.

As regards GM, the “inability to change” mantra has been beaten into the ground. However, I’d add my own thought that it’s not merely the inability to change, but the inability to see the need for it. GM, the most successful manufacturing enterprise in the history of the world, had been so successful for so long, not only could it not change, it couldn’t even imagine it.

And that’s what I thought as I read Gerdeman’s answers to your questions. Tosu has been the most successful program in the conference over the last decade, and one of the top 10 in the country. And he can’t see how any program that doesn’t do everything the way Sweaterboy does it could ever be successful. He can’t even imagine it.

So, of course he thinks R2 will never be successful. Probably the same for Urban Meyer or Chip Kelly or Gene Chizik if they were to coach in the conference. Because they don’t run power I offenses & zone defenses, just like tosu. Which means they can’t be successful, just like tosu.

And how telling is it that he thinks Harbaugh would be the perfect fit? Not only the Bo legacy, but the same style of play, which he honestly believes is the only way to succeed?

And until someone consistently beats tosu, he’s absolutely correct. Why change when what you do seems to work so well?

Of course, hat’s what they said in Detroit.

phil said...

Interesting post but I have something to tell Tony.

We are going to win against the team to the south.
We are going to win BIG.
It won't even be a contest.
We will stomp their opposition into the ground.
They will return home to the south humiliated and broken.
Yes sir, we win beat Bowling Green in basketball tonight!

Yost said...

Whew, Phil. Until that last line, I was going to try to get in touch with whoever you list as your emergency contact here on your MZone Sign Up sheet.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Sometimes I wonder if writing about Michigan each week hasn’t given Tony Gerdeman a case of Stockholm Syndrome. He definitely provides a good “reality check” on Michigan football which is why I also read him regularly.

His reference to the Ty Willingham Fact Sheet and how there could easily be an equally poor list for Rich Rodriguez is awesome and he is dead on.

It also makes his preference for Jim Harbaugh interesting since we’ve seen how coaches who are successful at Stanford do when the move on to storied but faded football programs elsewhere. I do think he’s correct—and this is something I hadn’t really considered-- that Jim Harbaugh would return the rivalry with Ohio State into the Bo/Woody Hatefest that overshadow all other college football rivalries. The man pissed off Pete Carroll! He might even be able to get the unflappable Jim Tressel flustered.

Of course, that could cause other problems but it’s hard not to fantasize about Michigan playing smash-mouth football again under an asshole of a coach who infuriates opponents (“what’s your deal?!”) while beating their teams on the field.

I think one of the more insidious side effects of Rich Rodriguez’s struggles is that now there is the automatic assumption that any predecessor will similarly struggle meaning Michigan cannot be competitive until 2015. The right hire turns things around almost immediately nearly every time. (and, no, I don’t have stats on that). The right hire can win it all with someone else’s athletes (see the last several MNC winning coaches not to mention Jim Tressel). In recent memory, every time a struggling coach is given more time—generally because it’s the right thing to do—he continues to struggle and eventually gets canned anyway.

whetstonebuck said...

Yeah, you all are right. Don't go after Harbaugh.

While you're at it, don't throw me in the briar patch.

Crabapple Buck said...

I have already stated my thoughts regarding hiring RR in the oriinal version of the M-Zone. I have been proven correct, so far. But I'm ot here to gloat.

The first thing UM needs to do is find out if they could even lure Harbaugh back. He is from Palo Alto and getting him here the first time as a student was a feat. He has built Stanford into a west coast power and may want to stay. Or he may have his sights set on the NFL, like his brother.

Before they jettison RR, they need a plan B in case Harbaugh is not available. Is it Les Miles? He brings his own luck with him. Or do you look elsewhere?

Third, the rebuild is potentially longer than the current slide. RR recruited not ready for Big Ten football players. Too small and unable to take the punishment of a full season. Good defenses stop good offenses. Bad defenses don't stop anything.

I personally think RR needs to go if UM is to return to the elite status it once enjoyed. If they get a new coach not named Harbaugh, I'm unclear how that will pan out. I would like to see you guys competitive again as it makes us both better. I would be lying if I said I haven't enjoyed watching your failures. But that got old, now I think old ladies look at UM football and just say 'Bless their hearts'. Don't be that team.

carl tabb said...

Jeepers criminy. The ol "can't recruit Big 10 sized players" bullshit. Here's those silly facts getting in the way again.
OSU avg OL is 6-5 302
MSU is 6-5 298
Wisc is 6-5 318
Iowa is 6-4 286
PSU is 6-4 301
Neb is 6-5 306
UM is 6-5 299
Yep, those poor bastards never stood a chance what with being a full pound heavier than MSU and 13 pounds heavier and an inch taller than Iowa. Not to mention UM's players average over a year younger than all those teams.

I didn't bother to check the DL stats because Florida showed quite handily that size doesn't mean shit in the MNC game a few years back, didn't they Crabapple?

This site is a little too "old school we deserve it" for me. I may check back every now and then to see if Yost has some classic hilarious stuff posted. Some of you fans somehow think that UM should just roll their helmets onto the field and the opposition will shit their pants. How'd that work for Lloyd with his #5 team chock full of NFL draft picks those first two games in '07?

carl tabb said...

Here's a post from a UM grad who had the benefit of a family with lifelong season tickets. He's once again demolishing the old Michigan Myth bullshit that people here canNOT seem to get into their heads is just that: a MYTH. 1 NC is almost 50 years? From a Mr. Carlson over at Hail To The Victors.

"Oh, wait, RTB said that Carr "certainly did not" leave the program in bad shape...I am sorry, I guess in light of such PERSUASIVE evidence as those unsupported words from RTB I should RECANT everything that I've been saying in here on the subject! I should also write to the guys over at MGoBlog and tell them that RTB said that all their PAINSTAKING RESEARCH into the matter is for naught, that RTB has once and for all settled the matter by proclaiming that Carr "certainly did not" leave the program in bad shape!

Here's a challenge RTB...please name for me the players that Carr left RR with that have had ANY SIGNIFICANT impact on the program since 2008. I'll help you out: Brandon Graham (have you read his comments about how RR and his teaching made him the player that he ended up being?), Zolton Mesko, Steve Schilling, Warren, and Woolfolk. I'd put Mike Martin in there but I am not sure whether he was recruited by RR or Carr. So please RTB, enlighten us all as to how Carr "certainly did not" leave the program in bad shape. I realize that the facilities weren't 100% on Carr, I mean he's not responsible for them completely, that is on the AD. But, the developmental techniques and the S&C are on him, and they were supposedly WAY BEHIND THE TIMES!

Here's another indicator...How many All-Americans and All-Big Ten players did Carr leave RR when he passed the torch? How about Carr from Mo, or Mo from Bo? So c'mon Mr. Disgruntled, let us all know in on the deep insight that you have!

carl tabb said...

Here's the second part:

"You MOST CERTAINLY ARE MISSING SOMETHING RTB! You're missing what was being discussed supra: Michigan was in a deep hole talent wise when RR ARRIVED, not BECAUSE of him, and it was RR's mandate to get Michigan 1) out of the hole; and 2) to REBUILD and REINVENT the program into a "modern football team" with modern schemes, techniques, and facilities. Why is that so hard to understand?!? The powers that be wanted the ENTIRE PROGRAM razed to the ground and rebuilt from scratch. That was what RR was brought in to do, and that is what he's doing. It's slow going in places -- like the defense -- and even RR himself has been surprised and how long it seems to be taking to get things where he wants things. To the rational fan, that should not be an indicator of RR's incompetence, but should evidence the depths to which the program had sunk, and how the pipelines were down to a slow trickle in the last decade or so.

You sit there and disparage the guy at every turn, win or lose, yet he packs his lunch EVERYDAY and gets to work at making the Michigan program the best in the nation. He doesn't whine about the bad press, he doesn't complain about the lack of upperclassmen, nor the injuries that have beset Michigan -- he does his job and keeps moving forward. All you, and others do, is keep looking back to the heyday, to this mythical time in which Michigan was the most feared program in the nation (although they never won an NC) and in which college football (due to lack of scholly limits) was dominated by a very elite group of teams. You guys aren't willing to work, you aren't willing to suffer for success, you think it's due to you, and that despite the fact that every other elite program in the nation has gone through their down period (some are going through ANOTHER ONE TODAY) you don't think Michigan should have to. You bitch and whine about DR not being in the right position, yet you fail to look around the nation at all the elite teams employing a DUAL THREAT QB, just like DR -- although he's faster than everyone. The balance has tipped, Michigan has emerged from the hole that it was in, and now the sun light is again shining on the program.

Men work for things, and work isn't easy, that is why they call it work. I am very proud of the players and RR for all the hard work they're putting into the program. They're working while you're whining! They're working to get better while you're disparaging them for not being better than they are."

End rant.

carl tabb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
surrounded in columbus said...

NOW it's a party!

Yost said...

CT, what on earth about the Q/A w/ Gerd set you off? Seriously. What was so awful in an opinion Q/A with an OSU blogger that you condemn everyone on another site for - god forbid - possibly having a different opinion than you?

As for stats "proving" that LC left the cupboard bare, what's the old saying - Stats are like whores: you can get them to do anything you want.

I almost did a very lengthy post giving just as many reasons why the cupboards in no way, shape or form were bare (and certainly not 3-9 and 5-7 bare). Pointing out the rankings of the recruiting classes that were always top 15 in the country.

And the players left behind? You mean one of the best QBs in country who's now at Ark? Or the best RB in the country out of HS in Sam M? Or the starting OL who transferred to OSU? Yeah, I know, they were gonna leave anyway. Naturally, or RR actually has to shoulder some of the blame.

In that post, I was also going to bring up wanting to know where the 3* players are that have been developed into All-American caliber players. You know, players like Mike Hart who came asin barely recruited 3*s and left as NFL draft picks.

But instead of writing that post, I simply did the Xtranormal vid listed in our video section. It makes the point. And I'm sure you absolutely hated it since you disagree. Fair enough.

Look, if you get so upset that people might have a different point of view in the world, I promise my feelings won't be hurt if you simply want to go somewhere else and read only the thoughts, opinions and - yes - stats of those you already agree with.

Because I wholeheartedly disagree with your POV. I don't think RR has done a great job thus far. But I do welcome your opinion even if it is different than mine.

whetstonebuck said...

SiC,

Can I offer you a pizza roll?

surrounded in columbus said...

nah. i brought chips & dip. but thanks!

assuming we go 7-5 and play in something like the Insight Bowl, this season will be just about equal to 2005. i vividly recall debating w/ Yost that we ought to fire Lloyd THEN, before he could do the program anymore harm. Yost was pretty solid in his defense of Lloyd, advocating patience.

and now 5 years later, w/ the same 7-5, we sit advocating the opposite, again. only i seem to be the one pushing for patience, and Yost is the one ready for change.

the irony of all this is that the odds of either viewpoint being correct is about 50/50.

TitleIX said...

Er, Carl..what's your point? That the team isn't at a nadir? Or that we don't deserve to lament the nadir cuz everyone is working so darned hard?
Or are you so fired up because we, as fans, have no right to question why our coaching staff can't seem to coach kids on some basic football principles? Simple stuff like...If you are only going to rush three defenders then PLAY MAN behind them. Sheez...even the sexpot sideline girl knows that!
Seriously, I don't get the outrage....particularly since the comments in the post were MADE BY A BUCKEYE FAN who is on the outside looking in...not by M Fans who you have now just flamed (in a fire spewing kinda way)

So, could you like rephrase your point? Thx

carl tabb said...

C'mon. I throw a few cuss words in a post and now I'm freaking out?

Sure, I posted a rant from an excitable guy on another site (excessive ALL CAPS!!) who happens to use facts to back up his opinion and now I have to clarify my stance?

Look, I've got no problem with other opinions but when those opinions are "derp derp 3-9, 5-7 UNACCEPTABLE" with nothing to back it up but its unacceptability simply because "WE'RE MICHIGAN!!11!" they're kind of ridiculous.

Look what RR did at WVU. Give him an effing chance. He's finally got a 2 deep on O and it's humming along in the top 10 in the country. You're not even a wee bit excited to see them next year when they're not mostly redshirt freshman and sophs?

Give the D a chance to get more than a year between themselves and their senior prom and let's see what they can do. You do realize the vast majority of them are playing against guys 2, 3 and 4 years older than them, right?

You may have given up on the guys in the next two games but you do realize that if they win even one of them that RR's got them right on par with Carr's average years, right? That's with the worst D in the history of college football, mind you.

Forgive me for being a little tired of the "We're UM we should just show up and win" meme with absolutley no regard for the facts pertaining to the lack of talent and depth RR had to start with a short two years ago.

Yost said...

Show me one place where anybody - even in the comments section has said anything remotely like "We're UM, we should just show up and win."

As for "look what RR did at WVU," good for WVU. Just like Dan Hawkins never had a single losing season before coaching at CU. So that doesn't carry a lot of weight moving forward. What he did at WVU is what got him the job at Michigan, what he's done/is doing at Michigan will determine whether he keeps that job.

Finally, you come in, blast not only the specific post, but site and everybody on it then say you're so tired of it, you're not coming back. Now, three posts later, you're surprised when the person behind the site (moi) and other regular readers are disagreeing with you?

Mikoyan said...

As I said, I still think the key for Rich Rod is whether or not he is going to be the long term coach for Michigan. Part of me says that he can fit into Michigan and part of me says that he can't (as I said, I'm on the fence about him). He's done pretty well at recruiting on the offense and I'm one of those people that can't wait to see what happens when Denard and Tate are Juniors. Do I like how the past couple seasons have gone? No. But I do think that next season will be better.

Something tells me that it doesn't matter because the dice has been cast. I'm with Andy, I don't think Michigan should have lost that game to Penn State and I think that is probably what Mr. Brandon thought. I just hopes that if he cleans house, it's not a piecemeal cleaning.

Norman said...

I think Jim Harbaugh would be a bad hire for Michigan. Don't do it (please).

Go Bucks!

phil said...

Note: Michigan blows out Bowling Green. Just saying

Reggie said...

Nice post Tabb and surrounded by columbus.

I come to Mzone 2.0 for the funny pictures/articles. I take any post here with regard to RR or the play on the field with a grain of salt. Its the same water cooler crap you here from the guy at work who knows next to nothing about football. He can read a boxscore and follow the game on TV but thats about it. My wife can do that. She's also good at complaining too! Just like mzone lately...

Yost, just stick to the funny pictues. We don;t need to read some OSU guy with a rather weak blog to be educated about UM either.

Hemlock Philosopher said...

I appreciate that Yost invites other bloggers to throw down a few words. I don't have any love for the OZone's Michigan Mondays. I find them to be snarky and inaccurate for the most part. But it's a buckeye blog, so what else can I expect?

Yost said...

That's not true, Reggie: your wife can do a lot more than that.

Ziiiing! Okay, I'll stick to the comedy.

carl tabb said...

There ya go, Yost. Well played.

Hey, I didn't mean to start a shit storm on this usually peaceful blog. I just read Ozone's water cooler crap (HT: Reggie) and then Crabapple's uneducated, ESPN boilerplate bullshit and it set me off. Civil unrest ensued. Mea culpa.

I also didn't say I was leaving for good. I said I'd come back for the hilarity. It's just better for my soul dong if I don't read too much opinion gathered from the Freep and ESPN (not implying it's you, Yost).

If by 2011 (and for sure by 2012) we're still having anxiety attacks over whether our D can stop Indiana and our O might commit 5 turnovers I'll be screaming for RR's head, too. I'm just trying to preach patience and let RR get at least 4 years.

esmail1 said...

Thank you for being impartial and not so crazy koolaid-pro RR like other "cough" Michigan Blogs are. You bring both perspectives to the picture (fire or keep RR) and your commentary is both insightful as well as entertaining. I agree very much with what the oZone guy says about the current state of Michigan football. Also his comments about recruiting and player development under RR going back to his WVU days say alot as well. PS your youtube thing was funny...

Mikoyan said...

Wow #44 himself posts on this blog. That is so awesome....