Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
17 Dec 2007
compiled by Doug Farrar
Today's Audibles at the Line ended up with a long conversation about the hiring of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan... since that's a very different discussion than the discussion of Week 15's NFL games, we thought we would give this its own space...
Ned Macey: I'm not a college football expert, but if you had a choice between Rich Rodriguez, Les Miles, and Greg Schiano, wouldn't you rather have Rodriguez?
Sean McCormick: Short answer? No. How many pro prospects does Michigan turn out? How many does West Virginia? That offense and defense are strictly college junk. I would hate to see Michigan start running that awful spread quarterback option offense.
Aaron Schatz: Not to mention Cam Cameron. What the hell was going on with that rumor?
Russell Levine: For X's and O's, I prefer Rodriguez to both Miles and Schiano.
For "best fit for the program," Miles probably gets the edge because he understands Michigan and what it means to coach there, and he'd never want another job. Rodriguez just left his alma mater, so who's to say how important Michigan is to him? Although you could look at that the other way too -- that he just left his alma mater because it's Michigan and it's a better job, period.
Stuart, the fact that college offenses run schemes that look nothing like the NFL is one of the reasons I find the college game so much more interesting. I love what Rodriguez has done with his offenses -- and they haven't always been so run-heavy.
I think Rodriguez is a top-10 coach, maybe top-5. This was a fantastic hire by Michigan.
Aaron Schatz: I'm with Russell. Rich Rodriguez's job is not to run a system that prepares players for the NFL. His job is to win college football games.
Russell Levine: And I would add that I don't know a single college football fan who cares how many NFL prospects his team turns out. Sure, we root for our guys in the NFL, but all we care about is winning in college. If I recall correctly, Rodriguez has not only had dozens of college coaches visiting him each offseason to learn some of his offense, but also some NFL coaches as well.
Sean McCormick: Sure, but there are two things that you have to consider. The first is that it is easy to win college games. Michigan or any other major college program is going to win eight or nine games without trying, so you're talking about a variable of two or three wins per season. The second thing you need to consider is that generally speaking, when these fraudulent college schemes go up against teams loaded with NFL talent, they get beat down in a very serious way. Presumably, Michigan's goal is to win championships, not to win championships in years when they can avoid USC or LSU or what have you.
Russell Levine: Gonna have to disagree on that last part. Last year's national champs beat down a team completely stuffed with high-round NFL talent by running nearly the exact same offense that Rodriguez ran.
Sean McCormick: True, but I think it was the exception, not the rule. LSU-Oklahoma, USC-Oklahoma, LSU-Ohio State (to be seen nationwide real soon) are, I think, more the norm. And that Florida defense was loaded with NFL players. There's that.
David Lewin: I have to strongly disagree with you, Sean. The spread option, when run with the right talent, is the best offense in college football today. In the past, spread teams have lost to pro-style teams like USC and Oklahoma because USC and Oklahoma were far better. Now that great spread coaches like Urban Meyer and Rodriguez have made it to the big time, I expect we will see that last year was not a fluke, and big-time spread option programs will win their share (or more) of titles. Just because Hawaii, Houston, BYU, Texas Tech and the like haven't won national titles doesn't Michigan and Florida can't.
Sean McCormick: I don't see it, David. There is a reason why you can't run the spread option in the NFL, and it's the same reason why West Virginia wouldn't have been able to run it against LSU: They would get their quarterback taken off on a stretcher. And both West Virginia and Oregon showed all too clearly what happens when you take the feature quarterback out of the offense and replace him with a guy without the same athleticism.
I just think that running an offense (or defense) with no NFL viability is a big mistake for a top college program. The best recruiting tool a coach can have is being able to point to a long list of players he sent on to the pros. And NFL teams are going to be increasingly unhappy about drafting players high, giving them $50 million and then teaching them the fundamentals of the game.
Ned Macey: I may be a little confused about what the spread option is (seems like a million teams have some element), but I'm pretty sure the Buckeyes are not running anything Rich Rodriguez would recognize with Todd Boeckman at quarterback. I think a closer fit would be Oregon, which just beat a USC team loaded with NFL talent on defense. An innovative offensive mind is an innovative offensive mind, and I'm glad Rodriguez is coming to Michigan.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure I see the recruitment problem. There's certainly no issue recruiting defensive players, since your offensive scheme does not affect them. I don't think there's much of an issue for running backs. I'm not sure if the offensive line blocking is tremendously different or not. Certainly a wide receiver would be more NFL-ready at a school that passed more on offense, but a team like Wisconsin with an old-school I-formation running attack really doesn't pass any more than a spread option team. That leaves the quarterback, but look, if you are a guy like Pat White or Tim Tebow, maybe at the age of 18 you already realize that you are going to end up as a wide receiver when you hit the pros, and you want to spend the next three years winning games.
Russell Levine: I agree. Rodriguez will increase Michigan's ability to recruit, because he's high profile and viewed as a hot, modern coach. Plus, any kid that goes to Michigan knows they're going to be on TV more than any program not named Notre Dame. That still counts for an awful lot when selling a school. The nation's most sought-after player this year is a spread-option quarterback who just added Michigan to his list of schools.
Plus, don't assume that the spread Michigan runs will look like the spread West Virginia has run the past few years. WVA is pass-heavy because Rodriguez had Pat White and Steve Slaton and not so much at wide receiver. But he threw the ball a ton at some of his other coaching stops. Shaun King was the NCAA pass efficiency leader when Rodriguez was the OC at Tulane. He'll adapt the scheme to his personnel. I fully expect to see 6-foot-7, 260-pound Ryan Mallett at quarterback in the spread next fall.
David Lewin: I agree. The pass oriented spread offense that Michigan is going to run if Mallett starts probably won't be leaps and bounds different from the pass oriented spread offense the Patriots run.
Urban Meyer ran his spread against that vaunted LSU defense you mentioned and they came away with a 28-24 loss and Tim Tebow in tact, so I'd say it went fine. Oregon beat USC, the second most NFL-ready defense, 24-17 running the spread option and as discussed Oregon is probably are not quite at Michigan's level in terms of overall talent. Yes, Dixon got hurt later in the year, but John David Booty got hurt, Matt Flynn got hurt, and Chad Henne got hurt too. I don't see any reason to believe that QB injuries are prevented by a pro- style offenses.
Also, it's not like big-time programs haven't won with the option before. Nebraska was a top tier program for long time with a very un- NFL style offense, and I suspect they would still be having success with it had they so chosen. There is a huge supply of high school athletes (mostly black) who are told they can't play quarterback at next level and only get recruited to play something else by the big boys. They often end up going to the only school that will let them play QB and that's how you end up with a guy like Armanti Edwards at a place like Appalachian State. Michigan should land a large portion of the best dual threat QBs because they know they won't be treated like a square peg.
Plus you had Vince Young at Texas, Troy Smith at Ohio State... I think it would be fair to say that the last two BCS champs, and last year's runner-up, ran something similar to what we will see from Rodriguez at Michigan.
41 comments, Last at 20 Dec 2007, 8:59pm by young curmudgeon