Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Greg Robinson, Michigan's New Defensive Coordinator

Danger, Greg Robinson! Danger, Greg Robinson!

Yes, I know it hasn't been officially announced (*Update: It's official now). But internet rumours as they are, this one is no longer a whisper in the corners of regional blogs. Scout.com and Rivals.com have both reported that it's 90% a done deal.

Defensive coordinator is a vital position for college football teams. Since defensive play is very indicative of a team's overall success, this position needs to be filled by an experienced, confident and knowledgeable coach. Strong leadership qualities, sound understanding of defensive strategy, creative playcalling and defensive alignments, and outstanding recruiting prowess are all essential characteristics of successful defensive coordinators in American college football.

Greg Robinson has been a football coach for along time in both the college and NFL ranks.

But what do we really know about Greg Robinson?

Most of the "good aspects" of Greg Robinson can be observed when he was a defensive line coach and/or defensive coordinator in college at UCLA and in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, and for a time, with the New York Jets.

Coincidentally, some of the "bad aspects" of Greg Robinson were also when he was defensive coordinator in the NFL for the New York Jets, and most recently, for the Kansas City Chiefs, and as a head coach at Syracuse. The performance and results of Greg Robinson's more recent endeavors have been, unfortunately for Michigan, less and less impressive.

The Good Greg Robinson:

1.) Coached as Assistant Coach and Def. Coordinator/DL coach under Terry Donahue at UCLA during arguably some of the best and most competitive years of UCLA Bruin football ever (1982-1989).

1982: 10-1-1 PAC-10 champs

1983: 7-4-1

1984: 9-3-0

1985: 9-2-1 PAC-10 champs
1986: 8-3-1

1987: 10-2-0

1988: 10-2-0

1989: 3-7-1 (Robinson was OC this one year for Terry Donahue)

2.) Coached as DC for Shanahan's NFL champion Broncos in 1997 and 1998.

The Bad Greg Robinson:

1.) As DC of the NY Jets under head coaches Bruce Coslet (1990-1993) and Pete Carroll (1994), the Jets' defense was ranked as followed in the NFL:

1990: 23rd out of 28 teams ypg surrendered, 17th in scoring defense with 22 pts./game

1991: 12th out of 28 teams ypg surrendered, 10th in scoring defense with 18 pts/game

1992: 16th out of 28 teams ypg surrendered, 18th in scoring defense with 20 pts/game

1993: 8th out of 28 teams in ypg surrendered, 6th in scoring defense with 15 pts/game

1994: 22nd out of 28 teams in ypg surrendered, tied for 14th in scoring defense with 20 pts/game

2) As DC for the Kansas City Chiefs 2001-2003 under coach Dick Vermeil, Robinson's performance displayed the following NFL rankings:

2001: 23rd out of 31 teams ypg surrendered, 23rd in scoring defense with 22 pts/game.

2002: 32nd out of 32 teams ypg surrendered, 28th in scoring defense with 25 pts/game

2003: 29th out of 32 teams ypg surrendered, 19th in scoring defense with 21 pts/game

2004: 31st out of 32 teams ypg surrendered, 29th in scoring D with 27 pts per game

3.) Greg Robinson as HC for Syracuse:

Syracuse team records:

2005: 1-10-0

2006: 4-8-0

2007: 2-10-0

2008: 3-9-0

Under Robinson's 4 year tenure, Syracuse won only 3 Big East conference games.

4.) Greg Robinson as a college football recruiter:

We don't have records of Greg Robinson's recruiting at as AC/DC at UCLA. It's more likely that Terry Donahue did a lot of the heavy lifting for UCLA, as he had become the face of the program after Dick Vermeil left in January 1976.

Recruiting kids to play football in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY - a city where nothing even remotely interesting may ever happen - is certainly not an easy job to do. But Robinson carried the SU recruiting torch for 4 years and - all things considered and compared - didn't screw it up too badly. Robinson kept Syracuse recruiting at more or less the status quo:

Syracuse Recruiting Class Rank 2005-2008 (source: Scout.com):

2005: 49th
2006: 51st
2007: 46th
2008: 50th

Syracuse recruiting under former HC Paul Pasqualoni:

2002: 36th
2003: 62nd
2004: 50th

It's important to note that Paul Pasqualoni's previous head coaching success as Syracuse was decidedly better than Robinson with the same or worse talent.

So taking into consideration the above, it's difficult to know how Greg Robinson would perform at Michigan. Wolverine HC Rich Rodriguez pointed out earlier how important it was for the DC to "fit in" and "get along" with the other coaches. This was apparently a problem under former DC Scott Schafer (now the new DC at, wait for it..... Syracuse!).

Robinson is probably not a star-spangled recruiter anymore, and no one knows where his main connections lie - west coast, east coast? More likely further west.

It certainly will not be the Midwest, nor the cradle of great defensive players in Michigan's past: Ohio & Pennsylvania. Maybe this is not so important, since the other defensive coaches Gibson, Hopson, Tall and even WR coach Tony Dews are the ones doing a lot of the recruiting work anyway alongside Rodriguez himself. The University of Michigan does sell itself with respect to recruiting but Robinson will need to hit the road early and often in order to sow seeds of interest in Michigan's defensive play, and to get recruits to come play for him at Michigan.

Robinson's experience in the NFL should be considered an aggregate plus for Michigan, including the successful stint at the Denver Broncos and even for the NY Jets. The Kansas City debacle is a troubling observation because either Robinson had no players (as with Syracuse) or Robinson was starting to get tired of coaching. Robinson will be only 58 years old in October and will be the oldest coach on the Wolverine football coaching staff.

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