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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Just don't look at the ears.

Head Coach, Rutgers
Exp.7th year
Previous Jobs
DC @ Miami1999-2000
DB coach with Chicago1996-1998
DB coach @ Penn State
Playing Career
Linebacker at Bucknell from 85-88.
It's a testament to the Rutgers program that Greg Schiano is going to be the only guy with a losing record profiled in this series or considered for major jobs across the country. Previously, Rutgers was known for two things: winning the first ever college football game 6-4 against Princeton in 1869 and losing every game since.

Stassen data for the ten-year stretch before Schiano's hiring:

Win %
93 Oregon State 0.35268
94 Navy 0.35135
95t Louisiana-Lafayette 0.34091
95t Rutgers 0.34091
97 Maryland 0.33636

Schiano, like Ferentz, walked into a nightmare situation and suffered greatly his first two years. In 2001 and 2002, RU was 3-20 and no one thought much of hiring a guy who had been defensive coordinator at Miami for all of two years, but things began to turn around in 2003. Rutgers went 5-7 that year; the next year they struggled to 4-7 but managed to down Michigan State along the way, providing endless schadenfreude to Michigan fans. So thanks for that.

Things got seriously turned around the next year, when Rutgers went 7-5 and got to a bowl game for the first time since the Richard The Lionheart administration, losing a tight game to Arizona State. 2006 was the 11-2 year with the Louisville upset that saw Rutgers seriously enter the national championship discussion before clunking an ugly game away to Cincinnati and coming up short against West Virginia in an overtime game that would have sent them to the BCS. Schiano won no fewer than five coach of the year awards. In 2007. When Wake Forest won the ACC.

This year, the question was "can he do it again?" The answer was "no, not really." Rutgers slipped to 7-5. Their destination this offseason: Toronto.

Xs and Os Proficiency: Schiano's brief tenure as an defensive coordinator was successful, but at the time Miami was busy being a juggernaut with first round picks everywhere. The "2000" at left was a mark Schiano put up as the Miami defensive coordinator.

At Rutgers, things have been different. Obviously. Until the 2006 breakthrough, Schiano's defenses had been between mediocre and wretched. Again: Rutgers. Even during the past two years, the Scarlet Knights have been light on the surefire NFL beasts. Last year's Loiusville game was my first real exposure to the idea of Rutgers as a real program, and it was relevatory. It looked like all eleven guys on RU's defense were about the same size, like a high school team was going up against one of the best offenses in the country, but a lot of slashing through gaps and cleverly disguised blitzes held Louisville down long enough for Ray Rice to pound forward for the winning yards. It's anecdotal, but when all you have is a seven-year-old monster D and a lot of talentless chaff in between, anecdotes are all you've got.

It's not a sure thing, but I believe Schiano defenses at Michigan would be consistently very good to great.

Recruiting: Recruiting at Rutgers was largely a matter of begging MAC leftovers to consider a "BCS" team, if only in the most technical sense, for most of its existence and well into Schiano's tenure. Aside from the occasional local guy who likes mom's cooking, it's been a parade of two-star recruits for Rutgers. Even now, things are a little bleak: the bounce you would expect after a program-establishing 11-2 season consists of Rivals 250 OT Art Forst and another four-star defensive tackle from New York among just eight commitments, all of them from New Jersey or New York.

But there is a perceptual shift. Michigan's pursuing three recruits from Rutgers' neck of the woods this year and each has named the Scarlet Knights to be Michigan's primary competition. Michigan won the battle with Marcus Witherspoon and JB Fitzgerald and leads (or at least did lead before Carr's retirement) for Brandon Smith, but Rutgers is a real player for the New Jersey kids who usually flee the state en masse. And, man, Schiano's following Fitzgerald around in a helicopter.

Recruiting's mostly about energy, not personality -- do Ron Zook and Charlie Weis seem like guys you want to spend four years around? -- and Schiano has that.

Potential Catches: The very idea of having a head coach from New Jersey conjures up images of the Great White Fail at Notre Dame; other than that Schiano seems pretty clean. The major concern is that Schiano's had one year that could be considered even slightly successful by Michigan standards, that being 2006 and hasn't proven he can operate a program on an elite level, but there's exactly one candidate out there you can't say that about and Les Miles is quite the longshot at this point.

Relative Compensation: Rutgers made a major outlay to Schiano after 2006's 11-2 campaign and has invested in facilities upgrades with an eye towards making the program a consistent power, but Schiano remains relatively cheap. Rutgers reworked his contract in February, bumping his salary up to $1.5 million a year; Michigan can afford far more than that and Martin continually makes noises that Michigan will be offering in the mid-twos. Can Rutgers afford that? Maybe. They're under fire for investing in the football program at the same time the university faces a major budget crunch, so they'd be faced with increasing their outlay even more or potentially watching their investment to date go belly up. 50-50 they would find the money to hold onto him.

Would He Take The Job? Maybe? It's hard to imagine the coach at Rutgers turning down... well... anyone, but Miami made a run at Schiano last offseason and got shot down. That could have been a money thing, though. Miami's pathetic fanbase can't sell out the Orange Bowl even against big names like Virginia Tech and the 'Canes ended up settling on defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, a guy no one was pursuing and came cheap.

Another reason Schiano might have stayed: he had no particular affiliation with the Miami program. Schiano was raised in New Jersey and has spent most of his life in and around the Midwest and Northeast. Check the table above: Schiano was DC at Miami for two years. This ends his career south of Chicago. Or maybe State College. I don't have longitudes handy. So it's possible he looked at Miami's offer skeptically. A petulant, disloyal fanbase that expects national titles or bust, a mediocre contract offer, and a move thousands of miles away from home? No thanks.

Michigan's fanbase is marginally less petulant and vastly more loyal, the school is closer to home, and the money will be better. So there's a chance. But the persistent rumor out there is that Schiano's content at Rutgers and dreams of being a Bowden or Paterno-esque program patriarch; the other rumor out there is that he's waiting for JoePa to beam home so he can take the Penn State job. It might be a tough sell.

Overall Attractiveness: Schiano would be one of the few guys out there Martin could plausibly hire in the wake of the Miles fiasco without enraging the Michigan fanbase. You can't even call his job at Rutgers a "resurrection" or a "rebuild," since both those terms envision a Rutgers program that, you know, existed before Schiano's arrival. It did not; Schiano created one out of whole cloth. If you believe the program desperately needs a breath of fresh air, Schiano is a good bet to bring it in.

He's also enticingly young. Michigan's looking for a guy with extensive head coaching experience, which mostly constricts the search to guys in their early to mid fifties; Schiano is just 41. If he works out Michigan gets 20 years instead of 10.

What doubts exist are because of the Rutgers thing. Yes, he has seven years as a head coach. But how much data can we glean from the first four? Not much. So we're left with one shining example of the poor rising up and some decent-for-Rutgers seasons around it. But to get a guy like Schiano you have to move now, before he has that second season or that third season that proves to both him and the university that this is not a fluke and he becomes even tougher to pry out of New Jersey. He's a risk, yes, but he's also a guy with huge upside; he would be an A- pick.