Mailbag: Will Rich Rodriguez return in 2011?

Mailbag: Will Rich Rodriguez return in 2011?


November 30, 2010
Frustrated.

Dear Magnus,

I’m a long time reader, first time writer.

I’d like to know if a) you think Rodriguez will be fired and b) you think he should be fired.  Please keep your response to 10,000 words or less.

Thanks,

Matt

Thanks for the e-mail, Matt.

These are difficult questions to answer, but I’m just a blogger, so my opinion really doesn’t matter.  So what the hell, let’s go for it.

Do I think that Rodriguez will be fired?  To put it bluntly, yes.  I think the din of disapproval has grown too loud.  People expected more when he was hired, and they expected it faster.  To the vast majority, THIS IS MICHIGAN, and Lloyd Carr couldn’t possibly have left the cupboard this bare.  And to an extent, they’re right.  I have a hard time believing that a Lloyd Carr-coached team would have wandered through a season with as little of a clue about how to play defense as this 2010 squad has, and the mind boggling amount of attrition over the past few years probably could have been stemmed in some way.  How?  I don’t know.  But other programs have gone through coaching changes without losing 17 players in their first three recruiting classes (2008-2010) like Rodriguez has, and that’s not counting the droves who were already in Ann Arbor and were subsequently driven off by Rodriguez’s rules, conditioning, or attitude.

Athletic director David Brandon has been publicly supportive for the most part, and I think he’s done a good job of standing by Rodriguez.  I don’t think Brandon had his mind made up when he was hired that Rodriguez would be gone after 2010, but he has probably reached that conclusion over the past few months.  The 0-9 record against Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State might have been the nail in the coffin for Rodriguez, who lost all of those games handily in 2010.  As I said in my post the other day, the 7-5 record this season was what I expected.  But just because Michigan people expected that season doesn’t mean that they’ll accept it.

Do I think Rodriguez should be fired?  The answer to that is a little murkier.  With even a halfway decent defense, this team could have been 9-3 or 10-2.  Wisconsin and Ohio State were tanks this year; Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan State were all fairly beatable, in my opinion.  If David Brandon sat down Rodriguez and said, “Look, we’re going to hire this particular guy to run a 4-3 (or 3-4 or 4-2-5 or even 3-3-5) defense, and you will leave him alone to do his own thing,” then that might be the difference.  But should an athletic director really have to do that?  If Brandon has to tell Rodriguez what defense to run, then Brandon might as well trade in his suit and tie for a whistle and a headset.  The defense was bound to be bad because of all the youth, but you can’t tell me that it had to be this bad.  Not 109th in total defense and 102nd in scoring defense.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s Harbaugh or bust.  I don’t want Brady Hoke just because “He’s a Michigan man.”  Les Miles’ road to Ann Arbor has essentially been blocked.  I don’t want a first-time head coach like Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator from Auburn (who would likely face some of the same resistance Rodriguez has).  Michigan shouldn’t hire some guy just because that guy’s name happens to not be Rich Rodriguez.

If Harbaugh balks, I think Michigan ought to keep Rodriguez and go after a proven defensive coordinator.  I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of bringing in West Virginia’s Jeff Casteel, who might be out of a job if WVU head coach Bill Stewart’s rumored retirement comes to fruition.  But whoever the new coordinator would be, he would have to be given some autonomy over the defense.

I know that’s not an extremely definitive answer, but without knowing Harbaugh’s intentions or the future of Casteel (among other moving parts), it’s difficult to make a decision right this moment.

43 comments

  1. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 30, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    "Ann Arbor"

    Perhaps "Ann Auburn"

  2. Comments: 21628
    Nov 30, 2010 at 5:58 PM

    @ Anonymous 12:50 p.m.

    Fixed. Thanks for the correction.

  3. Comments: 21628
    Nov 30, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    I think it'd be interesting to compare resumes of Rich Rodriguez in '08 and Jim Harbaugh in '10. Nearly all of the candidates for the job in '08 (Ferentz, Schiano, Rodriguez, even pipe dreams like Mack Brown and Urban Meyer) have lost much of their shine since then. It seems likely that Harbaugh will too.

    His resume is impressive, not debating that point, but lets see how he does without Andrew Luck (a top 5 recruit at QB who will be a top 5 NFL pick). Thats a rare talent that he may not get again. Last season w/o Luck he won 5 games, FWIW.

    Few would argue that Harbaugh isn't a better cultural fit at Michigan and would receive a much warmer media and alumni reception. BUT, will he win more football games? Its a matter entirely up to opinion.

  4. Comments: 21628
    Nov 30, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    @ Lankownia 2:19 p.m.

    I think one of the assumptions is that Harbaugh's return to Michigan would entice quarterbacks like Andrew Luck to return to Michigan, much like Henson, Mallett, Henne, etc.

  5. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 30, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    I think one of the assumptions is that Harbaugh's return to Michigan would entice quarterbacks like Andrew Luck to return to Michigan, much like Henson, Mallett, Henne, etc.

    That's probably true, but if Harbaugh came next year, his QB would be Denard Robinson, not a prototypical pocket passer, but nonetheless the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year. If JH is the guy, I just hope he lets Denard continue to play QB and puts him in a position to continue to succeed. Denard is too much of a talent to have at another position (or, worse, another school).

  6. Comments: 21628
    Michael S
    Nov 30, 2010 at 7:49 PM

    I vote we go after Randy Shannon for DC. High character guy, great DC, Florida recruiting connections.

    Who knows if he would be interested, but it's worth a shot.

  7. Comments: 21628
    Nov 30, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    Agreed that quality pro-style QBs would come to Michigan again. My point is that special talents like Luck are rare, even at Michigan. There's Tom Brady, but people like Grbac, Griese, Navarre, Henson, even Henne were all fine football players, but not on the level that Luck seems to be at.

    Is Harbaugh still boasting an 11-1 record with Dayne Crist, Landry Jones, Nic Crissman as his QB? Maybe, but it'd be nice to have a year to find out what he can do without Luck.

    I don't think Harbaugh's going anywhere yet. We can afford to wait a year and RR deserves a chance.

  8. Comments: 21628
    Alex
    Nov 30, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    I agree with Lankownia, my bet is that Harbaugh would wait out 2011, during which if he has another impressive year, his resume gets beefed up even more. I personally am not completely sold on him, he has similar records to RR during his first three years at Stanford and some could argue was in a better position when it came to talent and experience. He has recruited well at Stanford but it's inevitable that this years recruiting class would take a hit with a coaching change. Let's wait until the MSU game next year to pull the trigger.

    Magnus, what do you think our record is with RR next year? Would 9-3 satisfy the masses? What about with JH? Do we really expect him to win more than 7 games anytime soon?

  9. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Nov 30, 2010 at 9:51 PM

    Just a rant, nothing directed towards Magnus or anybody else, just a rant.

    What the hell ever happened to patience? Some in Alabama are saying fire Saban. Fire Saban?!!? In Florida they are questioning if Urban Meyer is a good coach. What in the hell??? Three years ago we were clamoring for Les Miles now look what LSU wants done with him. This screwball fanbase wants to turn my beloved Michigan into some Pro Sports team that churns through coaches faster than hookers go through condoms. Leave that for ND. We CAN'T win every game every year. No team can. The greatest coaches of all time have losses and some VERY BAD losses at that. My fear is that even if we had won a national title this year, as soon as we lost a game next year you would have idiots calling for RichRod's head. If you can't see progress in this team you're blind and you know that playing in D-1 sports as a freshman is only for the very very talented and phsically mature freshman. I can't stand how this is playing out and I feel horrible for the kids and coaches.

    Oh, another thing, death threats to a 22 year old kicker for missing a field goal? Don't they realize that without him they would have never won the Virginia Tech game thus not being in the national spotlight to begin with? The whole GD world has gone insane. Swear to god if we lost to OSU this year by less than a touchdown and Denard was getting death threats because of his fumble, I'd have gone ape shit.

    Done with my rant. Magnus, love the blog. Thanks for giving me an outlet to vent.

  10. Comments: 21628
    Nov 30, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    @ Alex 4:19 p.m.

    Well, an early look suggests 7 probable wins – WMU, EMU, SDSU, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois. Wisconsin and PSU are off the schedule. Notre Dame and Iowa are toss-ups. OSU, Nebraska, and MSU would probably favored.

    I have to believe that Michigan would beat Notre Dame OR Iowa, and I would hope that Michigan could pull an upset of MSU or Nebraska (not counting on OSU). So yeah, I think 9 wins is a realistic number.

    If 7-5 this season doesn't make the masses happy, I don't know that 9-3 next year would, either. In year four, I think Rodriguez would HAVE to beat a rival (MSU or OSU) to make people happy.

    I think Harbaugh would be a setback offensively, although not as big as from Carr to Rodriguez was. I think about 7 wins would be expected from Harbaugh.

  11. Comments: 21628
    Nov 30, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    Anonymous ranter, I agree with you. Hubris and impatience might turn us into Notre Dame, or worse. The Michigan fanbase is looking very similar to the typical emotional, irrational, and impatient teams we used to hold ourselves above. Its disappointing.

    Magnus, 9 wins for RR and 7 for Harbaugh seem realistic.

    Its clear that results aren't enough. 9 wins MIGHT be enough, but How and Who matter. I think at this point the Notre Dame outcome almost doesn't matter. The fanbase is extremely focused on what happens in the Big 10. A victory at Iowa or MSU would have far more meaning than beating ND again.

    RR needs to find a win or probably two between Iowa, Nebraska, MSU and OSU next year or he won't be back. OR, at the very least, these 4 games need to be consistently competitive.

    Iowa is really going to get hit hard by graduation. They may not even be worthy of inclusion in that top 4. I imagine we'll be significant favorites, even at Iowa, if RR is retained. I also think we'll be significant favorites at home against Notre Dame. But it wouldn't be surprising to cough up one of those.

    Michigan State and Ohio State lose far more people than we do but playing at East Lansing and facing Nebraska and Ohio State back-to-back make it hard to predict more than 1 win between those 3.

    On the bright side, Michigan seemed to win the games it SHOULD win this season (with the possible exception of Penn State). Hopefully that continues, we win at least 8 out of the 9 we should be favored in and then find another win between OSU, Nebraska, MSU.

    I think it will take a 6-2 record in conference play to ensure RR returns in 2012. 5-3 and he's probably gone, even if non-conference results are 4-0.

  12. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    http://genuinelysarcastic.blogspot.com/2010/11/attention-to-detail.html

    This link spells it out as accurately as possible. RR is responsible for his own demise at Michigan:

    PS-RR's record at West Virginia against top 25 teams was 7 wins and 11 losses.

  13. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 1:02 AM

    @ Anonymous 7:20 p.m.

    That post at Genuinely Sarcastic is BS. I mean, you're allowed to have your own opinion, but it's ridiculous.

    Thanks for the random update on Rodriguez's record in the Big East. I don't see how that's extremely relevant without context, but okay.

  14. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    @Anonymous ranter:

    You've compared Rich Rodriguez to Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Maybe Rodriguez can use that in his performance review with Brandon: "Saban and Meyer get to keep their jobs, why don't I?"

    For the rest of you softies:

    Three years is plenty of 'chance'. Saban, Meyer, and Miles, not to mention Tressel, all won National Titles within three years. We can't kick a field goal.

    Allow me to explain it this way:
    * It's been the WORST THREE YEARS IN MICHIGAN HISTORY!
    * We have the WORST DEFENSE IN MICHIGAN HISTORY!
    * He has the WORST WIN% OF ANY COACH IN MICHIGAN HISTORY, by a mile! The only other guy under .500 coached 9 games in 1891! (really: http://tinyurl.com/33jm8ry) In fact, no Buckeye coach since 1900 has ever been this bad! He's the WORST IN TWO SCHOOLS, not just UM!
    * He has the WORST RECORD IN MICHIGAN HISTORY AGAINST OUR RIVALS — ZERO!
    * We may have the WORST KICKING in Michigan history, but I can't be sure. It's the WORST IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL this year.

    What does someone have to do to lose their job around here?

  15. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 3:50 AM

    @ Anonymous 10:43 p.m.

    Nick Saban went 6-5-1, 6-6, 7-5, and 6-6 in his first four seasons at MSU. It's not like good coaches are incapable of having bad seasons.

    I'm not comparing Rodriguez to Saban. Rodriguez obviously hasn't had the same amount of success. But let's not pretend that Saban had great success immediately wherever he's been.

  16. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 3:59 AM

    Magnus, if the best you can say about the worst coach in UM history is that some other coach at some other school did better than RR, but wasn't great …

    Here's a challenge for someone: How many games in a row must RR win to become the 2nd worst coach in UM history (by win%, not counting the guy in 1891)?

    Maybe he can stick around, and we can have another Bump Elliot era of mediocrity.

  17. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 4:09 AM

    Sweet Christ Rodriguez should have been fired a long time ago. I can't believe that there's even a debate about this. It's like Battered Spouse Syndrome in football fan form. I have been watching college football for 30 years and I have never seen a coach run a strong program into the ground as quickly and embarrassingly as Rodriguez. I don't care about what he did at West Virginia anymore. He has been a terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible coach at Michigan. Far worse than any Michigan fan's nightmare could have imagined. Spartan and Buckeye fans never had wet dreams envisioning the Rodriguez era. His Big Ten winning percentage is .250. That's unbelievably bad. And the defense has done nothing but get worse.

    This idea that we risk becoming Notre Dame if we aren't "patient" is silly. Look where patience got Notre Dame with Charlie Weis. They gave him at least one year too many and all it did was set the program back. Look at what "patience" did for our basketball program. A lost decade.

  18. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 4:45 AM

    Ranter wasn't comparing Rich Rod to Meyer or Saban but rather the state of ridiculous college fan bases.

    BUT I LIKE TO TYPE IN CAPS TO GET MY POINT ACCROSS TOO rabble rabble rabble.

    Personally I'd much rather go back to the occasional 10-2 season and trip to the Rose Bowl every 6 or 7 years. Man those were the days werent they? Going 7-5 with a very young team who can't kick or tackle or go 8-4 with an experienced team and get beat by Nebraska in a bowl game like in 05? Yeah, let's stick it out and give Rich Rod a try. I'd say that's the opposite of a "softie" approach wouldn't you?

  19. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    @ Lankownia,
    I appreciate the "let's see JH w/o Luck" sentiment, which is an important test to see how much luck (lowercase, play on words) plays into a coach's success. Yet, employing this "let's judge [Coach Z] without most important [Player X]" method consistently might require a correlary scenario where we judge RR without Pat White. Take away Pat White @ WVU and it's hard to project RR's same success @ WVU. Frankly, for me, this method is too speculative; so, we just have to judge JH and RR with the talent the have/had. It seems like the information we have on recruiting is that JH is a better recruiter than RR. So, it seems more likely that JH could replace a star player more efficiently than RR, which is an important factor in your evaluation.
    TriFloyd

  20. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    @ TriFloyd

    Rodriguez has out-recruited Harbaugh every year except in the 2011 class, which hasn't finished yet.

  21. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    @ Thunder,
    Right, but: 1) JH is at Stanford; and 2) I bet that JH keeps his players. So, it does not mean much if your recruiting rankings are based on a 5-star safety if your 5-star safety never gets to campus.

  22. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    That 05 team went 7-4 not 8-4, only 11 regular season games that year. They went 7-5 with the loss to Nebraska. But, I suppose that gives me even more hope that our team that couldn't kick or tackle went 7-5.

  23. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    @ TriFloyd 9:38 a.m.

    Point taken, but I think saying "Harbaugh is a better recruiter than Rodriguez" is jumping the gun just a bit. I think they've both done a pretty good job, but the fact is that Rodriguez has pulled in better recruiting classes each year.

    I know you said Harbaugh is recruiting kids to Stanford with their stringent admissions, but he's also recruiting a talent-rich state; Rodriguez has had to go all the way to the bottom tip of the country (Florida) to pull in much of his talent. You could make arguments either way, but it would be a battle nobody would win.

  24. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    @Thunder 12:47 PM

    In a sense, I agree with TriFloyd; recruiting is half the battle, developing that talent is the other half. On defense at least, that is something Rodriguez has completely failed to do so far, with two to three times more complete busts from defensive recruits from 08/09 classes than contributors. Some of that is random, but at a certain point, the pattern can lead to the conclusion that Rich either can't recruit defensive players (they get the ND bump?), or can't develop them once they arrive.

  25. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    @Thunder 12:47PM

    On what basis is Rodriguez any good at recuriting? You're good at recuriting if you bring in players that play well. Where are they?

    There is no comparison to Rodriguez and Harbaugh in recruiting. And don't tell me about Standford's vs Michigan's local talent. Are you kidding me? Stanford has an easier time attracting talent than Michigan?!

    People have become accustomed to mediocrity. Remember who you are. I'm not settling for lower standards than the all-time winningest program in football, the Leaders and Best.

  26. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    @ Anonymous 1:56 p.m.

    I'm not completely disagreeing with TriFloyd. My point is that there's no clear-cut "winner" when it comes to recruiting. And in TriFloyd's original comment, he was talking about "replacing a star player" right after talking about replacing Andrew Luck; there's no evidence to suggest that Rodriguez will be unable to replace, say, Denard Robinson. In fact, super-recruit Devin Gardner is waiting in the wings to take over.

    Has Rodriguez lagged behind in developing defensive talent? Yeah. But the recruits he's getting have been better recruits (according to Rivals, ESPN, Scout, etc.) than Harbaugh's.

  27. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    @ Anonymous 1:58 p.m.

    "You're good at recruiting if you bring in players that play well. Where are they?"

    Let's see. Denard Robinson, Patrick Omameh, Martavious Odoms, Taylor Lewan, Tate Forcier, etc. This was a pretty damn good offense in 2010, and of the 11 offensive starters, six(Robinson, Shaw/Smith, Roundtree, Odoms, Omameh, Lewan) were Rodriguez-only recruits, and two more were Rodriguez/Carr combo recruits (Koger, Stonum). The only three recruited by Carr were Dorrestein, Molk, and Schilling, all of whom play a position that is usually manned by upperclassmen.

    I'm not saying Stanford has an easier time attracting recruits than Michigan. What I'm saying is that there are advantages at both places (geography for Stanford, tradition at Michigan, etc.). It's no coincidence that once Stanford started winning games, their recruiting picked up. There's no reason to believe that Michigan's defensive and overall recruiting won't pick up now that Michigan seems to be improving, too. In fact, Stanford is pretty full at 21 recruits, but Michigan has 13 right now and will likely add another 8 or 9 kids before February; so there's plenty of room to move up in the rankings.

    "I'm not settling for lower standards than the all-time winningest program in football, the Leaders and Best."

    I'm not sure what you're going to do about it, but okay.

  28. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    @TriFloyd,

    My point is that there isn't enough evidence to say that Harbaugh is better or worse than Rodriguez at coaching football. Harbaugh's record was bad after 3 years, but steadily improving up to a stellar 4th. RR's has been bad after 3 years, but steadily improving towards??? RR was good in the 2nd year at WVU but not REALLY GOOD until the 5th year.

    As for RR's track record of success w/o White – well we do have Denard showing positive signs and we have his record with King and Dantzler — these aren't exactly NFL top 5 picks we're talking about. HIs success with different QBs is easily demonstrated…his success with different defensive coordinators is not.

    Again, Harbaugh's resume is quite impressive, but it's still pretty short. RR's was just as impressive (before the defense at Michigan thing). The longer your track record the more opportunities for missteps. The converse of that is: the shorter your record, the easier it is to look good.

    In a vacuum, or if you're, say, a middling ACC school, it'd be hard to say who the more attractive coaching hire would be. I'd argue the argument for Harbaugh isn't about football wins and losses; its about cultural fit at Michigan and impatience with a lack of success going back to the end of the 2006 season.

  29. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 7:57 PM

    Lankownia, I think that's a good point that a lot of people are glossing over.

    Harbaugh's record at Stanford was 4-8, 5-7, 8-5, and now 11-1.

    Which is almost identical to what Michigan has done under Rodriguez his first three years, which was 3-9, 5-7, and 7-5 (with a bowl game pending). I'm not necessarily expecting 11-1 next year with Rodriguez at the helm, but I think it's funny that people are touting Harbaugh's FOURTH year success while failing to acknowledge that his first three years were mediocre and practically identical with Rodriguez's first three.

  30. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 8:05 PM

    Anon wrote:
    Developing D talent is "something Rodriguez has completely failed to do so far"

    This is highly debatable. RR's had two recruiting classes of his own ('09 and '10). The 10 class looks pretty strong so far. The '09 class looks far worse than it did on paper but thats primarily due to Campbell, Lalota, Turner, Emilien being busts. Many high profile schools offered these kids. The degree to which these are busts because of RR or because they just are is impossible to know. Even with a bad class, you still have Roh, Gordon, and several other promising RS freshman.

    If you want to talk about the '08 class and say RR was still responsible for developing it, then you can blame him for Smith, Hill, Cissoko, and Fitzgerald BUT you also have to give him credit for Mike Martin and Kenny Demens. I'd say its unreasonable to blame him for, at the very least Cissoko. Thats about a 50/50 success rate with people who aren't even his recruits.

    Looking at the classes inherited from Lloyd you have a mixed bag. Success developing Brandon Graham, Troy Woolfolk, and Stevie Brown. Failure in developing Ezeh, Sagesse, and Banks.

    It legitimate to criticize RR's player development and recruiting offers for the '09 class. He gets a pass on '08 and '10 looks good so far. One bad/mediocre recruiting class, doesn't a coaching failure make.

  31. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    FWIW, ESPN just ranked 10 hot coaching candidate.

    1. went 4-8, 5-7, 8-5 and now 11-1
    2. went 5-7 and now 8-4
    3. went 4-8 and now 8-4
    4. went 8-4,5-6,4-8,9-4,8-5,8-5,and now 7-4

    The rest are from non-BCS schools.

    1 is Harbaugh, obviously. 2 is Dan Mullen 3 is Brady Hoke 4 is Randy Edsall.

    Obviously context matters, but generally, improvement in wins each year is seen as the sign of coaching excellence. RR has done that. If fired, where would he be on this list? I'd say he'd immediately be one of the hottest coaching commodities in the country.

  32. Comments: 21628
    Alex
    Dec 01, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    I'm with Magnus and Lankownia on this one.

    It amazes me how many fans love the fantasy of having "the return of the Michigan man" and how he will be "our savior". Harbaugh will come in and promise wins against MSU and OSU and we'll lose by 30+ to each of them next year. Then we'll have half the fan base saying "fire him!!".

    Do people ever realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence? We need to calm down and be patient until we know for sure that Rodriguez isn't going to succeed.

  33. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 10:04 PM

    Lankownia,

    Some of those recruits have panned out and turned into good defensive players, but given the sheer number of busts, I see a pattern. Regarding 2008, 4 major busts and 2 successes is not "50/50." On top of this, none of the "project" players on the D from that year have panned out either. The 2009 class is a complete wasteland of D talent – the only contributors on the defense were recruited as offensive players! 2010 class looks strong w/r/t playing time, because there was no one else on the team who could actually play – the jury is still out on whether these players could/would develop into a quality big 10 defense, but given the results of both the 08 and 09 classes, the odds are against the majority of them. If I'm wrong (which I hope I am), I'll gladly eat my words.

    Regarding your comments comparing Jim Harbaugh's record to Rich Rodriguez's and saying that after 3 years they are identical is missing the point. First, Jim Harbaugh started with a talent deficit that probably started him off worse than Minnesota. Now here's the kicker: Stanford has improved in all aspects of the game, every year, and their record has reflected that.

    Can that be said about Michigan? The offense has progressed (but is not the unstoppable juggernaut some make it out to be), but the other two parts of the team are a disaster area; the main point being that they have gotten progressively worse each year. If that trend continues, can Michigan be truly be successful with an offense that can blow the doors off other teams, but zero defense and special teams? Is there any actual evidence that those teams will improve? I see hope in players getting older, but the way things have played out over the last two years gives me no confidence that Rich is the guy to turn the team as a whole around.

  34. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 10:18 PM

    @ Anonymous 5:04 p.m.

    You're right. Stanford has improved each year. Guess how many senior starters they have? 6 on offense, 4 on defense.

    And it's funny that you say Stanford started off with less talent than Minnesota, because Michigan wasn't very talented to begin with, and last year we had 69 scholarship players (out of 85 possible). There are extenuating circumstances.

  35. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Thunder,

    I'm not sure I see your point about Stanford's number of senior starters. My point was that, as of year 3 under Harbaugh, Stanford improved on offense, defense, and special teams each year, giving a reasonable presumption that the team as a whole would continue to improve. The case for Michigan is that only the offense has continually improved, and the other to aspects of the team have regressed, giving a presumption that the offense may continue to improve, but there is no evidence that the defense or ST will.

    There are extenuating circumstances regarding lack of talent, but on Defense, I stand by my point that under Rich, defensive talent has largely not been developed. His most hyped recruits on defense have failed to pan out far, far more often than they have actually worked out. On top of that, when one actually does pan out (Demens), the staff failed to realize it until 2/3rds of the way through the season. In short, to me, the preponderance of the evidence shows that the defense will not improve, at least sustainably. Same argument for goes for special teams; it goes beyond having a kicker who can't hit a field goal, but coaching mistakes and poor talent recognition (for gods sake, stop putting Gallon in!!).

  36. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 10:37 PM

    @ Anonymous 5:28 p.m.

    Part of your point is that Stanford has improved each year. And you say that Michigan's offense is good, but not a "juggernaut." Well, Stanford now has 6 senior starters on offense; Michigan has 2 (Schilling, Dorrestein). Doesn't it make sense that the offense will continue to improve?

    And the lack of defensive depth is well documented. I'm as upset with Rodriguez over Dorsey, Turner, Cissoko, etc. as anyone. But the fact remains that most of the defense is young and, with a competent defensive coordinator/staff, should improve.

  37. Comments: 21628
    Dec 01, 2010 at 11:12 PM

    Anon,

    You rightly point out that context is important, but it goes both ways. Harbaugh had a challenge in overcoming Stanford's mediocre program tradition, but it's not nearly as hard of a sell as Minnesota. You're in California with one of the finest schools in the country – selling Stanford isn't that hard, especially since they have Elway and recent success under Willingham. Plus USC, UCLA, and Cal are all down. It's easier than turning around Northwestern, let alone Minnesota. What you have to recognize is that RR, too, had to overcome a number of his own, different, hurdles at Michigan. He was inheriting a rich tradition, but one that even the greatest RR-haters recognize had significantly atrophied. The expectation that RR should have just plugged in and kept the 7-9 win seasons coming just isn't realistic.

    Its hard for me to believe that people's arguments would have a different tone if we had moderate improvement on both sides of the ball rather than dramatic improvement on one and a backslide on the other. Overall, the team improved and that's the indisputable bottom line. The magnitude and details of where and how it happened is up for debate, but the team is better: 3 wins, 5 wins, 7or8 wins, …??

    RR's D hasn't improved here, but it did at WVU. Its not like he's incapable of presiding over a strong defense…

    The '08 Class had 8 defensive players. Witherspoon, Hill, Cissoko took themselves out and can't be blamed on RR, so that leaves 5. Smith transfers and Fitzgerald hasn't panned out. Floyd, Martin, Demens remain productive. I'd say RR has a 50% success rate here. 2 successes (Martin,Demens), 1 draw (Floyd), and 2 failures (Fitz, Smith). Keep in mind, Floyd and Demens still still have 2 years on Campus.

    The '09 Class had 11 defensive players. Busts: Witty, Lalota, Turner, Emilien. Success: Roh, Gordon, Gordon. TBD: Washington (swapped for Campbell), Jones, Bell, Hawthorne. Turners flop @ WVU indicates this isn't just a RR issue. We can debate Witty but he probably helped get Denard and didn't hurt the program beyond that. Lalota and Emilien are clear failures for Michigan, one way or the other…but thats it. Its too early to decide on the other guys since they've been on campus for 15 months. 50% success seems like a reasonable expectation, which isn't good, but it's also not total incapability.

    The 'can't develop defensive talent' argument is extremely weak. He hasn't developed ENOUGH talent…yet. Doesn't mean he won't.

    There WILL be defensive improvement next year. I have no doubt about this. I suspect when it does, RR still won't get credit because it won't be as good as the '06 and '97 defenses.

  38. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 01, 2010 at 11:31 PM

    @ Thunder

    I agreed that the offense would continue to get better, because we've seen evidence that it will. Each offensive player that has passed through the system has left it better than they started, and the unit as a whole has gotten better year to year.

    I see the opposite for the defense; I do not have faith in Rodriguez to improve this unit. He's already had two chances to hire a competent defensive staff, why would try number three be any different? As for the washout players (with the program, or already gone), either (a) they weren't that good to begin with, and were overrated by recruiting services, or (b) they were not developed to the point where they could compete for playing time against true freshmen who comprised the worst Michigan defense in history. I would love to hang my hat on any glimmer of hope for the D, but the evidence all points in the opposite direction.

  39. Comments: 21628
    Alex
    Dec 02, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    Anon @ 6:31 PM

    You seriously think that M's defense won't get better when it started 6 underclassmen and had 12 underclassmen in the two deep?

    Sure the defensive coaching carousel and the way they change schemes for every game has been a nightmare, but the fact of the matter is that nothing works when you have so much inexperience, particularly in your secondary. The job of the secondary is pretty straightforward but with 2 freshman, a walk-on sophmore and a position-hopping benchwarming senior (who has actually played ok) you do everything you can not to put pressure on them. A year of experience across the board will make a huge difference whether it's Rodriguez or anyone else.

  40. Comments: 21628
    Alex
    Dec 02, 2010 at 6:25 AM

    Anon @ 6:31 PM

    Also you speak of big improvements from Stanford, but I'm not completely buying their defense. They aren't as good as their numbers show…

    UCLA 103 in scoring offense
    WAKE 91
    ND 73
    Oregon 1 (Stanford gave up 52 pts and 650 yds)
    USC 40 (S gave up 35 pts)
    Wash St 109
    Wash 100
    Arizona 47
    ASU 32
    Cal 72
    Oregon St 80

    So yea they put up gaudy (I guess gaudy) defensive numbers against terrible competition. They got smoked by the only good offense they played. The only games that were at all respectable where the two Arizona games.

    And remember Stanford at this point has 2 underclassmen and zero freshman in their defense's starting lineup…

  41. Comments: 21628
    Michael S
    Dec 02, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    Look at Stanford's defense, and they were terrible until this year when Harbaugh hired his 4th (!) defensive coordinator in 4 years, an ex NFL guy who was a friend of his dad's.

  42. Comments: 21628
    Anonymous
    Dec 02, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    We suck. No matter how you rationalize it and justify it, we suck! We suck more than we ever have, in our 130 year history. He's the worst coach in Michigan history.

    If he's such a good recruiter, why do we suck so badly? Why is our defense and kicking so bad? Where are these wonderful players? Who cares how many stars some recuiting service gives a player; do we get any points or wins from that?

    And you are comparing the performance of the UM football team to Stanford? (And we come up short!) You don't see the difference between a coach winning at Stanford and at Michigan? Look how far we, and you, have fallen.

  43. Comments: 21628
    Dec 02, 2010 at 6:15 PM

    @ Anonymous 12:50 p.m.

    Nobody's arguing that we're a great team. The question is, Does replacing Coach Rodriguez at this point give us a better chance of winning?

    And the general consensus is, "well…we're not sure. But maybe." Is "maybe" a good enough reason to blow your program up and start fresh?

    I didn't realize we "suck so badly." Maybe you should tell that to Denard Robinson (who set all kinds of records), Junior Hemingway, the offensive line, etc. Our offense doesn't suck. If we can get the defense turned around, then we could probably be 10-2 next year.

    And yes, I'm comparing the performance of Michigan to Stanford. The team was bad in Year 1 of The Spread Offense. That was to be expected. Year 2 was an improvement. As was Year 3. The ONLY difference in Michigan and Stanford's records over the first three years of their current coaches was that Stanford was 4-8 in Year 1, and Michigan was 3-9. Whoop-de-doo.

    Oh, and by the way, Stanford is 11-1 against a pretty weak Pac-10 and non-conference schedule, and in a down year for USC. It's not like they're playing USC, UCLA, Washington, etc. in those schools' glory days. The only elite team they've played was Oregon, and Stanford was beaten handily in that game.

    So let's not get all crazy here.

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