Maybe it’s too early to speculate, but do you think RR has any realistic chance of being back next year? I don’t know what Mary Sue Coleman and David Brandon think, but the mediocrity of the product on the field, especially the defense, combined with the violations related to practice time, lead me to believe that he’s in trouble.
But I think the most troubling sign for RR is that he seems to have completely lost the support of the very, very large alumni fan base. As an alum (’91) I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but even with this 5-0 start, I saw a lot of the same problems as last year, ie with the defense and the complete inability to retain recruits. But this defense is ridiculous, with the inexperience, lack of pass rush, and stubborn, blind devotion to the 3-3-5.
Personally, I think he should be gone. Bu do you think that’ll happen? And do you think there’s any realistic scenario with the last month of the season where he ends up saving his job? I’d ask you about potential successors, but I sure we’ll get to deal with that on November 29th.
As for the first question, yes, I do see a realistic chance for Rich Rodriguez to retain his job into 2011. Michigan has a realistic shot at beating Illinois and Purdue, although both will likely be shootouts. I think Michigan has a chance to win any game they play, if only because of the big play abilities of the offense. That doesn’t mean that the Wolverines should be favored in all four remaining games, but anything can happen when you put up 400 or 500 yards on a weekly basis. I said before the season that I expected Michigan to have a 7-5 season, and I always thought that would be enough to save Rodriguez’s job. This is gut-check time, but I don’t think the final nail has been put in the coffin.
Rodriguez hasn’t done himself any favors this year. The abysmal play of the defense could have been avoided; I’ve never seen such an inexperienced defense, and yet this inexperienced defense has run so many fronts and coverages that they can’t possibly know what’s going on every play. Rodriguez has continued to suffer from attrition (Vlad Emilien, Austin White, Justin Turner, Anthony Lalota, etc.), and arguably the best player in their 2010 class – someone who would have immediately been the best athlete on defense – failed to qualify (Demar Dorsey). Even some of Rodriguez’s decisions on offense have been questionable, although it’s hard to argue with the production of that unit. Overall, Rodriguez hasn’t done a great job of coaching this team, but ten freshmen (redshirt and true freshmen) played defense for Michigan on Saturday. I have no idea how to feel about Michigan’s defense from that perspective. I mean, it’s partly Rodriguez’s fault that so many freshmen played and so many potential upperclassmen have departed. At the same time, I don’t know that those departed players would be much better than 18-year-olds.
The bottom line is that winning cures all. Rodriguez may have alienated a large fan base, but if he reels off wins in 3 out of these last 4 games or wins a bowl game, maybe the fan base starts to come around. I like to think that Michigan fans are classier and smarter than other teams’ fans, but the truth is that Wolverine fans would love Carrot Top if he could coach this team to 9 or 10 wins.
I have to admit that although I’ve been adamant that Rodriguez needed at least three seasons to establish himself in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s performance on Saturday really shook my confidence in his ability to be at Michigan for the long term. I used to cling to the notion that Rodriguez needed at least one season with an upperclassman quarterback before we could really determine whether he could be successful. Well, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will both be juniors in 2011. But guess what? Even with junior quarterbacks next season, this defense will be littered with oodles of sophomores. Waiting for experience seems to be a never ending cycle under Rodriguez, because any kid who doesn’t earn playing time by his sophomore year decides to book it for Rutgers or Temple or Colorado. I honestly have no clue whether Rodriguez will be here in 2011 or not, but my gut feeling says a resume highlighted by Big Ten wins over Minnesota, Indiana (twice), and 2008 Wisconsin – and that’s it – probably doesn’t make powerful people very happy.
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