|Rich Rodriguez was fired from Michigan on Wednesday|
After a Tuesday rife with rumors that head coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired, the real thing actually happened on Wednesday. According to athletic director David Brandon, who met with Rodriguez on Tuesday afternoon, the AD promised to “sleep on it” before making a final decision. When Brandon woke up, he obviously hadn’t changed his mind – Rodriguez and his assistants were relieved of their duties Wednesday morning.
Back on November 30th, I wrote a post in which I projected that Rodriguez would be fired. I have to say, going back to December 2007, I was not a fan of the Rich Rodriguez hiring. I rooted for Rodriguez to succeed because I love the University of Michigan and its football program, but he was not the best fit for Michigan. That’s obvious now. Michigan alumni weren’t exactly fair to Rodriguez when he was hired, but regardless, the two parties didn’t mesh well. Personally, the reason I didn’t like Rich Rodriguez was because of his attitude. By all accounts he was a hardworking individual and welcomed players into his home. He created a family atmosphere. He ran a pretty tight ship with regard to player behavior, unlike that coach down in Columbus or up the road in East Lansing.
But it irks me when coaches make faces on the sideline. It irks me when they complain about things in the media. As a head coach, I think one has to know how to roll with the punches. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching legendary stoics like Lloyd Carr roam the sidelines. It’s not that Carr didn’t get a little fiery once in awhile, but he didn’t grit his teeth or roll his eyes or put his head in his hands or sag his head or droop his shoulders.
None of this is to say that Rich Rodriguez’s system can’t or couldn’t work at Michigan. That’s a load of uneducated bulls***. The spread offense can work in the Big Ten. It works everywhere, including the vaunted SEC, the Pac-10, the Big 12, the Big East, etc. The 3-3-5 defense can work anywhere, too; there are fewer examples of it being used, but the proper coaching and deployment of personnel can make any defense work in any locale. I grow tired of fending off arguments that “The spread just can’t work in the Big Ten” from my co-workers or people at the gym. I just smile and nod, because really, Joe Schmoe at the gym doesn’t care about the specifics of the zone read option or the 3-3-5 stack. He reads the headlines, jumps to conclusions, and makes up his mind permanently. And he is a fool.
I am not begging for the reincarnation of Carr. I know he’s not coming back, and very few coaches are like him in the sense of being a curmudgeonly grandfather who happens to know a thing or two about football. But the discrepancy between Carr and Rodriguez was extremely apparent, and it was a culture shock for Michigan fans, even those who fully supported the Rodriguez hiring.
I appreciate the things Rich Rodriguez did at the University of Michigan. He was a good ambassador for the program at Mott Children’s Hospital. He embraced the Mealer family after their tragic car accident. His players did an excellent job in the classroom. He recruited quality student-athletes. One of his players, Denard Robinson, was thrust into Heisman contention in 2010. Rodriguez’s accomplishments were numerous.
Unfortunately, those accomplishments were mostly limited to developments off the field. On the field in three seasons, Rodriguez was 15-22. His defenses gave up 405 yards and 30+ points per game. He had the worst winning percentage of any coach in Michigan football history. His defense gave up more points than any Michigan defense in history. He was at the helm for Michigan’s most lopsided bowl loss, this year’s Gator Bowl defeat at the hands of Mississippi State, a mediocre SEC team.
I won’t speculate much about who Michigan’s next coach will be. The guys at The Wolverine (Michigan’s Rivals site) have been way, way off during this entire “search.” Brian at MGoBlog has stated several times before that Brady Hoke wouldn’t be considered for the coaching gig, but now Hoke is the seeming front-runner. However, a few days ago, that title belonged to Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh. Bloggers and message board posters have tossed out names like Les Miles (LSU), Chris Petersen (Boise State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Tommy Tuberville (Texas A&M), Jon Gruden (former Raiders and Buccaneers coach), Tony Dungy (former Buccaneers and Colts coach), and Mike Trgovac (Packers defensive line coach and former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator). And keep in mind that Rodriguez himself was a surprise choice back in December 2007, when everybody thought the new Michigan coach would be Ron English, Mike Debord, Kirk Ferentz, Greg Schiano, or Les Miles.
Nobody knows what will happen next except, perhaps, David Brandon. So I will save my reaction until something definitive happens.
But in the meantime, I would like to thank Rich Rodriguez for his efforts at the University of Michigan. As much as I disliked his attitude, I know that he poured his heart and soul into the program. I would have liked to have seen him succeed at Michigan, but unfortunately for the players, the university, the fans, and himself, it just wasn’t meant to be. I wish Rodriguez well wherever he ends up next.
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