I’m sure every Michigan fan this side of Ann Arbor is counting down to the moment Rich Rodriguez is fired. Given the lackluster performance of the once-proud Wolverines during his three years coaching at the Big House, who could blame them?
While the RichRod may be on the hottest of hot seats on college football at the moment, I could make an argument to Michigan AD Dave Brandon for and against firing him.
Rodriguez brought an entirely different style of football to Ann Arbor. Unlike his predecessor, Lloyd Carr, Rodriguez was not going to be a Bo disciple. And given how many underclassmen Michigan’s put on the field the past couple seasons, one has to question whether or not Carr left much behind other than an echo to the past.
Given the sea change RichRod brought with him, I think most fans were prepared for a little pain. But no one was prepared for a 3-9 season, followed by a 5-7 season. Progress was made this year, but no fan of the Maize-and-Blue considers a 7-5 season worthy of praise.
Nevertheless, here’s the argument in favor of giving RichRod one more season: If you look at Rodriguez’s previous two coaching jobs—most recently West Virginia and Glenville State before that—he made the greatest strides in his fourth and fifth seasons. In his first season at West Virginia, Rodriguez’s Mountaineers went 3-8. In his third season? 8-5. Fourth season? 8-4. Fifth season? 11-1. He replaced a 20-year head coach who once coached WV in a national championship game.
Also, in Rodriguez’s defense, Michigan has one of the youngest defenses in the conference. Yes, it’s rated near the bottom of all 114 FBS teams, but it’s rare for a program to be led by so many underclassmen. Conventional wisdom is they will be better next season and the season after that.
Offensively, Rodriguez landed a perennial Heisman favorite in Denard Robinson. No way that kind of player comes to Michigan without RichRod. Robinson is a difference maker who’s improvement from last season to this season should raise the hopes of Michigan fans.
My final argument in favor of Rodriguez involves the coach Michigan fans want replace him: Jim Harbaugh.
A favorite son of Michigan football, Harbaugh’s shown his ability to be a top level head coach at Stanford. The Harbaugh-led Cardinal is currently 10-1, ranked 6th in the BCS. Its only loss came to the no. 1 team in the nation, Oregon. It’s no wonder Michigan fans are dreaming of a homecoming for the former Wolverine QB.
Did you know Harbaugh’s currently in his fourth season at Stanford? What were the Cardinal’s records over his previous three season?
* 2007: 4-8
* 2008: 5-7
* 2009: 8-5
Look familiar? If not, here’s a reminder—Rich Rodriguez’s first three seasons at Michigan:
* 2008: 3-9
* 2009: 5-7
* 2010: 7-5 (with the possibility of a bowl game)
I don’t know what Dave Brandon’s criteria is for determining progress in the football program, but there’s enough evidence to argue RichRod’s turning point season was not 2010; that it will be 2011. Whether or not he’s proven to the program, the fans and the alumni that he’s got a complete grasp on the reins, however, is up to Dave Brandon.