Gone Baby Gone

By Johnny Ginter on January 5, 2011 at 3:29p

Despite my strong inclination to keep the Sugar Bowl celebration train rolling, I think we at Eleven Warriors would be remiss if we didn't make mention of the firing of the Dear Leader Richard A. Rodriguez, the once head coach of our most hated rival, the Michigan Wolverines. I, like many of you, have taken great joy in the struggles that Michigan has faced in the past three seasons, but in this post I want to take a more serious look at what this firing means for Michigan as a whole, and where that program needs to head from here.

Now, normally this is where I would do a 180 and do an extended riff on Michigan football actually being a front for laundering money from an extensive monkey knife fighting league or something, but in all seriousness I hate it when Michigan sucks as badly as they have for the past several years. Part of what makes Ohio State fun to root for is that we have this eternal rival that exists for us to transfer all of our internalized Midwestern rage on to once a year, culminating in a maelstrom of hatred that is cathartic as it is fun. When that rival is bad, consistently bad, it diminishes the rivalry and makes it that much less enjoyable to be a part of.

So I'm not sad to see Rich Rodriguez go. He has made a ton of mistakes in terms of hiring, scheme, and personnel that have been his own undoing. But what I want to concentrate on here is not the coach; I am far more interested in the reaction of the Michigan AD, Dave Brandon, the players, and the fans. Let's start with the fans.

To begin with, I think the Rodriguez hire was a generally positive one from the perspective of Michigan fans, if not overwhelmingly so. Rodriguez had a great run at West Virginia, and I spoke to several Michigan fans who were very confident that his offenses would be very successful in the Big Ten. Even Brian at MGoBlog (though he now says he was ambivalent about it), called the hiring of Rodriguez "everything a Michigan fan could want in a hire" and "...manna from heaven" in the wake of the long debacle that was the search for a coach after Lloyd Carr left, and in fact Brian has probably been his biggest defender during his tenure.

Some people were concerned that he would be a bad fit for Michigan; in other words, he was not the "Michigan Man" that the program apparently requires. It's possible that those people might feel emboldened after today, but this is a mistake. Right now Wolverine fans need to realize two things: first, that Rodriguez absolutely deserved to be fired. Ask yourself: how much better would Michigan have been under his tenure in 2011? The defense would (and will) still be very bad. Defenses have figured out how to contain Denard for the most part. What's the ceiling on this team? 8-4? Maybe? That should never be the goal in year 4 of a head coach at Michigan.

The second thing fans need to understand is that after Rodriguez, zero ties to the University of Michigan should be required of whoever takes his place.

Dave Brandon knows this. In his press conference he more or less outright dismissed the idea of Jim Harbaugh coming back to Michigan, and frankly he is the only "Michigan Man" out there right now who should even be considered. Brady Hoke, while not a bad football coach by any means, is not the man for the job and likely wouldn't even be considered had he not coached at Michigan in the past. Les Miles, despite all the hell bloggers like me love to give him, is also a fairly good coach, but right now Michigan needs a steady, proven winner who can stabilize the program without the eccentricities that Miles comes with.

If I'm Dave Brandon I put out an ABP for Gary Patterson immediately, and hound him until he gets a restraining order. As an OSU fan Patterson at U of M would scare the hell out of me, but the man is an excellent, consistent coach, and would fit in perfectly with the culture in Ann Arbor. With TCU moving to the Big East I see Patterson to Michigan as fairly unlikely at this point, but that is the kind of coach that they need right now. Forget finding a "defensive coach" (Bud Foster himself could come in and that defense wouldn't be any good next year) or a "Michigan Man," find an established winner who can steady a program that is clearly in flux.

The reaction of the players will probably be the most interesting thing in all of this. None of them have really seemed to express a huge amount of affection for their coach (although Twitter could easily be proving me wrong as I type this), and many of them just seem to be sick of losing. The collapse in their bowl game was surprising even to me, and speaks volumes about where that team is mentally. There will be a lot of speculation about whether Denard and others will transfer, but they should take the same advice Carr gave to Ryan Mallett: wait it out. Not just to see the scheme, but to see if the new coach is someone who can reinvigorate that program.

Again, in all honesty I hope this whole process is successful for Michigan. I'm sure some of you will disagree with me on this, but I want the Wolverines to be good. For the sake of the rivalry, for the sake of the Big Ten, and for my basic general enjoyment of college football.

So, to Dave Brandon, Michigan fans, the players, and administration: find someone good. Stop tripping over your own hangups, reservations, or personal rooting interests in past coaches. The Rich Rodriguez era is finished. Time to start over, and don't screw up this time.

Again, sorry for the break in the celebrating; rest assured that in the coming days (and weeks... and months) that we will be talking nonstop about finally ripping that 300 pound gorilla off our backs. Stay tuned for as much post bowl coverage as you can handle.


Comments Show All Comments

slippy's picture

Totally agree.  The end of November has not been something to look forward to.  Having said that, I think their offense would have been very good next year.  Defense, who knows?  Sure a lot return, but a lot of terrible.  Sometimes the experience is enough for the freshmen to take a jump, sometimes they're just bad.


Regardless of who they get there is likely to be some turnover and another year minimum rebuilding. 


Unless they somehow hire Gus Malzahn.  In which case I'll be hiding in the corner.

Johnny Ginter's picture

Gus is probably a genius, but 5 years ago he was coaching high school. i personally feel that michigan needs someone who can go into ann arbor and deal with the blue hairs and boosters and all that other BS that RR was terrible with

omahabeef1337's picture

We're getting more Bowl Coverage, right? I loved the coverage last year and am hungry for more. MORE I TELL YOU!!!

Johnny Ginter's picture

oh yeah, definitely. this was just too big not to talk about. we'll get right back to the partying in a bit, no worries

Mark's picture

I was hoping the big delay on the announcement was going to be a lifetime contract rather than the actual firing.

Yeah, I want this to be a rivalry again.  i want it to be biggest story of that weekend as heated powerhouse rivals square off.  But I still have issues hoping for anything good to happen for UM.  I still find myself cheering for whoever they are playing against.

NW Buckeye's picture

You seem right on target here.  UM needs a strong coach to revive the rivalry.  The only trouble with picking a "non" Michigan coach is that whoever it may be will likely add more fuel to the "move the game" mentality that Delany has hanging out there (remember, he only committed to the last game of the season for 2 years).  Given that we are in separate divisions the writing is on the wall about that anyway (as much as I hate to say that).  And, it would be nice to be able to cheer for UM in the bowls again.  RR was such a unsavory individual that I could not wish him success in anything.  But, I always pulled for UM and the Big 10 in the bowls before he arrived. 

Selecting a truly good coach may be much harder than you have described.  Consider this: The Big 10 got clocked so drastically in the bowls because of UM and MSU.  Penn State was on a winning TD drive when McIdiot threw the pic 6 at the end of the game.  NW put up a good fight without their starting Q (the 2Q subbing even gave away their plays) and #1 running back.  Wisky should have won with better coaching, but they were in position to win anyway.  However, the UM and MSU games were, at best, laughable.  You can blame it on coaching all you want, but you may want to look a little deeper.  UM has always relied on OH talent, but a good number of athletes have come from MI.  And MSU has always relied heavily on MI prospects.  The bottom line here may really be that the cupboards in MI are dry due to the economy - that state has taken one hell of a hit. 

Big name coaches like Patterson, Peterson, Miles, etc. may really analyze the situation and think it too much of a risk to jump into.  After all, they just fired a coach only 3 years into a 5 year contract.  The pressure to win is there, and given demands of the UM football system, fans, alums, etc.  it will take success early to keep from getting fired as well. 

The last head coaching search did not turn out so well for them.  RR was not their first choice.  In fact, he was probably the only prospect who was willing to tackle the job (pun intended, we all know he could not teach tackling to his players!). 

So, the search for a new head man may be not as easy as all the MI folks think.  For the most part, the names that have been bandied around are in comfortable situations right now, and many of them may consider the UM move a lateral move instead of a step up the career ladder.  

Don't be surprised if the search eventually lands a head scratcher - like the way Oregon ended up with Kelly.  There are a lot of gems at the lower levels who learn how to win with inferior talent, imagine what they might be able to accomplish at a higher level.  Kelly is proof of that, and there just might be a couple of Kelly-like HC's out there.  You might say that UM just tried that experiment, but RR came from an FBS school, really had no class to begin with, and should never have been hired - he was no gem. 

JBuckeye's picture

I agree with almost everything you said. However I feel that Rodriguez wasn't given his full five years because he rubbed so many people the wrong way from the get go.  If they can pull in someone senator like they may not win much the next two or three years but they will definitely go a long way towards rebuilding the reputation of Michigan. 

It seems to me like Rodriguez almost wanted to come in and instill "swagger" which anyone who actually knows a thing or two about midwestern boys is that you have to instill "swagger" we just get it done.

btalbert25's picture

Michigan recruited nationally better than any other Big 10 school, and the state of Michigan wasn't ever a recruiting goldmine.  I am not so sure the economy is what has dragged Michigan down so much.  Truthfully, despite getting pounded in the bowl Michigan State had one if it's best teams the last 15 years this season.  Michigan has some issues in the program, but seriously, they have always been able to pull a lot of kids from Ohio, Florida, and really all over the place. 

If they get a legit coach, it won't take them that long to be back on track.  Things may be rough for a year or so, but they can turn it around pretty quick with the right guy.  I don't know who that is. 

luckynewman13's picture

I'm going to have to disagree with you on Hoke, I think he is their best option right now. I believe Lloyd Carr originally wanted Hoke over Rodriguez in the first place because he is a "Michigan Man" and he lead Ball State to 12 wins...BALL STATE! Michigan decided to go with RichRod and went on to peak at 7 wins this season. All Hoke has done is take SDSU to 9 a win season including a bowl win.

He may not "move the meter" like Patterson would, but he has obvious passion for Michigan (it's in his SDSU contract that he would bolt for Michigan immediately if the job were offered) and when Tressel was hired, how much did he "move the meter"? I think they should give him a shot. But that's just me.

NW Buckeye's picture

Yes, Hoke is probably up there, and does fit the "Michigan Man" description.  He definitely understands the rivalry and may be a good choice.  It is up to Michigan, however, and their last go around at this did not end up so well.  Should they give him a shot? Probably. Just won't be the flashy hire that the media is clamoring for. 

Also, UM could screw it all up by pursuing others first.  Michigan man or not, it would suck to be the also ran candidate who got the job because the top choices turned it down. 

M Man's picture

I don't speak for anybody but me; and I don't post here to troll, but rather because I like the information and the different points of view.

I'm pretty sure that I'm representative of a minority of Wolverines.

My feeling today is one of heartsickness.  Coach Rodriguez was treated unfairly in Ann Arbor.  The campaign against him by Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press and Sports Illustrated was despicable.  The NCAA investigation and the Notice of Allegations would have been a complete joke, if it hadn't been for the fact that they served at least one good purpose which was to place light-years of distance between what the Free Press alleged, and what a real investigation showed.

It wasn't just Stretchgate; it was the death by a thousand cuts from the newspaper.  The campaign against Rodriguez bordered on the insane.

The notion that Rich Rodriguez was condemned because he wasn't "a Michigan Man," and yet we should now hire Chris Peterson is also plainly insane.  Not because I have any disregard for Peterson, but because whatever there is to recommend Peterson (or Patterson, or whomever) to us is no different, on paper, from what recommended Rich Rodriguez to us at the end of 2007.

Put another way, the inherent unfairness and external difficulty imposed on Rich Rodriguez at Michigan -- and there was a ton of it -- radicalized me to support him.  So today's a tremendously sad, bitter day to me.

The evidence that Rich Rodriguez had questionable character flaws, or that he was a person about whom there was some quiet evidence of disrepute, is all nonexistent.  Rich Rodriguez behaved with class and character.  The irony of ironies is that Rodriguez was about 1000% more open, and less guarded, with the press than was Bo or Lloyd Carr.  Bo was rigidly controlling with the press.  I think Carr actually despises the press.  Gary Moeller just liked everybody.  Rodriguez did nothing to deserve the hateful press treatment that he got.

I thought of 11W when Michigan came on to the field for the Gator Bowl -- I half expected the guys to be sporting "Rich Rod" eye-black, headbands, wrist bands, etc.  Just like the last Earle Bruce game.  That is the way most of them feel.

btw -- Sincere congratulations on the Sugar Bowl, and holding up the honor of the B1G unlike some of us.  It was one of the 3 or 4 best games of the year, alongside Boise St. - Nevada, OSU - Iowa, and the Michigan - Illinois Dual Track Meet.

buckeyedude's picture

"Gary Moeller just liked everybody." Especially after a couple of beers. I kid.

I think many of the players, fans and alumni were freaked out by the "You Raise Me Up" debacle. I think it was a bad move on his part.

Still, have to admit, I feel just a little bit sorry for him, and then I think about the $2.5 million parting gift.



M Man's picture

Moeller's your guy.  I kid.  I last talked to Gary in August; he likes very much to maintain his OSU football alumni connections and goes to C-bus at least a couple of times a year.  There's been no nicer man in our football program than Gary Moeller.  He has stayed very close to our program, and I think more than any other Schembechler alumnus, Moeller treated Rich Rodriguez warmly.

NW Buckeye's picture

It is nice to hear your viewpoints on this.  While I will agree with you that RR was crucified in the press, I don't know that it was anything out of the ordinary for someone with his on the field record.  He readily placed blame, as did some of his supporters, that the cupboard was bare when he arrive.  Most of us recognize that you could easily have put together a starting line up out of the players who left.  RR came in determined to implement his offense instead of working with what was in house to slowly change over.  You may not think that is much of a difference, but to many it is. 

As for what comes next, I do hope you get a quality guy - Michigan Man or not.  Heck, Bo really came from the outside.  But he understood Michigan football.  I really don't think RR ever really understood UM or Big 10 football.  

M Man's picture

There were two very big departures; Ryan Mallett and Justin Boren.  Very much lesser departures were guys you probably never heard of; WR Toney Clemons went to Colorado.  DB Johnny Sears went to Eastern Michigan.

Mallett:  By all accounts, most importantly including Mallett himself, RR lobbied very heavily to get Ryan to stay.  Carr wanted Mallett to stay with RR and Michigan.  There were three things that compelled the transfer.  1. QB coach Scott Loeffler was gone; he was not going to stay to work in a RR-spread.  2.  Mallett was from Texarkana to begin with.  3.  Mallett had few if any friends on Michigan's team.  He was a notorious... well, never mind.

Boren:  I've written elsewhere on this site about the Borens, and Justin's transfer.  It had NOTHING to do with RR, other than that he didn't need a FB, and so didn't offer Zach, which drove Pa and Ma Boren out of their Pick-town minds.

Clemons:  Upon leaving, Clemons was very generous to coaches Carr and Rodriguez.  He just wanted to play WR in a pure pro-set offense.

Sears:  Went with his old position coach, Ron English, down Washtenaw Ave., to Eastern Michigan.

(There were a few scattered others, including the infamous Kurt Wermers, who quit the team and muttered some uncomfortable things about Coach Rodriguez to a prying Free Press reporter, which made news, until it was discovered that Wermers had gotten himself academically ineligible.)

It is a myth, that RR drove any players away.  It is a myth, that RR couldn't keep any players, because of his insistence on any particular scheme. 

yrro's picture

I think that what killed RR was two major factors: 

A) His offense is heavily quarterback dependent. That's what makes it so successful with the right guy in place - you set things up to allow Denard to show just how much faster he is than everyone else. But when it's Nick Sheridan running things, you can't just have him hand it off and be boring and occasionally make a clutch throw, you have him looking ridiculous trying to run the option. I'm really sort of surprised that he didn't just pick the a random receiver or running back and have them switch positions. It also means that when you have 180 lb freshmen/sophomores trying to run it you are going to exacerbate mistakes and injuries. Hell, it took Pryor three years to be good enough to even sometimes put the whole offense on his back. In three years at Michigan, RR has never established an alternative ground game even as good as what Boom Herron has provided here to take heat off of their young quarterbacks.

B) He doesn't coach defense, and apparently doesn't recognize defensive coaching talent. He apparently got lucky with his defensive coordinators at WV, who did a good enough job that with their offense clicking they could be dangerous, but both his defensive hirings at Michigan and his defensive recruiting, he has really screwed up. Even as bare as the cupboard was on defense at UM, you will never convince me that Heacock or Fickell could not have produced a top 3 in the Big Ten defense his first year, and at least middle of the pack the next two (never mind that I also think they never would have had so many recruits fail to pan out in so short of time, but that's also a little luck and impossible to prove either way).

If he made a good hire as D-coordinator his first year, they go 6-6 two years in a row and probably more like 9-3 or 8-4 this year. Which still looks bad compared to Carr (I overall think Carr was a better coach than RR, still), but gives you guys some hope for next year.

But seriously, anyone who hires Greg Robinson and Scott Shafer probably deserves his pink slip. I'm pretty sure RR will eventually be successful elsewhere, though, even if it's just as an offensive coordinator again.

Kurt's picture

So in reading a little of Brandon's criteria for a new coach, it seems he'd like to get someone in who can work with the talent on-hand.  So I assume that means he would like a spread-oriented coach.  I think that's the best move too.  Who's to say Hoke isn't the next Greg Schiano...same for Harbaugh.  Their stock is too high for having done a lot over a very short amount of time.  Also their respective offenses don't fit.

So...I wonder about Troy Calhoun.  I think it was Chris or Alex (sorry guys) that mentioned him for Minny.  He comes from a pro-style background, but has fully adopted the triple-option and some spread zone-read offense at Air Force.

Shawn Watson, the OC at Nebraska.  No previous HC experience, but he's rubbed shoulders long enough with Pelini that maybe he can bring some defensive coaching along.

Larry Fedora of Southern Miss?  Todd Graham of Tulsa?  The offensive coordinator at New Hampshire or Villanova?  I'm not kidding about that, look at Chip Kelly (big difference is Kelly arrived with an established DC Alioti).

Bucksfan's picture

I read a stat this week that In the last 15 years, which includes Lloyd Carr's national championship team, Michigan has fielded a top-10 defense only 1 time.  One.  Ohio State is top-10 every year.  So, not even Lloyd's teams could be considered defensive teams.  He still averaged 9 wins a year.

Michigan's cupboard may have been bare.  That doesn't mean you can't make it better.  Michigan's defense ultimately got worse.  They had no backups to step in for their injured players and it was his 3rd year.  If you're going to beat Michigan State, and at least make it competitive with OSU, you need a 2-deep that rivals OSU's.

Rodriguez couldn't get that done, and he deserves to be fired for his defense's performance in year 3.

btalbert25's picture

After seeing the post game interview of the Under Armor game, i have a feeling that Mariucci may mull coming back to coaching.  I have to wonder if he could end up at Michigan.  When the question was asked, do this make you want to come back to the game, he kind of grinned.  I have no idea what he's thinking or if Michigan would even be interested, but I do know for a while there was speculation Izzo was trying to talk him into the MSU job a few years back.  I wouldn't be suprised to hear his name pop up for some of these open spots in the NFL or possibly a monster program like Michigan.

Kurt's picture

Oh man, first reaction is not an NFL re-tread with washed up schemes that don't currently work in college ball nor will they likely in the near or distant future.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I'd probably be more enthused - if I were a Michigan fan - by the hiring of "retread" Mariucci than the guys you mentioned. Nebraska OC? They fell apart at the end of the year. You can blame that on Pelini's temper losing the team, but their offense still went freefall.

Without doing any homework, etc., I like Hoke on first thought.  

Kurt's picture

Yea, Nebraska getting 6 points against A&M was pathetic, but the end of season struggle also had a lot to do with Martinez's injury and their lack of depth at qb.  In the B12 title game they had Burkhead taking a lot of the snaps and the mere fact that they nearly won that game should say at least something positive about Watson's abilities. 

Our very own JHC has said great things about Graham at Tulsa.  Of course that, in a conversation about the future HC at Michigan can either be funny, or interesting...

I'll admit, I'm mainly saying crazy shit, trying to think of somehting beyond what some journalist thinks the usual suspects are...

M Man's picture

Because the Michigan football NCAA scandal will probably now fade into a distant memory with RR gone, it is worth mentioning to 11W one last thing about the handling of Michigan's investigation and response:  Michigan's lead counsel was Gene Marsh of the Lightfoot firm in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was an inspired choice of counsel, picked by Bill Martin, the same guy who hired Rodriguez.  Gene Marsh is one of the best in the business.  Because I am also in the litigation business, I wrote to Gene to congratulate him on his brilliant craftsmanship of the formal Response for the University.  He graciously wrote back to me, saying, essentially, that I should be very proud of my University.

Gene Marsh is a Buckeye.

If someday it should happen that OSU finds itself in a similar predicament, I'd expect Gene Smith to retain Gene Marsh and the Lightfoot firm.

Matt's picture

What type of litigation do you practice?

M Man's picture

Health care, products, insurance.

Kurt's picture

M Man, who do you think Brandon will go after?  What are your thoughts?

M Man's picture

Honestly, I have no idea.  Here's the list:


1. Harbaugh.

2. Nobody.

3. Anybody.

Irricoir's picture

1. Not likely

2. Not a chance

3. Somebody is more likely than anybody. Somebody has been widely speculated to be in the running for most head coaching jobs this year, while Anybody has had very poor publicity and lacks significant head coaching experience.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

cal3713's picture

I haven't heard anyone say this, but what about Fitzgerald from Northwestern?  He's defensive minded, but is also happy to run a spread O, so he can make use of the current crop of players, but will clearly recruit for defense as well.  Northwestern has gotten better and better each year and has been capable of knocking off anyone on any given Saturday.

jfunk's picture

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be


Farewell, Rich Rod. Enjoy Pittsburgh.

Scotch: It may be too early to drink it, yes; but people it is never to early to think about it.

Johnny Ginter's picture

i have this feeling that brandon is going to make some half assed calls to patterson, harbaugh, petersen, etc and then in like a week just end up hiring hoke anyway.