>Wednesday Lunch: Michigan in the Wrong for RichRod’s Firing

Posted: January 12, 2011 in college football, ncaafb
Tags: , , , , , , ,

>By Nick Gallaudet

With the firing of Coach Rich Rodriguez last week, the University of Michigan football team announced that it was not satisfied being left out of the BCS picture. It was the assumption that Michigan jettisoned Rodriguez to make room for a big name coach like former Wolverine Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh, however, had different plans, and it seemed as though Michigan was third on Harbaugh’s list of possible coaching stops, behind Stanford and the 49ers. Spurned by Harbaugh, Michigan set its sights on LSU head football coach, Les Miles; however, that was not meant to be either. Miles announced he would not be leaving LSU, leaving Michigan without a head coach. Michigan is still one of the nation’s premier football programs, despite mediocre records the past four seasons, and it makes sense for them to want to be relevant on the national stage again, but they’re going about it the wrong way. The correct move would have been to retain Rodriguez as their coach, and by firing him, they have set their program back another three years.
Rodriguez is famous for his spread attack, and rode it to two BCS Bowl wins as head coach at West Virginia. Rodriguez’s offense was based on speed, speed, and more speed, relying on guys like quarterback Pat White and running backs Steve Slaton and Noel Devine to provide those bursts. When Rodriguez was hired following the 2007 season, faster teams in bowl games had embarrassed Michigan (as well as the entire Big Ten). It was clear that the Big Ten teams were slow, and could not keep up with the other teams, and Michigan was no different. Michigan had lost four out of its last five bowls (including three Rose Bowls) when head coach Lloyd Carr retired in 2007. Anybody who knew anything about Rich Rodriguez’s system knew the Michigan players that were already there could not handle his scheme and it would take a couple years for him to recruit his own personnel to fully realize the potential of his system. In Rodriguez’s previous stops at West Virginia and Glenville State, he was a combined 4-15-1 in his first season at each school. Rodriguez’s system is not one you can simply fit an average football team in and expect it to thrive, he needs his players, and Michigan never gave him that chance.
 
Denard-Robinson2010 was the first year we saw a glimpse of what Rodriguez could bring to a program. Sophomore Denard Robinson, one of Rodriguez’s recruits, lit up scoreboards and sprinted into the Heisman conversation as he racked up yards and touchdowns. In 2010, Robinson had seven of the eight highest total offense outputs in terms of yardage in the history of Michigan football on his way to setting a Big Ten record for total yardage. Sit with that for a second. Seven of the eight most productive games by a Michigan player ever happened in 2010. Robinson led Michigan to a 5-0 start and a top-20 ranking, before losing to then undefeated Michigan State. In fact, only one Michigan regular season loss in 2010 was to a team ranked worse than #17, and that was at Penn State. Rodriguez’s system works, and he is capable of leading a college powerhouse, but he wasn’t afforded the opportunity at Michigan. It seemed as though Rodriguez’s team was making a comeback to relevance, which is why it is so hard for me to understand why they fired him. Michigan is constantly looking for a “Michigan Man,” and I think that obsession with finding a hometown hero really cost them. By dumping Rodriguez in a haphazard effort to get Jim Harbaugh, and subsequently Les Miles, they left their players out to dry. When asked whether he would return to play next year if Rodriguez was fired, Robinson said, “No response,” and when asked about Rodriguez, he said, “That’s my coach, that’s who recruited me. That’s it.”
 
Clearly, Rodriguez’s players cared for the man. He stumbled out of the gate, posting a 3-9 record his first year in Ann Arbor, but that was to be expected. By not giving him the time to truly develop his own team with his own players, he wasn’t given a fair chance. Firing Rodriguez was a horrible move no matter how you dissect it, the players lost a trusted coach, Rodriguez was cheated out of shot at creating a dynasty, and the fans are left with nothing. All of this for what? To make a run at a coach you never really had a shot at anyway? Michigan ended up having to settle for former San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke and his much more pro style offense. Hoke’s offense relies on a pocket passer skills, something Robinson is not known for, and as a result, it’s going to take another couple recruiting classes to put together the correct personnel to run his system. Hoke is the “Michigan Man” they’ve been looking for, having coached there as the head of the defensive line, but I hope the Michigan shot callers are ready for a couple more mediocre seasons, because after all, it’s their fault.

Stats and quotes from Wikipedia.

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