Wednesday, January 5, 2011


is gonna get rich, in the form of a $2.5 million buyout from the University of Michigan as the school officially cans the man it once trusted to transform the Big 10(+2) from a Power I to a Spread Option conference. Financially, I’m sure it’s no big deal – universities like Michigan write coaching buyouts into their potential expenditures simply because they can. Rich daddies send their kids to Michigan because that’s where they met their frat buddies, and they all expect to root for a 10-win team when visiting their kids during homecoming. And what daddy wants, daddy gets – because he still controls the trust fund.

Personally, I’m more of an anachronism. I grew up in rural Kansas. Back home, you can’t always get what you want (but if you try sometimes – you get what you need). Struggle is inevitable to the human condition. Never trust anyone who had life handed to them. This is why I don't trust 'Michigan Exceptionalism.'

What I’m getting at is my basic belief in giving a coach four years before making any decision regarding their compatibility with a program. This trial period only ends early in the event of player abuse, abject failure to demonstrate improvement, rules violations (still on the fence in UM’s case), and other blatant shortcomings. However, it takes four years to build a team. Four years to recruit and develop the guys playing in a system (plus redshirts). Four years to build a sample size worthy of evaluation.

Rodriguez didn’t get four years. He was evaluated based on three years. Here’s what his three years provided us:

2010 7-6
2009 5-7
2008 3-9

However, his defense allowed this during those years:

YPG FBS rank
451 110th
393 82nd
367 67th

Steady improvement in the win/loss category, a decline in defensive prowess. Offense was winning games, defense was losing them. Fans can bemoan all day long the lack of defensive effectiveness. The thing is, Michigan couldn’t possibly get much worse on defense, and the offense looks like it’s got a pretty high ceiling with the major skill players becoming upperclassmen in 2011. This portends another improvement in the win-loss total. Which means RichRod, over the course of four years, would have demonstrated steady improvement all four years on the job.

That he has improved by two games each year is an undeniable fact. Winning should be the most important thing to a fan except possibly team character (are we recruiting convicts or Catholics). The following whinnies have been supplied in response, and I answer them soundly:

He’s only improved because the baseline was so low. We should’ve fired him after he went 3-9 the first season.
Wrong. I know Lloyd Carr was responsible for many wins and grew up in the area, making his work infallible to some. Regardless, he left a pretty bare cupboard following the 8-4 highlighted by a loss to a Division II team. The team did not have talent in 2008. Additionally, those players available were recruited to play an entirely different system. Rodreguez was brought in to transform UM into West Virginia – a program promoting speed and quickness over bulk. He needs four years to adequately recruit players to play in his system. Four years.

While the wins improved, the defense didn’t.
I don’t understand the argument. You’re winning. Fire Greg Robinson, if you need to vilify someone. The cornerbacks will come – there were six freshmen in the two-deep backfield. The defense was positively loaded with freshmen this year. They’ll get more experienced. They’ll get better. The team will improve.

We don’t play that type of football in the Big 10(+2). The spread can’t succeed here.
It can. Shoelace still put up arcade game numbers. The defense failed. The offense did not fail – it scored a lot of points. Besides, the fans were the reason Rodriguez was brought in in the first place – it was you who wanted something new and fresh. The spread was exciting, and that’s what people wanted. Three years later it’s suddenly passé? More importantly, Michigan scored a lot of points in the Big 10(+2) even though the defense provided few 3-and-outs or takeaways. That’s a lot more impressive than an offense that scores a lot of points because the defense keeps giving them the ball back. I don’t blame my mom when my father does dumb things. Don’t blame a successful offense for the defense’s shortcomings.

He destroyed the integrity of the program with his rules violations.
To think that UM was shamed from a lofty perch because it practiced a couple extra hours a day during the summer completely ignores historical fact. Michigan hides football players that wouldn’t hack it in most classes in its Communications Department, and that didn’t start in 2007. Additionally, there’s a reason Rodriguez was absolved of any wrongdoing and the University never incurred any penalty beyond some basic reductions in summer practice time. And do you really want to argue that’s what UM should be embarrassed about? Chris Webber.

Several players transferred under his watch.
As they do with every coaching transition. I'm aware we supplied Arizona State and Arkansas their starting quarterbacks when Threet and Mallet left the program. You really think Robinson'll be back next year if we bring in a coach looking for a traditional dropback passer?

He never won a game of any significance; Ohio State owned Michigan.
Richrod beat the teams you’re supposed to beat this year. The big wins come later, in year four and beyond. Wait – didn’t he beat BCS team UConn in 2010 and own Notre Dame during his tenure? While not overly impressive, it’s a start.
Addressing the Buckeyes, few teams (specifically, one) beat this school that will finish top five in the nation. UM played them damn close in 2009. This is as much a symptom of OSU’s national dominance the past decade as it is UM’s failures. Ohio State has won seven straight in the series and nine of ten – Lloyd Carr was responsible for more losses in that streak than Rodriguez. Face it – the Vest has owned the Wolverines the past decade, regardless of who’s calling plays.

We’re an elite institution. We deserve better.
The Mountain West. Western Athletic Conference. South Florida. We’ve seen that traditional powers are no longer entitled to wins over the sisters of the poor. South Florida put the best team on the field in Florida this year. That’s right, they were better than FSU, Miami, and the Gators. Hell, UCF might’ve been better too. Remember that intro about not always getting what you want? Michigan may still desire the role of a privileged white male, but other schools are getting the opportunity to compete as well. Deal.
Previous comments about sustained improvement and the likelihood of continued success still apply.

But but but…!
But nothing. Go back to your blasé cul de sac in Livonia devoid of any culture or personality and tell people you’re from 'the D.' Then appreciate having a winning record.

I’m open to reasons for letting Rodriguez go that aren’t listed above. However, think very carefully about whether they supersede argument #1 – steady improvement demonstrated every year, with a substantial number of returning players to suggest continued future improvement.

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