Dear Magnus,Thanks for the e-mail, Matt.
I'm a long time reader, first time writer.
I'd like to know if a) you think Rodriguez will be fired and b) you think he should be fired. Please keep your response to 10,000 words or less.
These are difficult questions to answer, but I'm just a blogger, so my opinion really doesn't matter. So what the hell, let's go for it.
Do I think that Rodriguez will be fired? To put it bluntly, yes. I think the din of disapproval has grown too loud. People expected more when he was hired, and they expected it faster. To the vast majority, THIS IS MICHIGAN, and Lloyd Carr couldn't possibly have left the cupboard this bare. And to an extent, they're right. I have a hard time believing that a Lloyd Carr-coached team would have wandered through a season with as little of a clue about how to play defense as this 2010 squad has, and the mind boggling amount of attrition over the past few years probably could have been stemmed in some way. How? I don't know. But other programs have gone through coaching changes without losing 17 players in their first three recruiting classes (2008-2010) like Rodriguez has, and that's not counting the droves who were already in Ann Arbor and were subsequently driven off by Rodriguez's rules, conditioning, or attitude.
Athletic director David Brandon has been publicly supportive for the most part, and I think he's done a good job of standing by Rodriguez. I don't think Brandon had his mind made up when he was hired that Rodriguez would be gone after 2010, but he has probably reached that conclusion over the past few months. The 0-9 record against Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State might have been the nail in the coffin for Rodriguez, who lost all of those games handily in 2010. As I said in my post the other day, the 7-5 record this season was what I expected. But just because Michigan people expected that season doesn't mean that they'll accept it.
Do I think Rodriguez should be fired? The answer to that is a little murkier. With even a halfway decent defense, this team could have been 9-3 or 10-2. Wisconsin and Ohio State were tanks this year; Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan State were all fairly beatable, in my opinion. If David Brandon sat down Rodriguez and said, "Look, we're going to hire this particular guy to run a 4-3 (or 3-4 or 4-2-5 or even 3-3-5) defense, and you will leave him alone to do his own thing," then that might be the difference. But should an athletic director really have to do that? If Brandon has to tell Rodriguez what defense to run, then Brandon might as well trade in his suit and tie for a whistle and a headset. The defense was bound to be bad because of all the youth, but you can't tell me that it had to be this bad. Not 109th in total defense and 102nd in scoring defense.
As far as I'm concerned, it's Harbaugh or bust. I don't want Brady Hoke just because "He's a Michigan man." Les Miles' road to Ann Arbor has essentially been blocked. I don't want a first-time head coach like Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator from Auburn (who would likely face some of the same resistance Rodriguez has). Michigan shouldn't hire some guy just because that guy's name happens to not be Rich Rodriguez.
If Harbaugh balks, I think Michigan ought to keep Rodriguez and go after a proven defensive coordinator. I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of bringing in West Virginia's Jeff Casteel, who might be out of a job if WVU head coach Bill Stewart's rumored retirement comes to fruition. But whoever the new coordinator would be, he would have to be given some autonomy over the defense.
I know that's not an extremely definitive answer, but without knowing Harbaugh's intentions or the future of Casteel (among other moving parts), it's difficult to make a decision right this moment.