Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rich Rodriguez, ex-Wolverine

Rich Rodriguez was fired from Michigan on Wednesday

After a Tuesday rife with rumors that head coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired, the real thing actually happened on Wednesday.  According to athletic director David Brandon, who met with Rodriguez on Tuesday afternoon, the AD promised to "sleep on it" before making a final decision.  When Brandon woke up, he obviously hadn't changed his mind - Rodriguez and his assistants were relieved of their duties Wednesday morning.

Back on November 30th, I wrote a post in which I projected that Rodriguez would be fired.  I have to say, going back to December 2007, I was not a fan of the Rich Rodriguez hiring.  I rooted for Rodriguez to succeed because I love the University of Michigan and its football program, but he was not the best fit for Michigan.  That's obvious now.  Michigan alumni weren't exactly fair to Rodriguez when he was hired, but regardless, the two parties didn't mesh well.  Personally, the reason I didn't like Rich Rodriguez was because of his attitude.  By all accounts he was a hardworking individual and welcomed players into his home.  He created a family atmosphere.  He ran a pretty tight ship with regard to player behavior, unlike that coach down in Columbus or up the road in East Lansing.

But it irks me when coaches make faces on the sideline.  It irks me when they complain about things in the media.  As a head coach, I think one has to know how to roll with the punches.  Maybe it's because I grew up watching legendary stoics like Lloyd Carr roam the sidelines.  It's not that Carr didn't get a little fiery once in awhile, but he didn't grit his teeth or roll his eyes or put his head in his hands or sag his head or droop his shoulders. 

None of this is to say that Rich Rodriguez's system can't or couldn't work at Michigan.  That's a load of uneducated bulls***.  The spread offense can work in the Big Ten.  It works everywhere, including the vaunted SEC, the Pac-10, the Big 12, the Big East, etc.  The 3-3-5 defense can work anywhere, too; there are fewer examples of it being used, but the proper coaching and deployment of personnel can make any defense work in any locale.  I grow tired of fending off arguments that "The spread just can't work in the Big Ten" from my co-workers or people at the gym.  I just smile and nod, because really, Joe Schmoe at the gym doesn't care about the specifics of the zone read option or the 3-3-5 stack.  He reads the headlines, jumps to conclusions, and makes up his mind permanently.  And he is a fool.

I am not begging for the reincarnation of Carr.  I know he's not coming back, and very few coaches are like him in the sense of being a curmudgeonly grandfather who happens to know a thing or two about football.  But the discrepancy between Carr and Rodriguez was extremely apparent, and it was a culture shock for Michigan fans, even those who fully supported the Rodriguez hiring.

I appreciate the things Rich Rodriguez did at the University of Michigan.  He was a good ambassador for the program at Mott Children's Hospital.  He embraced the Mealer family after their tragic car accident.  His players did an excellent job in the classroom.  He recruited quality student-athletes.  One of his players, Denard Robinson, was thrust into Heisman contention in 2010.  Rodriguez's accomplishments were numerous.

Unfortunately, those accomplishments were mostly limited to developments off the field.  On the field in three seasons, Rodriguez was 15-22.  His defenses gave up 405 yards and 30+ points per game.  He had the worst winning percentage of any coach in Michigan football history.  His defense gave up more points than any Michigan defense in history.  He was at the helm for Michigan's most lopsided bowl loss, this year's Gator Bowl defeat at the hands of Mississippi State, a mediocre SEC team.

I won't speculate much about who Michigan's next coach will be.  The guys at The Wolverine (Michigan's Rivals site) have been way, way off during this entire "search."  Brian at MGoBlog has stated several times before that Brady Hoke wouldn't be considered for the coaching gig, but now Hoke is the seeming front-runner.  However, a few days ago, that title belonged to Stanford's Jim Harbaugh.  Bloggers and message board posters have tossed out names like Les Miles (LSU), Chris Petersen (Boise State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Tommy Tuberville (Texas A&M), Jon Gruden (former Raiders and Buccaneers coach), Tony Dungy (former Buccaneers and Colts coach), and Mike Trgovac (Packers defensive line coach and former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator).  And keep in mind that Rodriguez himself was a surprise choice back in December 2007, when everybody thought the new Michigan coach would be Ron English, Mike Debord, Kirk Ferentz, Greg Schiano, or Les Miles. 

Nobody knows what will happen next except, perhaps, David Brandon.  So I will save my reaction until something definitive happens.

But in the meantime, I would like to thank Rich Rodriguez for his efforts at the University of Michigan.  As much as I disliked his attitude, I know that he poured his heart and soul into the program.  I would have liked to have seen him succeed at Michigan, but unfortunately for the players, the university, the fans, and himself, it just wasn't meant to be.  I wish Rodriguez well wherever he ends up next.

Go Blue!

43 comments:

  1. Nicely put. I agree with everything you said and I thought Rodriguez was a quality guy but you're so right in how he displayed his attitude.

    In regards to this whole situation, would you say that this was a mistake on Brandon's part? This is a unique situation bc Universities never have a coaching search less than a month before signing day. Will we look back in 3 years from now and scoff at this years recruiting class?

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  2. @ Alex 4:43 p.m.

    Thanks.

    My gut feeling is that the timing of this coaching hire is going to hurt this recruiting class. But at this point, it's somewhat tough to tell. Brady Hoke is obviously not a catchy name, and I think he would have a tough time keeping some recruits and getting high-profile recruits. But if someone with a little more name recognition and credibility were hired (Harbaugh, Gruden, etc. even though they're unlikely), then I think our recruiting class would turn out just fine.

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  3. Rodriguez didn't win enough to overcome the program's resistance to change. The NCAA investigation further cut into patience. I think he could have won enough in 2011, but there was so much uncertainty, even for RR-optimists, that a decision had to be made.

    Either Brandon had to hitch himself onto RR and give him his full support or it was time to move on. Either direction is/was justifiable, IMO. What I'll never understand is why that direction wasn't chosen in November or December.

    RR got a bum deal at Michigan but he was well compensated and will land on his feet. Most people recognize he's a good, potentially great head coach. It was just a combination of bad fit, bad luck, and some naive decision-making that led to his failure at Michigan. I'd expect him to be head coach at a BCS school within the next two years (if not weeks). RR did his best and can't be blamed for being himself. For now he's a failure, but he'll have a chance to redeem his legacy. All the best to him.

    If I had to make a guess on who makes a BCS bowl first (RR or Michigan), I'd pick RR. I hope I'm proven wrong quickly.

    Between Carr, Martin, and Brandon, the Athletic Department has failed to come up with a coherent vision for how to transition from Carr to his replacement. All three men are to blame for it. All three men made invalid assumptions about how events would transpire. They have failed the University, though Brandon still has a chance to make it right.

    Since the day Bo Schembehler died, its not been much fun to be a Michigan football fan. Regardless, most of us are invested for life.

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  4. I'm going to say this only because I haven't heard anybody else say it, RichRod failed because Bo never got a chance to give him an endorsement. Our first head coach in the port Bo era at Michigan, of course he was going to fail. Had Bo been alive and told the fan base and alumni to shut the hell up and let the man coach, I think things would have been different.

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  5. @ Anonymous 6:08 p.m.

    You're obviously entitled to your opinion, but I don't know if I believe that. Bo's endorsement might not have been worthy any extra wins. And the bottom line is that 15-22 over three season wasn't going to get it done. It might have earned him an extra year, I guess, but it wouldn't have made a difference (or much of a difference) in the win-loss record.

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  6. It would have taken pressure off of him from the start. More wins? I dont know either, but next years team with Rich Rod was going to win more than 7 games and surely could have saved his job. I just think anybody was doomed from the get go that didn't 1.) play under bo or 2.) coach under Bo.

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  7. I was one of those people who wanted Rich Rod gone if we could get Harbaugh and actually thought all we had to do is offer him the job. In the end JH sold out and turned his back on the university. He could have talked to DB a month ago and told him that he would rather go to the NFL and had no intention to take the job at Michigan. Don't say shit like this is "my dream job" and make everyone think you want to come here and later on use the school to get more money from NFL teams. I will cheer against him in the NFL and want him to fail miserably. Hell the only reason his brother has had success is because of the Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense that was great before he got there.

    That is all i have to say... screw Harbaugh!

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  8. @ Anonymous 6:42 p.m.

    I'm not necessarily expecting Harbaugh to end up at Michigan, but let's see how this situation turns out before we start damning someone like Harbaugh. So far Harbaugh hasn't been hired by an NFL team, and so far Michigan hasn't hired another coach.

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  9. I wonder what Rich Rod thinks of Don Nehlen, the person most responsible for him coming to Michigan. Kind of feel sorry for him especially since he would have had a great shot at the national tittle with a senior Pat White in 2008.

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  10. @anon 642

    Its ridiculous to blame Harbaugh. He has no duty to coach at Michigan if asked. We have no evidence if he was, and Brandon said today such an offer wasn't made. But its beside the point - Harbaugh has every right to do whats best for him and his family.

    I don't think Harbaugh ever said Michigan was his dream job. Its not his duty to manage your expectations. Harbaugh has been both a vocal critic of Michigan athletics and has also expressed how much highly he regards them. That doesn't mean he has to forsake better situations in order to come to AA.

    Rumors are that Harbaugh has agreed to coach the 49ers. As a Michigan alumni you should wish him all the best... even if you preferred he was coaching our team.

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  11. If he lost in the Orange Bowl do you think his stock would still be this high? Seems crazy to me that a guy with no NFL head coaching experience is somehow the most desired commodity in the league and is apparently on the verge of making Bellichick money.

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  12. @ Anonymous 7:20 p.m.

    I think the Orange Bowl victory helped some, but I still have no idea why NFL teams would allegedly be offering him $6 million a year. That's ridiculous to me.

    Michigan would still want him, of course, but these NFL teams seem to just be throwing around money carelessly. College coaches often don't translate well to the NFL (Spurrier, Saban, etc.). It seems irresponsible.

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  13. What are the chances we could use the JH money and bring in a killer staff? Hoke as head coach along with Scott Leoffler, Corwin Brown, Vance Bedford etc... With the right people that can recruit Ohio and Hoke's ties to California I think it would be worth a try.

    BTW I was not a a big Hoke fan but, he has turned around two programs, won SDSU's first bowl game in over 40 years, and coached on the Michigan defensive line when we went 5-3 against Ohio State. He also understands the Big 10, and has always wanted this job.

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  14. @ Anonymous 7:35 p.m.

    I do think there's a good chance that a lesser-named coach (say, Brady Hoke instead of Jim Harbaugh) might be able to bring in a solid staff. Loeffler wouldn't be a bad idea, but I'm not sold on Corwin Brown as a coach. And Vance Bedford seems to be doing just fine where he is. He's already had two stints at Michigan. I don't see him wanting to come back again.

    I'm reserving judgment on Hoke. I'll expand on my thoughts if he's hired, but I just think speculating on too many hypotheticals is kind of a waste of time at this point. But your points about him are appreciated.

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  15. John Clayton just reported that it will cost about $6.5/year to get Harbaugh out of Stanford and the 49ers don't have a bag of money that big. Carolina is the best fit with the #1 pick but are not willing to give him final say on player personnel issues. Lets hope things fall apart and he sees the light.

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  16. If it's not Hoke, Miles or Harbaugh, Patterson might have the best shot.
    http://insider.espn.go.com/ncf/features/rumors?date=20110105&action=login&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fncf%2ffeatures%2frumors%3fdate%3d20110105#TOP

    Jerry Kill, best friend of Gary Patterson, says he would be EXTREMELY INTERESTED in the Michigan job.

    Would you take Patterson?
    Has done a great job at TCU but has no midwest ties and rarely leaves Texas/Oklahoma for talent.

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  17. @ Anonymous 8:19 p.m.

    Again, I don't want to spend too much time speculating on potential Michigan coaches. Patterson has proven that he's a solid coach, especially with that 21-19 victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. However, people placed a lot of value on WVU's victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, too, and that didn't necessarily buy Rodriguez a whole lot of leeway at Michigan, either.

    BTW, I think midwest recruiting ties are overrated. Coaches will make recruiting ties wherever they go, especially if one local guy (Fred Jackson, for example) is kept on. Patterson or Petersen or Harbaugh or whoever can put Fred Jackson ir another local guy in charge of recruiting Michigan, and everything will fall into place. Besides, those guys would also bring their ties to California, Oklahoma, and Texas with them.

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  18. Been thinking a lot about the Harbaugh thing. I may be getting too emotional here, but if he goes to the NFL or something like that, as far as I'm concerned, he should never show his face in Ann Arbor again.

    Here's how I look at it. When he was a high school QB, almost no big time program gave him the time of day. Bowling Green was the only other D-1 school to look at him. Bo gave him a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Showed him the ropes. Trained him to succeed. And succeed he did, leading Michigan to 10-1-1 in 1985 and 10-2 in 1986. Harbaugh used his Michigan experience to become a first round draft pick in the NFL. Spent many years in the NFL and had a solid career, which he they parlayed into coaching.

    Bottom line is that Michigan gave Harbaugh the chance to succeed when no one else did, trained him to be a winner, and gave him a springboard to the career he has now. If he turns his back on his alma mater when it needs him most, he is persona non grata as far as I'm concerned.

    As an alumnus of Michigan, think its unforgivable for him to abandon his school in its time of need -- a school that gave him the chance to become who he is -- for 7 million instead of 5 million. Maybe I'm being over dramatic, but its how I feel.

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  19. Five Yards and A Cloud Of Dust.

    Back then it was about fundamentals, tough defense, running the ball and every so often throwing the ball. Bo's teams played tough defense and 95% of the time, the game was very competitive.

    Bo would lose big games 13-12, 10-7, 14-6, 17-10, games that Michigan always had a chance to win.

    Carr really screwed the program up because Michigan scored points but fundamentally they were lacking. With the talent Michigan had under Carr, all that was needed was a coach that (a) motivated them (b) prepared them better (c) took care of the finer details like special teams play, especially placekicking and (d) having better toughness on defense. Carr's teams were easy to score upon and sometimes his defense played lazy.

    If you ever watched Carr's teams, they always displayed the same problems over and over.

    The QBs (other than Henson) were big statues with no mobility. The QBs always had poor trajectory on their throws leading to many batted down balls at the line.

    He never used Steve Breaston properly, the placekicking was using poor and his punt coverage was usually bad.

    Don't get me started on the defensive secondary.

    But notice how players like Brady, Breaston, Dhani Jones and Lamarr Woodley seem to get better once they got to the NFL and had better coaching.

    Three years ago Michigan needed a tweak to get better. Martin was too dumb to realize that and now we are officially becoming Notre Dame.

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  20. Thunder,

    Conjecture about coaches may be pointless but so is following recruiting.

    Hoke's resume is pretty strong. Not only did he raise Ball State up from the bottom of the MAC to a 12-1 season, but he seems to be on the same trajectory at SDSU. We see that the Mountain West is no pushover conference. SDSU went toe-to-toe (on the road no less) with TCU and Missouri this year and fell just short in each game. They went 9-4, won their bowl game, and are likely to be even better next year if Hoke doesn't arrive at Michigan. His resume is better than Harbaugh's pre-Stanford. His rise hasn't been as meteoric but he's more experienced and has a longer track record of consistent improvement.

    If Hoke is the guy, I won't be bummed...just hurry up and do it already.

    I agree with the point about regional recruiting ties being overrated. It shouldn't be ignored but recruiting is a staff-wide effort, not just the head coach.

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  21. Anon @9:55:
    I recommend professional help. You are a nutjob.

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  22. You might not have been a fan of the hire at the time, but who should we have hired insted? Les Miles turned us down. Greg Schiano turned us down. Kirk Frerentz makes $5 Million per year and he's overpaid at that. Who should we have hired instead of Rodriguez? Remember the names floating around at the time? Brady Hoke? Jeff Tedford? Mike Debord? Stan Parrish? Ron English? There is nobody in December, 2007 who thought that one of those guys would succeed more than Rodriguez. Brian Kelly was also available, but his record at CMU was much less impressive than RichRod's at Michigan.

    I disagree that RichRod did anything for this program off the field. The program has been one disaster after another off the field. How many guys have left the program? How much of a fiasco was practicegate? (albeit overblown by the Freep) How much pouting and crying did Rodriguez do in press conferences? Josh Groban, anyone?

    Dave Brandon needs to be fired for his idiocy too. Rodriguez should have either been fired immediately after the OSU game or he should have been publicly given a fourth year. This is absolutely the stupidest way that this could have been done.

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  23. @Anonymous January 6, 2011 8:21 AM

    Les Miles that not turn us down, he was never offered the job and if he was, Mo and Carr would have killed Martin.

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  24. @ Anonymous 8:21 a.m.

    Well, hindsight suggests that we should have hired someone who would have carried on the Michigan program, like Debord, English, Hoke, etc. They probably would have carried on Michigan's winning ways, although they likely wouldn't have been championship-level coaches.

    Personally, I was hoping for Les Miles at the time. He didn't turn us down, from everything I've heard. He never got the chance to turn us down.

    But it seems a little premature to call for the firing of David Brandon. Why don't you at least wait until a hire is actually made before judging? You never know, he could pull a big name out of his hat. Let's not jump the gun.

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  25. Lankownia,

    I really don't trust Hoke's ability. It took him 6 years to even get above .500 at Ball State and has one 12-1 season to hang his hat on. He's never been a BCS coach. SDSU did well this year, but I still don't think he's been there long enough to prove anything...after all, Ron Zook took Illinois to the Rose Bowl shortly after his arrival.

    You know who actually WON the MAC with Ball State? Bill Lynch. One example, but still...with his track record, I feel it's impossible to tell whether Hoke will end up like Lloyd Carr or Bill Lynch.

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  26. For the record, I'm pulling for Pat Fitzgerald despite the unlikelihood that he'll leave Northwestern.

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  27. What about Bo Pelini?

    1. Born in Youngstown, Ohio (played at Ohio State so he knows THE GAME).
    2. Perfect for midwest recruiting especially Ohio.
    3. Great defensive coach which is what Brandon wants.

    Why would he leave Nebraska?
    I don't know but its worth a try...

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  28. We didn't officially offer Les Miles because LSU had a chance to win the SEC and they gave him an ultimatum. But he would have been our coach if he had wanted to be.

    We don't need to see the process play out to see that it the process itself is a fiasco. If Brandon bumbles and stumbles his way into a good hire, it doesn't change the fact that he's an idiot of epic proportions who bungled this ordeal in ways that we thought were unimaginable a month ago. If he truly just started his national search yesterday, he has shit for brains and has absolutely no business running an athletic department.

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  29. @ Anonymous 10:47 a.m.

    Like I said, let's wait until someone's actually hired before we judge the hiring process.

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  30. Lol ur pullin for pelini? Look up his most recent fiasco, I won't bother ruining the surprise for all of you. He doesn't seem to be much of a "Michigan man" for starters.

    -horn

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  31. Can someone explain the Pat Fitzgerald thing to me? How is his resume better than Hokes? He has maintained (not improved) Northwestern at winning an average of 3-4 wins per year in the Big10. Hoke is unproven in the BCS but he actually made programs better. MOST successful BCS coaches were unproven in the BCS before they got there. Tressel, Dantonio, Bielema, Ferentz: none of these guys were BCS head coaches. Meyer, Mullen, Kelly - most of the hot names in college football, didn't move from one BCS job to another.

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  32. @ Lankownia 1:55 p.m.

    I can't tell you why Michigan might be interested in Fitzgerald. It doesn't make any sense to me, either. He wouldn't be on my short list.

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  33. Re Fitz vs Hoke:

    One big advantage that Fitz has is that he comes from a spread offense system, which, at the very least, will allow him to win immediately with Denard & Co. Hoke is a bit of a mystery in that department. He's also a defensive coach, which is what we need right now to get fixed as soon as possible. I like the idea of a Fitzgerald hire, but I'd rather have Patterson.

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  34. Does anyone have any logical explanation for why Miami, a team which still has a coach and, under NFL rules, could not hire a new one until the fire Sparano and interview a minority candidate, a team which was burned royally by the Nick Saban hire only a couple years ago, and a team which is owned by a HUGE Michigan benefactor, would offer Jim Harbaugh more cash than 3 time Super Bowl winner Bill Belichick? If the $7-8 million offer is true, it would make him the second highest paid coach in ALL of professional sports (only Phil Jackson makes more).

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  35. @ Anonymous 2:37 p.m.

    The monetary figures being thrown about are vastly out of whack with reality. Harbaugh was supposedly going to get $6 million from the 49ers...rumor has it that a handshake agreement set the sum at $4.5 million.

    Don't believe everything you read. There's a lot of misinformation going on out there.

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  36. Anon 2:05.

    I've heard that and it is a good thing. BUT, I don't think its a big deal.

    Here's why: What players of significance (besides Denard) are lost by shifting away from a spread-run attack. I think none of significance, though the OL won't be as much of a strength as it currently looks like. It would suck to lose Denard, obviously, but then maybe Tate sticks around and Gardner is no slouch, and we can take advantage of the Tom Brady and NFL heritage by recruiting some pro-style passers back into the system. Keep in mind Denard is still raw and will be on campus for no more than 2 more seasons.

    Secondly, Fitzgerald was a LB and then a LB coach until suddenly being thrust into the HC gig. He's not the offensive mastermind and I'm not sure what role, if any, he plays in the offensive coaching. He's taken Walkers system and not messed it up, which is good, but bringing him to UM for the spread run system is like bringing RR for running the 3-3-5. I guess you could argue he'd bring his offensive staff along, but then...couldn't any HC hire Northwesterns offensive staff away, or Calvin MacGee, or any other now-common spread-oriented coordinator?

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  37. Tommy Tubberville coaches Texas Tech, not Texas A&M

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  38. Lank,

    Compared to Denard, our "players of significance" aren't really as significant besides the O-line.

    I still don't understand why people want to go back to pro-style offense. We still aren't finished with the last painful transition and people want to painfully transition BACK. With that philosophy, we'll be firing yet another coach in three years. How about not dismantling anything this time? I say this with the idea that there's really nothing to dismantle on the defensive side of the ball.

    Fitzgerald has won more than Randy Walker. His winning percentage at Northwestern is higher and has better in-conference play. He's also a young guy, meaning if he works out, he'll probably stay quite a while.

    I also think Brady Hoke is a complete joke and should be option #107, not option #2. He wouldn't even be mentioned if he didn't have a connection to Michigan, unlike Harbaugh and Miles (who I really don't want).

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  39. Just to clarify:
    I'm not saying we don't have significant players outside of Denard. It's just that Denard's personal performance impacts the performance of the entire offense at an extremely high level, even for a QB. At least, that's what it seems like to me.

    In the late '90s, the offense could still score and get yards even if Griese and Brady weren't really playing that well. 2010: If Denard (or Tate) isn't tearing it up...dead.

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  40. David,

    I don't necessarily want to go back to pro style, but I sort of wish we hadn't gone away from it. That was a lot of heritage thrown out the window and the ability to transfer skills to the NFL helps recruiting.

    Denard is better than Forcier in a Rodriguez spread, but in most systems the difference disappears quickly. So, if you have a spread offense you keep Denard anyway. If you has a different offense, you won't miss Denard that much anyway.

    Fitzgerald has won 3.6 to Walkers 3.4 wins per year in the Big10. You can get excited about that if you want, but the difference is attributable to randomness. Non-conference depends on who you play. He is young, I'll give you that. With that come some drawbacks in perception though...

    At least we can agree on Les Miles being undesirable.

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  41. Lank,

    Fair enough on all points. Especially about not going away from pro-style.

    Oregon's offense is prolific and QB-run lite, so yeah, the difference between Forcier and Denard disappears there.

    The biggest problem for me right now is that basically all desirable coaches are rather unavailable due to disinterest or happiness in their current positions. Well, damn it.

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  42. I don't think Pat Fitzgerald has done anything to warrant getting the Michigan job. He's taken a mediocre team and maintained its mediocre success. I don't dislike Fitzgerald, but his resume isn't noteworthy.

    Besides, I think he likes being at Northwestern, so it's probably a moot point.

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