1/1/2010 – Michigan 14, Mississippi State 52 – 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten
Amongst the many many things posted over the weekend that could have been posted at any time in the last three years was one odd bit of history that's apropos: a letter drafted for Nixon to read in the event that Neal Armstrong and company were to die on the moon because the lander wouldn't leave.
Men in charge of things make difficult decisions and live with the consequences of their actions even if they result in reading the thing William Safire wrote for you about two men watching at their oxygen gauges count down in an airless wasteland.
Back in the summer of 2008, when we were a happy-go-lucky band of mountain yodelers with flowers in our pockets and caviar dreams, I finished up that year's preview with that picture of Don Canham staring down a thicket of microphones as Bump Elliott searched for a sandwich and Bo exuded his Bo-like confidence. I've referred to it ever since, and here it is again:
Lives were not literally at stake above, but even so it's hard to imagine Nixon adopting an expression that more perfectly sums up the feeling of someone who's made a big decision and now has to watch someone else execute. At the end of that post this is what I said:
We are all Don Canham now. Rich Rodriguez comes in with a wildly successful pedigree but promises to finally tear down the culture of Bo’s program, to replace it with something uncertain. This has caused apprehension in some, joy in others, and disdain verging on hatred in a select group.
The program risks changing into something people drift away from because it has drifted from them, or, worse, something that you only wish you could drift away from. It also promises fireworks and fun and victory and a feeling that’s something other than that thing we’ve felt so much before. Other fanbases go through this every five or ten or fifteen years; for us it’s been 40.
I could welcome it, I guess, or celebrate it, or proclaim inevitable dominion over the land. But I don’t feel like it. Nor do I feel like fretting over imaginary scandals future. Like Canham, I just hope it works.
I don't think it has. A game somewhere around expectations would not have moved the needle enough for slight support for Rich Rodriguez to morph into a call for firing, but I turned the game off before the third quarter was over and when I felt remorse and turned it back on a few minutes later Mississippi State had put up another touchdown. It was not around expectations, except in the ways that it was by not being around expectations in a depressing direction. Before the season I thought 7-5 would do it but now at 7-6 with every loss a blowout and three of the wins last-drive nailbiters, Michigan's progress seems minimal at best. But for the opening week, this is the worst seven-win season imaginable.
If I'm slotting Rich Rodriguez into the picture above he's on the right, and it's time to look for the guy on the left again.
On the likelihood of a change. Still nothing definitive but everything that enters the inbox adds to the circumstantial pile of evidence suggesting we're done. If Harbaugh escapes Michigan's clutches Michigan is in a bad spot because of the "process" and how much time it's left them in the event they do not immediately transition to a new coach, but having no serious options other than Rodriguez is probably the only scenario in which we don't see a change.
As to when, Tom says he's hearing there's a team meeting tomorrow at 7 PM that was scheduled before the bowl game. If that's now be a wake we'll hear about it soon after. There are unconfirmed third hand reports about coaches saying goodbye, which could mean anything from the obvious canning of Greg Robinson to a wholesale broom.
Also, while some players have been publicly supportive, a lot of parents have jumped ship and have met with Brandon expressing frustration at goings-on on the defense. Some players may have been "lost" by the bowl debacle as well.
On recent Harbaugh panic. The Big Lead probably doesn't know shit and even if he turns out right he got lucky because he's just randomly saying things people email him without even a cursory check. However, Adam Schefter is serious business and this is foreboding:
Schefter on ESPN: "Now, there is a real feeling around the league (Harbaugh) would prefer be in the NFL."
On the other hand, "a real feeling" is far from definitive and Schefter was just reporting that Harbaugh was leaning towards Michigan with the same strength—coaching change stuff is "fluid," and by fluid people mean "batshit."
On Brady Hoke. "Not an option."
On Plan B. The Plan B name in the event Harbaugh escapes is probably Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald actually makes quite a bit of sense as a young guy with a spotless media profile who runs a spread offense Denard would feel at home in. He hasn't put together a monster team or anything but recovered from a shaky start in the aftermath of Randy Walker's death to go 9-4, 8-5, and 7-6. Not exactly Harbaugh and another guy who'd be leaving his alma mater for greener pastures, but Michigan is not in a great spot right now.
Wow, Brian, you certainly know how to integrate secondary sources that tug at the heart strings. This was the post I've been afraid of since Toledo. I really wanted this to work; I love Rich Rodriguez, Lion King jokes, & tiny Mountain Goat blockers.
But I guess life works that way, and nice guys don't often finish first.
that Pat Fitzgerald is a great "plan B", but I can't
If we wanted a coach who runs a spread offense and had a terrible defense to finish the year, well, we already have that guy. I have no doubts that Fitzgerald would represent the University well, but his team gave up over 500 rushing yards to Illinois, 70 points to Wisconsin, and 45 to Texas Tech in the bowl. The only team they really showed up against was Iowa, who for some reason always blows against Northwestern. Honestly, I'd rather have Rodriguez and a house-cleaned defensive staff.
The cornerstone of Rich's support base just crumbled....
Now that Brian seems to believe RR is out, at least we don't have see or hear nuclear explosions or air raid sirens any time someone suggests an alternative to RR.
Hey, TCU just won the Rose Bowl, why can't we pirate their coach? Give me a stout defense over a high-powered offense any day. I'm officially starting the Gary Patterson to UM rumor just because I need this to happen.
He went undefeated in a non-AQ conference that already had a strong team and is moving to arguably the weakest AQ conference ... coaches are already fleeing in anticipation. (I'm not entirely sure that's the case, but then I'm also not sure Maryland is a step up from Connecticut unless you like the thought of someday playing in a conference championship game. It's not like the bowl tie-ins are that much better.)
If he comes to Ann Arbor, the expectations will be similar (to what they are right now, that is; I'm sure TCU isn't moving to the Big East so they can go 5-3 in conference play) and the pressure will be massively greater. I think it would have made more sense if TCU were staying in the Mountain West.
I like Fitzgerald as Plan B. I assume he's a defensive minded coach given his playing background. Secondly, the offense wouldn't be facing another total overhaul as the players in the system could continue their progress. It's not ideal, but the logic is sound in my book.
Brian, can you clarify and / or elaborate the following comment:
"Also, while some players have been publicly supportive, a lot of parents have jumped ship and have met with Brandon expressing frustration at goings-on on the defense. Some players may have been "lost" by the bowl debacle as well."
1. "a lot" (5? 10? more?)
2. 'Some players may have been "lost" by the bowl debacle as well.' Does "lost" mean "will transfer" or "go pro" (Mike Martin). And did you mean current players or recruits?
Yeah, I'd like some clarification on what "a lot" means, as well.
That said, IMO you can't put a lot of stock in what players say (or don't say). You'd be foolish to stick your neck out if you're on the team. Anything you say will be parsed to bits. If you speak in favor of change, and the coach stays, you've ruined the trust between you. If you speak in favor of the coach, but they bring in someone new, you rmight seem like you're against him right out of the gate.
If my kid was on this team, I'd tell him to keep your head down and practice and play and not respond to reporters who ask you to say something. That's the smart move.
1. What's the genesis of the "not an option" quote for Hoke? Quotes implies somebody said it, but it's not clear who from your post.
2. Is Fitzgerald your own random speculation, or is this a rumor you've heard?
1. It's Brian being Brian. He just hates Hoke.
2. It's Brian being Brian. He just likes Fitzgerald.
I'm not criticizing him. It's just that the source of the two items impacts how seriously I take them. If Brian is just randomly talking Fitz, that's fine - I just want to know if that's what it is.
No sources equals a rumor or opinion to me. But that is just me.
he pulled Pat Fitzgerald out of his ass because nobody knows anything right now
There are a couple of reports stating that some big name coaches have quietly expressed interest in the Michigan job should it come open. Fitzgerald could be one of those names.
I am sad, but think it is time to move on. I have been a staunch RR supporter, and really wish it would have worked. But if pigs had wings, and cabbages were kings, is not something to pine hopes upon. "If only" is an excercise in frustration.
I do hope that JH comes to Michigan, the sooner the better. Interestingly, this site hated some JH, and opined that he would never be accepted here again. In a post several years ago entitled Destroy Harbaugh, Brian rips on JH, and there is consensus with Brian in the comments. I never agreed, and felt that JH was just speaking his mind, albeit in a way that was critical of Michigan.
Arrogant JH may be, but I suppose that is one of those culture things where he would be a better fit here than RR. The irony is that apart from RR's last three years and the disaster Michigan football has become, JH would never have been considered. The times, how they have changed. None of us can predict the future, but I don't think any other combination of events could have led so conclusively to Harbaugh being welcomed as Michigan's next football coach. May it be another 40 years before we go through such pain.
Because I most likely won't be around to see it...
I'm still not sure if I'm going to make it to the end of the week, let along another 40 years. After going all in on the liquor during Gator Bowl I'm still not sure as to the status of my liver. I remember seeing that Harbaugh info graphic on Harbaugh coming up and chugging tequila like it was Natty Ice. Nothing says fun like a 13 hour flight next to a screaming Chinese baby when you're hungover as hell and pissed off about your alma mater getting raped in a NYD bowl.
Agreed. What we all need right now is an epic CRex post. Only you have the power to take our minds off of the issue at hand.
It's interesting - I'm certainly one of the people who was angry with Harbaugh for his comments, and I remain so.
There was actually one interesting tidbit in Rosenberg's column today, amidst all the nearly palpable gloating over Rodriguez's demise. He speculated that the part of Harbaugh's outburst that rankled the most:
They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them.
... may have actually been motivated by Harbaugh's personal disappointment when Lloyd hired Scott Loeffler instead of him.
Whether that's true or not, it's clear that much of Harbaugh's outburst was borne of his own (hurt) feelings and personal interests at the Stanford job. This is my problem with Jimmy. I don't care that he's a maniac on the sidelines, that he runs up the score, or that he may be a loose cannon with the media. Fire in the belly: great. But he's a self-promoter, and a self-aggrandizer, in a way that really rubs me wrong. Those comments certainly were his own thoughts - they were the thought of someone who puts himself above loyalty to others, it would seem to me.
Now, that said, I hope Michigan hires him. This may make me a hypocrite or merely a sports fan, depending upon how charitable or like-minded you may be. But it will still take me a long time to pull for Harbaugh personally, even though knowing my fickle sports fan heart, I won't rule out the possibility. Maybe after three or four wins over OSU I'll look back on those comments and say that was just Jimmy being Jimmy. But in the short term, I hope Brandon gets him here so I can root for Michigan's players and its program to succeed under the guidance of their new coach, who's rather regrettably a real asshole.
I want Harbaugh, but I would be thrilled to see Fitzgerald. I'm also a sucker for smart coaches with B10 degrees though.
Pat Fitzgerald wouldn't be terrible by any stretch.
However if end up with some cluster fuck coaching search, DB can pimp walk his way back to the pizza industry for all I care.
I hope it is not Fitzgerald. The "spread" is just an offense. Defense wins championships.
Stanford has the #10 defense. SDSU #44. Northwestern #67, Michigan #102
Not to ruin your little cliche here, but Oregon comes in a 26 in defense and is playing for the championship. Oregon is good on defense, but they are an offense first team. Don't kid yourself.
but you just made my point...
although currently, by points allowed, they are #14.
Still, 26 or 14 out of 120 is a upper quartile defense.
Along with TCU,OSU,Noise, Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska,LSU etc.
I see no upgrade in Fitzgerald. He is RR light. We might as well keep RR and get him a new DC.
If you pair Oregon's defense with Denard, you (and everyone else) wouldn't be making a mess in their pants? Again, Oregon has a good defense, but they are not a defensive team.
Oregon's D with their O is scary.
Our O is not nearly as scary as Oregon's.
From my post below:
In Michigan's six losses this season — all with the exception of Penn State were ranked opponents - the Wolverines were outscored 250-125. They lost their final three games — to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Mississippi State — by a combined score of 137-49.
That's 16ppg the last 3 game. Not too scary. Scary to the Indiana teams of the world maybe.
I heard on ESPN last night that Oregon regularly plays 25 players on defense precisely because of the pace of their offense. Even with all the returning starters on defense next year, I don't think Michigan has that kind of depth.
Oregon has a good defense, but they are not a defensive team
Oregon might be best know for their offense, but ranking 12th in the country in pts/game and 26th in yds/game is pretty darn good.
You threw a lot at us:
1) I want a context for the Brady Hoke "not an option" statement... don't need sources but just context
2) I have loved (NTLove) Pat Fitzgerald as a coach since he started. I have no doubt that if Persa was healthy they would have beat Illinois and Texas Tech. I have NO faith that he would come here though, as that to me would be against the core values he projects (intraconference move, coaching against the guys he just recruited, etc). I could've seen Fitz going to Florida or Stanford, but not within the Big Ten.
3) I would love to see the Brian plan for a RR return... bring in Florida D-coaches let go by Muschamp? Do we need a dedicated special teams coach?
Fire up the Flight Tracker in t-minus 11 hours and counting...
Brian, in previous posts, laid out the best case imaginable for retaining Rich Rodriguez. Some bought it, others didn’t, but it was at least cogently argued. It is therefore significant when Brian (quite rightfully) acknowledges that this regime cannot be saved.
I think Brian over-states the possibility that RR would somehow be brought back, if Brandon’s Plan A, B, and C don’t pan out. I just don’t see how Brandon does that, without it being painfully clear that he was left at the altar.
I agree even more strongly that Michigan’s 7-6 was the worst 7-6 you could imagine. Brian already noted that all the losses were blow-outs, and three of the wins came on the final possession—all against middling or worse competition. UMass came awfully close to being in the loss column as well. Nobody would call the Purdue game a dominating performance, and Bowling Green was a tomato can, which leaves UConn as literally the only great performance against credible opposition.
I have to agree, therefore, that any improvement was infinitesimal—basically, a pretty good offense (which frequently disappeared against better opposition) was offset by defense and special teams that have gotten worse every year.
I read that sentence differently. He said the only possible way RR returns is if there are no "serious options." There are definitely good options, so I took that as Brian saying the probability is very low.
1) A defensive minded HC (e.g. Muschamp) who may decide to keep McGee or at least hire a spread-friendly OC.
2) One of the recently (or soon-to-be) canned NFL guys, like Sporano, Cable, Singletary, McDaniels...
on the canned NFL guys.
Agreed -- all four of those guys are clowns. Cable's appearance alone should eliminate him from consideration (sorry).
he's 8-8 on a disfunctional Raiders team with Crazy Al Davis drafting absolute busts. That's a pretty good coaching job. It's better than Kiffin who went to UT and USC.
His beating up a coach takes him out of the M job, but I was just looking for examples of NFL coaches who are available.
Like Brian, this last game flipped me from "one more year" to "yeah, it's probably time to change". For the first time, I found myself wondering if RichRod is really up to the task. A blocked punt, a batch of dropped passes, numerous substitution and alignment issues on D, a general lack of in-game adjustments. It looked like you would expect from the first game of the year, not the last.
But change for the sake of change is not going to cut it (just ask Notre Dame). The next coach will inherit a defense which is at least a year from approaching anything like good, and an offense filled with skill players recruited for, and coached on, the spread scheme. On top of that, there are serious recruiting issues, a critical local press, alumni who span the gamut from restless to raging, and an unsentimental, hard ass AD. It's going to take a strong personality, healthy ego, and a substantial reservoir of credibility to succeed in that environment. Harbaugh qualifies on all counts. Brian brings up Fitzgerald; that's the only other name I've heard that sounds even remotely plausible, but I think even he is quite a stretch in these circumstances.
I forgot about that substitution issue on the Miss. St. TD. That play seemed like a nail in the coffin to me.
Fitz is intriguing but I have a hard time believing he'd leave his Alma Mater (for another school within the same B1G division). I have to think DB has a plan in place and those plans are already in motion (which is nothing we don't already know).
Please just let it be over. I can't eat, sleep or work. And I'm just a fan. I can't imagine what RR, DB or JH are going through. This definitely needs to not happen again for another 40 years. My younger kid actually thinks Michigan has always been a so-so team because he doesn't know any better. Pray to the deity of your choice that DB can land JH. I totally respect Fitz and I think Hoke and Patterson are pretty good coaches but, man, anything other than JH and there are going to be a LOT of disappointed M fans. Until we start winning of course then it will be double rainbows for everyone.
If it's true that Athletic Department factotums are keeping the Brady Hoke idea alive through rumors, etc., I'd love to know who they are.
- - -
It has been a flashback to early childhood for me. There was a mean (and fat) older kid on my bus that picked on pretty much all the younger kids. (I wasn't singled out for abuse or anything.) One warm day he wasn't at his stop on time and the bus, after doing a rolling stop, continued down the road. The fat kid (who had some impressive wheels) took off after the bus, but the driver didn't see him and many of the kids (especially the little ones) got a great laugh at his expense.
We were nervous, though, because if the bus had stopped he would've been charged up and maybe in a worse mood than usual. Who knows?
- - -
Anyway, this Hoke nonsense has reminded me of that incident. I'd like to laugh at the idea that Brandon would panic and hire him, but I'm too nervous to do so.
DB needs to land a big name to rally the troops and I think JH has what it takes to bring us back from the edge and generate excitement in luxury boxes sales, recruiting, etc.
At this point, I think RR is gone no matter what. The outrage would be too loud if he were retained, even if wholesale coaching changes were made. It sucks, but sweeping change is coming for better or worse.
Told you so attitude from those that were against RR. Brian's backed RichRod with stats and history- others attacked RichRod with narrative. I'll side with Brian's process any day of the week.
As John Maynard Keynes said, "when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
I'm bummed RichRod hasn't worked out. But I've seen enough to think change would be best.
Neither side was a saint in this. There was a time when speaking out against RR meant insta neg bombing and mocking. There were a lot of ugly knife fights started by partisans on both sides.
As for stats, the anti-RR had plenty to deploy from the defensive side of the ball, transfers and special teams.
Personally I'd rather have been wrong about RR. I'd rather have to swallow my pride and admit he was the right fit for Michigan than watch that Bowl game again. It's a shitty feeling to have to sit there thinking "This is going to be a clusterfuck" and an even worse feeling when it comes to pass.