One Last Blind Stab In The Dark
Let's make a deal.
Saturday Michigan takes on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl and Sunday something may or may not happen involving the throttling of an infant Denard Robinson in his cradle and the tears and lamentation that may or may not result. That would hypothetically also mean the reign of terror Greg Robinson's hair and the zombie minion that goes by the name of Greg Robinson would be over. The city of Ann Arbor emerging from its cocoon of upper middle class ennui to shoot AK47s in the air would at least partially offset the tragic, still hypothetical loss of baby Denard. I have taken too long on this bit.
Two days later Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal take on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After he may or may not be destined for Michigan or the 49ers or the moon. The latest from Harbaugh is reminiscent of one Brian Kelly last year:
"I only talk about the job I have now," Harbaugh said when asked if he or his representatives had spoken to the 49ers about their coaching vacancy.
He acknowledged having a "dual focus"—
--on his team, which will play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Monday, and on his daughter, Katherine, who was born just before Christmas.
Aw, come on, Harbaugh.
So what's going to happen? I still don't know. No one does. Last time on this show I said I didn't have anything solid and probably wouldn't because of the nature of the "search" but that the mystical aura wasn't looking so hot:
I'm not inclined to put much in the widespread chatter that had RR out the door after the OSU game and seems to be continuing since its sourcing seems to be pissed-off-you-guys folk clearly unhappy with the state of the program taking small interactions and interpreting them as they desire. However, the vibe I'm getting from other people who seem to be on the fence about what to do—or at least close to it—also makes it seem unlikely Rodriguez is back. Emphasis on all the qualifying words in the previous sentence, please. I've got nothing solid because no one does.
I also said that Brady Hoke would be named Michigan's coach over my dead body and the last semblance of sanity in the universe but that wasn't based on inside information. It was more a "has everybody gone CRAZY!?!" moment, and if the threat of Hoke didn't linger in the air I'd apologize for it. As it is I'm on the battlements with an axe* waiting to behead anyone who pops up and says "my name is Buh—." Bill Parcells is duly warned.
With less that a week left before the month of limbo is over, I haven't received anything that pushes my opinion much one way or the other. To reiterate, that's:
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is fired, otherwise there would have been an announcement.
- Schools do not start coaching searches on January 2nd.
- There's only one guy out there that could plausibly be socked away or all but in time for Michigan to have a reasonable finish in recruiting and could justify yet more chaos in a program that is pointed in the right direction, even if vaguely.
So it's Rodriguez or Harbaugh and we'll probably know the day after the Orange Bowl. With all due respect to people who would argue otherwise, it makes no sense to fire Rodriguez in January if you do not have a coach lined up immediately. Since the list of people other than Harbaugh who Michigan could install within a week reads "Buh—[blood theatrically spraying from neck]" your alternatives are between rushing someone through without pause for consideration—which worked out so well last time—or dragging the search almost up to Signing Day, leaving your recruiting class a smoking crater and possibly dooming the next guy, who will forever be Not Jim Harbaugh, to repeat the cycle.
I have heard some things that push me more towards Harbaugh:
- Some connected guys at Cal email that Tedford is aiming to poach Harbaugh's OL coach since he has "agreed to go elsewhere already" as of the 17th of December. Caveat: the Cal rumor mill bears no animus towards Rodriguez but would love to see Harbaugh anywhere but Stanford, so as things get passed down the chain they get more certain.
- A player who split his career between RR/Carr years tells an emailer that Harbaugh will be installed on the fifth. Caveat: why the hell would some former player know?
- An emailer who reports things second hand but has been reliable in the past suggests that Mary Sue Coleman isn't a big fan of Rodriguez, which isn't much of anything to go on but just adds to the pile.
- Media people I talk to generally say the best thing is probably to give him one more year but that they don't expect he'll get it. Also not much of anything but vibe.
The only thing pointing the other way is the generally sunny disposition coming from within Schembechler Hall, but with recruits the coaches are saying they've got no idea what's going on but if they're still around after the bowl they'll still be around forever, or something to that effect. That's a hard sale right there.
If I was 55-45 Harbaugh a month ago I'm 65-35 Harbaugh now. I wish I could be more certain and wouldn't make the decision I think is likely if I was king of the world, but that's life. We'll know soon enough.
AWFUL BONUS: If there is a change you can go start the Denard transfer watch at DEFCON 2, since Robinson knows what he is—the Big Ten offensive player of the year as a sophomore at quarterback—and where he fits. How screwed up is a program that manages to get both Ryan Mallett and Denard Robinson to transfer away from certain starting QB jobs in the course of three years?
This hasn't happened yet. Breathe. I am talking to myself mostly.
*(To avoid a Tucker Carlson moment let me clarify: I am not going to cut Brady Hoke or anyone's head off with an axe.)
I can recommend a great Athletic/Cruise Director for said holiday. He's got a yacht and everything.
Section 1 can get you his number.
This still isn't going to end well. I wish Stanford was in the Rose Bowl so this could end on Sunday.
I don't think the transition under Harbaugh will be as rough as the transition from Carr to RR. Instilling a spread offense with the style of players we had back in 2008 is nearly impossible. Ryan Mallet or Steven Threet are never going to be very effective in spread formations, but Denard/Tate/Devin can all develop into great pro-style QB's. Offensive recruiting will change slightly, simply because some players (i.e. Dee Hart) want to play in spread heavy offenses. But Dee Hart would be a great running back in a pro-style offense as well. JH also won't have the number of tight ends that would be optimal for his offense, but he knows how to recruit them, and he'll already have Kevin Koger. But it's not as if recruits only consider either spread-heavy offenses or pro-style offenses, in most cases. I think we put too much weight on the style of offense RR runs and how it effects subtleties in recruting and within the games themselves.
Defensively, we obviously are young, but I don't think most of us can really quite grasp how young we really are and how dificult it is for guys like Avery and Vinopal to step in. Yet, they've been effective. Those guys have the potential to be great and the fact that people seem to think they're any where near their ceiling is laughable. JH would have to bring in a few more D-linemen than we have now, but again, he knows how to recruit. There isn't going to be an empty depth chart as long as there isn't a mass exodus, and those who stay will be more prepared size wise and experience wise than they were this season.
That being said, I want RR to get at least another year. It'll be a damn near travesty for the fan base to basically force out a coach after, in reallity, only two seasons with a team. I go to other blogs and see people comment on how they hope Mississippi State murders UM just so RR is fired. Those people are pathetic excuses for humans, let alone "fans", and to think there is an audible minority that is of that opinion is cringe-worthy.
I hope RR is retained. It's beginning to look more and more like he won't be, though. When JH is announced on Jan. 5th, if that's the case, then I'll be excited for the last month of recruiting and the spring to come. Godspeed to him and I hope we return to where we once were. RR will become a head coach somewhere else, and I'll take solace for how he's been treated by many fans by having a new team to root for in all games that don't involve Michigan as the opponent.
Three seasons. Not two. In reality.
still isn't enough. And he's had two seasons with his own offensive recruits.
I say the same thing to Lions fans who root for the team to lose for a higher draft pick: a true fan would never root for his team to lose. Ever.
that Rich Rod's offense isn't suited for the Big Ten, SEC, or Pac-10. Particularly considering the champions of two of those three conferences this year run offenses that are variants of Rich Rod's scheme.
Also, I don't think his defensive scheme struggles against power so much as his current defensive personnel struggles against power.
How can you say it's not the scheme or at least how he runs the scheme? Do you not remember the Penn State game where he basically put the linebackers 2 yards away from the line of scrimmage and they got swallowed up every running play? I'd say that was more on the scheme than the players.
With the sound of music
to my ears that Brian is 65-35 Harbaugh...YAY!
Three years ago we should have hired Miles. Instead...major embarrassment.
I PRAYYYYYY to GAWD UM can't screw this up a second time.
The technicolor dreamcoat is ready, Jim. Come home. It's time. We NEED you. There can be no greater triumph than restoring YOUR Michigan to its former greatness after the hatchet job done on it the last three years.
And if Denard Robinson chooses to transfer? Onto the trash heap with him--and the rest of the guys who just don't love Michigan enough. AMIRIGHT? I mean, we only talk about players who want to play for MICHIGAN, AMIRIGHT?
Everything about your post is sad to me.
Philip Johnson SMASHHH!
I don't get it. Is this post supposed to be sarcastic, or are you really this idiotic? Just curious...
Are you going to trade in your Michigan diploma for a Maryland one on January 5th? Just curious...
How lucky are we to have Brian as the voice of reason. I do not want another 3 years of rebuilding, hoping against hope that RR stays on.
The thought of Denard wearing a different jersey makes my stomach ache
Here's hoping for a big win on New Year's Day
Forcier is out for the Gator Bowl because of grades and they are saying that Gardner is the back up....Drob stay healthy please.
I realize that our program is in deep shit - one way or another.
If RR stays - the rumors will continue unless he has a B10 conference win next year.
If JH comes - he'll need 3 years of rebuilding
Top it up with the losing recruiting battles and players transferring - we are in a hole.
Maybe I am just being overly pessimistic but just what I feel.
Genuine Question - Can we have Co-head coaches? RR for the Offensive Side; JH for the defensive side
Why would JH need three years of rebuilding? Show your work.
Harbaugh won't be trying to turn a Steven Threet into a running quarterback. He's got three good QBs to choose from, strength at RB and receiver, a good offensive line -- why do you anticipate such a painful transition?
.. he was supposed to get TP + had Mallet (before he transferred)
What's to say that won't happen. The perfect storm is not too far.
When I say 3 years - I say that keeping in mind that there won't be a coaching change for at least 3 years after the hire whether he succeeds or not.
He will still have to cope with a young defense (beware of the secondary hating Michigan God) undergoing yet another change in scheme and an offense which will have to buy into the B10 power running game philosophy.
RB - We have a stable of good backs - but none which can plough over B10 defenses (maybe Hopkins) but others are shifty runners looking for the holes. Dee enrolling is a question mark.
Again my view may be very naive - but I can't imagine this transition being smooth as butter ala Carr in '97 and don't see JH building a NC winning team in 2 years.
On the flip side, who's to say it's not going to take RR another two to three years just to get the defense back to a respectable level. Regardless of who the HC is next season, this team is still in rebuilding mode and will be for the foreseeable future.
Isn't JH an offensive corch?
Also - at least he doesn't insist running a 3-3-5
Don't come around here much do you?
I agree with you. We are in deep sh!t here. And if Denard goes, and I think Tate won't be far behind, we will have another 3-9 season.
Please, just make it stop so that I can enjoy mly beloved Wolverines again. This whole debacle is just killing any joy I get from this team.
Well... it looks like we have come to the end of the dark tunnel and it looks to be darker. My wife and I were in Zingerman's Deli yesterday around 11:30 when I spotted Brady Hoke. I walked up when he was leaving and congratulated him on his bowl win and asked what he was doing in Ann Arbor. He said "just visiting friends for the New Year". I do not buy it at all. I guess I wasn't that good this year if this is what Santa thinks is the present I wanted for Xmas.
Obvious troll is obvious.
If anyone was in Columbus this year ... You would know that Rich Rod is the Enemy... He needs to be GONE FAR FAR AWAY
Jimmy is the man I think we all know this...the only problem is does Jimmy wanna be the man? Ahhhh please oh please Jimmy we NEED you... :)
Brady isn't as bad as everyone thinks as a second choice....if he brings back Ron English as Def. Cord. it might not be a bad dual...I mean let's not forget 2006
3-3-5 > Ron English
as much as I hate to say it
...got it backwards, Brian. As time goes on, the emotional rationale for firing RR (i.e. frustration after the OSU and Wisc losses) gets thinner, while Harbaugh now has: 1) another enticing job option (the 49ers) and 2) Andrew Luck coming back for 2011.
To me that strengthens the case for bringing back RR and weakens the appeal of Michigan for Harbaugh right now.
This is my 4th ever post on this board, I've been a reader for awhile. This is a great blog, many of you are solid contributors and I thank you for that.
I've been watching Michigan football since my childhood in A2, going back about 25 years. The first game I attended in person was a 20-17 win over Iowa in 1986, avenging our only loss from the 10-1-1 season the year before. My Dad brought me to that game, I was 8 years-old at the time and Jim Harbaugh was the starting QB. I was a UM undergrad student in 1997, I vividly remember Charles Woodson's punt return TD against OSU and not caring about the taste of Tom Goss's pepper spray after the game. Maybe it's bias or the way I was raised, but from 1986 until 2010, when I walked into the stadium or turned on the TV for any Michigan game, I always thought we had an excellent chance to win. Always. Hell, I was 100% certain that Tate was going to lead an insane 4th quarter comeback against Iowa this season, and screamed my head off in the stadium even after the stands had thinned out by a third. But heading into this season's final two games against Wisconsin and OSU, for the first time in my life, I felt we had no chance to win. That feeling disturbed me. I cheered like hell the way I always do, because frankly I don't know how else to behave. But the loss of hope stung me almost as much as the results of the games.
You can call me a "blue hair" (I'm not that old) or a "townie" (guilty as charged), and that's fine. There are many people just like me who would love to see JH coaching at Michigan not only because we remember the successes of the past, but because we think he would restore lost confidence and bring RESULTS. Personal attacks on Rodriguez have no place in this debate. He gets paid $2.5 million to do a job. Many of us "old school" types simply think Harbaugh would do it better.
Why do you think Harbaugh would do a better job? I'm older school than you, having watched my first UofM game in '76. I remember Bo winning with a smash-mouth running game and tough as nails defense. The RichRod running game is beautiful to watch. The defense has struggled, but only a fool would blame that on RR and not the "decimated defense."
What shows that JH is a defensive mastermind? He even attributes his team's improvement this year to getting a new defensive coordinator, from his brother. It's worth pointing out that in Stanford's ONE game against a current top-25 BCS team this year, Stanford gave up 52 points.
Why Harbaugh? Why do you "think Harbaugh would do it better?" JH will go to his first BCS bowl this year. Rich Rod's been to two already. Is JH's track record better than RR's? I don't think so. Be patient. Please. Greatness is just around the corner.
I think a lot of people assume that the typical JH supporter is an old "3 yards and a cloud of dust" curmudgeon who hands out Werther's original and has hated RR from the get go. I am neither, but I call myself "old school" to make things nice and neat for everyone.
In the end, we can both cite rational reasons and statistics to support each side, and this is done ad nauseum in CC threads on this site each day. I do not enjoy criticizing UM and won't do it here. My reasons are both rational and irrational-- I remember when Michigan football seemingly never had seasons like 2008 and 2009, and what it was like to walk into every game thinking we would win. Harbaugh is a link to that past and a damn successful coach. Like I said, it's probably irrational, but so is the belief that RR is "the greatest coaching talent of our generation and will unquestionably lead us to dominance" when convincing empirical evidence for that claim does not exist, in the form of wins and losses over the past 3 years.
Since you've elaborated on your irrational reason(s) for wanting Harbaugh, I'd be interested in your rational ones. I'm too young to remember the Harbaugh era at Michigan.
Ultimately what I'm asking is this: based on the careers of both coaches, which one is clearly the better coach? (Yes, that means RR's track record which is very good). Let us assume that both coaches are about equal in terms of past performance, which I think is reasonable to conclude. Do we then make a coaching change to a coach who is AT BEST an equal to RR to this point in his career, with the risk of going through another painful transition at a time when the program is (once again, based on available evidence as hinted by ST3) trending positively?
I just don't understand how one could RATIONALLY advocate hiring JH at this point. This is especially so considering there is another alternative which is retaining RR and tweaking the staff defensively.
both coaches are about equal in terms of past performance. Rich Rod not only built two programs from nothing, but he maintained the success over multiple seasons at both schools. Harbaugh's success at Stanford, as far as we know, may be a product of having Andrew Luck. Yes, he recruited him. But I'd rather see what he can do WITHOUT Luck before I crown him the next coming. (see Urban Meyer).
Oh, I completely agree with you. What I'm saying is that even if we assume that the available information suggests that they are equals, I'm not at all convinced that replacing RR is a good idea.
The reason for my post is that, even after a month of all this "CC" bullshit I have yet to see an argument which rationally and empirically concludes that Harbaugh is better in either the short or long run.
I felt like sun1 at least approaches the topic at hand in a civil manner, so I decided to ask him to elaborate. Hopefully he'll play ball!
For three years I've been against this hire, and now want RR GONE four seconds after he wins the bowl game.
Bring Harbaugh in, now. Don't screw this up.
I don't know, though, if it's a trainwreck thing--but I WOULD be oddly excited if RR is brought back to see what next year's team's progression would be. I also think there are several teams that will be down: Iowa, Wisconsin, and YES OSU as well. I mean, IF there is progress even more, and if it is FINALLY going to be that exponential progress that RR supoorters have been talking about for three years--well, next year could very well be somewhat watchable and more!
But that is ONLY if Harbaugh inexplicably wants to coach in the pro ranks and won't come home.
Rich Rod not only built two programs from nothing, but he maintained the success over multiple seasons at both schools.
RR has coached two I-A programs: West Virginia and Michigan. How exactly has he "maintained success over multiple seasons" here? The man has the worst winning percentage (both overall and in Big Ten play) in school history. That's part of his track record, as much as you may not want to accept it, and it's the most important part - it's come at this job.
is a football program. I didn't say 1-A. And to discount what he did at Glenville State because they aren't FBS is absurd when you consider how terrible that football team was when he got there. They were shut out 8 times the year before, and had something like 30 players on the team who had never played highschool football. Winning the conference title (and maintaing it for 3 more years) 4 years in with that bunch was, in my opinion, one of the more impressive coaching feats in history.
I'm a RR supporter and I think he deserves at least one more year, but stop with the "built WVU from nothing" bullshit, which is what you're directly implying.
Don Nehlen built WVU into a program that was good enough to get into a pre-BCS national championship game in 1993, and is still regarded by most WVU fans as the most successful WVU coach in history. Focusing on the two losing seasons since that 1993 game to conclude that the program was "nothing" when RR took over simply ignores reality.
the "pre BCS national championship game" they were in was the 1989 Fiesta bowl. In 1993 they played Florida in a bowl that wouldn't have won them a NC even if they had won... but that's moot because they lost 41-7 to something like the 8th ranked Gators.
In the decade before he left, Nehlen won exactly ONE conference title, that being 1993. ONE. And he only finished as high as second only one other time. They were in 6 bowls, losing 5 of them. And just because he was the most successful WVU coach in their history doesn't mean the program was very good. Most of his success came in the early 80s. Hell, in 20 years there he had 2 ten+ win seasons.
Rich Rod rebuilt the program and won or shared 4 conference titles in 7 years. They went from being Michigan State to being Michigan in his tenure. Maybe that's not building the program from "nothing", but it's sure as hell an accomplishment.
Now the other program, Glenville State, really WAS nothing.
Had teams like Miami and VT in it...when they were good. Rich dodged them for most of his titles. I'm sure if OSU, Wisconsin and MSU leave the Big Ten we could be doing the same thing.
It's not reasonable to exclude certain players...that's like me saying what Rodriguez would be without Pat White or what he would be without Denard in this offense. I mean he just lost a heisman finalist last year in Gerhart and was able to produce a 11-1 team after that...give credit where it is due. Also, you have to give credit to him for developing Luck into the QB that he is as well, because as it is known, not every coach can develop talent.
You really think there's nothing rational about the pro-JH (or anti-RR) argument? That exposes you right there. Virtually all reasonable people see at least some merit in the opposing argument.
There's a dozen valid reasons why DB could replace RR. Major ncaa violations. Terrible defense. Gerg. Terrible special teams. Zero signature wins. Worsening results against our two top rivals. Mediocre recruiting. Attrition. An endless stream of enemies and "bad luck." Josh Groban. Etcetera. Ad nauseum.
Don't be so ignorant.
To that list I'd add growing fan alienation. It was apparent to anyone who attended games this year, and then that poll taken a couple weeks ago (the scientific one) showed that 35% of the in-state fanbase wants him gone right now, with another third on the fence. There are whispers of donations going down and ticket renewals expected to decline. Hire Harbaugh, and the program gets a fresh start, and the fanbase becomes re-energized. This is not only the hottest coaching name in the country - a guy many NFL teams want - but a former U-M great.
If someone wants to rationalize RR's failures and argue that he deserves another year, fine, but to suggest that there is no argument for bringing in Harbaugh is absurd. Some people here seem to have become bigger fans of RR than Michigan..
That's an interesting argument to make because I think very little of that is on the shoulders of Rodriguez himself. It's not fair to blame him for the various disinformation campaigns he's had to endure because a group of media, whiny alums with money, and disgruntled former players decided on day 0 he wasn't a "Michigan Man."
I'm not saying Rodriguez is perfect - not by any means. I have this feeling, when all is said and done, that he will not have gotten a fair shake by the UM communiy and that is what is most disappointing. As an alum of the University, it pains me to see a good guy and a great football coach essentially run out of town (from the beginning) without having a fair chance to prove himself.
There might be people around here who like RR more than Michigan, but I guarantee you that isn't me.
Didn't bring in Rich Rod "re-energize" the program...until it blew up in our faces? I agree that a new coach/possibly new system, combined with the JH jingoism would probably add a curiosity factory to our upcoming season, but it would ONLY sustain itself if the 'new era,' so to speak, proved to be successful. If JH comes and has a poor (or even mediocre) first season, the same "we're-losing-I-hate-this" malaise will strike again. Fresh starts are not always good starts; don't think hiring a new coach guarantees $$$ and prestige.
Rich Rodriguez was brought in because everyone else said no or wasn't even offered the job, his agent called at the right time, and Bill Martin jumped on it to salvage a phenomenally botched coaching search. There wasn't any preconceived ideas of what it meant. He was simply the one who wanted the job at the right time.
How quickly we forget that Rich Rodriguez AND his agent sought out Michigan, and not the other way around.