Purely a spec piece, be warned.
Caveats, biases and influences:
A. Brian and (until July) Tom Beaver were my sole sources of anything close to "inside" information from Schembechler hall. I don't know anybody in the program, or anything about Michigan football other than what I've seen on the field, gotten here or used to get at GBW.
B. I believe Bill Martin is a ridiculously successful businessman who has built a fortune and a fabulous resume by being a shrewd, winning decision maker.
C. I believe Lloyd Carr, after his announcement to retire, had three pieces of advice for Martin:
- Talk to Ron English and Mike DeBord.
- Don't hire Les Miles because X, Y and Z (these being criteria we'll never know, other than maybe X=I, Y=loath, Z=him).
- Talk to Kirk Ferentz
So, what if somebody other than Rich Rodriguez had been hired in January, 2008. (Doesn't seem that long ago, does it?) But, first, I have to set the field:
To the Carr postulate #1 above, Martin says, "thanks, Lloyd, I'll think about it."
To #2 and #3, he says, "I'll take your word for it, but I'll talk to both of them, thanks again."
So, he basically blows off English and DeBord because he knows that, no disrespect to Lloyd, this program needs to go in a decisively new direction.
He talks (or meets, we don't know) with Miles and finds him unattractive, confirming one, two or all of Lloyd's X, Y or Z, and dismisses Miles' candidacy outright. (The really loud story comes when somebody in the Michigan Man Grand Conspiracy Wing leaks misinformation to Desmond Howard and ESPN goes with "Les has been offered the job", when it's just not so. Bill is sailing because he couldn't give a fuck what's going on at ESPN WRT Les Miles and Michigan, and Miles has to look like a fool in honestly denying a story that's false; he's never been offered the job.)
Having crossed Miles off the list, Martin goes to Ferentz, with the influential assistance of Mary Sue Coleman. Ferentz says thanks but no thanks. Then he shops Schiano; same result. At this point we're all panicked because, uh, English or DeBord? There are a few more names thrown around, and then, Pat White's thumb hurts.
So, here are the viable 2008 candidates -- offered or about to be offered -- at the point Rodriguez came into play:
Unknown, and worse than any of the above
How would they have done/will they do? (Purely speculative numbers of wins; 2008/2009YTD/2009 remainder vs. RR = 3/3/*)
English (5/1/4=10). Defense would have been better both years if, for no other reason, continuity. Offense would have retained Debord/Mallett/Boren ("DeMoron" for short) and won a few more in 08 than RR. Bare cupboard and ponderously slow recruits would put the future in peril.
DeBord. (4/1/4=9). English would have left him. He'd be lost, as Martin knew; Mallett would break up DeMoron by transferring during or after the miserable 2008 season. Death and doom.
Ferentz. (6/2/4=12). A good coach who would have taken the bare cupboard and made the best. But, c'mon, it's a coach with no compelling reason for recruits to want to think about Michigan and the cupboard would still be bare.
Schiano. (I don't know; better than 12, less than 14.) I'll admit to running out of critical ammo here as I don't know anything about the guy other than he came up with ways to beat Rich occasionally. I think he would have been a good hire and I believe he was Martin's first choice.
But, I'm pretty sure Rich was the best choice, by happenstance or not. there's a huge difference between the man and his system. Barwis. Spread. Appalachian Stubbornness, total insensitivity to bad PR. Bo would have loved him and I, FWIW, do too.
And, the whole reason I was compelled to write this was... what if Pat White hadn't hurt his thumb?
* I say we win 6 more games this year for a regular season record of 9-3.
First time diary entry... go easy.
I can't help but feel like Sheridan really does seem to be in the mix and that RR is sincere when he indicates he really doesn't know who the #1 is yet.
I've seen Brian's Sheridan=Death so many times, it's hard not to have it plugged into my brain as fact, but...
If Sheridan does start or gets significant PT against WMU it would say less about the competition between the two candidates than about RRs confidence in the offense overall.
Assume Tate is more capable of making big plays and that some of those big plays will be the kind that go the wrong way. Nick on the other hand is less capable of good big plays, and I would argue bad big plays too. With a lot of good execution all around, the QB position becomes less critical and Sheridan-like mediocrity is OK.
You gotta believe Nick will be a better QB than he was last year. He's a student of the game, he's got another year of reps and knowledge and coaching under his belt, and, biggest thing: in the "countdown" videos on the U site he actually looks confident in interviews, athletic in drills and spiral-producing with his throws. In other words, “walk-on” doesn’t come to mind anymore.
So, am I predicting Sheridan will get substantial PT against WMU? Well, yes, I am and not just inconsequential PT. And it won't be because he's a better weapon but because there are a lot of much better players around him, especially the ones in front of him, and because I suspect Tate could probably gain from a little of the humility that comes from having to reflect on QB play in the bighouse vicariously.