In his latest missive, Matt Hinton (Dr Saturday) tackles RichRod's recent assertions that he was, oh so close to a breakthrough and if only he had been retained... Well you know the rest. Hinton's not buying it, not in the least.
Presumably, Rodriguez thinks Brady Hoke only has to crawl through the last few remaining yards of crap before he breaks into the clear, thanks to the previous administration's legwork. That makes some sense: Going forward, the Wolverines figure to be one of the most veteran teams in the country this fall, with nine offense starters returning around Robinson – including four-fifths of the offensive line – and a defense that should at least have a clue for a change, if not a sudden influx of talent. Hoke is obviously exaggerating for effect when he says anything short of a Big Ten championship is a "failure," but it's not an exaggeration to expect the 2011 edition to look closer to the Michigan that you (and Hoke) grew up with than any of the depressing teams that took the field under his predecessor.
And really, that would probably be the case if Rodriguez had been miraculously granted a fourth year. But some discernible return to form was the mandate for 2009, too, and again last year. Despite their fast starts, those teams ultimately delivered nothing of the sort. The 2011 team, the first legitimately veteran lineup at Michigan since Lloyd Carr's last go-round in 2007, may be the one to fulfill that promise, regardless of who's at the top; a lot of people who aren't dumb will probably spend the next six months predicting exactly that. But the natural optimism that comes with an experienced team is an inevitable matter of time, not of steady, coordinated progress. If a more seasoned outfit does manage a breakthrough this fall – minor or otherwise – does Rodriguez really think he's earned the right to lead it?