I will start this thread by offering a small preface: Though the tone of this thread may dictate otherwise, for the past three years, I have been a relatively staunch Rodriguez supporter. I have generally thought that he has not gotten a fair shot since day one, and that people have been all too quick to criticize the man just because he is something “different” than what most Michigan fans are used to.
With all that being said, I must admit that even though we have seen progress on the field in terms of victories, I’m not convinced that we have seen true progress with the program as a whole. And what is worse, as I read the hundreds of comments on the beloved MGOboard, I have the sinking feeling that many in our fan base are losing touch with reality. Too harsh, you say? Maybe. But, many of the comments I see have had a common theme lately: “what if” or “if only”. Let’s review some of the more popular “If only” moments from the last three years.
- If only Rich had slowly transitioned UM’s offense to the spread, Michigan would have been more equipped offensively and probably could have beat Toledo, Purdue, and Northwestern.
- If only Rich had reached out to more of Lloyd’s players, attrition would have been minimized and a defense that underachieved would have bought in more. Combined, Michigan wins more games.
- If only Scott Shafer would have been competent, a defense that many thought would carry the team in 2008 would have been better.
- If only the offense wouldn’t have been so bad, the defense wouldn’t have had short fields, and thus could have performed better.
- If only our offensive players would have felt more comfortable in the system, they wouldn’t have had as many turnovers.
- If only our special team units didn’t turn the ball over….
- If only we convert a two-point attempt against Utah, we’re tied in the final minutes.
- If only Steven Threet hadn’t thrown an interception in the end zone against Toledo, that game is a W.
- If only we had covered one of the two receivers on Purdue’s hook and ladder, we hang on to win.
- If only there wasn’t a blizzard/monsoon, we would have beat Northwestern.
- If only Tate wouldn’t have gotten banged up.
- If only Michigan’s offense performed all game long the way it did in the final minutes against MSU, Michigan wins easily in regulation.
- If only Rich had played Tate on the final drive against Iowa, we would have upset the Hawkeyes.
- If only Roy Roundtree scores on the long pass at Illinois, Michigan never loses momentum and wins handily.
- If only Michigan held on to their 14 point lead against Purdue…..
- If only Michigan had been ready for an onside kick against Purdue…..
- If only Michgan hadn’t missed a PAT against Purdue…….
- If only Denard doesn’t toss two INT’s in the end zone against MSU, it is a whole different game.
- If only we had a kicker, special teams would help offset the decimated defense.
- If only we could have wrapped up on third down against Iowa, we would have had a chance to tie
- If only Robert Boldin doesn’t get hurt, we are able to beat PSU
- If only we had more depth, we’d be able to compete with elite big ten teams
- And the list goes on…….
Now maybe I went a bit overboard. And some of the “if only” moments are legitimate statements and some could probably never been avoided. But, let's be real people. The bottom line is that we don’t live in a world of ifs. The real world is based on results. And, on the flip side of all of the “if onlys” I listed, there are a handful that went our way (if only Weiss ran out the clock in 09, etc……I could easily present a list of "if only" moments that would lead to a 7-27 record in the last three years.)
At what point does Rich Rodriguez become responsible for not turning these “ifs” into reality? In three years we are 15-20. We are seeing the same special teams breakdowns we saw in year one. We have witnessed 9 games in which Michigan has lost by 17 or more (Lloyd Carr had 3 such games in his entire career). We have an offense that has taken a leap, yet disappears in key moments against quality teams (And let’s be honest, a great deal of that leap is a direct result of Denard) . We have a defense that may very well finish 120th by next week.
Progress? Sure. Enough? I don’t think so. Next year? Potential, but only if Rich can turn these “if only” moments into reality. And to this point, his record speaks for itself.