Dear Diary: The Stakes Are Too High

Submitted by Seth on December 5th, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Rodriguezvote  Harbaugh

Dave's Decision: 2011

Dear citizens of this Great Nation of Diary,

We stand at the doorstep of a new era of Michigan football. Whose era that will be, well, that's up for discussion, apparently a lot of discussion.

As partisan lines harden, the diaries section has been filled with bloggers intending to help Dave Brandon make his most momentous end-of-year coaching assessment yet. The readers have even invented a neat little title tag, "CC:" to denote any coaching-related discussion and make it easier for those who want to avoid it to keep away (co-sign), but not before user jhackney, our resident MGo-Gonzo Journalist, somehow got his neg button replaced with The Red Button:

With apologies to those for whom that ad brings up bad memories.

His point (this isn't his point) is well-taken: whoever wins the most David Brandonectoral votes in January will be in command of the most dangerous weapon (pic by MonuMental) ever devised by the Big Ten:


The stakes are high: since I am unable to divorce enjoyment of life from the adventures of Michigan football, whichever coach is chosen must win Big Ten Championships, end the Ohio State streak, re-tie the hoodie we keep MSU trapped in, continue politely breaking ND fans' hearts, and be Michigan Manly while doing it.

Some may believe that the One Man has already cast his one vote, that this is actually part of some great conspiracy involving a cabal of Les Miles, Leslie Nielsen, churchgoing redheads and Dominos (bwgrundt1484 – it's pretty funny).

Anything that was just e-pinion or stream of consciousness was bumped down to the boards, or in some cases just nuked; my cutoff for Diaries on this topic is whether or not the author has provided a bare minimum amount of new information or insight. The following is a rundown of the survivors.

Notes: "m's" is my completely subjective rating of the article's persuasiveness, referring to the number of 'm's I mentally put in the word "hmmm" after reading it before moving on. A 1 is "hm" -- basically a grunt. A 5 is hmmmmm, or "wow, that's really insightful." They're listed in order of (my opinion of) reading importance:

Title Author Favors Synopsis m's Snapshot
Experience vs defensive performance
ebv Probably JH but it wasn't intended as an election article, just is. Uses class (not age) data from every school to see if that correlates to D. 5 b8l9fn
MGoBoard: "'Should we keep Rodriguez?' 'Yes.'" the_white
RR Poll update as of 11/29 tracking 5 RRvJH3
Improvement, Quantified


ikestoys RR By FEI, M has improved a lot since '08 4 michiganrank
In depth analysis of Stanford's D under Harbaugh Papa
JH slightly A good rundown of Stanford's D under Harbaugh 4 RRvJH2
Lack of improvement, Quantified Nonnair JH Mistakes during 1st half drives are M-2010's problem 3 RRvJH6
A different look at the importance of experience 2012 On fence Good defenses have few freshmen starters 3 RRvJH7
Rich Rodriguez vs John L Smith Michigan
JH Some parallels btw yardage and scoring O/D 2 RRvJH1
Jim Harbaugh transition easier then you think? The program JH Tries (and fails) to assess a 2011 starting lineup under JH 1 RRvJH8 
..wait, Gardner&Cox whut?
Hard to Disagree with Both "Sides" snoopblue RR-ish It's not an easy decision. Mostly just e-pinion. 1 RRvJH4
The Whine Mman
RR Patience: RR's excuses are good ones 1 RRvJH5

For the record, just so you know my biases, I would vote for four more years! with the conditional proviso of major changes (either Casteel, or a Shannon-type hire who gets complete control) in the Department of Defense, because I don't want to be one of those schools who fires their head coach before he graduates a class.

Also: If Harbaugh's elected (and decides to run), he would have my complete support.

Also Also: I don't get a vote.

Also Also Also: I realize I invited a little with the election-y metaphor here but keep the real politics out of the comments. If you think anything in this analogy favors any political side, e-mail me and I'll change that as quickly as I can.* The intent is to have none.

Hope for Change (of the Subject)

roundtreedropsit  shot-foot


Max Collins/The Michigan Daily

Last week I urged Enjoy Life to continue a new "unforced errors" wrinkle to his turnover tracking, after his Wisconsin autopsy revealed this:


He obliged:



Also: EJ's weekly turnover & special teams disaster spectacular.

Also also: Diarist of the Week.

(By the way, DotW gets 200 MGoPoints. I've been doing this quietly for several weeks and guess I didn't tell anybody. Oops).

Since talking Michigan is too painful, some of us started looking Big Picture, or at least Big Ten. I did a little game-by-game comparison of MSU/Ohio State/Wisconsin. Then Coach Schiano one-upped me with a graph of who beat who etc. that lead to actual calculations of Big Ten seasonry:

The graph is simple to understand: each team is a node (circle), and there is an line connecting each team that played another team. The line is actually an arrow, making this a directed graph, in the obvious form: if there is an arrow from Team A's node to Team B's node, it means Team A beat Team B. Here is the graph:

The Victory Graph (Click on it for full size)

So then, of course, joeyb came in to one-up Schiano by applying this concept to the entire FBS:

The first thing that I tried to do to fix this was to weight the games. Instead of automatically giving a team a path of length one for a win, I started dividing that by the number of scores (8 points) that a team won by. So, winning by 24 points, or 3 scores, would give you a path length of .333 over that team. This works out really well because it benefits teams that win by 2 or 3 scores, but it doesn't benefit teams too much for going beyond that.

Next week: MGoDiarist creates graph analysis of all matter to create a single unifying theory.

My understanding of graph analysis is that it works better the more various nodes interact, so doing this for every college team will net really weird results and doing it for the Pac Ten (until 2011) would work best.



Drakeep discovered that Big Ten teams fared the best among FBS conferences vs winning teams this year (probably because beating two 7-5 Big Ten teams is worth more than beating a 10-2 SEC team and a 5-7 SEC team, but if you have this conversation with an SEC fan they might not know that.

Brady2Terrell found that The Year of Infinite Pain and The Year We Expected 7-5 and Got It had little in common beyond their records.

This wasn't a diary, but BleedingBlue gave an historical account of the Rich Rod era (so far?) in pictures:


To this, Michigan4Life replied with an alternative history writ in kittens.

And finally, I want to extend a personal THANK YOU to all the MGoBlog readers and fans who contributed gifts, money, and time for this year's Adopt-a-Shelter. Again, several readers (and readers' mothers) showed up to help. Again, the Salvation Army officers mentioned to me they were impressed at the Amazon gifts that kept coming. Again, Mitch Albom didn't seem to know we exist. Special shout-out to reader/non-commenter Robyn Morawski, who patiently sat around for hours after the event so that every single kid would have their printed picture with Santa Claus.


* Unless it's about the borders: RR coaches Michigan (navy blue), Harbaugh coaches Stanford (cardinal red), and I used the official school colors for each. Yes, these are U.S. major party colors. Yes, that was on purpose. No, the color of the party and the color of the coach does not say a damn thing about the coach's candidacy.



December 5th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

I wish everyone would relax and let coach rod coach his team..  When gene chizik was hired at auburn everyone was not to happy with him coaching the tigers but look how that has turned out..  The defense will get fixed the worst is behind us let the man coach he is not an idiot..  If harbaugh comes here I hope he wins a national championship next year because from what i hear he is the greatest coach to ever coach football.


December 5th, 2010 at 5:12 PM ^

Number of national championships JH has coached: 0

Number of NCs JH has played in: 0

Number of Super Bowls played in: 0

Number of Super Bowls coached in: 0

Nevertheless, those who see Harbaugh (whom I like, don't get me wrong) as the Second Coming of YostCrislerSchembechler seem to be planning for a National Championship Every Year Yo! If he doesn't achieve that, you can bet his performance would be UNACCEPTABLE!!! and he should immediately be fired because WE ARE MICHIGAN HURR HRR!!


December 5th, 2010 at 8:09 PM ^

Why do you assume that the defense will get better? The data shows that it has gotton worse over the past three years. That is the trend anyways.Just being older means little because UM had older player the first two years and the defense stunk.

We also cannot assume that it will get any better under Harbaugh either. So I suppose that no matter what UM does, the defense will be a huge question mark next year.


December 5th, 2010 at 4:35 PM ^

Really wouldn't mind flipping the Graph Theory plot upside down. Did tOSU *have* to be at the top and M at the bottom? Curse you, computers!


December 5th, 2010 at 4:52 PM ^

a damn thing about each coaches candidacy, but I found it interesting (ironic?) that the outlines of the pictures sort of match the coaches style compared to Michigan history. RR=New Age, "Change," while JH= Old School style, what we're used to. Not necessarily a perfect formula, and I don't mean to bring politics into it, but I found that slightly comical.


December 5th, 2010 at 7:05 PM ^

i think its worth noting that Jim Harbaugh's record at Stanford was 3-9, 5-7, then 8-5 and now 10-2 which is very similar to what Rich Rod has done here with possibly a virtual tie if Michigan wins its bowl game, with very high expectations to win around 10 games next season if Rich comes back.. I just think thats a big factor that everyones over looking. Jim is not a god like everyones making him out to be, he has the same track record as Rich (not saying Jim wouldn't be a good fit or do well here). 


December 5th, 2010 at 8:01 PM ^

is that Harbaugh took over a traditionally downtrodden program(excepting the John Ralston and Elway eras of Cardinal football) whereas Rodriguez took the reins of one of the most tradition-rich, consistently good  football programs in America, Stanford was 1-11 the year before Harbaugh came to Palo Alto while UM went 9-4 the year before RichRod arrived in Ann Arbor

Simply put you are comparing Northwestern to USC. The gulf in fan support, history, and financial resources between the two schools is significant. They only similiarity is that both are elite academically.


December 5th, 2010 at 10:24 PM ^

'Michigan thought the same thing about another WVU coach. They thought if you are a success at WVU than you must be a success at Michigan. That didn't turn out the way they thought it would.'


I think Harbaugh is a better fit. But so far RR hasn't been a great fit at Michigan; and with our lousy D and special teams,  i'm betting we'll still have problems next year. 


December 6th, 2010 at 8:59 AM ^

Actually, saying that Tyrone Willingham was a good "fire" by Notre Dame tends to work against the argument of keeping RR.  I believe he was the first coach in Notre Dame's history not to have his initial contract honored, and this was after he had 10-3, 5-7, and 6-6 seasons (a bowl game in his third year, an overall record of 21-16, and some would argue evidence of both ability to have strong success - a 10 win season - and a trend of improvement from his 2nd to his 3rd season).  Tyrone Willingham also never lost to Navy, something that neither Charlie Weis nor Brian Kelly can say.

Blue Balls

December 5th, 2010 at 7:42 PM ^

Do you really believe that DB needs one more game to make this decision?  I believe one of two things will happen.  Either JH will be  the new Michigan Football Coach or several of Coach Rod's staff will be replaced.   I remember back in 1989 when Bill Frieder announced that He would be leaving Michigan just prior to the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  For those younger bloggers, BO was the AD at the time.  Bo fired Coach Frieder  before the tournament started stating He wanted a "Michigan Man" to coach the team. Michigan went on to win the National Championship(sorry older bloggers but I just love telling that story about BO).   DB won't hire or fire anyone before the season ends but  it only makes sense that this decision has already been made. 


December 5th, 2010 at 9:07 PM ^

So many analyses arguing for / against retaining Rich Rodriguez.  So many efforts to measure his improvement year over year.  Well, I suspect that Dave Brandon has looked not only at our coach's progress after three years, but at Conference coaching rivals with about the same tenure.

In particular, Mark Dantonio sticks out like sore thumb.  Consider:  after replacing John L. Smith as head coach in 2007, Dantonio went 3-5 in the Big Ten and 7-6 overall.  Going into the 2010 season, MSU's Big 10 record stood at 13-11.  Despite the out-of-control players, felony convictions, and the team's regression in 2009 from it's jump to a 6-2 Conference record in 2008, I would guess that Dantonio's AD was satisfied with the direction of the program.  Recruiting had improveed, MSU  was winning games in the Conference, and had improved on defense, offense, and special teams.  It was also starting to overcome its ingrained habit of shooting itself in the foot.  MSU's 11-1 season this year seems more evidence that Dantonio has the program moving in the right direction.  Three wins over Michigan hasn't hurt either.

Now put yourself in DB's shoes and look at Michgan's conference record under Rich Rodriguez.   After three years, Michigan's Won-Lost record is 6-18.  Every one of those 6 wins was a struggle, and all of them were nail-biters.  We do not dominate any Conference team, but about half the Conference dominates us.  Besides the obvious regression on defense and the ineptness of special team play, the team has not looked like it belonged on the same field with PSU, Wisconsin, Iowa and OSU.  It struggled to defeat Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue. 

Brandon has to ask himself if this year's dramatic offensive improvement and the emergence of Denard as one of the best players in the country will carry Rodriguez' 2011 squad to achieve at least a break-even Conference record, and at least one solid victory over the top teams in the Conference.  Another season of not being competitive against MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, PSU, or Iowa, even if the team improves to 8-4, would probably divide the fan base even more deeply than it is currently.  

Put simply, Rodriguez' conference record to date virtually demands an 11-1 or 10-2 season in 2011, with conference wins over MSU, Wisconsin, and OSU as a minimum.  If I were betting on Brandon's decision, I'd wager that he's not going to take that bet.  Dramatic improvement in our Conference Won-Lost record will require a defensive and special teams leap of huge proportions--and hopes that Denard does not suffer a season ending injury at some point.

It can't be fun being Dave Brandon in December 2010.  But ask yourself if will be fun watching another Conference performance in 2011 like that we've seen the last three years.  Yes, our kids will have more experience, another year under their belts.  But so will most of our chief rivals.


Eye of the Tiger

December 5th, 2010 at 9:35 PM ^

...then Brandon needs to come out and say it so we don't lose recruits.  If it's JH, then he may not be able to say it until Jan 1.

As I see it, that could have two, divergent implications.  First, I think the longer he waits, the more anger about the OSU game dissipates, favoring RR.  Second, the longer he waits, the more it undermines RR, and the worse it is for RR's efforts to put together a 9+ win season next year.  

While waiting until the alumni are pliant might be a politically wise move, it's football dumb. As I've said before, DB should simply ask JH: "do you want this job? If so, I need you to commit now."  If the answer is "no" or "I can't," DB should simply say good luck and reaffirm RR's position as coach in 2011.  


December 5th, 2010 at 9:47 PM ^

I don't see it as a Rodriguez vs. Harbaugh decision at all. If JH wants to come, the job is his. Just the way I see it.

And I really hope he does come here. A program with this much baggage deserves a clean slate. People can complain about the unfair media coverage of RR all they want, but at some point it's time to just admit that life isn't fair, perception is reality, and that a coach that doesn't get that should not be coaching a program as scrutinized as Michigan's is.

Eye of the Tiger

December 6th, 2010 at 2:42 AM ^

...don't you think that waiting until Jan 1, and declining to reaffirm the current staff's job security damages our position with both current recruits and leaves Harbaugh with little time get his own  guys in?  Given our impending positional crises at LB next year and DL the year after, and potentially on the OL in 2 years, isn't this an alarming prospect?

I'd say give it to Harbaugh if--and only if--we can get him now.  Otherwise I think we're better sticking it out with Rich another year.  

st barth

December 6th, 2010 at 7:48 AM ^

The election analogy is a nice try, but a better one would have been comparing the present state of Michigan football to the Gossip Girl tv show.  Here's the quick summary:

David Brandon as Serena Van der Woodson.  He/she can't choose between Rich Rodriguez/Dan Humpherey/Brooklyen or Jim Harbaugh/Nate Archibald/Upper East Side.

Mgoblog as the Gossip Girl website that legions of Michigan fans/teenage girls constantly follow waiting for the latest news so that we can have an opinion about and then go call our friends and talk.