Moon Disaster

Submitted by Brian on January 3rd, 2011 at 12:22 PM

1/1/2010 – Michigan 14, Mississippi State 52 – 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten

Amongst the many many things posted over the weekend that could have been posted at any time in the last three years was one odd bit of history that's apropos: a letter drafted for Nixon to read in the event that Neal Armstrong and company were to die on the moon because the lander wouldn't leave.


Men in charge of things make difficult decisions and live with the consequences of their actions even if they result in reading the thing William Safire wrote for you about two men watching at their oxygen gauges count down in an airless wasteland.

Back in the summer of 2008, when we were a happy-go-lucky band of mountain yodelers with flowers in our pockets and caviar dreams, I finished up that year's preview with that picture of Don Canham staring down a thicket of microphones as Bump Elliott searched for a sandwich and Bo exuded his Bo-like confidence. I've referred to it ever since, and here it is again:


Lives were not literally at stake above, but even so it's hard to imagine Nixon adopting an expression that more perfectly sums up the feeling of someone who's made a big decision and now has to watch someone else execute. At the end of that post this is what I said:

We are all Don Canham now. Rich Rodriguez comes in with a wildly successful pedigree but promises to finally tear down the culture of Bo’s program, to replace it with something uncertain. This has caused apprehension in some, joy in others, and disdain verging on hatred in a select group.

The program risks changing into something people drift away from because it has drifted from them, or, worse, something that you only wish you could drift away from. It also promises fireworks and fun and victory and a feeling that’s something other than that thing we’ve felt so much before. Other fanbases go through this every five or ten or fifteen years; for us it’s been 40.

I could welcome it, I guess, or celebrate it, or proclaim inevitable dominion over the land. But I don’t feel like it. Nor do I feel like fretting over imaginary scandals future. Like Canham, I just hope it works.

I don't think it has. A game somewhere around expectations would not have moved the needle enough for slight support for Rich Rodriguez to morph into a call for firing, but I turned the game off before the third quarter was over and when I felt remorse and turned it back on a few minutes later Mississippi State had put up another touchdown. It was not around expectations, except in the ways that it was by not being around expectations in a depressing direction. Before the season I thought 7-5 would do it but now at 7-6 with every loss a blowout and three of the wins last-drive nailbiters, Michigan's progress seems minimal at best. But for the opening week, this is the worst seven-win season imaginable.

If I'm slotting Rich Rodriguez into the picture above he's on the right, and it's time to look for the guy on the left again.

Coaching Bits

On the likelihood of a change. Still nothing definitive but everything that enters the inbox adds to the circumstantial pile of evidence suggesting we're done. If Harbaugh escapes Michigan's clutches Michigan is in a bad spot because of the "process" and how much time it's left them in the event they do not immediately transition to a new coach, but having no serious options other than Rodriguez is probably the only scenario in which we don't see a change.

As to when, Tom says he's hearing there's a team meeting tomorrow at 7 PM that was scheduled before the bowl game. If that's now be a wake we'll hear about it soon after. There are unconfirmed third hand reports about coaches saying goodbye, which could mean anything from the obvious canning of Greg Robinson to a wholesale broom.

Also, while some players have been publicly supportive, a lot of parents have jumped ship and have met with Brandon expressing frustration at goings-on on the defense. Some players may have been "lost" by the bowl debacle as well.

On recent Harbaugh panic. The Big Lead probably doesn't know shit and even if he turns out right he got lucky because he's just randomly saying things people email him without even a cursory check. However, Adam Schefter is serious business and this is foreboding:

Schefter on ESPN: "Now, there is a real feeling around the league (Harbaugh) would prefer be in the NFL."

On the other hand, "a real feeling" is far from definitive and Schefter was just reporting that Harbaugh was leaning towards Michigan with the same strength—coaching change stuff is "fluid," and by fluid people mean "batshit."

On Brady Hoke. "Not an option."

On Plan B. The Plan B name in the event Harbaugh escapes is probably Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald actually makes quite a bit of sense as a young guy with a spotless media profile who runs a spread offense Denard would feel at home in. He hasn't put together a monster team or anything but recovered from a shaky start in the aftermath of Randy Walker's death to go 9-4, 8-5, and 7-6. Not exactly Harbaugh and another guy who'd be leaving his alma mater for greener pastures, but Michigan is not in a great spot right now.



January 3rd, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

I was at the game and saw this exchange - RR was screaming something about the play, and Denard screamed back. Flip-out is probably accurate, he was obviously frustrated. RR then tried to calm him down
<br>Nothing worse than things we've seen before (Mallet/LC), and over in a moment.
<br>Parents complaining to Brandon, now that's not good


January 3rd, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

Funny how 3 years ago Les Miles was all the rage and he's no longer talking.  I wouldn't mind the Mad Hatter on the sideline, but I think the whole recruiting too many players thing has shot down his chances.


I'm not terribly upset abotu Pat Fitzgerald either.  He's been able to put together competitive teams at Northwestern, a perrenial all ACT school.  If he can recruit and coach like that at Michigan, he'd be a success.


January 3rd, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

It's not a Michigan Man that most Michigan Men want first and foremost. Mostly, they want someone who well represents Michigan. Minus Harbaugh, the Michigan Men would have no problem with someone like Fitzgerald. He's a solid guy from a good school. His players graduate. He doesn't have a reputation for recruiting guys like Pacman Jones. He's scandal-free. That's what people want most. Let's not take the Michigan Man thing too literally. Beilein, for instance, is more than welcome here.


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

I can't swallow this one. It IS a Michigan Man that most Michigan Men want first and foremost. Secondarily they want someone who is not a Michigan Man and represent Michigan positively. What people want the most is to win. I don't think there's as much pressure to fill any of the other coaching jobs in the Michigan athletic departments with "Michigan Men" because this term is generally used to describe the football program.


January 3rd, 2011 at 12:54 PM ^

Wow, Brian, you certainly know how to integrate secondary sources that tug at the heart strings. This was the post I've been afraid of since Toledo. I really wanted this to work; I love Rich Rodriguez, Lion King jokes, & tiny Mountain Goat blockers.

But I guess life works that way, and nice guys don't often finish first.

Yinka Double Dare

January 3rd, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

If we wanted a coach who runs a spread offense and had a terrible defense to finish the year, well, we already have that guy.  I have no doubts that Fitzgerald would represent the University well, but his team gave up over 500 rushing yards to Illinois, 70 points to Wisconsin, and 45 to Texas Tech in the bowl.  The only team they really showed up against was Iowa, who for some reason always blows against Northwestern.  Honestly, I'd rather have Rodriguez and a house-cleaned defensive staff.


January 3rd, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

Hey, TCU just won the Rose Bowl, why can't we pirate their coach? Give me a stout defense over a high-powered offense any day. I'm officially starting the Gary Patterson to UM rumor just because I need this to happen.


January 3rd, 2011 at 3:23 PM ^

He went undefeated in a non-AQ conference that already had a strong team and is moving to arguably the weakest AQ conference ... coaches are already fleeing in anticipation. (I'm not entirely sure that's the case, but then I'm also not sure Maryland is a step up from Connecticut unless you like the thought of someday playing in a conference championship game. It's not like the bowl tie-ins are that much better.)

If he comes to Ann Arbor, the expectations will be similar (to what they are right now, that is; I'm sure TCU isn't moving to the Big East so they can go 5-3 in conference play) and the pressure will be massively greater. I think it would have made more sense if TCU were staying in the Mountain West.


January 3rd, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

I like Fitzgerald as Plan B.  I assume he's a defensive minded coach given his playing background.  Secondly, the offense wouldn't be facing another total overhaul as the players in the system could continue their progress.  It's not ideal, but the logic is sound in my book.


January 3rd, 2011 at 12:59 PM ^

Brian, can you clarify and / or elaborate the following comment:

"Also, while some players have been publicly supportive, a lot of parents have jumped ship and have met with Brandon expressing frustration at goings-on on the defense. Some players may have been "lost" by the bowl debacle as well."

1.  "a lot" (5? 10? more?)
2.  'Some players may have been "lost" by the bowl debacle as well.'   Does "lost" mean "will transfer" or "go pro" (Mike Martin).  And did you mean current players or recruits?



Feat of Clay

January 3rd, 2011 at 2:52 PM ^

Yeah, I'd like some clarification on what "a lot" means, as well.

That said, IMO you can't put a lot of stock in what players say (or don't say).  You'd be foolish to stick your neck out if you're on the team.  Anything you say will be parsed to bits.  If you speak in favor of change, and the coach stays, you've ruined the trust between you.  If you speak in favor of the coach, but they bring in someone new, you rmight seem like you're against him right out of the gate. 

If my kid was on this team, I'd tell him to keep your head down and practice and play and not respond to reporters who ask you to say something.  That's the smart move.


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

2 questions:

1. What's the genesis of the "not an option" quote for Hoke? Quotes implies somebody said it, but it's not clear who from your post.

2. Is Fitzgerald your own random speculation, or is this a rumor you've heard?


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:01 PM ^

I am sad, but think it is time to move on. I have been a staunch RR supporter, and really wish it would have worked. But if pigs had wings, and cabbages were kings, is not something to pine hopes upon. "If only" is an excercise in frustration.

I do hope that JH comes to Michigan, the sooner the better. Interestingly, this site hated some JH, and opined that he would never be accepted here again. In a post several years ago entitled Destroy Harbaugh, Brian rips on JH, and there is consensus with Brian in the comments. I never agreed, and felt that JH was just speaking his mind, albeit in a way that was critical of Michigan.

Arrogant JH may be, but I suppose that is one of those culture things where he would be a better fit here than RR. The irony is that apart from RR's last three years and the disaster Michigan football has become, JH would never have been considered. The times, how they have changed. None of us can predict the future, but I don't think any other combination of events could have led so conclusively to Harbaugh being welcomed as Michigan's next football coach. May it be another 40 years before we go through such pain.


January 3rd, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

I'm still not sure if I'm going to make it to the end of the week, let along another 40 years.  After going all in on the liquor during Gator Bowl I'm still not sure as to the status of my liver.  I remember seeing that Harbaugh info graphic on Harbaugh coming up and chugging tequila like it was Natty Ice.  Nothing says fun like a 13 hour flight next to a screaming Chinese baby when you're hungover as hell and pissed off about your alma mater getting raped in a NYD bowl.

STW P. Brabbs

January 3rd, 2011 at 1:43 PM ^

It's interesting - I'm certainly one of the people who was angry with Harbaugh for his comments, and I remain so. 

There was actually one interesting tidbit in Rosenberg's column today, amidst all the nearly palpable gloating over Rodriguez's demise.  He speculated that the part of Harbaugh's outburst that rankled the most:

They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them.

... may have actually been motivated by Harbaugh's personal disappointment when Lloyd hired Scott Loeffler instead of him. 

Whether that's true or not, it's clear that much of Harbaugh's outburst was borne of his own (hurt) feelings and personal interests at the Stanford job.  This is my problem with Jimmy.  I don't care that he's a maniac on the sidelines, that he runs up the score, or that he may be a loose cannon with the media.  Fire in the belly: great.  But he's a self-promoter, and a self-aggrandizer, in a way that really rubs me wrong.   Those comments certainly were his own thoughts - they were the thought of someone who puts himself above loyalty to others, it would seem to me.

Now, that said, I hope Michigan hires him.  This may make me a hypocrite or merely a sports fan, depending upon how charitable or like-minded you may be.  But it will still take me a long time to pull for Harbaugh personally, even though knowing my fickle sports fan heart, I won't rule out the possibility.  Maybe after three or four wins over OSU I'll look back on those comments and say that was just Jimmy being Jimmy.  But in the short term, I hope Brandon gets him here so I can root for Michigan's players and its program to succeed under the guidance of their new coach, who's rather regrettably a real asshole.


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:08 PM ^

Pat Fitzgerald wouldn't be terrible by any stretch.  

However if end up with some cluster fuck coaching search, DB can pimp walk his way back to the pizza industry for all I care.


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

I hope it is not Fitzgerald. The "spread" is just an offense. Defense wins championships.

Stanford has the #10 defense. SDSU #44. Northwestern #67, Michigan #102


January 3rd, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

Oregon's D with their O is scary.

Our O is not nearly as scary as Oregon's.

From my post below:

In Michigan's six losses this season — all with the exception of Penn State were ranked opponents - the Wolverines were outscored 250-125. They lost their final three games — to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Mississippi State — by a combined score of 137-49.

That's 16ppg the last 3 game. Not too scary. Scary to the Indiana teams of the world maybe.


January 3rd, 2011 at 5:02 PM ^

I heard on ESPN last night that Oregon regularly plays 25 players on defense precisely because of the pace of their offense. Even with all the returning starters on defense next year, I don't think Michigan has that kind of depth.

Wolverine In Exile

January 3rd, 2011 at 1:07 PM ^

You threw a lot at us:

1) I want a context for the Brady Hoke "not an option" statement... don't need sources but just context

2) I have loved (NTLove) Pat Fitzgerald as a coach since he started. I have no doubt that if Persa was healthy they would have beat Illinois and Texas Tech. I have NO faith that he would  come here though, as that to me would be against the core values he projects (intraconference move, coaching against the guys he just recruited, etc). I could've seen Fitz going to Florida or Stanford, but not within the Big Ten.

3) I would love to see the Brian plan for a RR return... bring in Florida D-coaches let go by Muschamp? Do we need a dedicated special teams coach?

Fire up the Flight Tracker in t-minus 11 hours and counting...


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:08 PM ^

Brian, in previous posts, laid out the best case imaginable for retaining Rich Rodriguez. Some bought it, others didn’t, but it was at least cogently argued. It is therefore significant when Brian (quite rightfully) acknowledges that this regime cannot be saved.

I think Brian over-states the possibility that RR would somehow be brought back, if Brandon’s Plan A, B, and C don’t pan out. I just don’t see how Brandon does that, without it being painfully clear that he was left at the altar.

I agree even more strongly that Michigan’s 7-6 was the worst 7-6 you could imagine. Brian already noted that all the losses were blow-outs, and three of the wins came on the final possession—all against middling or worse competition. UMass came awfully close to being in the loss column as well. Nobody would call the Purdue game a dominating performance, and Bowling Green was a tomato can, which leaves UConn as literally the only great performance against credible opposition.

I have to agree, therefore, that any improvement was infinitesimal—basically, a pretty good offense (which frequently disappeared against better opposition) was offset by defense and special teams that have gotten worse every year.


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:08 PM ^

1) A defensive minded HC (e.g. Muschamp) who may decide to keep McGee or at least hire a spread-friendly OC.

2) One of the recently (or soon-to-be) canned NFL guys, like Sporano, Cable, Singletary, McDaniels...


January 3rd, 2011 at 1:29 PM ^

he's 8-8 on a disfunctional Raiders team with Crazy Al Davis drafting absolute busts. That's a pretty good coaching job. It's better than Kiffin who went to UT and USC.

His beating up a coach takes him out of the M job, but I was just looking for examples of NFL coaches who are available.