One Last Blind Stab In The Dark

Submitted by Brian on December 30th, 2010 at 1:28 PM

rich-rodriguez_p1Jim-Harbaughgoat

Let's make a deal.

Saturday Michigan takes on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl and Sunday something may or may not happen involving the throttling of an infant Denard Robinson in his cradle and the tears and lamentation that may or may not result. That would hypothetically also mean the reign of terror Greg Robinson's hair and the zombie minion that goes by the name of Greg Robinson would be over. The city of Ann Arbor emerging from its cocoon of upper middle class ennui to shoot AK47s in the air would at least partially offset the tragic, still hypothetical loss of baby Denard. I have taken too long on this bit.

Two days later Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal take on Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After he may or may not be destined for Michigan or the 49ers or the moon. The latest from Harbaugh is reminiscent of one Brian Kelly last year:

"I only talk about the job I have now," Harbaugh said when asked if he or his representatives had spoken to the 49ers about their coaching vacancy.

He acknowledged having a "dual focus"—

WHHHAAAA?

--on his team, which will play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Monday, and on his daughter, Katherine, who was born just before Christmas.

Aw, come on, Harbaugh.

So what's going to happen? I still don't know. No one does. Last time on this show I said I didn't have anything solid and probably wouldn't because of the nature of the "search" but that the mystical aura wasn't looking so hot:

I'm not inclined to put much in the widespread chatter that had RR out the door after the OSU game and seems to be continuing since its sourcing seems to be pissed-off-you-guys folk clearly unhappy with the state of the program taking small interactions and interpreting them as they desire. However, the vibe I'm getting from other people who seem to be on the fence about what to do—or at least close to it—also makes it seem unlikely Rodriguez is back. Emphasis on all the qualifying words in the previous sentence, please. I've got nothing solid because no one does.

I also said that Brady Hoke would be named Michigan's coach over my dead body and the last semblance of sanity in the universe but that wasn't based on inside information. It was more a "has everybody gone CRAZY!?!" moment, and if the threat of Hoke didn't linger in the air I'd apologize for it. As it is I'm on the battlements with an axe* waiting to behead anyone who pops up and says "my name is Buh—." Bill Parcells is duly warned.

With less that a week left before the month of limbo is over, I haven't received anything that pushes my opinion much one way or the other. To reiterate, that's:

  1. There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is fired, otherwise there would have been an announcement.
  2. Schools do not start coaching searches on January 2nd.
  3. There's only one guy out there that could plausibly be socked away or all but in time for Michigan to have a reasonable finish in recruiting and could justify yet more chaos in a program that is pointed in the right direction, even if vaguely.

So it's Rodriguez or Harbaugh and we'll probably know the day after the Orange Bowl. With all due respect to people who would argue otherwise, it makes no sense to fire Rodriguez in January if you do not have a coach lined up immediately. Since the list of people other than Harbaugh who Michigan could install within a week reads "Buh—[blood theatrically spraying from neck]" your alternatives are between rushing someone through without pause for consideration—which worked out so well last time—or dragging the search almost up to Signing Day, leaving your recruiting class a smoking crater and possibly dooming the next guy, who will forever be Not Jim Harbaugh, to repeat the cycle.

I have heard some things that push me more towards Harbaugh:

  • Some connected guys at Cal email that Tedford is aiming to poach Harbaugh's OL coach since he has "agreed to go elsewhere already" as of the 17th of December. Caveat: the Cal rumor mill bears no animus towards Rodriguez but would love to see Harbaugh anywhere but Stanford, so as things get passed down the chain they get more certain.
  • A player who split his career between RR/Carr years tells an emailer that Harbaugh will be installed on the fifth. Caveat: why the hell would some former player know?
  • An emailer who reports things second hand but has been reliable in the past suggests that Mary Sue Coleman isn't a big fan of Rodriguez, which isn't much of anything to go on but just adds to the pile.
  • Media people I talk to generally say the best thing is probably to give him one more year but that they don't expect he'll get it. Also not much of anything but vibe.

The only thing pointing the other way is the generally sunny disposition coming from within Schembechler Hall, but with recruits the coaches are saying they've got no idea what's going on but if they're still around after the bowl they'll still be around forever, or something to that effect. That's a hard sale right there.

If I was 55-45 Harbaugh a month ago I'm 65-35 Harbaugh now. I wish I could be more certain and wouldn't make the decision I think is likely if I was king of the world, but that's life. We'll know soon enough.

AWFUL BONUS: If there is a change you can go start the Denard transfer watch at DEFCON 2, since Robinson knows what he is—the Big Ten offensive player of the year as a sophomore at quarterback—and where he fits. How screwed up is a program that manages to get both Ryan Mallett and Denard Robinson to transfer away from certain starting QB jobs in the course of three years?

This hasn't happened yet. Breathe. I am talking to myself mostly.

*(To avoid a Tucker Carlson moment let me clarify: I am not going to cut Brady Hoke or anyone's head off with an axe.)

Comments

michgoblue

December 30th, 2010 at 1:43 PM ^

I was just chatting with my friend who is a huge ND fan and the topic of the CC came up.  His take: "as a ND fan, I hope to hell that you guys don't manage to land Harbaugh."

From what he said, the majority of rational ND fans (oxymoron?) are petrified of us getting JH.  But not only because they believe that JH would transform Michigan back into a winning maching.  They fear that Michigan, with a coach like JH at the helm amid a sea of positive press, would clean ND's clock on the recruiting trail. 

This is a point that I have not considered.  Even if RR is retained, unless he has a monster season next year, this speculation will continue, and if it does, then recruiting will continue to suffer.  Bringing in JH makes this problem go away and we stop losing out on top recruits to the likes of MSU and ND. 

michgoblue

December 30th, 2010 at 2:06 PM ^

I said the same thing to him.  His answer was the ND has been so bad that it doesn't matter who coaches Michigan - we are going to beat them.  Next year (like every year) ND is expecting an improvement, and they think that they can beat us with RR. 

But, the real fear is not about losing - it is about JH building us back to a machine that cleans up in midwest recruiting - something that RR has not done.

FreddieMercuryHayes

December 30th, 2010 at 2:30 PM ^

Of my one OSU friend, and my few MSU friends, I hear the exact opposite.  They don't want our current team to mature and become truly dangerous.  Everyone agrees we need a defensive change and will get that one way or another, but by changing the head coach, they feel that will condemn us to another few years of mediocrity.  Although, they all still do think that Harbaugh would create a dangerous team down the road too.

GunnersApe

December 30th, 2010 at 3:35 PM ^

But from Buckeyes, we were talking about the “Game” and rivalry last year/this year they both said they fear JH coming home. It’s going to be a heck of a press conference when he put the B1G on notice.

 

Edit: this was a reply to G.S. & michgoble

jhackney

December 30th, 2010 at 2:37 PM ^

I'm right here. The man can post whatever he wants. He is the architect, so he can put up whatever he feels. Not only that, he has real sources and brings new information to the table. I suggest you lead your animal farm into here rather than polluting the MGoBoard with threads that could be posts.

Garvie Craw

December 30th, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

Jim Harbaugh is not only the last guy ND fans want at Michigan. OSU and MSU fans feel the same way. They all love them some Rich Rodriguez the way I loved John Cooper and John L. Smith.

Fuzzy Dunlop

December 30th, 2010 at 2:36 PM ^

That would be a dumb reason to hire Harbaugh.  Which is why its a good thing that no one in the world has suggested we hire Harbaugh for that reason.

You have it backwards.  It's not that Harbaugh will be a good hire because OSU and MSU fans fear him.  It's that OSU and MSU fans fear him because he would be a good hire.  (Not expressing an opinion on the matter, but clarifying the original point).

kw_hanna

December 30th, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

The reason we all loved Cooper and Smith was because there weren't signs of improving. Every year, those programs had terrible recruiting classes and the coach couldn't find wins.

RR is much different in that he has progressively gotten better. He has recruits coming in and the writing is on the wall that he is going in the right direction. 3 wins, 5 wins, 7 (8) wins...

You can't same RR is the same as Coop and John L because he's not even close...

Beavis

December 30th, 2010 at 1:51 PM ^

As an avid RR supporter, it pains me to say that the signs do point to Harbaugh.  Most notably with the "non-zero percent chance RR is retained" point above.  At this point it's one of two things (no other options IMO):

1) Harbaugh is already the coach, it's just become a timing issue that will be rectified after Stanford's bowl game.

2) DB is genuinely waiting out this bowl game for one more data point, in which he will see us crush MSU (NNTMSU) and keep RR.

bacon

December 30th, 2010 at 3:35 PM ^

I've always seen the delay in announcing as a tactic to strengthen DBs decision to retain RR rather than to allow him more data to address whether he should be retained. I think it's possible that it DB wants to retain RR, but knew it would be hard to announce RR's retention after an OSU loss and thinks that it might be more palatable after the bowl game. Therefore, DB may be leaning towards retaining RR, but might want to wait to announce it till after the bowl, especially if we win and are 8-5, because it's more acceptable for the media and the fanbase then.  Therefore, I've always seen the delay in announcing as a tactic more to strengthen public support for DBs decision to retain RR rather than to gather more data to address whether he should be retained.   Indeed, his case would be better served with a big win over MSU and wins by Wisky, PSU, Michigan state, and OSU in their bowl games.

RR for his part isn't moping about this, which makes me think that he believes he's going to be the coach next year.  RR probably has a better sense about his own fate than anyone else outside of DB. When big Charlie was on the block, ND kept him from going out recruiting and declined to go to the bowl game.