The Over/Under for Rich Rodriguez

Submitted by oakapple on August 28th, 2010 at 11:59 AM

Among the commentariat, there is fairly widespread agreement that Rich Rodriguez is sitting on the hottest of hotseats among college football coaches. The only disagreement among them, is just how well he needs to do, to be assured of returning in 2011. The consensus is that he needs to win 8 or 9 games.

Dave Brandon has said that there is no absolute litmus test. I think we can assume that Rodriguez is almost surely fired if the team wins five games or less, and he almost surely returns if it wins eight games or more—that is, assuming no more NCAA violations. The gray area is six or seven regular-season wins.

In setting the bar at eight games, we are aiming rather low, by historical standards. In the thirty-nine seasons that Michigan was coached by Bo Schembechler and his assistants, the team won fewer than eight regular-season games in just five seasons (84, 87, 93, 94, 05). And it should be noted that  Bo, Moeller and Carr had fewer games in which to do it, as their teams played only ten regular-season games in the first two years of Bo's tenure, and then eleven through 2005.

Still, there is only so much improvement that one can reasonably expect from one year to the next. Rodriguez's first two seasons are sunk costs, and if he can show a gain of +3 from 2009 to 2010, it is hard to argue that that is not good enough.

Another benchmark is that, in thirty-nine seasons, Bo and his former assistants never posted a losing record within the conference. The closest they came was in 1984, when Bo went 5-4 (they played a full round-robin in those days), on the way to a 6-5 regular-season finish, folllowed by a loss in the Holiday Bowl to the national champions, Brigham Young. That, by the way, was the closest Michigan ever came to a losing season in the Bo/Mo/Lloyd era.

One crucial point is that it is impossible to go 8-4 without at least playing .500 ball within the conference. With Michigan's talent advantage, the Wolverines should beat Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois, and Purdue, practically every time. I do realize even the best teams sometimes lose when they shouldn't, but the Wolverines are staring in the face of two-game losing streaks to three of those schools, and they very nearly lost to Indiana last year. If Michigan loses this year to more than one of these opponents, you would have to conclude that Rodriguez is getting consistently out-coached. It is also worth noting that Rodriguez has just one road victory in two years (Minnesota in 2008), and it is hard to see him surviving past 2010 if he does not start winning outside of Ann Arbor.

With a 6-6 or 7-5 regular-season record, Dave Brandon would have a tough decision. Objectively, there is no sugar-coating a 7-5 season that could very easily include losses to the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, and Notre Dame (those being the toughest games on the schedule). No one will say Michigan is back when it is losing to these teams, or to most of them.

Yet, firing Rodriguez would almost certainly usher in another year or two of transition, a sub-par 2011 recruiting class, and yet another coach who arrives to find a roster not built for the system he wants to run. (The probability of Brandon hiring another spread offense guy is slim to none.) In addition, it would also mean missing a bowl for the third consecutive year, since fired coaches seldom stay on to coach a bowl. For these reasons, as disappointing as a 7-5 campaign would be, Brandon will swallow hard and give Rodriguez one more shot in 2011.

It is too soon now to set the bar for 2011, but I would note that after next season Rodriguez must either be fired or given a contract extension. He is under contract through the end of 2013, but he would need to be extended well before then, as otherwise it would be tough to recruit (kids want to know they're coming to a stable program).

That leaves us with the question of what to do if Rodriguez goes 6-6. Many of the arguments for retaining Rodriguez after 7-5 apply with equal force. But in all honesty, I do not think you can accept 3-9 and 5-7, followed by 6-6, as adequate progress. It is practically impossible to write a 6-6 script that you could find acceptable, unless it involves beating Ohio State.

(I suppose I should note explicitly that the bowl outcome, if Michigan goes to one, is irrelevant to Rich Rodriguez's job security. Coaches are hardly ever fired after losing a bowl, because there is too little time to hire a replacement before national signing day.)

Two games loom large on the schedule: UConn and Michigan State. UConn is another one of those teams that "Michigan should beat" almost every time. Their roster is composed almost entirely of kids that were rated two stars or less when they were recruited. Star ratings don't win games, but when the talent disparity is as wide as it is here, there simply is no good excuse for losing to these guys. I am not saying it cannot happen, only that it is not excusable. What is more, with a trip to South Bend looming in Week Two, UConn is a win Rodriguez has to have.

The Michigan State game is important for two reasons. One is that it's a major rivalry in which Michigan has lost two straight. But even more important, it is hard to imagine how Michigan wins at least four Big Ten games, if MSU isn't one of them, particularly as the game is in Ann Arbor.

Obviously, there are ten other games to worry about, but in the likeliest scenarios that involve Rich Rodriguez keeping his job, wins over UConn and MSU are part of the picture.

In short, I think Rodriguez is: 1) surely retained for 2011 if he goes 8-4 or better; 2) surely fired if he goes 5-7 or worse; 3) likely retained if he goes 7-5; 4) likely fired if he goes 6-6. If Brandon is on the fence, the factors I think he will look at include:

  1. Beating the guys he's supposed to beat, particularly MSU
  2. Going at least .500 in conference play
  3. Getting at least one signature win in the conference

Comments

BigWeb17

August 28th, 2010 at 12:49 PM ^

didnt do a 180 with the program and its talent.  IMO 2008 doesnt count towards RR tenure as the Coach here.  Does anyone else think the "hot seat" threads are a little tired? Next week sittin the BIG HOUSE cheering like a fool for the MAIZE AND BLUE !!!

go16blue

August 28th, 2010 at 12:14 PM ^

I think the amount of talent coming back next year combined with a lack of many good coaches available to replace rodriguez will force brandom to keep him after a 7-6 season

teldar

August 28th, 2010 at 12:14 PM ^

I'm surprised you were willing to chance all your points on another RR ON THE HOT SEAT, OMG!!! thread. 

Now, for actual input, if there's improvement (not necessarily in terms of 8 wins), RR will be here another year. 

If there isn't, I see a Hello: Jim post in the future. 

raleighwood

August 28th, 2010 at 12:28 PM ^

I think that there are some other scenarios that come into play that could be an issue for RR (losing to Illinois or Purdue would not be good, even with a 7-5 record).  You also have to take into account that two of the games (BG and UMass)  are gimmes so 7-5 is really just .500 against "similar" competition.

I also don't think that a new coach would necessarily take 1-2 years to adjust.  Michigan has consistently recruited Top 15 talent along the way and many of them will be sophomores and juniors with significant game experience going into next year.  Of course, that was Top 15 talent before the losses of Dorsey, White, Turner....so it's a little hard to tell the true rankings of those classes.  I still think that they were good enough to compete at the top third level of the Big Ten.  A new coach would just need to utilize that talent in a constructive way.  I also think that almost any coach (spread or otherwise) would be able to make effective use of Gardner next year if it came down to that.

Of course, all of this is pointless and we won't know anything until we see the product on the field starting next week.

Mi Sooner

August 28th, 2010 at 12:35 PM ^

you are brave to post this diary.  now on to my thoughts

7-5 with a win over a school with the name 'state' in it is probably the breath easy mark for RR.  I think that we will have a good idea after the first two games

     2 - 0         he is going to be here for a long time and 8+ is doable

     1 - 1         making 7-5 will be what all of us are hoping for

     0 - 2         Brandon is making calls.

Mi Sooner

August 29th, 2010 at 8:56 AM ^

i grew up just south of the border.  we always refered to that school as BG, even when i was going to UT during the 80/90's.  still to this day, most native toledo area residents refer to the  University of Toledo by their old name, Toledo University or TU.  Toledo changed their name about the same time that BG added the SU(cks) part in the late 60's.

 

...and no, they do not count -- never did, but i have a few BG-UM hockey stories from over the years.

SysMark

August 28th, 2010 at 12:39 PM ^

When I saw the topic I figured it was a joke.  Hope you don't get slammed for this.  Having said that i think you are more or less on the mark.

However I can't see any way this team is worse than 7-5.  9-3, or better, is far more likely IMO.

Hoek

August 28th, 2010 at 12:39 PM ^

If Brandon won't put a number on the wins RR needs to keep his job why do people keep talking about it, I believe our AD and trust him to make the right call. 7 more days till we don't have to hear about this topic anymore.

NateVolk

August 28th, 2010 at 9:57 PM ^

Yeah if Brandon says it, I bank on it. Even if I don't like it. 

I can live with that style of leadership and turn my mind off the subject.  What a gift really.

I think the post was really well written and made great points.  On a wins and losses level absent other considerations, you might end up being right.  These types of discussions aren't totally negative. The "hot seat" aka "what does he have to do to not get fired?" discussions  drove me from newspaper forums to this blog.  

Life has been blue skies, Maize sun, and cold Coors Lights ever since. 

One thing to remember is there are two realities. The Detroit-media driven, mass hysteria one for very casual fans and the other more grounded reality more suited for fans on this blog. Brandon operates at an even more astute and aware level than the already advanced latter. So we are in good hands as far as a well thought out long-term decision being made here.

wildbackdunesman

August 28th, 2010 at 12:56 PM ^

In 2011 Rod will likely be returning 9 starters on offense, 9 starters on defense and his kicker and punter.  That is a good reason to bring him back if he shows any improvement with the depleted secondary.

Brandon also said he would look at other things like charity work from players (check), good behavior from players (check), players grades (check), and that we are still recruitng well (check).

I think it would be foolish not to give Rod a 4th year unless the team absolutley implodes, which will not happen.

Blue in sec country

August 28th, 2010 at 12:56 PM ^

I've got an idea, wait until the end of the season to judge. There are too many variables to make a win/loss judgement on the seasons success/failure. All these posts are an absolute waste of time.

befuggled

August 28th, 2010 at 1:42 PM ^

When Brandon reviews the season and decides what to do with Rodriguez, I'm sure Brandon will take into account the number of wins and which opponents we lost to. If he has any sense, he'll also look at how well the team was prepared for each game, how good each opponent actually turned out to be, how competitive the team is in losses, how the team handles adversity,  how Rodriguez handled any off-field incidents, how healthy the team is, whether or not the team gives up on him, and so on.

There are a ton of variables to take into account. Just look at the first two games. Regardless of whether we win or lose those games, it should make a difference in Brandon's evaluation whether they both wind up in BCS bowls or whether they stay home. It should make a difference whether or not the team is hit with major injuries. It should make a difference whether the team gives up or fights back to the end. It should make a difference whether Rodriguez keeps the team tightly under control or whether Rodriguez loses control.

bklein09

August 28th, 2010 at 1:32 PM ^

Ya, this post really does nothing for me at all.

You spent a huge chunk of your time and some of mine to basically say what some people on here and in the media have been saying for a year now.

"RR has to win # games or else!"

Of course you did it in a very clear, concise way. But bottom line is that this is the crap we have been hearing for months.

Let's just try to enjoy the season and not worry about the coach for a couple months hey?

Mgoscottie

August 28th, 2010 at 1:35 PM ^

you'd be an idiot not to at least wait to see the bowl game.  If we truck some team by 5 touchdowns we're good.  Probably the same thing with a 6-6 team. 

That being said, I think we should hit 8-4 and at the end of the year this team will be good enough to beat anyone. 

bluesouth

August 28th, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

the OP acknowledges DB has a criteria that does not include number of wins (at least publicly) and on the other hand the OP states assuredly that there is a number attached to DB's criteria for RR to keep his job.  Please next time you post a diary proof for content, especially if you are here to info.rm and or convince. I'm sorry your post may have been very well stated minus this

" Dave Brandon has said that there is no absolute litmus test. I think we can assume that Rodriguez is almost surely fired if the team wins five games or less, and he almost surely returns if it wins eight games or more—that is, assuming no more NCAA violations. The gray area is six or seven regular-season wins". 

But I'll never know since I stopped reading it after that statement.

 

  .  

BiSB

August 28th, 2010 at 1:58 PM ^

Make it stop. I can't handle one more "how many wins does RichRod need" thread. Next Saturday needs to get here in one hell of a hurry.

CarlisleWolverine

August 29th, 2010 at 8:00 PM ^

I started earlier than ever in my pursuit of this season by driving 8 hours to the spring game.  Then got my" Hail to the Victors - Two headed moster", then my PSU v Blue tix for October 30.  I have watched toooo many BigTen replays from 2009.  Let's get it on already.....Let's beat Uconn soundly, and then have something more to discuss.

NorthFLWolverine

August 29th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

...shit! All this pre-season speculation crap about "is coach RR going to be back next year?" is about to drive me nuts. Lets kick the damn ball off now for Pete's sake! Coach will be around for a while because 1) he's passionate about the game and wants to win; 2) he knows what he's doing; 3) his players will play hard for him because they respect and like him; 4) his system will work (eventually). Go Blue!

friendlyNeighb…

August 28th, 2010 at 3:37 PM ^

ok. this is way too long, but bare with me for a minute...

as a notre dame fan, i've listened to our  fans (admittedly often insane) consistently reiterate that the goal is to win national championship(s) as we've wandered through the post-holtz wilderness. when listening to michigan fans discuss the topic, i've heard this criterion raised less consistently. assuming that winning national championships is the goal, i wondered whether any coach has a record at the school where they won a title that looks like rich rod's - taking over a program that is solid on paper, regressing relative to recent performances and then rebounding to win a title. 

i dug back to find the records of coaches that won titles since 1980. what follows is their record in their first 3 seasons and the 2 seasons before they took over.

2009 alabama - saban, 3rd season

7-6

12-2

14-0

2 years prior

6-7

10-2

2008 florida - urban meyer, 2nd and 4th seasons

9-3

13-1

9-4

2 years prior

8-5

7-5

2007 lsu - les miles, 3rd season

11-2

11-2

12-2

2 years prior

13-1

10-3

2005 texas, mack brown 8th season

9-3

9-5

9-3

2 years prior

4-7

8-5

2004 usc, pete carroll

6-6

11-2

12-2

2 years prior

5-7

6-6

2003 lsu, nick saban 4th year

8-4

10-3

8-5

2 years prior

3-8

4-7

2002 ohio state, jim tressel, 2nd season

7-5

14-0

11-2

2 years prior

6-6

8-4

2001 miami, larry coker, first season

12-0

12-1

11-2

2 years prior

11-1

9-4

2000 oklahoma, bob stoops, 2nd season

7-5

13-0

11-2

2 years prior

4-8

5-6

1999 (and 1993 - 18th season) florida state, bobby bowden

5-6

10-2

8-3

2 years prior

3- 8

1-10

1998 tennessee, phillip fulmer, 6th season

10-2

8-4

11-2

2 years prior

8-2-2

9-2

1997 michigan, lloyd carr, 3rd season

9-4

8-4

12-0

2 years prior

8-4

8-4

1996 florida, steve spurrier, 7th season

9-2

10-2

9-4

2 years prior

7-5

7-5

1995 nebraska, tom osborne (1994 - 23rd season)

9-2-1

9-3

10-2

2 years prior

9-2-1

13-0

1992 alabama, gene stallings, 3rd season

7-5

11-1

13-0

2 years prior

9-3

10-2

1991 split - washington, don james, 17th season

6-5

5-6

10-2

2 years prior

2-9

5-6

1991 split - miami, dennis erickson, 3rd season (1989 - 1st season)

11-1

10-2

12-0

2 years prior

12-0

11-1

1990 split - colorado, bill mccartney

2-9

4-7

1-10

7-5

6-6

2 years prior

1-10

3-8

1990 - georgia tech, bobby ross, 4th season

2-9

3-8

7-4

11-0-1

2 years prior

5-6

6-5

1988 lou holtz, notre dame, 3rd season

5-6

8-4

12-0

2 years prior

7-5

5-6

1987 jimmy johnson, miami 4th season

8-5

10-2

11-1

2 years prior

7-4

9-2

1986 penn state, joe paterno 20th or so...(also 1982)

5-5

8-2-1

11-0

2 years prior

6-4

5-5

1985 oklahoma, barry switzer, 2nd and 3rd seasons

10-0-1

11-0

11-1

2 years prior

11-1

11-1

1984 byu, lavell edwards, 13th season

7-4

5-6

7-4-1

2 years prior

5-6

3-8

1983 miami, howard schnellenberger, 5th season

5-6

9-3

9-2

2 years prior

3-8

6-5

1981 clemson, danny ford, 3rd season

8-4

6-5

12-0

2 years prior

8-3

10-1

1980 georgia, vince dooley, 15th season

7-3-1

6-4

10-1

2 years prior

3-4-3

4-5-1

rich rod

3-9

5-7

consensus: 8-4/7-5

2 years prior

11-2

9-4

took over solid program; maintained or improved

miles - lsu

coker - miami

fulmer - tennessee

carr - michigan

osborne - nebraska

stallings - alabama

erickson - miami

johnson - miami

switzer - oklahoma

ford - clemson

took over solid program; regressed and rebounded

took over middling program; improved quickly

saban - alabama

meyer - florida

brown - texas

carroll - usc

tressel - osu

spurrier - florida

holtz - notre dame

paterno - penn state

took over middling program; regressed and rebounded

bobby ross - georgia tech

took over middling program; improved slowly

edwards - byu

took over poor program; improved quickly

stoops - oklahoma

saban - lsu

bowden - fsu

james - washington

schnellenberger - miami

dooley - georgia

took over poor program; improved slowly

mccartney - colorado

 

admittedly the categories and how i assigned coaches to them are somewhat arbitrary. however, it seems that rich rod would be doing something unprecedented (took a solid program; regressed and rebounded) if he turned things around and won a national title. one could reasonably argue that given the talent situation that he took over a middling program, but even in that case the only option is a rather uninspiring one - bobby ross. the vast majority of coaches that go on to win national championships have at least one excellent season on their first 3 years. the exceptions to that rule are people who took over programs that were atrocious and bobby ross.

blueheron

August 28th, 2010 at 5:05 PM ^

What if Tate and Denard get injured?  I think your post will prove to be useless in that scenario.

Asserting that RichRod needs some magical number of wins is a slam on Brandon and the reasonable part of the Michigan fan base.  I don't *think* this is (at the top level) an emotional hillbilly school whose self-esteem depends on football above all else.

ckersh74

August 28th, 2010 at 5:47 PM ^

I have stayed away from these threads in the past, due to both the timing and sheer number of them. It's silly to be speculating about how many wins a coach needs in June or July, when the season is 2+ months away, and fall practice is not even here yet. For some reason this one seems a ilttle different, since we're so close to putting the ball in the air.

This is the one time and one time only that I'm going to weigh in on one of these, due to how close this one is to the regular season. Like others have said before, I do not think that the outcome of any bowl game that Michigan may appear in will have any effect on Mr. Rodriguez' job security, so I'll judge him strictly on what we see on the field in the regular season, as well as anything new that happens off the field during the season that is relevant. Anything that comes down from you-know-what is out of our hands at this point in time, and to speculate on that now is futile at best. And if we're waiting on a bowl result, then something really weird has happened, and all bets would be off anyway. So, with that being said:

I think 6-6 or worse gets Rodriguez fired.

I think 8-4 or better would warrant retaining him.

So that leaves 7-5. At that point I'm going to waffle and say that it's going to depend on how we get to 7-5. If we lose to MSU, Notre Dame and get throttled in Columbus, he's done. 7-5 with a win against Ohio State under almost any circumstances would save him. If it's 7-5 and we crash and burn towards the end (such as starting 6-1 and having the wheels fall off), he's done. If we show steady progress and improvement during the season, go 7-5, and don't shit our pants in Columbus, I think he returns.

And for the record I suspect that we're going to be having a few conversations about 7-5 in about four months, because that's where I think we're headed. Too many unanswered questions in the defense, but that's another conversation for another thread.

TennesseeBlue

August 28th, 2010 at 6:07 PM ^

What I find amazing is that everyone says that Rich Rod is on the hot seat - the hottest of them all; yet, I don't see anything in what DB has said that would suggest this. Which causes me to think that much of the temperature of the hot seat is really being created by the media - which is a vicious cycle - because, that causes the UM faithful to consider our coach on the hot seat, which makes us more sensitive, every time that any hint of an issue comes up.

Personally, I believe that if Michigan goes anything above 500, the coach will be fine. I believe that, because I think that most of us know that next year is the year that most of us have been looking for - and I don't think that's a pipe dream. DB has played the sport. He understands the need for continuity, he has the ability to see positives in the actual sport. Granted, he is obviously going to be pressured by perceptions - and what the media says. Yet, I don't think that he will get rid of the coach, unless the NCAA turns up the heat to where DB has to get rid of him, or if we have another losing season. 

Rich Rod has done some stupid things - or so it seems. But, we all know that the guy can coach - and DB knows it too. He'll be our coach next year, barring any catastrophe. 

sum1valiant

August 28th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

most of us know that next year is the year that most of us have been looking for

I'd have to say that this year is the year I've been looking for.  At this point he's coaching mostly his own kids and his program is firmly in place.  I don't necessarily need to see 9 wins this year in order to call it a success.  However if we say that 9-10 win seasons are the minimum standard that we hold the program to, I don't see how we can jump +3-+4 wins from year 3 to year 4.  I need to see atleast 7 wins, probably 8 in order to say we're heading in the direction we need to be. 

Although I agree with your sentiment about the media making "his seat" a little hotter than it actually is, how many AD's have you seen not projecting a supportive image toward their coach heading into a season?  Brandon is doing his job, nothing less.   

Bosch

August 28th, 2010 at 6:15 PM ^

It is absolutely ridiculous to think that the record alone should determine RR's future.  If Michigan is 5-7 (please, no), I will not be part of the RR lynch mob if I see a marked improvement on offense and solid play on defense in the areas where there is depth.  I'm not going to crucify the team or the coach if Michigan loses a hard fought game because of break downs in positions where freshmen and/or walk ons are asked to contribute significant minutes.

You know.  Sports are so much more enjoyable when you can see the big picture.

Bosch

August 28th, 2010 at 8:18 PM ^

OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State are pre-season top 25.  UConn returns a lot of experience.  ND is in South Bend.  MSU will be tough.   Six wins is far from a given.

I stand by my comment.  Judging success on wins and losses alone is narrow minded.
 

sum1valiant

August 28th, 2010 at 9:15 PM ^

At the end of the day, he's a football coach.  His job is to win football games.  Judging his success on everything but wins and losses is narrow minded.  Granted there's a lot more to coaching football at this level than the outcome of games, but if the wins simply aren't there, he's not doing his job.

Bosch

August 29th, 2010 at 9:07 AM ^

The OP suggested there is an over/under for this year.  I disagree with that statement, not because I think that wins aren't a valueable measure of success but because I have a tempered level of optimism going into this season.  I see that Michigan has a difficult schedule.  I see that Michigan has depth issues on defense.   I of course want to see W's but they are not the only thing I will be paying attention to when judging RR's competency to lead our program .  Calling for his head based on numbers of wins alone without looking at the big picture is asinine. 

Njia

August 28th, 2010 at 6:17 PM ^

I threw some pork loin on the smoker today. Did an all-apple mix of wood chips. Waiting on my wife and children to come back home so we can eat. The aroma in my kitchen right now is tremendous.

uminks

August 28th, 2010 at 9:29 PM ^

We are going to be +/-2 from 7-5.  There's going to be some close games and I hope we can win the majority of them.  Therefore, I'm very optimistic about this season and think UM will have the +2, and go 9-3.  Some will be surprised with the 2nd place tie in the b10.  We will play OSU tough!!!!

john22

August 28th, 2010 at 9:32 PM ^

All i do know is beat the teams you are suppose to beat Uconn,Norte dame,Ind,Msu,Illionis,Purdue.If we can beat one of the other 4 teams he will be back.GO COACH!!!