Endless data points factor into his deliberations about the direction of our football program. The vast majority, especially after a solid 5-1 start, point to retaining RR for a good number of years, especially with what an upheaval of a new hire would do, having to rebuild again from scratch.
I continue to support RR, but with the nature of the offense’s performance in this loss to MSU, it is now clear to me the single most important metric by which Brandon should review the remainder of this season in deliberating RR’s future.
Hearken back to 2007 when Bill Martin bore witness to what Armanti Edwards and Dennis Dixon did to our defense. On the day I learned of RR’s hire, my first thought was it was borne from what those two spread attacks did to our team that year. Of Oregon’s spread attack that won 39-7, I remember USA Today writing:
“Oregon seemed to do whatever it wanted against Michigan. The Ducks led 32-7 at halftime and coasted to the victory against little resistance.”
Watch that game again and you know the score could have easily been 55 -7, but Oregon literally eased up on us.
So Martin hires RR – the father of the spread – and he and all of us instantly began dreaming of days to come when our own Dennis Dixon, clad in a winged helmet, would toy with Ohio State’s and MSU’s traditional defenses much as we had been toyed with at the start of 2007.
Flash to today and it’s a different reality. The reality is that while RR’s spread attack has shown the explosiveness we anticipated, it has yet to do so once against a top tier Big 10 defense. Not once in 2.5 seasons. Yes personnel, yes youth, yes occasional signs, yes Denard for the Heisman, yes re-writing the record books, but anything even remotely akin to Dennis Dixon toying with UM? No.
Perhaps Bill Martin thought more of Ron English than he should have. Perhaps Martin’s greatest mistake was assuming that the Michigan defensive product vs App State and Oregon was indicative of how your typical top tier Big 10 defense would do against a top tier spread attack. I mean, we did end up beating Tebow and Florida that year, albeit after RR had been hired.
If I am David Brandon I would look for one very important sign this year – evidence that RichRod’s offense can truly work against top flight Big 10 defenses.
The UM defense will improve with recruiting and maturity. The offense will as well given this was only Denard’s 6thstart. But if I am Brandon and I don’t see at least one offensive breakthrough against a top tier Big 10 D, and by that I mean at least 5 offensive touchdowns against either PSU, Iowa, Wisconsin or OSU, then I really have to begin to question this hire.
On the other hand, even if the team loses the remainder of it’s games, but the offense actually breaks through and demonstrates the explosiveness we all hope for against one or two of those four remaining top flight Big 10 D teams, then to me, RR’s job remains safe for the immediate future.