Why did Brandon Fire Rich?

Submitted by M-Wolverine on January 6th, 2011 at 9:23 AM
Or maybe more accurately, what percentages do you feel he weighed the different reason. Because it obviously wasn't one thing. I can think of 3 major categories, but you may be able to come up with more, or different permutations.

1. The record. I'm not going to list the details we all know, and pile on. But it obviously wasn't good. Was that the primary, or overriding factor?

2. The atmosphere around the program. Fans, alumni unhappy, media circling, national perception. Had it just gotten to the point that it had all gotten so ugly, that it didn't seem like there was enough momentum to turn it around, or fight through it?

3. The other 95%. Brandon says the W-L and the stuff we saw was only a small part; so he did like the whole picture?Maybe he didn't like either the state of the program, the talent level, or what he saw behind the scenes; whether in practice, or in interactions with players, staff, the department, the public. Everything seemed like it was good, but was Brandon saying he was seeing stuff we can't? Because if he thought 2 and 3 were great, wouldn't he put up with #1 against all fan pressure?

It's surely some combo of any number of things, but now that we've had a day away from it, we can consider why it didn't work, and why Brandon came to the conclusion he did (whether you agree with it or not).



January 6th, 2011 at 9:59 AM ^

I think the real question is whether the way out is good for the short term or the long term.  I'm not sure firing Rodriguez was good for the long-term success or not.  I still believe Rodriguez showed progress (clearly in W-L record, clearly in offensive production) and was badly hurt on the defensive side of the bowl by injury and inexperience.  Will the new coach be able to produce better results than Rodriguez would have in 3-4 years?  I guess we'll find out.

Was it good for the short-term success?  Probably in the eyes of many.  But we'll find out soon enough - can the new coach complete the recruiting class?, can he retain Denard? can he win next year?  Personally, I cannot take a regression and a losing season next year.

Blue in Seattle

January 6th, 2011 at 1:31 PM ^

From the statements I heard Brandon saying, a coaching change overall hurts the short term.  He specifically said he's doing this for the long term.

Many average employees are retained because the cost and general turmoil in an organization caused by a new hire is a big impact on the short term.  Firing someone is always a long term decision and a difficult one.  The easy decision is to do nothing and hope things change. Since we can't view parallel universes, we will never definitively know whether this firing decision was right or wrong as far as Rich Rodriguez succeeding.

Is Brandon making the decision now so that he can get the painful transition over with?  Yes.  And since in his mind he must have decided that firing Rich Rodriguez was inevitable, then delaying it only makes things worse by delaying the chance to improve the situation.


January 6th, 2011 at 10:59 AM ^

I thought it was telling the way Brandon referred to Rich "and his staff" more than once, in those words, saying they worked hard and also wishing them the best wherever they go (i.e., together). People around here who thought Rich would not be willing to replace his defensive coaching staff were probably right -- notably Tony Gibson, whose firing I think was probably non-negotiable from Brandon's point of view -- everything that guy touched turned to shit.


January 6th, 2011 at 9:59 AM ^

Lets face it, the wagons were already circling for RR's head and then going out and getting absolutely destroyed in the bowl game and honestly, DB has zero choice.   A win or a competitive game and you could've justified keeping him and wiping out the defensive staff.   A blowout against a mid-level SEC team which was the third game in a row that we were entirely non-competitive was just too much to bare.


January 6th, 2011 at 10:59 AM ^

of people looking at their 4-4 record and automatically coming to a conclusion that they were an average SEC team.  You put any of our three conference co-champs in the SEC West division, and I wouldn't be surprised if they would all have at least 3 losses themselves. 


January 6th, 2011 at 12:39 PM ^

What, exactly, would you consider them then?

If they didn't beat any of the top teams in the conference, they certainly can't be considered a top level team.   And they didn't lose to all other SEC teams, so they aren't the worst of the SEC teams.   That pretty much cements them as a mid-level or average SEC team.


January 6th, 2011 at 2:46 PM ^

them a team that, aside from Ole Miss, played 4 teams better than the 4 toughest opponents of any other D-1 program.   MSU might not have beat those teams, but they didn't necessarily get embarassed by them either, especially against Arkansas and Auburn.

What I wouldn't consider them is a team not to be impressed with.

For the record, I'm not claiming that they were elite. I'm just claiming that you have no data to suggest that they weren't the best team that Michigan has played to date and I think it's ridiculous for you to throw them in the D-1 middle class because you happened to look at their record to see 4 losses.

Question for you.  When you do your bowl picks, do you base your winners on the colors of the uniform, or on which mascot you think is tougher?


January 6th, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

And I've made the following point multiple times... since when do you measure a team solely by who they lose to?  Thats all anyone was doing with MSU, their only four loses were against top 20 teams so they must be awesome. 

Fact is, the only not mediocre team they beat was Florida who won 7 games.  After that, Georgia who won 6 games.   To be honest, the fact that they played close to those top teams doesn't mean anything.  Moral victories don't count.   and I didn't call them middle class D-1.  I called them what they are... a mid-level SEC team.  


January 6th, 2011 at 9:33 AM ^

Call it snake bit.  Can't explain why but it just was not happening.  RR will go to the next program and be a success.  If you need a specific reason, I think the UofM culture needs a more secular coach.

Monocle Smile

January 6th, 2011 at 9:39 AM ^

he actually does have someone waiting in the wings, but doesn't want to appear to have done deals behind everyone's back...thus the wait before announcing a new coach.

I think all speculation is rather pointless because Dave Brandon knows more and/or is more clever than all of us. I hope I'm right.


January 6th, 2011 at 10:26 AM ^

Maybe you are right but nothing he has done in this situation leads me to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Would love to be wrong but his demeanor in that press conference did not give me any confidence that this is all going according to his plan and we are going to have a big-time hire in a week.


January 6th, 2011 at 9:42 AM ^

I really think looking backward was the wrong way to look at it.  We don't know RR all we can go by is what we hear.

The facts remain that we have 8 home games next year, the leading Heisman candidate returning, 20 of 22 returning starters.  I don't see anyway to fire a guy after 7 wins if he returns 20 starters unless he goes Haywood or Moeller.  

I just don't get it aqnd this is going to gnaw at me forever.  What could have been?   I'm not saying I know for sure what was going to happen 2011 has been a lot of peoples destination date.   Once we knew Threet wasn't going to be the answer most logical fans knew it was going to be a project.   While I was pissed at each loss I was ok since I knew in 2011 I'd get my revenge


January 6th, 2011 at 9:44 AM ^

HALF of our Big Ten wins in three years were IU twice and Purdue once. That is all I need to hear. An average of 2 Big Ten wins a season is not acceptable. His teams are embarassing to watch, and even his "signature wins" were close games that required a last minute TD.

Last year he fielded the WORST defense in the HISTORY of Michigan football. This year the Defense was worse than that, to the tune of 1800 yards more.  He set the bar lower than it had ever been and then lowered it again considerably. WOW.  

This year we had the WORST special teams of any squad I have ever witnessed. My highschool special teams were better. In fact, I can't for the life of me remember any team in my lifetime that worried about a 25yard field goal. We had to go for it on every 4th down, and that's pathetic. What's worse than that is there was no kicking coach to help our guys. They just let them kick without instruction.

Not having someone to teach the correct fundamentals of kicking is absurd. That's like me going out to the golf range and hoping that if I hit 120,000 balls I will get better. The truth is that without proper instruction of fundamentals, I am hopelessly lost (much like our kickers this year).

Rich always put true freshman in big spots that he wanted to start right away. From McGuffie to the present, every year he would put a true frosh out there to field punts, start at RB, or whatever. Michigan is not a place where true Frosh start, unless they are Gods. I know about how the cupboard was bare, but you have to admit he started young guys over old wherever he could, whenever he could.

Recruiting 1,000 slot recievers. How about some defense? The fact that the next coach will have a ton of midgets to deal with will be hard to find something for all of them to do.

I could go on, and on, and on....


January 6th, 2011 at 9:50 AM ^

Well that was a rant.  I'm not going to go point-by-point and refutte your claims because (a) some are correct but (b) the ones that are wrong can be sueced out by reading this site.  RR was put in a tough situation and didn't produce, but I'm not sure he was ever set up to succeed given the truncated timeline.  The RR era failed, but it wasn't completely because of RR - the man can coach, and I fully expect him to exact some revenge on UM down the line. 


January 6th, 2011 at 2:36 PM ^

Why are we still having this debate? I thought it ended after the Gator Bowl, when even most diehard Rich apologists abandoned ship. It's over. Only about twenty people, all on this board, still think RR deserved a fourth year. The rest of the world -- fans, media, administration, players, bloggers -- has moved on. 


January 6th, 2011 at 9:57 AM ^

Was this a coaching problem?   I understand that our kickers were on scholarship and could kick in practice without problem, but what about the games.  A particularly illuminating comment from my 12 year old "Why do all of our kick-offs land around the 10 or 15 yard line?".  I can only think of one time this year that a kick-off reached the end zone. 


January 6th, 2011 at 11:02 AM ^

The best case scenario is probably Harbaugh, and even he was not going to take us to the promised land over night. It will probably take a few years as he struggles with the holes in the roster from more defections, youth, and needing his players. I don't think his road will be as full of holes as Coach Rod's but it will probably take time.

That's if we get him. Coach Hoke will have protractors. Coach Miles will have protractors. More noise will happen if these two struggle. Just about everyone else will be an outsider who will be given a even shorter leash by impatient alums and haters and media. It could very well be a mess in Ann Arbor for a long time.

If Mr. Brandon did not have a 'good' replacement in the wings, bringing Coach Rod back with changes to the staff might of been the best course of action: The team is mostly built as Coach Rod wants,  next year there would of been experienced players that were mostly sophomore and juniors, and 'ironically', I believe Coach Rod learned about 'getting it'. Considering what can happen if we don't get 'Mr. Right', releasing Coach Rod might of been disasterous move by Mr. Brandon.


January 6th, 2011 at 9:47 AM ^

I don't think that you can isolate any one factor, as many of the factors tied in to each other.

First and foremost, the losing.  A program that has not had a losing season in decades does not accept this level of losing, the consistency of losses in "red letter games" and the lopsidedness of the losses.

As a direct result of losing in this manner, the entire foundation crumbled, and this is likely what doomed RR.  What I am referring to here is:

1.  the continuous media BS, which many of our fans bought in to

2.  the sub-standard recruiting

3.  the apparent perception that RR would always be on the hot seat

4.  the feeling amongst the alum and fans that this was simply not the Michigan brand of football that we grew up knowing and loving

5.  the "national perception" that we wee a program in a downward spiral.

At the end of the day, winning would have cured most of this, so it goes back to the W/L record.  It really is a shame, though. 


January 6th, 2011 at 9:47 AM ^

I think it was mostly #2 because he saw the results it had on national perception/recruiting and probably figured the situation was not salvagable.  I also think a large factor, though, was Brandon's relative lack of experience as an AD.  We all think he would be a good leader because of his corporate experience, but running a company and running a school's athletic department are quite different, with different responsibilities and media exposure.  Brandon is clearly learning these differences, and the only problem is that he is learning them during one of the most important hires in the program's history.

Blue in Seattle

January 6th, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

I keep hearing people make this comment that running a school's athletic department is different than running a company.  How is it different?  You state media exposure, but do you think Google and Apple have less media exposure than Michigan?  Or maybe you meant they have less than a "company".

Again I'll hear generalities, and specifically about Brandon when he was hired that he is a success because of what he learned playing football for Bo.  I think these are the same people (although I don't know bronxblue at all specifically) who buy Bo book and talk about what a great leader he was and how is experience and lessons work in any organization, since every organization is a team that has goals and need people to succeed in working together toward those goals.

I believe Brandon has also been on the board of Regents, or has been connected with high level decisions at the University of Michigan one way or another.  Stating that he doesn't have the experience to be an AD is completely baseless.

Yes the specific goals and the specific context of managing athletic programs is different than selling pizza but all of the team skills and leadership skills completely apply.

So which is it?  David Brandon is a Bo prodigy and can apply superhero leadership skills?  or everything in the numerous Bo Books is really complete crap because none of that applies to anything outside of Collegiate Sports?


January 6th, 2011 at 9:47 AM ^

By most accounts, the other 95% Rod excelled at, except for arguably talent. Someone mentioned in the liveblog, if Rod had closed on a big time defensive recruit like Zettle, he'd probably be coaching today. But to me that's more 2 - the atmosphere and direction of the program.

The expectation is every senior class wins a Big Ten Title and beats Ohio State. I think it would have taken a minor miracle for Rod to have beaten Sparty next year, let alone the other two. So he fired him.

But frankly, the timing of the firing, and the timing of the new hire, has probably handicapped the new guy for 2-3 years. If it's not a big time hire (like Harbaugh or anybody Brian mentioned), it's not worth nuking the program for three more years to me. I'd rather he had given Rod the chance in 2011, and once he didn't meet expectations there's no argument that we don't keep him for the bowl game. We hire a new guy, even Brady Hoke, and roll in the new direction.


January 6th, 2011 at 9:48 AM ^

Percentages of your three factors:

#1 -- 60%

#2 -- 15%

#3 -- 25%

If UM had gone 5-7 (or 6-6) in 2008, 7-5 in 2009 and 8-4 in 2010 with a couple of those additional wins over MSU, OSU, PSU, RR would probably still have a job at UM.


January 6th, 2011 at 10:06 AM ^

I know that, I was responding to the OP's request that people speculate on the percentage that the three factors he listed weighed in RR's dismissal. I answered his question with my opinion on those percentages.

It is my opinion that the losses were the primary reason for RR's termination and suggested a hypothetical win-loss scenario where he might have still be retained. That was all.

I don't even understand what you are getting at with your post. Would you care to elaborate?


January 6th, 2011 at 9:49 AM ^

I have heard several people mentioned that some of the players had enough after the bowl game.  Does anyone know what went down?  Player descent has to be #1 reason if it was true.  If the players wanted a change and were vocal, Brandon had no decision to make.


January 6th, 2011 at 9:53 AM ^

I heard that too, but I guess I took it as the players being upset with the constant uncertainty surrounding the head coach, not the head coach himself.  Might be wrong - if it is true that the players were sick of RR, then he had to go. 


January 6th, 2011 at 10:08 AM ^

You could actually see the steam leaving the offense in the first half of the Gator Bowl after the defense failed to stop anything.  Just as Craig James noted, Michigan was fired up to be playing in that bowl game.  The offense came out and make me laugh with glee when Denard broke those big runs in the first drive.  But you could see the wind leave the sails slowly but surely as the first half progressed.  Everyone looks at the scoreboard and calls it a blowout but I don't see it that way - I saw it as a devistating emotional loss that was much more telling than the final score.  The defense could not compete and the offense realized it could not carry the team on its own.  It was very sad to watch and the players must have felt terrible afterwards.


January 6th, 2011 at 10:26 AM ^

Agreed - it was hard, if not impossible, for the team to recover the momentum after that 2nd quarter. But it still wasn't over at the half - they came out on D and made a big 3-and-out stop, but then the offense got bogged down, and the failed FG (!!!)...

After so many 2nd half comebacks this year, even those that came up short, I thought this team would keep fighting to the final possession like they had most of the year. That didn't happen, and I believe that was the end of RR's opportunity to continue here.


January 6th, 2011 at 11:00 AM ^

That field goal was the end for me.  I think his decision to go for that, knowing his kickers can't kick, his job on the line, and the demoralization of the team if he missed was what summed up Rich Rod for me.  I don't know if it was his stubborness, or his inability to put people around him to talk him out of  bad decisions, but whatever it is, he just didn't learn from previous mistakes.  How many times did we start the game with the same Vincent Smith run for  no gain.  Or the same play on almost every 1st and 10.  His continual use of Vincent Smith on 3rd and short, when he almost never succeeded.  Coaches put kids in  spots where they can succeed.  Too many times Rich didn't, and that is why I am glad he is gone.


January 6th, 2011 at 11:00 AM ^

But the play reflected that. That might be part of the frustration players have with the staff. You can be as "all in" as possible, but it's human nature that you get frustrated by the other half of the team if you feel like you have to score EVERY time, just to keep it close. There will be backbiting. It happens in the pros, no more to kids. And on the other side, kids aren't stupid. They can tell when they're being mismanaged, or bring coached badly. I think there was a lack of respect with the defensive staff. You can't be told to do something over and over, fail each time, and still think you're getting good advice.


January 6th, 2011 at 11:28 AM ^

but what was lost in all this is that the Bulldogs were not a freshman/sophomore laden team; they were mostly juniors and seniors who had been through the SEC wars successfully. Furthermore those guys were from Mississippi State, this was all gravy! There are no gynormous expectations there. Our poor guys have to deal with a the pressures of being 'Michigan' despite the team not quite there yet. So the game started, the pressure mounted, and our guys blinked.

One thing Mr. Brandon might have thought about is what tremendous pressures Coach Rod and the team would be under next year, even more so than the last. Reflecting on how the team performed with a month to prepare for MSU, and how they wilted away in the Jacksonville sun, perhaps he felt there was no way Coach Rod was going to have success next year in Ann Arbor under that intense scrutiny.