Everyone loves a winner. Nobody loves a loser, except occasionally as per the Marvelous Marv Thornberry of the original New York Mets, who were expected to lose.
A new coach, who takes over a winning program, and runs it into the ground is loved by no one.
That’s the position Rich Rodriguez of Michigan is in.
How the mighty have fallen – Colorado, Michigan, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, Washington, and to a lesser extent USC, Miami, and Florida State,
Comebacks from the abyss are possible, as with Alabama, LSU, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The usurpers have names like Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, TCU, and Utah.
Three Big Ten coaches were on the hot seat at the beginning of the season, Tim Brewster at Minnesota, Ron Zook at Illinois, and Rich Rodriguez at Michigan. Brewster was fired a few weeks ago. Illinois is showing signs of improvement, and could well beat Michigan in Ann Arbor next Saturday. Their quarterbacks have looked great against Michigan the past two years.
That leaves Rodriguez.
Rich Rodriguez has shown with the right players the spread offense can rack up points, even in The Big Ten.
But Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense cannot outscore the Michigan defense, the porous Michigan defense
Michigan’s defense has for the past 32 games made every opposing quarterback look like an All-American, the most recent being a third-string, walk on at Penn State last Saturday night.
The defense has progressively deteriorated in each of Rodriguez’s three years.
He made it clear a few weeks ago that he coaches the offense and special teams, and spends little time with the defense. That is going to cost him his job. Rodriguez can recruit, but much of his recruiting has been with offensive players. Defense wins in The Big Ten.
The defense has talent, not s much as in the past, but it has talent. Their basic defensive scheme, the 3-4, or 3-3-5, doesn’t work. The theory is that the 3-3-5 allows the linebackers to provide support for the secondary. The reality is that with little pressure on the quarterback, he can stand back in the pocket 5-6 seconds and pick out an open receiver. The 3-4 was Rodriguez’s idea. Greg Robinson, the defensive coordinator, never coached a 3-4 before.
Coach Rodriguez is a good coach, but it’s increasingly clear that he is the wrong coach at the wrong time at the wrong school, Michigan. He can wear the Maize and Blue colors, but they don’t fit.
Coach Rodriguez is a good coach, but not a great coach. Great coaches, such as John Wooden or Bear Bryant, shape their team around the skills of the players. Good coaches fit their players into a fixed system. Rodriguez’s motto os it’s his way or the highway. I-95 to I-70 is the road back to West Virginia.
Scott Schaefer was Rich Rod’s first defensive coordinator at Michigan. He was fired after the first year. Ironically, he is doing a fine job as defensive coordinator at Syracuse, which fired Greg Robinson two years ago. Syracuse has shown marked signs of improvement, especially on defense since then.
If Michigan could not beat Penn State, Michigan State, or Iowa, no reason exists to think believe will defeat either Wisconsin or Ohio State.
Bill Martin, the AD who hired Rodriguez, was hired to turn around the finances of the Athletic Department. He turned a loss into a profit, expanded the football stadium, and built new facilities for the baseball and softball teams. But he botched the hiring of the replacement for Lloyd Carr, and threw out 40 years of Bo’s success.
The new AD, David Brandon Brandon, one of Bo’s boys, will do what has to be done at the end of the season. He must fill the Big House next season.