That is the question, isn't it? Or at least, that's the question that U-M Athletic Director David Brandon has to mull over in this next month or so. But each Michigan football fan has, in their own mind, made their own decision about head coach Rich Rodriguez. Most of the fans I know are ready to see him go, while a few are still hoping for "one more year" to prove himself.
Me? I am on the fence. I know you hate to hear me say that, but I am. I can see valid reasons from both sides, and it makes my choice hard. Luckily, I am not the Athletic Director, so this really doesn't mean anything besides arguing with acquaintances every once in a while. But here are some of the pros and cons about the whole situation. See it from my view: whatever happens is good for the school and the program.
Situation #1: Give him one more year.
After two years of nothing after Ohio State, Rodriguez got Michigan to a 7-5 record and a spot in the Gator Bowl on January 1. If nothing, this is a major jump. Now January 1 bowls are not as prestigious as they used to be, but it still has some clout. You are guaranteed a major audience of males who have the day off and are committed to watching whatever football game flies across their flatscreens at a particular time of the day. On January 2 people will be talking about those bowls. And nothing beats the GIANT patch they get to put on their uniforms, right? (I mean, seriously! I could take four of those patches and have four placemats for my dining room table!)
The Michigan team we saw had its weaknesses, sure, but those are defensive and special teams problems. The most logical solution would be to fire those coaches, Greg Robinson and Tony Gibson (who also doubles as the defensive backs coordinator - it's like two firings in one!) and bring in some incredibly talented defensive minds to take over.
In this season, you could say that Michigan beat every team it was supposed to beat (UConn, Purdue, Notre Dame, Indiana, etc.) and lost to teams that were better than them (OSU, MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc.). The only game that does not fit into this mindset was the Penn State game, which was just plain horrible on every level. But that was really the only one.
Our offense has a solid foundation. Give quarterback Denard Robinson some receivers that consistently catch the ball, as well as one (one!) main running back, and the offense can put up the points. The defense and special teams need major overhauls, but anything next year would be better than this year for both areas, right?
The biggest problem for firing Rodriguez would be that the players are on his side. Like, majorly. If Brandon were to fire him and bring in a new coach with new ideas, and that trust between player and coach could disappear. Trust me, if these 18-23-year-old males are willing to hold hands and sway to "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban because their coach encouraged them to, these guys would do anything to keep him as the coach.
I remember losing some core players from Lloyd Carr's tenure after Rodriguez came on as head coach and thinking, "Man, what if those guys had stayed?" But this was no longer the team that they had signed to play on. It wasn't Carr's system anymore; it was Rich Rod's. And because of that, they took their talents elsewhere. I can't imagine what may happen to some of our core players if a firing were to occur and someone they didn't like took his place.
Situation #2: FIRE HIM NOW!
The old "traditions" held up in high esteem by the likes of Yost, Crisler, and Schembechler have all but disappeared. Rodriguez has insisted on starting new traditions which don't have the same Michigan luster. If a Michigan fan were to have gone into a coma in 2006 and then woken up before the Wisconsin game this season, he would barely recognize that football team on the field.
I don't care that they're going to a bowl; I don't feel like any progress has been made. It just feels like they've plateaued. They aren't getting any worse (I mean, could that defense get any worse?), but there isn't that spark to be better, to get an upset win, to pummel the little guys instead of letting them hang around.
We haven't beaten Ohio State in SEVEN YEARS. We need a coach that spends the entire season obsessing over that game! It almost seems like Rich Rod treats it like every other game. Newsflash, coach: IT'S NOT.
Our little brother, Michigan State, has pounded us the past three years. It has been embarassing! They give us the standard Dantonio approach, and we still look like scared deer out on that field.
I mentioned previously the lethargy that reigned at the end of last year. Well guess what? The lethargy returned during the Iowa game, and it never left. Do these players know the meaning of "getting psyched" for a game? Do the coaches instill any excitement on these players, or have they already given up before "The Victors" is even played?
RichRod was quoted as saying, "What do you want, me to go jump out there and hold hands with all the Buckeye fans and sing 'Kumbaya'?" And then he goes and holds hands and sways to "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban. I wonder what the Michigan State band is going to play when we march out onto the Spartan Stadium grass next year...
Wake me up when he actually recruits a decent kicker.
So What's an Athletic Director to do?
Does he use the Gator Bowl as the deciding factor? Or does he make the decision before that? Does he get down on his hands and knees and beg Jim Harbaugh to come back to his alma mater? Or does he just toss a coin? One thing is for sure:
Aren't you happy this isn't your decision?