If Rich Rodriguez Is Fired from Michigan, Where will He Land?
Suffice it to say, things have not been going the way Michigan Wolverines fans imagined it when they hired Rich Rodriguez away from West Virginia.
"Rich Rod" came in with an impressive track record, but his first few years setting up a new system for the maize and blue has had more than a few glitches.
With an 8-16 record, 3-13 in the Big Ten, the "Fire Rich Rod" campaign is gaining steam. Who can blame them when you consider Rodriguez lost only 14 conference games in seven years at Morgantown?
Not to mention the grumblings coming from ex-players, the NCAA, and others for a few controversies and violations occurring in the Rodriguez era.
Now people knew that a new offensive system was not going to be built in a day.
Everyone can sit and discuss the merits of firing a coach just three years into a job, but the better discussion is just what the future may hold for Rodriguez if Michigan grows tired of waiting for success in Ann Arbor.
The following is a look at some of the jobs Rodriguez may find himself in come 2011. Not only does it include programs that may be looking for a new coach next season, but places that will be willing to take a gamble on an experienced offensive mind that does have 113 career wins to his credit.
Let the debate begin!
Let's face it, Dan Hawkins is essentially a dead man walking in Buffalo territory.
Colorado football has struggled mightily since hiring the former Boise State Bronco's coach. In four seasons with zero winning records in the beastly Big XII, the Buffs are a paltry 10-22 under Hawkins. Worse yet, Colorado has a grand total of two wins on the road these past four seasons.
The reason for these problems? Offense.
Last season, Colorado finished 104th out of 120 FBS teams in total offense. The year before that, 95th, and in 2007 peaked at 72nd.
Let's face it, to be successful in the Big XII, you need to be able to put points on the board. Scoring is the name of the game and if you cannot throw it for 300 yards every game, then you need an offense that can keep others off the field.
Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they also ranked 113th in the rushing game last season. However, that may be a problem Rodriguez can fix.
In fact, he staged the best turnaround in Big East history with the second best rushing game in the country that season.
Rodriguez may have failed to live up to the hype at Michigan, but his standards will be dramatically lowered at Colorado. He will have time to implement his system and his spread running game can help keep the Big XII powerhouse offenses off the field.
Rodriguez is still a familiar name and can potentially bring in some talent upgrades. He has experience at the BCS level and can help make the Buffaloes relevant again.
After all, outside of Nebraska, the Big XII North could be there for the taking.
The Fridge peaked early at Maryland and has been chasing that early lightning in a bottle ever since.
Ralph Friedgen was hailed as an offensive aficionado when he took over for the Terrapins, and yet Maryland's scoring offense was next to last in the ACC. Not to mention that the last place team, Virginia, beat Maryland in College Park.
Sorry Terrapins fans, don't kill the messenger here.
With quarterback Chris Turner gone, Maryland will probably struggle again and that could finally spell the end of the Friedgen era.
So could Rodriguez be the new guy in the ACC?
Let's face it, Rich Rod has already burned bridges in the Big East and may do the same in the Big Ten. The ACC seems the most likely step.
On one hand, most ACC programs do not need substantial upgrades to become contenders for the conference crown. The mediocrity has helped give hope to just about every team that they can make a run.
If Rodriguez had to overtake a program in the Big XII or SEC, he would simply have too many teams to overcome to reach prominence.
It doesn't hurt that Maryland has emerging running back Davin Meggett and a young nucleus of players for a coach to turn into winners.
We know that Rodriguez can recruit in the Potomac area. While most West Virginia coaches can rely on in-state recruiting, Rodriguez's 2006 class came entirely outside of the Mountaineer state; his 2004 class had two from West Virginia.
In other words, Rodriguez widened his net and the results paid off. He can do it at Maryland.
Now, hiring the Michigan coach is certainly a gamble for the Terrapins; he and Friedgen have some scary similarities. Both are supposed offensive geniuses, both gained notoriety as football alumni coaching for their school, and both worked as an offensive coordinator at several schools before gaining the reins.
Still, Rodriguez could make a splash, and if he wants to prove his doubters wrong, he needs to do it at a place close to home.
Maryland could be the place.
As much as Rodriguez is connected to West Virginia, he gained national attention working with Tommy Bowden and Tulane.
Rodriguez was an extremely successful coach with Glenville State College, enough so to get an opportunity as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the Green Wave.
Taking on Shaun King, the spread offense helped lead Tulane to an undefeated season and helped Bowden earn his spot at Clemson University.
In return, Rodriguez followed him to the ACC and gained the title associate head coach before West Virginia gave him his big break.
Considering that his FBS profile began at Tulane, it might make sense that he could hear his name associated with the Green Wave yet again.
Since that perfect season, Tulane has just one winning season. Under current coach Bob Toledo, the Conference USA also-ran is 9-27.
Ironically, Toldeo is similar to Rodriguez. He too found success at a BCS school, compiling a 20-game winning streak and a Pac-10 title with the UCLA Bruins. However, the sky has fallen for Toldeo and one more bad season may leave the 60-year-old without much of a future to hold on to.
Rodriguez would be a great hire for Tulane. He brings instant name recognition and can help boost recruiting. He energizes the program, even with the difficult times he is experiencing at Michigan.
With the right quarterback, Rodriguez has proven to be successful and the Green Wave knows how to find quarterbacks. Not only with Shaun King, but JP Losman and Patrick Ramsey were nurtured at Tulane.
With a little time and good decisions, Rodriguez could have lightning strike twice and see his star rise once again with a strong showing at Tulane.
Virginia Tech (OC)
Now don't worry Hokies fans, I know Frank Beamer isn't going anywhere.
Still, despite the dominance of Virginia Tech in the ACC since they bolted from the Big East, their offense has let them down in the biggest of games.
The numbers speak for themselves: Despite a top-25 defense every single season, the offense is lucky to be in the top 100.
Last year, despite the best freshman running back in school history and the most productive season ever for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Hokies could only bolster a total offense ranking of 50.
While that number may be respectable, one has to keep in mind that prior to that, the Hokies were ranked 103rd in 2008, 100th in 2007, and 99th in 2006.
Therefore, offensive coordinator Brian Stinespring has become the fall guy for the Hokies' failure to win it all. He is the object of many fans' disdain in Blacksburg and failure to produce with one of the best rushing attacks in the country could finally result in his termination.
As a result, despite Rodriguez's shortcomings, he would be an excellent fit for the role. His spread rush option, with those running backs, could really be an unbeatable combination.
With the strong recruiting classes that Beamer can bring in, Rodriguez could shape the offense into a well-oiled machine and finally help the Hokies get over the hump.
Now I know what you're thinking...a West Virginia guy should have nothing to do with the Hokies and vice versa.
There seems something fishy about the whole arrangement, but considering how, with no mercy, Rodriguez ditched his alma mater for the Wolverines, he clearly would not mind stabbing them in the back again for a chance at redemption.
The Hokies might not want to take the gamble, but there is certainly potential for a big upgrade there.
Okay, so we all know that the Washington State Cougars have been pretty bad as of late.
Bill Doba led the Cougars to a 30-29 record overall, most of that built on a 10-3 season in 2003. However, three losing seasons in four years brought former Washington State offensive lineman and Eastern Washington coach Paul Wulff in to jump-start the program.
Well, instead of putting Washington State back on track, the train has derailed and is resting comfortably in the bottom of the Pac-10.
The Cougars have won three games in two seasons under Wulff, the lowest winning percentage of any coach in school history who has played more than three games.
Last season, Wulff and company squeaked out a three-point victory against Southern Methodist to avoid a winless season. However, they still endured a 52-6 loss to Oregon, a 48-7 loss to Arizona, and a 30-0 loss to Washington.
Losing is bad enough, but when your rival smacks you around, then things are definitely not going well.
Wulff needs serious help this season if he is to hold on to his job, and if he is given the inevitable pink slip, the Cougars will need to find a replacement.
Once again, Rodriguez brings in some important characteristics.
His name recognition and recruiting strengths bring in some buzz. He has a solid vision of what the future will look like and he will have time to implement his offense because the expectations will be about rock bottom.
Rodriguez may not be a West Coast guy, but this is a challenge that I think he could find surmountable. Could he resurrect a program that began this decade with three straight 10-win seasons?
He might get the chance.
Bobby Johnson has done all he can, but the Vanderbilt Commodores simply cannot compete amongst the heavyweights in the SEC.
Who can really blame them?
Johnson has had to deal with stringent academic requirements as well and in eight seasons, has one winning season to his credit. Of course, that 7-6 was the best mark in school history since 1982.
For his hard work, Johnson was given the SEC Coach of the Year title along with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
The problem has not been defensively; Vanderbilt can do a fairly good job of slowing people down. They simply cannot run an offense.
The Commodores were dead last in 2009 in total offense. The year before they were ninth in the 12-team SEC. In 2007, 10th in total offense.
See a pattern?
Well, Rich Rodriguez would once again help. He brings in an offensive system that would help the Commodores play their own game.
Vanderbilt will never be successful if they try to run the same offenses of SEC juggernauts. Rodriguez could bolster a running game and put points on the board to give the Commodores a fighting chance.
In truth, Rodriguez would find Vanderbilt to be a big challenge. He would find the place quite different from West Virginia and Michigan, so much so that it would take time for him to adjust. Fortunately, that's something Vanderbilt fans seem to have plenty of.
Now Bobby Johnson might be made of enough Teflon to keep surviving these 10-loss seasons, but if not, expect Rodriguez to get an opportunity if his name becomes available.
Texas A & M
Dan Hawkins is not the only Big XII coach trying to avoid the pink slip this season.
Mike Sherman has failed to create a defense to match the offensive firepower of quarterback Jerrod Johnson and needs to make strides off last year's 6-7 season to quiet the critics.
Just like Rodriguez, the burden of expectations are weighing heavily upon him in a Big XII where the Aggies must constantly battle the Longhorns, Sooners, Red Raiders, and Cowboys for notoriety.
Now, would the current Michigan coach really be an upgrade over Sherman? Well...certainly not in his current incarnation, however he could actually be a good fit.
Rodriguez would have rich recruiting ground and a particular style that could help him stand out from the pack in the state of Texas. He can exude a blue collar, working attitude that worked so well at West Virginia with the Aggies.
He also has one of the most passionate fan bases in the country, yearning for their team to be a contender yet again. Hmm...actually that kind of sounds like Michigan, doesn't it?
In other words, don't hold your breath on this one, but if Lane Kiffin can end up in USC, then anything can happen.
Besides, now that rumors are popping up that Tommy Bowden could be considered as a replacement, you know he would love to bring Rodriguez back as offensive coordinator.
Side note: TCU better hope their contract extension keeps Gary Patterson off the phone with the Aggies.
Tim Brewster came in speaking of Big 10 titles and Rose Bowl victories.
After a few seasons though, his failure to take the Golden Gophers to the next level is weighing heavily on the minds of fans.
It's not that Minnesota has been bad necessarily, but they have yet to find their space in the Big 10 pecking order.
Thankfully for him and the Golden Gophers, if Rodriguez suffers an early termination, they could get a motivated worker.
I got this idea after seeing Al Groh leaving Virginia with such anger that he decided to join Paul Johnson's staff at Georgia Tech as defensive coordinator instead of joining his best pal Bill Parcells down in sunny Miami with the Dolphins.
If Rodriguez is canned, he will not be a happy camper and you better believe that he will want a chance to show Wolverine fans they were wrong to pass such an early judgment on him.
Both Illinois and Minnesota are programs currently questioning the direction of their football teams and Rodriguez would love to overhaul their offenses towards a model of success. The Golden Gophers have had some talented back fields in the past and could recapture that glory again.
He knows he would have the luxury of being under a less-intensive microscope than Ann Arbor can become. That revenge factor would allow him to take the demotion and work under a Big 10 coach, either Brewster or a new name that may be brought in.
Rodriguez is beginning to learn the Big 10 and, considering that he won one conference game last season, maybe he is ready to hop on the "if you can't beat'em, join'em" bandwagon.
Okay, Rich Rodriguez is probably not going to the Oakland Raiders.
After all, Al "Just Win Baby" Davis loves to throw it deep and is still convinced that JaMarcus Russell will become the next Dan Marino.
However, Davis has made absolutely bizarre decisions before, and if Oakland has become the black hole for misfit players, shouldn't it be the same for coaches?
At the very least, Rodriguez would make a pretty good offensive line coach and he has helped develop some versatile NFL quarterbacks like Shaun King and Clemson record-breaker Woodrow Danzler.
Oakland has become football purgatory or a halfway house. You must go there to pay for your sins before you can return to the real world. Rodriguez might not make any sense for the Raiders, but they could still have a cot waiting for him next season to pay his dues.
Grant Town, West Virginia
At the end of the day though, if things fall so far as that Rodriguez is fired from Michigan, the only place he is going would be back to his hometown.
Rodriguez spent his entire life as a West Virginian. He played for the Mountaineers, he was a graduate assistant, an assistant coach, a head coach at Salem and Glenville State, and of course, one of the best coaches in the school's history.
When he burned that bridge in such dramatic fashion, he ruined one of his most natural homes. West Virginians take their football seriously and Brutus is not going to be welcomed back with open arms. Still, Rodriguez will likely find seclusion in West Virginia for a year or two to assess his options.
Fortunately for Rodriguez, if he wants another chance, he will undoubtedly get one. It just might take a little time.