I will preface this "article" similarly to the way I prefaced the first "article" I wrote for this website in 2008—shortly before RichRod's first game with Michigan. I was not a fan of the hire from the beginning, and I've never though Rodriguez was a good fit for Michigan or the Big Ten for a variety of reasons.
Understand, I am writing this from my perspective. This is what I have gone through in this process, and my take on it.
With that said, outsiders, media, and fans alike are all quick to blame Rodriguez for this once-gloried program's precipitous fall. This is unfortunate and unfair, because Rodriguez is not due the lion's share of the blame.
Michigan's shortcomings and failures on the football field the past two years falls on the university's proud administration. Just like the famous proverb says, "Pride always comes before the fall."
Lloyd Carr and his staff were great coaches in their own right, recruiting and developing talent as well as anyone else in the country, and better than most. But Carr had his own blatant and discouraging struggles late in his career on the biggest stages: against the hated Buckeyes and in major bowl games, where Michigan looked completely unprepared.
It was here that his weaknesses as a coach were most evident, and it kept getting exposed by Jim Tressel and Pete Carrol. He just wasn't an elite signal-caller, nor was he great at identifying and exploiting opposing teams' weaknesses.
Hind-sight being 20/20, it was clear when after Bo died, despite administrative support and a tremendous amount of success, Carr was tired and ready to move on. Tired of the criticisms, tired of struggles against Ohio State, tired of playing USC in the Rose Bowl, tired of being called overrated.
Bo Schembechler's death brought about a new era in Ann Arbor. Michigan was viewed as old, stagnant, and boring, and they needed something new, fast, and exciting. They wanted someone invigorating. "Three yards and a cloud of dust" just wasn't going to cut it this time around.
Here's where the mistakes started rolling in.
Mistake No. 1
They identified the man they wanted for the job—a big name who was a former alumnus and had already achieved great coaching success himself. Here's where the administration made their first mistake. They assumed he would come along because, well, they're Michigan, but they weren't prepared to pay SEC-type dollars to get him. They shouldn't have to—they're Michigan.
Well, Les Miles was happy to stay with his current employer at the time—a more established program that was about to win its second national championship in five years, and make more money doing so. Needless to say, this was very embarrassing for the university, and undermined Michigan as the premier place to coach.
Mistake No. 2
They were completely and utterly unprepared for rejection from Miles, and scrambled to find a second qualified candidate. In doing so, they overlooked quality candidates on the current Michigan coaching staff, like defensive coordinator Ron English, because they needed a big name. This is, of course, Michigan.
The "flavor of the week" coach who turned a perennial loser into something substantial would do just fine. And who's going to turn Michigan down for Rutgers? Greg Schiano, that's who. All of a sudden, it seemed as though Michigan just wasn't a desirable place to coach and establish one's legacy, and more and more potential coaches openly withdrew their candidacy.
Mistake No. 3
Again, Michigan passed up quality options on their coaching staff because they needed a big name to bring excitement to the fan base and potential recruits. Enter Rich Rodriguez.
With Rodriguez, Michigan had their big name. A spread-offense mastermind who had offensive success wherever he went, most notably as the offensive coordinator at Tulane and Clemson, and then as the head coach at his alma mater, West Virginia, leading the Mountaineers to top-10 finishes in 2005, 2006, and 2007 (although he didn't coach them for their bowl game in 2007).
With Rodriguez, no one would be able to say Michigan's slow.
The mistake was not necessarily in hiring him, but not having a legitimate plan with regards to their intentions. Let me explain.
After 2006, Michigan lost most of its stars from a legitimate NFL defense (LaMarr Woodley, David Harris, Leon Hall, etc). They had two years of solid defensive players, though, and 2007 and 2008 direly needed to be defensive recruiting years.
Well, when you hire a coach that is doing an overhaul of the offense and has to spend all his time and available scholarships getting recruits for "his system," then other facets of the team are going to suffer, and suffer they did.
Rodriguez may be due some criticism for forcing "his system" on the Michigan players, but the administration is due criticism for either not knowing or at least realizing Rodriguez's plan for success, and the amount of time, effort, and losses it would take to do so. The whole thing was a major oversight by the powers that be.
More than anything, it was the pride of Michigan that got them in trouble. They in effect, only have themselves to blame for the lack of success for the last two years. Rich Rodriguez has already become a scapegoat for much of the fan base if he doesn't work out.
But to be fair, it's not all his fault. For what he set out to do, if he's let go after this season, he won't truly have been given a fair shot. It may be his fault for not using the players he had to their abilities while slowly adding his offensive and defensive schemes, but it's the administration's fault for not knowing that going in.
If one thing has certainly been proven true, it's that pride certainly comes before the fall, and Michigan got what's coming to them these past few years.
*Note: I wrote most of this before the start of the 2010 season.*
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