First of all, I just want to ask a question.
Prior to the start of the 2010 season in August, who here seriously expected better than a 7-5 season?
Before you answer, that was a rhetorical question because you're lying to yourself or completely lost in your fandom if you say you expected better.
That being said, after a couple of strong wins and the Denard explosion in September, I think it's acceptable to say that even the most conservative of Michigan fans had visions of 10-2 or 11-1 dancing in their heads.
The point I'm trying to make here is that, for the logically thinking fan base, Rich Rodriguez met expectations for 2010.
Now before you think that this is an article advocating that Michigan keeps Rich Rodriguez, I just want to clarify that I'm trying to put things in perspective here.
On a strictly personal level, I don't think I'll care either way.
Each side of the argument has its pros and cons and I think this is a very balanced scale. It's up to David Brandon to determine what is best for the future of Michigan football.
Each side has some pretty legitimate arguments so, for sanity sake, let's take a look at both sides before we start running around town with "Fire Rich Rod" painted on our chest.
Are you a supporter or a hater?
Fire Rich Rod!!
Positive Press = Positive Recruiting: The most obvious pro to hiring a new coach is getting rid of the negative press that has been surrounding the Rich Rodriguez program since his hiring.
Kids transferring out citing loss of "family values," NCAA investigations and sanctions, etc.
With that kind of negative press gone, the next Michigan coach could bring in some big-named recruits, preferably on defense.
Jim Harbaugh and the return of a "Michigan Man:" This isn't to say that he's by any means a shoe-in for the job but he's the obvious #1 on every Michigan fan's Christmas wish-list.
He's taken a Stanford program that has, in recent history, been almost laughable and turned them into a top-5 team and a BCS contender.
Oh yeah, he's done that while having to recruit with one of the nation's highest academic standards in Division-I football.
He would be a more than perfect fit for Michigan and would unite the fan-base under a cause.
We might get a defense that's at least average: Under Rich Rodriguez's tenure the offense has improved but the defense has regressed more than anyone thought it could possibly do at the University of Michigan.
Rich Rod has vehemently advocated the 3-3-5 defense and has hired coaches that have never ran that scheme before.
While Greg Robinson's ineptitudes as a coach continues to amaze each and every week, some of the blame must be put on Rich Rod because it's ultimately his team.
If Rich Rod gets the boot, so does Robinson.
But... Denard: If Jim Harbaugh or some other Pro-Style coach gets hired in to Michigan, it's likely that they won't be able to use Denard in the same manner that he's been used under Rich Rod which could anger the transfer gods.
2011 ='s: Michigan fans, remember all of the talk about how 2010 = 2009 earlier this season after Michigan went down to Michigan State?
Remember how frustrating it was because, as much as you denied it, a little part of your brain was going "what if they're right...?"
Picture this: (Sicily, 1967) a new coach is brought in and doesn't have "his style of recruits" currently under his program. Instead of running a system he isn't used to, he tries to run his system with players that aren't built for it and has an epically-bad season—2011 = 2008.
Say Dave Brandon has already decided to fire Rich Rod. When do you do it?
Give him another year!!
Offense: This is the best offense that the Michigan program has ever seen and it's full of Sophomores and Juniors.
They're only going to get better with some big named recruits at running back like Dee Hart coming in for next year.
I don't know how many times I've uttered the phrase "man, if we had even a mediocre defense we would stomp just about every team we played."
I know I'm not too far off from what most Michigan fans were thinking too.
Defense: Barring more tragic injuries—knock on wood, salt over the shoulder, spin around three times—this defense is going to get better regardless of who is running it and not simply because it can't get worse.
We've seen it improve over the season—think OSU, first quarter.
What has killed Michigan of late has been momentum-killing turnovers that put the defense right back on the field.
These won't be true freshmen and sophomores next year and Rich Rod isn't stupid, he knows that—more than anything—Michigan fans expect at least respectable defense next year so don't think that he's not going to stress that in spring camp.
If Rich Rodriguez is the coach for 2011, what are your expectations?
Expectations: One of the questions David Brandon is going to ask of himself is: "Is there improvement?" I think that you have to agree that, yes, there is improvement if for nothing other than the record.
Three wins, five wins, and seven wins is improvement and there is no reason to think that it's not going to be better next year with a softer schedule and more maturity on the team.
The proverbial monkey: I think Rich Rodriguez is going to have this monkey on his back the entire time he's the coach at Michigan.
Blame it on him not being a "Michigan man" or blame it on his dismal first season.
It may not be fair but that's the way it is.
Rivalry games are going down the toilet. Rich Rod is 0-4 against MSU and OSU and that's just unacceptable.
Something must be done about these games.
MSU fans are almost unbearable and people are claiming that "The Game" is losing its luster.
A Michigan win in both of these games would solve that and, so far, Rich Rod hasn't proven that he can do that.
One of the things I took away from high school was that, in order to win any argument, you have to be able to convincingly argue both sides of the story before you can take a stance on one or the other.
Sadly, I don't see much of that happening on this site.
When Michigan loses, haters come out of the wood-work and post the same meaningless rabble about how losing is unacceptable and it's all "Dick-Rods" fault and then as soon as Michigan wins the boo birds go away.
For the haters: If you expected better than 7 wins or an upset over Ohio State or Wisconsin, you're kidding yourself. I'm not saying you should be okay with a loss but try to put things into perspective before you flip.
For the supporters: How many times must we say "Give him one more year" before it's one year too many?
Sooner or later he's not going to meet these lofty expectations and the haters are going to come out of the wood-work again.
Next year most of us will be expecting in the neighborhood of 9 wins.
If he doesn't produce? Do we really need to go through this again?
For everyone else: I'm right there with you.
I think as a minimum Greg Robinson needs to go.
He's taken the defense from mediocre to awful in a year.
Jeff Casteel needs to happen and I think it's a legitimate possibility.
Frankly, I'm not going to be hurt or angry one way or another. I have total confidence that Dave Brandon is going to do what he thinks is right for the program and it will work out in the end.