There’s no debate that the last week has been a mess for Michigan football. First it’s the debacle that is the Gator Bowl, then it’s incorrectly “leaked” information about Rich Rodriguez’s firing, now the big question is who coaches our beloved Wolverines in 2011 and beyond.
While I won’t debate that David Brandon is a savvy businessman and very intelligent, no one really knows who he’s spoken with or what’s already been said. Lots of fans have boiled it down to two things: he’s a genius if he gets Jim Harbaugh here; he’s a complete failure if he can’t. I don’t see it as this black and white and feel like we need to give it a chance.
Now I’m as ardent (and impatient) of a Michigan fan as anyone I know and would absolutely adore Jim Harbaugh as the next head coach. But I’m also a realist and understand that he’s a very hot commodity right now and that he has many options.
Listening to Brandon’s 30 minute press conference today, I think he mentioned Jim at least 10 times. He’s friends with him, talks to him regularly, knows the family, etc. I’d be naïve to think that coaching at his beloved alma mater hasn’t come up once or twice in those forthright conversations with the face of Michigan athletics.
But again, this is pure conjecture, and as much as I’d love to think everything has been worked out, I’m confident that both parties are taking the necessary steps to be prudent and honest to their respective institutions without leading anyone on. The maelstrom that existed just 24 hours ago with regard to Rich Rodriguez’s meetings in Ann Arbor is testament to this, and the last thing anyone needs is more unwarranted speculation on next steps.
Who should coach Michigan?
While Harbaugh is everyone’s No. 1 candidate, the other names that have been tossed around aren’t that bad, nor would they necessarily do a sub-par job when compared to Harbaugh’s success in Palo Alto. Keep in mind that the team any of these coaches inherits is undersized, lacks depth, lacks discipline and is one dimensional on offense. The cupboard sure isn’t bare (something that was said ad nausuem after Lloyd Carr’s departure), but it is fit for one type of system. I’m not confident that anyone can come in and given a few months, teach these guys how to tackle, stay gap sound or fix many of the deficiencies that led to all those painfully lopsided losses.
What I do know is that Brandon had to wait to see the outcome of the Gator Bowl to make any decisions. Many a rash Wolverine has stated that to preserve the recruiting class Brandon had to make the decision before the bowl games. As much as I sided with this logic, after hearing him explain why he waited until after the Gator Bowl made good sense. To put it frankly: he wanted to see how we did. Hindsight being 20/20, we not only lost but got blown out so now the pundits come out in droves claiming he’s an idiot. What if we lost 45-42? What if we actually won?
I would agree that had Rich coached this team to a win, it might have been a great stepping stone for the recruits coming in, not to mention a nice ending to an otherwise dreadful Big 10 season. What if he canned Rodriguez prior to the bowl game, we lost and Harbaugh decided to pass on the opportunity anyway? The press would have said he was a fool to fire a head coach prior to the bowl game and that maybe had Rich been the coach we would have beaten Mississippi State (and he could subsequently stay on for another season). It’s essentially a lose-lose situation for Brandon either way.
So I pose this—why not wait, see what Brandon has in mind and, after the next week or two (I completely agree that we can’t wait much longer), see what transpires? Who knows, we could all be remarkably surprised at how smart David Brandon actually is (or not).