Michigan Football '08: When Success Becomes Mediocrity

Jeff ContizanoCorrespondent INovember 18, 2008

By far this has been the worst season in Michigan history. But I do not have to tell you that; just look around.

Dozens of fans and haters alike here on B/R proclaim it each day, and all across the nation, people clamor for the chance to see the most winning program in college football history fail.

This is the part I do not understand. As a fan, I can understand hating the rival. I detest Ohio State. But ultimately I respect Jim Tressel and the work he has done. He has really made that team something to watch.

But people continue to trash Michigan for the hire of Rich Rodriguez. The team has lost so much more than eight games. They have lost pride, they have lost fans, but most of all, they have lost much more inside.

Lloyd Carr was a great coach. He continued the strong traditions that Bo Schembechler created, and helped make Michigan one of the greatest programs of all time. And whether there was pressure for him to leave or not, he is now gone. He accepted that if you watched his interview a few months ago.

So much has been said about Rodriguez now. He is "scum," he has "destroyed the team," he is "ruining Michigan." But what is he ruining?

Lloyd Carr had a lot riding on last year's senior class. After that, I am not sure how good this team really was.

To start, we still would have no real quarterback this season. Ryan Mallett did not like Ann Arbor, the school, the transition to the spread, and took off. To his credit, he got out, instead of sitting and not being 100 percent into the changes.

Our offensive line was going to be bad. Most if not all the seniors from the '04 class have either graduated or left football. We lost two very good wide receivers, one of the best running backs in our school history, and a four-year starter at QB to boot.

So what would we be with Lloyd Carr? Or Les Miles, even? 6-6? 5-7?

I admit the coaching staff has done a lot wrong this year—no doubt there. Rodriguez was unprepared, and he was stubborn. But give the man a chance.

Michigan's cupboard was a lot more bare than expected, and injuries, youth, and inexperience have killed us this year. But it has not affected recruiting. Rodriguez has a class ranked 15th by ESPN, 16th by Scout, and 12th by Rivals.

Aside from Nick Saban, who has done an excellent job with Alabama, no coach could have come in and really succeeded at Michigan right away.

Rodriguez has shown enough success in the past, and now is his time to prove himself. Whatever the results of the "big game" are, he will finish the recruiting class well, and you bet he will have a better understanding of this team by next year.

Is it fair to expect bowl eligibility next year? Yes. A 6-6 or 7-5 record should be accepted, and considered a success. Rich was not brought in to turn a 9-4 team into a 11-1 national championship contending team. The Big Ten is stronger than Michigan at the moment.

Within two or three years, if progress is not being made, fire him. We all deserve that much. But instead of continuously kicking college football's most storied team around while it's already down, give them all the hope in the world.

After all, we do not really see what is happening behind closed doors. Maybe in the future we will.