2,602. 22. And 38. Those were the numbers it took to finally sink now former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez. It’s been 2,602 days since Michigan has won a game against Ohio State; 22 losses in his tenure (18 in the Big Ten); and perhaps most damning, the 38-point loss in the Gator Bowl, which marked the largest defeat in a bowl game for Michigan in the football program’s history. Simply put, Rodriguez wasn’t a good fit for Michigan.

Let’s not sugar coat what happened in the three years that Rodriguez has been here at the University. Though his Michigan career was pockmarked by back-to-back losing seasons and NCAA violations, Rodriguez was doomed from the start. Inheriting a team that lost its starting quarterback, its all-time leading rusher and a pair of receivers — coupled with a completely revamped style of offense — Rodriguez had his work cut out for him.

Along with drawing the ire of alumni and former players for not being a “Michigan Man,” Rodriguez struggled at first to morph the team from the three yards and a cloud of dust into a high-octane, quick-pace, run-first spread offense. For fans and alumni that were clamoring to win immediately, he was rebuilding the Michigan program at a less than acceptable pace.

While a lot went wrong in his three years here, Rodriguez, as he detailed in a November press conference, didn’t suddenly become “stupid overnight.” He has a great offensive mind and was loyal to his players and staff — almost to a fault. Players remained loyal to Rodriguez even when they knew the end was coming. He never once blamed the failures of the team on any individual player or staff member, even when it may have been clear that the defensive side of the ball wasn’t getting the job done.

But instead of rectifying the problem or making changes, Rodriguez simply sat back and kept things at status quo. I refuse to believe after several weeks of watching the sieve of a defense be shred by opponents, that the 3-3-5 defense was the best scheme for the team to run. Instead of adapting his scheme to the players and personnel, Rodriguez and his staff were stubborn — trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Rodriguez went with what was successful for him in the past, and in the end it burned him. If you believe that a Michigan defensive unit starting a former student walk-on, two true freshmen and a nomadic senior — who was flipping between offensive and defense during his first three years in the secondary — could be successful, then you are either nuts or defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.

Something needs to be done before Michigan becomes like Notre Dame — scrambling after every three or four years of mediocrity to look for the next hot name coach out there. I hope David Brandon will make the decision that is best for the program and not placate the masses that are hollering for the names being bandied by the press. However, I do hope that whoever takes over will have full support of the fans, alumni and administration — something I’m not too sure Rodriguez had during his three years here at the University.

Let’s get one thing straight, the myth that the coach needs to be a Michigan Man should be put to rest. Bo Schembechler came to the University after serving as the head coach of Miami Ohio and even spent time on the staff of Woody Hayes and that team down to the south. Michigan needs to hire the best-fitting coach possible. We need a coach that can embrace the tradition of Michigan, but also fix the decline of a program that may be one more coaching mistake from becoming a has-been program.

Michigan needs a coach who will command the respect of players, students, alumni and former Wolverine players. We’ve tried the hot name coach tactic, and it ultimately didn’t work out. Fans clamoring for Jim Harbaugh or even Les Miles may be disappointed if either of the two Michigan Men fail to leave their already stable jobs to come to Michigan. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t competent candidates that can return the program to the top.

Goodbye, Rich Rodriguez, it certainly has been a roller coaster ride. You’ve definitely had good moments with the last-minute wins against Notre Dame last season and the thrilling overtime win against Illinois this season. While you may not be forever known as a Michigan Man, you gave it your best shot, and I have no doubt that you and your offense will catch on somewhere else.

Ryan Knapp can be reached at rjknapp@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.