It's going to be tough to keep perspective after that bowl game, but I've had enough: almost. I've been a big Rich Rodriguez supporter during my time as a student here at the University of Michigan, pointing out how the offense had emerged as a juggernaut under his leadership. Sure, we had no kicking game whatsoever, and yes we had a porous defense, but that was on account of the 6 true freshmen we were forced to start in the secondary. However, after the bowl game my arguments looked far weaker.
Yes, we have a great offense...against subpar teams. Michigan scored 17 against Michigan State, 7 versus Ohio State, and as we saw today, 14 against Mississippi state. There is no doubt that, with a young offense that will return nearly every starter next year, it will only get better. However, considering that Michigan played average against good teams, it will get better regardless of who the head coach is. Whether it is Rodriguez or Harbaugh (or someone else), the offense will be far above average, as long as Michigan makes a smart hire. I would think that Michigan would hire someone with a brain, who realizes that this offense is so dynamic that it does not need to be changed, and would thus keep the spread. If not, then the offense will indeed take a nosedive as Denard would most likely leave (it would make sense for him at least, as he would not be effective in a non-spread offense). Finally, my largest issue with Rodriguez today: after a solid month of preparation, that was how ready he had our offense? For an offensive "genius", 14 points against Mississippi state is not that impressive. I feel another coach could have done better. What needs to be changed the most is the other two-thirds of the program.
We all know that Rich Rodriguez was brought into this program for his offensive skill set, however the fact that offense is only one-third of a football team cannot be simply overlooked. Under his leadership, Michigan's defense has deteriorated. Yes, the youth plays a major role in that. Still, giving up 52 points to a mid-level SEC offense after a month of preparation is inexcusable. A lot of this will fall on Greg Robinson's head, and deservedly so. He deserves to be fired (and there is absolutely no way he's here next year). But the fact remains: the person who hired him to run the defense? Rodriguez. That is another factor under his control that he failed at: it is his job to hire the defensive coordinator, and he clearly picked the wrong individual (twice now when one remembers his first DC: Scott Shafer).
Finally, we have the third area: special teams. Is Gibbons/Broekhuizen the best Rodriguez could recruit during his three years here? At the same time, his decision to go for the 35 yd FG in the third quarter was ludicrous. It was a fourth and 5 at the 18 yard line. All the fans knew Gibbons was going to miss that kick, and indeed he did. The fact that Gibbons, who clearly was the best Kicker in practice the month before the bowl to have been given the kick in the first place, couldn't make a 35 yarder in pristine conditions shows just how far special teams had falled under Rodriguez.
Now, even after all of this, i'm still not all for firing him. I'm just typing out the thoughts that entered my head after this travesty of a bowl game. My final idea: I still do not mind Rodriguez being kept around for one more year to see if he, and a new set of coaches, can continue the development of the offense and improve both the special teams and the defense. However, after being completely in the keep Rich Rod camp all season long, I am now at least open to the idea of having another coach. I am no longer convinced that would be a terrible idea. As long as we hire a coach who has a proven pedigree on the defensive side of the ball and will keep the spread (and thus Denard Robinson) at the University of Michigan (or hire an offensive coordinator with experience in the spread) will have my support. But I do belive that Michigan will be making a mistake if they bring in a coach who wants a pro-style offense that leads Denard to leave the school (and i wouldn't blame him as he would not be effective in such an offense). It is now up to David Brandon to make a very difficult decision.