And although I would never admit it in certain company, Tony is a friend of the MZone, having linked to us numerous times and appearing as a guest on the Internet radio show we used to do during the Original M Zone days. In addition, as many with an audience did on the Michigan side, he helped rally the Buckeye faithful in order to keep the Michigan-Ohio State game in its rightful place at the end of the season.
So with Michigan locking up not only a bowl bid but its first winning season under Rich Rodriguez, I wanted to get an outside perspective on the State of the Program in A2. Specifically, with even Michigan fans still seemingly split on the subject, I wanted to get an opinion on Rodriguez and his future from someone who follows Michigan more closely than some Michigan fans (even if it is for an evil purpose).
Thus, Gerd was kind enough to tear himself away from the OZone - where they plot the overthrow and the destruction of all that is good in the world on a daily basis, hoping to replace it with a Scarlet and Gray darkness - to answer a couple questions with us here at the MZone.
MZONE: Now that Rich Rodriguez has secured Michigan's first winning season and bowl game since he took over, speaking as unbiased as you can as an Ohio State fan, do you think he has earned a 4th season? Why/why not?
GERD: I think this has to be looked at from two different perspectives. Has he earned a fourth season relative to his first two seasons? Yes. Has he earned a fourth season relative to Michigan football? No.
If somebody put together a "Rich Rodriguez Fact Sheet", much like NDNation did with the Ty Willingham Fact Sheet (which is probably still googleable), and just collected all of the "records" Rodriguez has set at Michigan, and you just stood back and looked at the accomplishments on a piece of paper, is there ANY way you would say, "Hey, THIS guy has earned more time."
But you probably can't look at it that way because of what is invested. And as I've said repeatedly, Bill Martin and the University should have seen these struggles coming with such a change, and because of that, I can completely understand if Rodriguez is given more time, even if he hasn't necessarily earned it in relation to past Michigan coaches.
MZONE: What do you like about Rich Rodriguez's program/coaching/what mistakes do you think were made? Is the foundation there to compete for Big 10 titles with the Buckeyes or is something missing?
GERD: When Rodriguez was hired, I wrote a magazine article about what I saw with the future of Michigan football. And one of the questions I had was with his recruiting and player development. I believe he had ten players drafted in his seven seasons at West Virginia. In that same time frame, Louisville had 24--and they were only in the Big East for three of those seasons. In Don Nehlen's final seven seasons, they produced 21 draft picks. Basically, he wasn't producing as many NFL draft picks as similar teams.
So my thought would be that since he isn't producing NFL players, high school players that Michigan normally targets wouldn't be as interested in playing for Rodriguez because he just doesn't put enough players into the NFL. And I think we're seeing that to some degree. But the biggest problem I see in this regard is that he still seems to be recruiting like he's at West Virginia.
He reaches on players from out of state like he has no choice. Like Purdue and Indiana do.
I just don't think he appreciated or understood the affect the logo on his shirt could have had when he was recruiting. And now it's too late. At least for this year or so. But then, as I said, he's not really interested in recruiting the way Michigan did in the past. And I think the results you're seeing aren't coincidental.
You ask what has he done that I like, and I'm trying to find something. I really don't want to be a hater (like you are!), but it's hard to come up with something. I will readily admit that I never saw this coming from Denard Robinson. And I like some of the way he is used. And I definitely believe he is a dynamic weapon, and could be in any other offense as well. But as I've said since week one, Rodriguez can't use Robinson the way he did and expect to have him healthy all season. And I'm not sure that changes next year even with a more experienced stable of running backs.
As far as competing for a Big Ten title, I think he definitely can. Northwestern has won the Big Ten as many times as Penn State has since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. Purdue has won it. Illinois has won it. Michigan State is on the verge of winning it. There's no reason Michigan can't do the same. But I never see them competing with Ohio State year in and year out. Unless Rodriguez is at Michigan for the very long haul, and the next Ohio State coach is a bad hire.
I never felt his West Virginia teams would have dominated in the Big Ten either. The teams in this conference have too many solid defenses too often. (And yes, I'm aware of the 2010 statistics.) That is why I thought that maybe if he recruited Michigan-level players in a West Virginia system, then maybe he would have something. Fortunately, that never really happened in my opinion.
And I haven't even touched on his defense. But then, I want to keep this friendly.
MZONE: As a Buckeye fan and assuming he's kept around, do you think Rich Rodriguez can get the game back to The Game? If not, who can/is there a hire that you think would make Ohio State fans sit up and take notice?
GERD: All it will take is one win to get the game back to The Game. I'm not going to sit here and say Michigan can't win this year. And I definitely think next year could be a possibility. But I don't know when Michigan would likely be favored again. 2013?
The hire that would make fans go berserk--and because of their love of the rivalry the guy that most want to see get the job--is Jim Harbaugh.
Buckeye fans are ready to hate again, and Harbaugh would instantly be put right up there with Bo, Mo and Lloyd, because there's no way he wouldn't say something to torque them off at the first opportunity.
It's a love-hate thing though. And also a case of 'be careful what you wish for'. But I think people are willing to risk it for The Game.
And I don't think Rodriguez really enjoys this rivalry all that much. Whereas Harbaugh revels in it. And we HATE when Michigan coaches do that!
Can you imagine the scene next year if Harbaugh is on the sidelines in Ann Arbor and Ohio State comes in at 11-0 with a senior quarterback? Tell me there wouldn't be flashbacks of 1969 floating around amongst all you hippies.
I think Michigan is limited under Rodriguez. I don't see that same limit for Harbaugh. He's a tremendous recruiter, and you've seen the coaching results on the field. He's beaten teams that his team shouldn't have. How often has that happened for Rodriguez?
Lastly, for the offense lovers, Stanford is scoring 39.8 points per game this season. Michigan is scoring 37.7.
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