Initially the idea of hiring Rich Rodriguez by Michigan seemed like a great concept. Most bad ideas do. Rodriguez had just come within a single game of steering West Virginia to a national title shot out of the Big East. He represented a bold break with the moribund traditions of Michigan, a spread offense innovator who would take Lloyd Carr's stale football machine and refit the Wolverines for the 21st century.
It made so much sense, something people might want to ignore in a fit of historical revisionism now that Rodriguez has reportedly been fired. In truth, he was not bad from the start, just a bit...off. This plane did not crash seconds after takeoff. The flight got off the ground slowly, and with turbulence, but high altitude wasn't expected in such a dramatic switch between systems. A 3-9 season in 2008 passed with little note, but an NCAA investigation about practice hours violations and a 5-7 season in 2009 (and another loss to Ohio State) rattled the plane and crew substantially.
The plane lost an engine, however, with the hiring of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson in 2009. Rodriguez's offenses needed time to develop--two years, specifically, since the 2010 Michigan was first in the Big Ten in total offense. The defense burst into flame almost immediately, however. Decimated by poor recruiting and robbed of its few decent players by injury, Michigan's defense gave up 35 points and 450 yards a game, and not just due to youth and inexperience. They looked like conference's the worst defense almost by design.
The third loss by Rodriguez's staff to Ohio State and a 7-5 season in year three did not complete the plane crash for Michigan. Impact with the ground came in the Gator Bowl versus Mississippi State, where after one quarter of competitive play the Wolverines were blown off the field by a Mississippi State team that finished fifth in the SEC West. The media might have hated him from the start, the fans might have had mixed feelings, the administration might have been ambivalent, but the certainty of a loss so lopsided was uniform and complete.
The plane was doomed from the start, and like most passengers on a flight, no one seemed to know it until it was far too late to eject.