The coaching situation of Michigan has, and always will be, under considerable scrutiny. Example #1: Coach Rodriguez went from 5-0 (definitely off any kind of hot seat) to 5-3 (definitely getting fired) to 7-3 (warm seat, wishful UM fans waiting on Jim Harbaugh). That's all in a little bit over a month.
So what do you we really know? Two main things.
The Wins Over Purdue and Illinois Means Bowling, Which REALLY Means:
That Coach Rodriguez cannot be fired based completely on the grounds of "incompetence." Two years in a row, the Wolverines have increased their win total. Let's go ahead and project the rest of the year:
Wisconsin: Loss (7-4)
OSU: Loss (7-5)
Bowl Game v. Missouri/Big 12 Opponent: ? (possible 8-5)
The University of Michigan's AD is a smart, savvy man. David Brandon runs things like a CEO and a good CEO always considers his shareholders. How do you explain to your shareholders that your company is improving, your good pieces are all returning...but you're firing the program head and starting over? With a 5-7 record, the whole "improving" part is out the window and Brandon has free reign to fire anyone he wants. With a 5-7 record, Brandon could dampen expectations, throw the "rebuilding" term around, and hire a high level coordinator.
But the wins have left Rodriguez with a much firmer grip on his job. With an 7/8 win season and 90% of the starters returning, it's harder to can a coach who's well-liked by the players and has developed an excellent offensive system. And fire Rich for who, exactly? None of the BCS Busting coaches (Kyle Whittingham, Chris Peterson, Gary Patterson) have any motivation to come to Ann Arbor. There aren't any former "Michigan men" doing big things in the coaching ranks either, with the exception of Jim Harbaugh, who is a perfect fit for the Michigan head coaching gig. There is one problem, though.
Jim Harbaugh Isn't Coming To Ann Arbor
Harbaugh fits all the criteria that Michigan fans want in a head coach: He's got great coaching experience, he runs the Pro-Form, he's known as a fiery competitor who can push his teams to play above potential...Oh, and did I mention he's a "Michigan Man"? All this on top of the fact that Harbaugh is one of the most sought after coaches on the market.
Unfortunately, Harbaugh doesn't need the Michigan job to get him onto the NFL with his brother. He's succeeded in turning around a moribund Stanford program and shown an ability to go toe-to-toe with bigger, richer programs. That's more than enough to warrant a pro gig. There are going to be 5+ NFL head coaching opportunities opening up after this year and you better believe Jim will be on the top of some of those lists. He's got pro coaching experience, pro playing experience, and he runs the Pro-Form. What a perfect NFL fit.
On top of that, I'm willing to subscribe to the theory that Dave Brandon will never actually ask Jim Harbaugh, only make flirtatious overtures under the table. UM got burned on their coaching search last time by failing to get their top coaching choices and Brandon will surely not let the school be embarrassed again. Firing Coach Rodriguez and not getting Harbaugh would be another tremendous PR failure. Harbaugh, as much as he does love Michigan, will be faced with these two choices:
1) An NFL owner pushing a contract in front of him that gives Harbaugh complete control, possibly GM powers, and 3-4 million a year. Just sign on the dotted line, teams all yours. Mold it into your own image. Or -
2) His alma mater sending feelers out via former teammates and the occasional man-to-man phone call. "Heyyyy Jim, what's the interest level? High? Medium?"
Which looks more attractive to you?
Of course, Rich Rodriguez will be given stipulations of some kind when he meets with Brandon after bowl game. "You get to stay on, but you have to dump your defensive coaching staff and stop meddling with your 3-3-5 ideas" or "If you don't beat MSU or OSU in 2011, you're done."
Some might say that Michigan is "stuck" with Rich. Some non-Wolverine fans might be mockingly thankful to have Coach Rod still in Ann Arbor. Some Wolverines might believe Michigan and it's sometimes brilliant offense are on the cusp of a 10 win season. Whichever camp you're in, there's a large chance that you're going to be seeing Rich and his Run Spread for at least one more year.