ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Rich Rodriguez was hailed as an offensive genius when Michigan hired him to replace the retiring Lloyd Carr.
The Wolverines went out and lost a school-record nine games in his debut season and flopped to a 5-7 finish the next fall as doubts rose about Rodriguez and his spread scheme.
What a difference a sensational quarterback and a couple of season-opening wins can make.
Michigan earned a spot in The Associated Press poll at No. 20 and suddenly, a lot more fans and objective observers are optimistic about Rodriguez's ability to be successful with college football's winningest team.
"Everybody wants to be happy and I live in a world where if you win, more people are happy," Rodriguez said Monday. "There's probably still some people that are unhappy, no matter what we do, and they will be unhappy the rest of their lives."
Denard Robinson has a lot to do with how Rodriguez is regarded heading into Saturday's game at home against Massachusetts.
The quarterback had 502 yards of offense against the Fighting Irish, surpassing the total of any ranked team last week, and scored the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left. He broke records he set one week earlier against Connecticut.
Carr and his predecessors — Gary Moeller and Bo Schemebechler — groomed drop-back quarterbacks to win in college and thrive in the NFL. Had Michigan picked a coach with a traditional offense to replace Carr, Robinson probably wouldn't be wearing a winged helmet.
"When I was getting recruited, a lot of teams told me I could be a receiver or a cornerback," Robinson recalled. "This was one of the few schools that told me, 'You will be a quarterback.'"
Rodriguez said his offense is set up to showcase the quarterback, comparing it to a basketball team that allows the point guard to shoot 3-pointers.
"Denard has been taking a lot of 3s," he joked.
Rodriguez may be slowing starting to add people on his previously lonely bandwagon.
Michigan center David Molk said the perception of Rodriguez outside the program has changed simply because of the results.
"They hate him when you lose, love him when you win," Molk said. "It's the same as every college coach in the country."