From: Manchester, UK
From what I've read Rommel was out of his environment when given the task of defending the Western wall. Despite warnings from Guiderian and Von Runstedt, Rommel did not fear Naval Guns, overly feared the Air threat. And kept his mobile units too far from the choke points. Instead of training and exercising his second rate troops, he chose to employ them in manual labour such as building barriers and so forth.
Nah, Rommel had his day in the desert, and it passed. True he was the wrong man for the job in France, but hind site.... Where as Patton's day was yet to peak. Imagine if Patton was given a defensive task? Perhaps he too would choke, but history and fate was kinder to patton. He took his objectives and avoided the meat grinders.
To be fair to Rommel, neither Guderian (whose last direct combat command was the winter of 41-42) or Rundstedt (whose last direct combat command was November 1941) had ever faced Allied air power in a tactical role. Rommel had in Africa, and realised the difficulties of operating in such an environment. The other two Gentlemen were correct that Naval gunfire could be devastating, but Rommel realised that allied air power, coupled with the logistical situation (fuel problems etc) meant that the battle would have to be fought on the beaches because a manouevre battle in northern france as out of the question.
I agree that air power may quite possibly have been overrated in Normandy, I don't think it had the effect that has sometimes been claimed, but in parallel with the German experience, what it could do was all but seal a battlefield off. If it couldn't usually act like it does today, knocking out individual strongpoints with bombs, it could hamper and interdict movement to the point that manouevre was too difficult and perhaps even pointless.
On balance, I think Rommel called it right, but he didn't have the resources to play it as well as he wanted to. I think Rundstedt's strategy would have failed. It's possible it might have kept the campaign for France alive as long as Rommel's did, but it offered little or no chance for success in the long run. Rommel's strategy offered a slim hope depending on what happened on the beaches.
The training versus building argument depends on how you see it. Second rate troops get a measure of protection behind fortifications. There were also some shortages which meant meaningful training was not easy. On balance, I'd say he got it right again, because of the way he wanted to play it. Had he opted for Rundstedt's battle of manouevre, then you could well argue he should have intensified their training.
As for Rommel versus Patton. Rommel was a more rounded Commander, and I think he possessed (usually) a purpose to his manouevre which Patton lacked.
As for Patton Versus Montgomery. I think it depended what you wanted. If I'd want Monty to fight the battle of Alamein, I'd want Patton leading the pursuit. If I wanted Monty fighting the bulk of the enemy armour around Caen, Patton was the man to drive through the open door at Cobra. Patton on the defensive would have been interesting. I have my doubts he'd have had much luck. It'd take another Patton thread to explain why.