1/11/2011 – Brady Hoke 1, Internet 0 – 0-0
I follow a blog called "Fund My Mutual Fund." The title should be taken literally: the guy running the blog wants you to pledge money so that he can get a mutual fund based on his stock picking method off the ground. He's done amazingly well on a publicly-tracked simulator, has sufficient pledges to break even, and is in the process of getting SEC approval after establishing a years-long track record. He's good.
He struggles when his method (technical analysis) is battered by external events that cause the stock market to veer from a well-established logical way of doing things, which is happening a lot lately thanks to Ben Bernanke. He responds to these events by publicly reminding himself the underlying fundamentals have changed, that logic means one thing when you're talking about five years and another when you're talking about five days and that even if the market goes up for stupid reasons it's going up. Here's one from this morning. He also lacerates the country's financial honchos in sarcasm-laden posts that get a little tiresome the tenth time you read essentially the same thing. He went to Michigan, too. He might be my Tyler Durden, or maybe I'm his.
A couple weeks ago I proclaimed there was a "zero point zero" percent chance that Brady Hoke was named Michigan's head coach because I assumed Hoke's flimsy resume was only acceptable to people who really truly believe that Michigan Men are Michigan Men who make other Michigan Men, who in turn create more Michigan Men until you enter a warehouse and it's like that terrible Will Smith movie with winged helmets.
My underlying assumption was that David Brandon was a cold-hearted corporatist who would tell someone to assemble a powerpoint about head coaching candidates and take the Michigan Man stuff as merely a relevant bullet point. I was wrong. Brandon is king of the Michigan Men, and my predictive performance has lagged the market.
Not much of consequence was said at yesterday's press conference to introduce Brady Hoke—that is the way of things—but at the very end Dave Brandon started pointing and became emphatic and the world rearranged itself:
That's the athletic director version of Kurt Wermers saying "not my kind of crowd." Rich Rodriguez never had a chance after the Ohio State game. Why David Brandon decided to go on with a dog and pony show even he admits was pointless should be a frustrating mystery, but it's not. People had to be placated. This program will eat itself alive if given half a chance.
So maybe Brady Hoke is the best choice. This organ transplant will not be rejected. Given time and an upperclass quarterback or two and a defensive staff that's not utterly clueless, Brady Hoke will quickly prove himself to be the one true Notriguez. He'll quickly improve the program and get Michigan back to being Michigan.
But I think the way this went down proves that all the things rivals say about Michigan are true. This is an unbelievably arrogant program convinced its past glories are greater and more recent than they are, certain outsiders have nothing to teach it. We will enter bowl games against opponents that say "boy, that Michigan just lines up and comes after you," and we probably won't win many of them. We never have, and trying to out-execute Alabama or Oregon seems like a tall order these days.
I hoped we could be block-M Michigan without that, that we could have an exciting, modern offense that pumped out Michigan Men and maybe shredded Oklahoma for 48 points in a BCS game. I hoped we could reboot the program, keeping the things we treasure about it but maybe leaving the dismal bowl record and recent inability to compete with Ohio State behind. For a lot of reasons we can't. We are who we are.
So, no, I'm not super happy. On the field I was done with Lloyd Carr, done with punting from the 34 and running the same damn zone stretch thirty times a game, done with the premise that it's only the players who have to execute on gameday. To me, getting back to being Michigan means going 9-3 and losing to Jim Tressel. I remember thinking "this is the year" every year growing up, expecting great things literally every season until Rodriguez showed up and Mallett transferred. I don't think that now, and I can't imagine feeling like that in the future. Sometimes having an identity feels like having a ceiling.
Non-Bullets Of Explanation
That said and true, this also. On the other hand, the past is not destiny. Jon Chait provides the best possible perspective:
Selecting a coach is a lot like selecting a recruit. The resume is the equivalent of a recruiting ranking. With recruits, a high ranking correlates with success, but a correlation is only probability, not certainty. Sometimes high-ranking recruits flame out, and sometimes sleeper recruits turn into stars.
While I'm down on the hire except insofar as it appears to be the only one that would get institutional support, Hoke could surprise people. He's in a great spot to immediately improve a team that returns damn near everyone and should profit from that momentum. Rich Rodriguez was always pushing uphill; Hoke has a much easier path to positive attention.
I didn't want to say this during the many fire-Rodriguez discussions because it seemed like the most cynical thing imaginable, but cutting Rodriguez loose right now sets the new guy up to look like 2006 Ron English after he replaced Jim Herrmann and inherited Woodley/Branch/Hall/Harris: a freaking genius. We'd find out during The Horror that he was not, but for a year the guy was untouchable. Hoke is going to get all the rope left over from the Rodriguez era and then some.
So, yes, the internet has overreacted.
I will swear now. The inbox is overflowing with pleas of varying levels of politeness to get behind Hoke, stop being so negative, etc. If you phrased it nicely, I appreciate the sentiment and the too-generous belief that I have any influence over the success or failure of Michigan's head coach. I'm not going to change my opinion overnight, however, and this remains a No Sugarcoat zone. No sugarcoat. I can promise that I'll go into the Hoke era looking for reasons he'll work out (you know, on-field reasons, not "Brady Hoke is the best human" stuff), if only because of human nature. His flexibility with Nate Davis and successful deployment of Rocky Long as a 3-3-5 DC gives me hope he's not a stick in the mud, and I'm sure Craig Ross is mailing him the Romer paper as we speak.
If you called me a hypocrite for not liking the hire when I didn't like the three years of shit Rich Rodriguez had to wade through when I haven't said one negative thing about Hoke that does not boil down to "does not have a thrilling resume," please fuck off and die. Especially people complaining about how constantly negative I am when I spent the last three years as the last guy on to die on Rodriguez Hill, as a commenter whose name I can't remember aptly put it. Double especially for people complaining like that a week after calling Rodriguez a "hillbilly" because "only hillbillies leave their alma mater."
What I am negative about is the Carr-era players—like the hillbilly guy above—whose loyalty to the program stops at the water's edge. Aside from one recent Harlan Huckleby outburst, the Bo guys either shut their traps or tried in vain to support the head coach at the University of Michigan. But I've made that point over and over again. (Mike "I support the head coach x1000" Hart is an obvious exception to this and should have been the model for his teammates.) The culture that made the last three years happen is petty and arrogant and utterly fails to live up to the Michigan Man ideal it pretends to espouse, and though I'm about a day from shutting up about it because even I'm tired of it I'm not backing off.
This will be fun. I hope everyone loves Jason Whitlock columns, because we're about to get a boatload of them. As Over The Pylon points out:
In a panicked desperate move, the administration at BSU freaked out and hired an in house coordinator to quiet the fans and hopefully maintain the momentum that was building. Michigan did much the same, only the “in house” became “Michigan experience” and the “maintain momentum” became “rebuild the program”. In BSU’s case, the failsafe went 6-18. Let’s hope for UM’s, Brady’s and everyone associated with the Wolverines’ sanity that the performance isn’t also duplicated, lest they become the target of one particular columnist with a national audience, a significantly close connection to the head coach, and a nicely sized ax that could always use some grinding.
Guh. Win, Brady, or we'll all suffer. Meanwhile, if you'd like a condescending lecture Dan Wetzel has you covered.
Carty on the dude. You can hate on Carty if you want but this is probably more interesting than anything that's been written about him so far:
The thing that separated Brady Hoke from most assistant coaches under Lloyd Carr was the confidence to be the same guy in a media interview as he was when the cameras were off. Michigan assistants never talked much in those days, and when they did, most of them were obviously concerned about saying something that would be met with disapproval by their boss.
Hoke wasn't very polished or made-for-television, something he poked fun at himself. He laughed a lot more than the other assistants did, at least in public. When he did do interviews, he asked more questions than most assistants and seemed genuinely interested in how reporters did their jobs. When a sensitive topic came up, he'd simply chuckle and say, "You know I'm not going to talk about that." He didn't shy away from criticizing players or performances when he had to. I don't ever remember him asking to go off the record or take back something he said, both common practices with assistant coaches at Michigan and elsewhere.
There are a couple more paragraphs to go along with the Ann Arbor News's entire republished archive of Hokemania.
Search fiasco: somehow still growing. I still think Jim Harbaugh was supposed to be Michigan's next head coach before he backed out sometime after it became clear the NFL wanted him badly, thus resulting in the month-long post-OSU limbo and panicked search, but seriously if Dave Brandon means what he says about not offering Miles the job he traded the opportunity to not obliterate Michigan's chances with a few key recruits for some PR. If this was going to be the result Hoke should have been hired two seconds after Rodriguez went out the door—there were no serious overtures made towards anyone else except maybe Pat Fitzgerald.
Elsewhere, Or The Best In Overreaction
My verdict on the Hoke hire depends somewhat on my view of the Lloyd Carr era. I liked Carr as a coach and as a representative of the University, but I wasn’t upset when he retired in large part because he had not done a good job of surrounding himself with top-notch coaches. It’s in this respect that he is no Bo. Bo Schembechler created modern Michigan football and one aspect of his greatness was that his coaching tree was excellent. Carr, on the other hand, doesn’t have a coaching tree to speak of. Thus, the two obvious candidates for Michigan’s head coaching position were Jim Harbaugh – a Bo quarterback whom Carr declined to hire when he was looking for a quarterback coach – and Les Miles – a Bo lineman/assistant whom Carr reputedly did not want as his replacement in 2007. If Dave Brandon’s much-discussed Process was designed to bring back a Michigan Man from Bo’s lineage, then that would have been fine because hiring a Bo protege can be done on merit. The fact that the Process produced the one sickly branch from the Carr tree is the reason why Hoke’s hire has been greeted by articles with titles like "Advice for the Despondent."
This team spent the last three years building something, and I spent the last three years not simply waiting for future glory but anticipating it. Times were certainly tough, but I could still see the payoff at the end. The top ten offense paired with what I still believe could have been a fast, havoc wreaking defense with a couple more years of experience and depth--and probably a new coordinator. It wasn't always easy to watch the games, and the losing streaks against rivals always hurt, but I could take the taunts and laughter from other teams fans because I believed. That belief wasn't ever there under Lloyd. It was always just an ominous feeling that the other shoe was about to drop.
Another bit was not happy after the hire, either, focusing mostly on the Les Miles discussion that does not and never will end up being an offer.
You know it‘s a bad decision when one’s first reaction to the news is to draw easy comparisons between Michigan football and the Big 3 Automakers decline and to scramble to the Wikipedia page for the Romanovs to confirm that yes, this moment fits perfectly within the arc of a decaying empire. The emptiness that follows, however, is a bitch.
For its part, Straight Bangin' is "paralyzed." That's probably for the best.
Touch the Banner surveys the team and attempts to find out who fits. Slot receivers have to be saying "WTF" to themselves. HSR wants Michigan Replay back, but I don't think that had anything to do with Rodriguez. IIRC the producer lost his job with the IMG switchover and owned the rights to the name and possibly the music. This totally happened 110 years ago.
Without knowing what Brady Hoke's coaching staff is going to look like, it's hard to say exactly what will happen with Michigan's recruiting. I'll maintain the status quo from last week for now, assuming most of Michigan's non-Florida recruits are going to stick. Hoke has already said he'll honor their commitments.
So I'm not redundantly linking the same article over and over, AnnArbor.com article is here.
MI RB Justice Hayes took to Twitter to say he'd stay a Wolverine no matter what. The AnnArbor.com article confirms it.
MI OL Jake Fisher is "rethinking" his commitment. Though Fisher had previously said he picked Michigan for the total package, not just a coach, he'll make sure he doesn't like Michigan State, Oregon, or Notre Dame better.
FL OL Tony Posada, per AnnArbor.com, planned to stay with Michigan before the hiring.
MI DE Brennen Beyer's coach told AnnArbor.com that he'd consider opening his commitment.
MI LB Desmond Morgan is "definitely solid" to Michigan:
“It was more than just the coaching situation,” Morgan said of deciding to accept a scholarship at U-M. “It was the school, it was the atmosphere, the education and the history, the tradition.”
TX LB Kellen Jones said, pre-hiring, that his commitment was firm (AnnArbor.com). He told Tom that he's still a Wolverine as long as the staff still wants him. There had been rumors of a decommitment in favor of Florida. He's still planning to take a couple visits, so keep an eye on him.
OH S/CB Greg Brown is already a student in Ann Arbor.
FL S/CB Dallas Crawford probably shouldn't even be considered a Michigan commit anymore, and he now favors Miami (YTM). It would be a surprise to see him end up in Michigan's class. I'll remove him from the commitment list, but leave him on the board.
CA K Matt Goudis has been replaced in Boise State's recruiting class by Jake Van Ginkel, but he'll visit Miami (YTM), and it sounds like he's looking to give the Canes his commitment "no matter what the Michigan coaches have to say."
It looks like Fisher, Jones, and Goudis are the only current commits (Crawford not included, of course), that are serious flight risks.
Finishing The Class
Hoke has said there will be no recruiting visits this weekend (though a couple unofficials may be a possibility), so there should be a pair of huge visit rosters over the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for those.
Sam Webb talks Hoke's recruiting in the Detroit News. A few new prospects to keep an eye on with the change in coaching staff: CA DT Christian Heyward and CA DT Mustafa Jalil. With Michigan's need at defensive tackle and Hoke's background, they could see opportunity. Also mentioned in Sam's article is CA WR Devin Lucien, who Hoke recruited at SDSU. He plans to visit Ann Arbor, and Michigan has a good chance at him.
Aside from defensive tackle, losing Tate Forcier makes quarterback a huge area of need in this class - especially with Denard Robinson mum on whether he definitely plans to stick around. San Diego State has one quarterback commit, 3-star Californian Chad Jeffries. The 6-3 pocket slinger is SDSU's highest-rated commit to Rivals, and if Al Borges plans to continue with pocket guys after Denard leaves town, rather than adapting scheme somewhat, Jeffries could be a possibility.
IL OL Chris Bryant has pushed back his announcement ($, info in header). He'll now decide the 28th instead of the 21st, giving him time to get to know Michigan's new staff. Tom says Michigan still leads.
NC WR/LB Kris Frost committed to Auburn last week, but the Tigers still haven't accepted his commitment. If they can't find room for him in their class, he'll consider Michigan again.
Mini Happy Trails
NJ S Sheldon Royster has eliminated Michigan ($, info in header).
Happy Trails to FL RB DeVondrick Nealy, an Iowa State commit. The new staff likely would not have pursued Nealy.
MD DT Darian Cooper removed Michigan from his list, but with a defensive line-oriented head coach, it'll be interesting to see whether Michigan can get back in on a kid like him.
Happy Trails moments should be coming fast and furious as Signing Day approaches.
Reminder: 2012 updates are on hold until after Signing Day.
Via Joe Schad's twitter feed, here's a brief conversation with Denard's high school coach on the topic du jour. Denard, unsurprisingly, is supposed to meet with Brady Hoke individually today. Voltron tweets:
"I think if the right things are said at Michigan, I think he wants to stay. Will they put you on the edge and roll you out? Denard does not want to sit out a year."
Taylor told Denard to ask: "What offense do you run and where do I fit in?" He heard Borges can run a spread.
Taylor said coaches from around country have called re: Denard. "I take three batteries with me everywhere for my cell phone."
If Michigan hadn't recruited Denard, Taylor said he probably would have gone to UCF—the guy wants to play quarterback.
Quotes from a few people of note at Brady Hoke's introductory presser.
"Obviously, we had a tough year defensively this year. I think it's important that he comes in and establishes a strong defense."
"I just wanted him to be passionate about the game and passionate about this University. I've obviously loved this University my whole life, and I can tell this guy has as well." Hoke is passionate and intense, and that's important.
"He realizes the importance of the front seven, and I think that's where he's going to establish... that's where our team is going to be made, and we're excited about that."
The team had a brief meeting and lunch at the stadium with Coach Hoke. "The first thing he talked about was championships." Michigan has 42, and they want to make it 43 soon.
The coaches will make their pitch to Denard, as will the players. "He's a great quarterback, and he'll fit any system." Kovacs doesn't know what Denard plans to do.
Obviously, we've got a heavy heart for our past coach, for Coach Rod. He's a great guy and a great coach, but at the same time we've gotta pick it up, we've gotta move forward, and focus on next season."
Kovacs researched Hoke a little bit when he heard that he'd be a candidate. Looked into his coaching history, but never met him until today. "I like what I've seen."
Everybody has only nice things to say about Coach Hoke. "Nobody has bad things to say about this guy." Everybody needs to support him, whether he was their choice or not.
On Ohio State: "Everybody's seen Harry Potter, right? That one guy... Voldemort or whatever? It's kinda like that." Everybody knows what a big deal the rivalry is.
Hoke brings a fresh start: "The sky's the limit. We have the opportunity to do so much." Though the players haven't had a chance to meet him one-on-one, they're excited.
"This is not a usual University. They expect so much out of you and what you do." There's a lot of pressure here, and Coach Hoke is already handling it well.
On getting all the players to stick with the team: "I think that's the biggest thing possible." The seniors have impressed upon everyone else the importance of sticking together as a team. They've gone through a change before. Last time, "not everybody bought into the whole thing," but now the team is closer because of it.
Coach Hoke has a personality that grabs everyone's attention when he walks into a room.
Hasn't had a chance to talk to the players yet: "From what I hear, they're all excited about it, and I look forward to chatting with them too."
"That is a good, good fundamental football coach... He's a worker. There's no question about that." Moeller remembers when he was around the Michigan summer camp.
Obligatory @ right via HSR.
Coaching bits. Rocky Long is officially the new head coach at SDSU, so Michigan will need a new DC. He will bring his strength coach Aaron Wellman, so kiss Barwis goodbye. ETA before he's hired at Pitt: six seconds.
Who did what who with what and the when. I have a request in for a rundown of the Borges years at Auburn with a good friend who is the world's #1 Auburn fan, but they sort of just won a national championship so that might take a little bit. Over at Maize 'n' Brew they have a breakdown of Hoke's years at Ball State from a BSU alum. On offense they started off with a "disaster" of a pro-style offense that got the first coordinator canned, whereupon Stan Parrish was brought in:
Coach Parrish junked the previous offensive scheme almost completely. He still employed two tight ends due to Steinhaus and Darius Hill being two of the biggest weapons on the offense, but also used a lot more three and four wide out formations and the fullback ceased to exist in the offense. Ball State ran a balanced, one back attack with Joey Lynch and the Nate Davis excelling at quarterback, MiQuale Lewis at running back, and Dante Love at wide receiver/running back/quarterback.
So Hoke has some flexibility when it's clear that whatever you want to do isn't actually working, but… yeah, seems like the default impulse is to line 'em up and waggle them three times a game.
On defense, Hoke kept the same guy through his six years but "was the defacto defensive coordinator" by the end of his tenure because Smith was kind of not so good. They moved from the 4-3 under that Greg Robinson actually knows how to run to a Big Ten default 4-3:
For the first four years of Coach Hoke's tenure, Ball State ran a defense that the media mostly called a 3-4 defense, but I think would be more accurately described as a 4-3 under defense. The last two seasons, when Coach Hoke was basically running the defense, Ball State mostly used the 4-3 defense, although the 4-3 under defense was also still used.
Hoke grabbed Long at SDSU, obviously. Depending on who you talk to Long invented the 3-3-5, which is what the Aztecs ran. Flexibility there, though not a whole lot of success. Even in the epic Ball State year that got him out of the MAC, the Cardinals got bombed for 45 points in their two year-ending losses. This year's SDSU team was better on offense by every metric than defense. For a "defensive-minded" coach his success seems based on having a couple quarterbacks that were pretty good.
Fluffwar 3000. Anyone doubting the media 180 should have listened to the press conference, wherein questions were gently peeled by the assembled masses and placed in the most pleasing spot on Hoke's tongue, whereupon they dissolved in a haze of gruff footbaw talk. I think I heard someone say "he's dreamy" at one point. This will be annoying for people irritated at the way Rodriguez was treated but is an asset for the program. Everything is black or white, you see.
We should hold a competition for most Charmin-soft headline over the next six months. Candidates so far:
- "New U-M coach Brady Hoke's character impresses peers"
- "Michigan players applaud hiring of Brady Hoke"
- "Alumni rally around Hoke hire"
- "Brady Hoke earned respect and admiration from former Michigan football players"
And a candidate for most least correct:
These are all exactly what you'd expect, so there's no need to read any of them. Our brief period as a rogue program has ended, and the worst-case outcome of the next few years in the media is a bunch of clucking at fans who aren't satisfied with how much better Brady Hoke's record is than Rich Rodriguez.
Save Drew Sharp, of course. He was the lone guy to fire off a negative question amongst the general fawning, that directed at Michigan's aspiration to win conference championships instead of national ones. I wonder if he asks his wife why she didn't aspire to marry a human being instead of Marvin the Paranoid Android.
The truth. Michigan's situation is odd. They are a 7-6 team with pretty good yardage numbers that has an easier schedule next year and a boatload of returning starters, so they should be better, possibly a good bit better. But they're transitioning coaches and if Denard stays are probably going to make an awkward transition in offense exactly at the point where this year's crater of a recruiting class will start hurting them badly. So Lamarr Woodley's right:
“I mean, hopefully they’ll look good next year, but it will probably take a while for them to be adjusted,” he said. “I don’t want to go into that Michigan State situation, where they’re hiring and firing.
“We have to stick behind coach Hoke and give him time to bring in the guys he needs for his formula."
Michigan will have to be patient, because a tenure much like Charlie Weis's is a strong possibility: good results early, falloff once this class and the last one come home to roost, many grumbles about early success being vapor. Michigan will (should?) have an upperclass Devin Gardner instead of freshman Jimmah and some semblance of an offensive line, so the rough patch might not be awful. It's likely to come.
(Yes, exactly zero players said things like this for Rodriguez.)
The upside. I think this is both praise and condemnation:
Spoke to a bunch of coaches here in Dallas at AFCA who think Brady Hoke will do well at Michigan. They kept using the word "solid" a lot.
Calling a coach "solid" is like calling a girl cute. Also, this…
@mgoblog You may have gotten your Dantonio, for whatever that's worth.
…is the exact same thing. It's hard to envision Hoke not having the same sort of dismal record against the USCs of the world if he's going to rely on recruiting nowhere near as well and out-executing, as Michigan State found out the hard way against Alabama.
Meet the Drew Sharp of San Diego. Brady Hoke had been so openly coveting the Michigan job that even San Diego State's athletic director was all like "he gone," but there is a lone wacko out there willing to point and scream "Rodriguez":
Hoke never purchased a home in San Diego. He rented in La Jolla. He wasn’t staying here forever, and even he no doubt is surprised by how fast this happened. He hadn’t done much of anything, which he admits.
But in the end, it wasn’t so much betrayal as it was deception. It’s hard to say San Diego State is better off today, but if Brady Hoke couldn’t be stand-up about this thing, sneaking around in college football’s increasing shadows, maybe the school’s better off.
A witch! Burn her!
At least there's that. The Mathlete's PAN metrics are pretty easy to understand ratings that go into more detail than wins and losses and as the coaching search progressed he threw up numbers for most of Michigan's candidates. The Hoke graphs are the single most encouraging thing I've seen about the hire, as it does show almost constant improvement across eight years. Ball State, with Hoke in blue:
San Diego State, with Hoke in maize:
Arguing about how fast the improvement happened at Ball State is secondary to the fact that it did improve consistently, though I tend to hold the post-Hoke implosion against him since I'd rather see a smoother glide path to incompetence as the program you put together gradually falls apart. That looks like "Nate Davis graduated so let's GTFO."
This goes here.
Etc.: Guy who won right to attend press conference is a Michigan engineer who wrote a script to enter him millions of times. Michigan engineers: good. Guys who program MGoBlue.com: not Michigan engineers. DocSat: "After three years of attempting to transition out of that mindset into something smaller, faster, sleeker and newer, Hoke is a sign that the Wolverines have declared defeat and decided to turn back home. That will make a lot people happy, but only if the wins eventually follow."
vaya con dios
One quarterback is out, at least for now, and seemingly forever: someone finally asked Dave Brandon about Tate Forcier and he said he was "not with the program"—this is something that there was plenty of writing on the wall about since he hasn't been at meetings and currently isn't enrolled.
Meanwhile, other players are saying Denard is all in but Denard is remaining circumspect:
Robinson would not say whether he would stay at Michigan or transfer. "No," Robinson told The Detroit News as he walked into Michigan Stadium, when asked if he met with Hoke.
When pressed on the matter, Robinson smiled, shook his head and continued to walk into the stadium for what appeared to be a team meeting, about 90 minutes before Hoke's press conference.
"No comment," he said.
The press conference touched on Denard and because Hoke has eyes he'll try to keep him around.
In other news, the media is currently tickling Brady Hoke's belly.