I KNOW IT'S OVER AND OH IT NEVER REALLY BEGAN EXCEPT FOR THREE CONSECUTIVE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME APPEARANCES BUT IN MY HEART IT WAS SO REAL. San Francisco is eliminated from the playoffs. (Thanks, Lions!) This should accelerate everyone's decision-making process. Harbaugh is now going to consider his future in earnest; Michigan will enter with their bag with "$$$" on the side and hope to woo the fair maiden.
I've heard that both Harbaugh and the 49ers will start moving now. While official announcements may wait until after the season, the process of making a decision starts in earnest now.
This time there will be no coy crap, no hedging on the part of the athletic director about how much control Harbaugh will have or how much film he gets to watch. (Academics are the one area in which Harbaugh will have to compromise somewhat, as the AD does not have control over Michigan's willingness to admit JUCOs. The guy made it work at Stanford; Michigan is way less hardcore than Stanford.) Michigan will approach Harbaugh with an offer competitive with the NFL and the promise that at no point will he be forced to apologize for one of his players putting a piece of metal in the ground.
If he doesn't end up coming, at least we'll know that Michigan did everything they could this time.
ON LES MILES. I have to make an about-face here. Just yesterday I said that Miles had seemingly found himself on the shortlist after years in the wilderness. Another day's worth of information and I don't know that's true. Michigan made basic contact with Miles (or, in one version of the story, his agent finally got through to someone after calling repeatedly) and that's as far as anything went.
Depending on who you talk to, he's either a prominent non-Harbaugh viable option or far enough down the list to be irrelevant—ie, behind a guy who would obviously take the job. It sounds like a lot is being made of not much contact. There is a large group of guys close to the program who advocate for him, and I think that's where that's coming from.
Still, the next two bullets mean he's in play.
OFF THE BOARD. OSU OC Tom Herman takes the Houston job. I had just heard the first reliable thing that Michigan was looking at him as a plan B option and now he's (almost certainly) not one of those. I am distressed, because I'm with Bruce Feldman:
If I was a #Houston fan I'd be thrilled. I think Tom Herman is as close to a 'Can't Miss' as you're gonna find in a first-time head coach.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 15, 2014
On the positive side, OSU no longer has the guy.
MEANWHILE, PLAN B. It's not hard to see things falling through to Miles if Harbaugh doesn't take the job. There is no consensus on who secondary options are. Scout keeps pushing Jim Mora; Rivals keeps pushing Bob Stoops. I've heard both. The problem there is that neither is in a bad spot; either could be mentioned largely because agents are trying to get an extension for their clients (Mora) or make their guy look attractive after a crappy season (Stoops). People high up in the university admin think that the reported Stoops interest is indeed an agent play.
If neither of those guys makes a move, the next best idea the paysites seem to have is Sean Payton. As discussed, I will believe that is even a vague possibility if Payton is fired by the Saints and only then. The prominence of a sitting NFL coach with an $8 million contract on the plan B list is a bit alarming. To me that means "we do not have enough reasonable names to fill out a plan B list."
If Michigan refuses to consider Dan Mullen and Herman is off the board, then after they get through their list of debatably available sitting head coaches who's left?
That's some good pointing at least.
ON DAN MULLEN. There has been absolutely nothing about him anywhere, from my inbox to the paysites to randos on twitter who seem to have a connect. Nothing. The only chatter anyone's gotten is that Mullen is off the radar after Michigan called up Jeremy Foley and Foley bombed him.
Broken record time: that's a major mistake. At this point, Jeremy Foley's hired a blindingly obvious Urban Meyer, Ron Zook, and Will Muschamp. He drew every media member within a 500 mile radius to his contract negotiations, like the world's most wizened sixty-foot tall bug zapper. If he has opinions, Michigan should take those into consideration.
It's possible he'll emerge if Michigan gets shot down by the currently mentioned Plan B guys—coaching searches are weird like that—but that's if and only if Miles is truly unpalatable to the key players. Which he might be, for reasons both valid and not.
ON LOU HOLTZ. COULD HE BE PLAN B? Probably not. According to a reader, Holtz doesn't think it's going to happen. He cites the "wife loves the West Coast" issue, so take it FWIW. While wearing a raincoat, in possession of scuba gear. Preferably.
I WOULD CHORTLE. Please please please:
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 15, 2014
Not only would that be hilarious, it would open up a number of Notre Dame commits to poaching in a situation where Michigan is going to need to make some fast friends.
Etc.: Kawakami on how the 49ers management undermined their season.
REMAIN CALM. I am now getting some chatter to the effect that Harbaugh is coming, pending t-crossing and i-dotting. None of it is from a source I would consider rock solid, and all of it comes with an ominous "barring a last second change of heart" disclaimer. Please remain calm.
It feels like warranted optimism transforming itself into e-fact via a game of telephone—I can confidently say that there are people close to the situation who think it is happening, some of them very strongly. Whether they're right is another matter. Harbaugh may get NFL offers that change the equation. Right now Michigan can talk to him all they want; NFL teams would get hit with accusations of tampering if they did so. Everyone, including Harbaugh, is working with incomplete information.
A POTENTIALLY MEANINGLESS STATEMENT WE'LL TAKE AS GOSPEL. Raiders owner Prince Valium on his general manager:
-Q: Have those two wins helped you in your assessment of the football operation? Are you sticking with Reggie McKenzie?
-DAVIS: As I said, I never really said I wasn’t going to keep Reggie on board.
-Q: He’s your guy still, right?
-DAVIS: He is my guy right now, absolutely.
-Q: That means there’s still the possibility of dramatic changes, I guess.
-DAVIS: There are always possibilities for anything.
-Q: What do you think about Jim Harbaugh?
-DAVIS: (Laughs.) It was great talking to him.
McKenzie (not that McKenzie) is coming off an excellent draft, FWIW. Davis seems positive about him but "never really said" and "right now" are back doors that indicate some hesitancy. The upshot for Michigan is that if Oakland is inclined to keep McKenzie, they wouldn't be offering Harbaugh the moon that is full personnel control.
Of course, Oakland could be convinced to throw McKenzie overboard if Harbaugh was interested. Cue rumor:
Oakland preparing for sweeping changes that involve its GM Reggie McKenzie, according to league sources. Mark Davis getting ready to spend.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 14, 2014
This has been a completely useless searchbit. Thank you for your patronage.
OTHER NFL MACHINATIONS. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is under pressure in Miami, with local reporters asserting that his job "may hinge" on making the playoffs. Philbin's in his third year with Miami, having gone 7-9 and 8-8 in his first two years. They're 7-6 this year and currently trailing the Patriots. If they do lose that game they'll have a very tough road to a bid.
The guy firing Philbin is of course Stephen Ross, Michigan mega-donor. Ross has been rumored to be amongst the heavy hitters putting together a neato financial package for Harbaugh, so a Harbaugh pursuit would be an about-face. Said local reporter says this would happen. At least, I think so. The article is full of seeming autocorrect errors:
The source said Ross would try to upgrade a team that missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year by revisiting the idea of hiring Jim Harbaugh. … If the Dolphins cannot get to the postseason, Ross would have work to do and most of the assignment will center on Harbaugh.
Anyway: Ross pursuing Harbaugh would be tricky if Ross wants to get into all the good parties when he comes back to Ann Arbor. If Harbaugh does turn down a generous Michigan offer because he wants to stay in the NFL and that becomes public—probably because Michigan hires someone else—then Harbaugh could end up with the Dolphins without making Ross look that bad. Anything else and not so much. Steve Lorenz reports that Ross gave his word he would not chase Harbaugh to "more than one figure" in the Michigan community.
Given that, if the Dolphins do go hard after Harbaugh you should take that as a sign the dream is dead.
NON-MACHINATIONS? Ian Rapoport says the Dolphins are still not a player for Harbaugh. Rapoport previously reported that M left a meeting with Harbaugh "convinced he wants to be an NFL coach" a week ago, something that is almost certainly not true given the way the search has developed (or not developed) and the steady drumbeat of positive insider chatter. So take it with the appropriate level of certainty.
I do think Rapoport's more likely to be on point when he's talking to NFL teams about what they plan to do than trying to read the mind of Jim Harbaugh. Also:
@dpascoe72 yes i do.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 14, 2014
If Michigan was convinced that Harbaugh wasn't coming, wouldn't Ross 1) know that and 2) being going full guns here?
PLAN B. To my moderate chagrin, it is looking increasingly like Miles is the fallback option. He is definitely a fallback option, and depending on who you listen to (and what time you listen to them) there are somewhere between 0 and 2 guys between him and Harbaugh. Since the guys who could intervene are usually of the Stoops/Mora/Payton variety—longshots—Miles would become the favorite if Harbaugh turns M down.
The heavy favorite: everyone who knows Miles swears up and down he would come with two nanoseconds of the offer. What about 2007? Miles was never officially offered in 2007 and got roped into an LSU extension before Michigan could seriously contact him; with LSU on the verge of playing for a national title and Michigan's interest uncertain Miles had to go with the LSU AD's clever power play. There is no such hold on Miles now, as his team prepares to play in the Music City Bowl.
Why only moderate chagrin? Hey, he's not Schiano or Adddazio.
ON THE OTHER HAND. Webb reports that contact with Miles has not yet been "substantive." The focus is on Harbaugh.
IT COULD HAPPEN
JOE MOGLIA IS ALL YOU NEED TO HEAR. Football Scoop weighed in again, for what little that's worth. Michigan's honchos now "understand that Jim Harbaugh is unlikely to come to Michigan," according to site that previously said M had been turned down flat two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Steve Lorenz reports that the idea that Jim Mora and Dan Mullen have been run by the regents is "total bunk," so that's most of the post.
The rest of it is spent promoting the fortunes of Joe Moglia, the CEO-turned-Coastal-Carolina coach, who is 65 and coaching FCS. (Yes, that's totally different than pumping Bob Stitt.)
While I'd like half of that post to be true (the bits about Mora and Mullen being next options), it's clear that whatever FS gets right about this search will be by accident. This offseason they've already "reported" Bo Pelini to Youngstown State, Bret Bielema to Nebraska, and Lane Kiffin winning the Broyles.
GOING OFF THE BOARD? Ohio State OC Tom Herman is under heavy consideration at Houston. Houston's a good mid-major job that has sprung Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin into the big time, and Herman has a decade of Texas experience to his credit. Houston would be dumb not to offer him the job; Herman would be dumb not to take it. If Houston does in fact go after Herman that'll almost certainly be before Michigan gets down to the coordinator-scouring level. So merph.
Given the Miles chatter this is all likely to be moot anyway.
ALSO OFF THE BOARD. Sportsbook.ag again pulled the Harbaugh bet after more and more Michigan money came in. Last time this bet came up, a commenter pointed out that as online books go, Sportsbook.ag has a D- grade from an industry rating service and is not taking major money on this—it wouldn't take a whole lot to swing those odds.
FOUR WAY TRADE? Bo Pelini for Pitt. Yeah. Yeah man.
Etc.: ESPN's Dan Murphy has the least dismissive national take on Michigan's search that I've yet seen.
In the face. (GIF via Vice Sports.)
For a reeling, young, undersized Michigan squad, Arizona represented one of the worst possible matchups.
The Wolverines fell in a laugher, unable to deal with the Wildcats' imposing combination of size, skill, and athleticism. Michigan's inability to generate shots inside the arc or hit them from beyond it led to an early deficit that only grew as Kameron Chatman and then Zak Irvin found themselves in foul trouble.
At one point in the first half, John Beilein threw out a lineup of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Max Bielfeldt, and Mark Donnal; Beilein subsequently relented on his usually rigid foul policy and reinserted Irvin late in the half despite his two fouls.
The situation only got more dire in the second stanza, as M failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark; the Arizona faithful stood until that moment, displaying impressive adherence to tradition. The Wolverines remained unable to get into the paint, get out on the break, grab offensive rebounds, or defend the interior; adding to the blowout, Arizona got numerous second-chance buckets after failing to record an offensive rebound in the first half—not as much of a surprise as it may seem, as they only missed nine shots in that span.
The individual issues are barely worth noting; such is the nature of a bloodbath. Zak Irvin's shooting woes continued, and a mental lapse of some sort earned him a benching from Beilein mere moments into the second half. Caris LeVert, repeatedly denied even a sniff of the rim, couldn't carry the offense as he has in the past. The bigs were helpless against Arizona's impressive front line of Brandon Ashley, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Without context, this game may not be cause for sounding the alarm; after all, this was an extremely tough matchup—especially for a young Michigan front—against a very good team in the first true road game of the season. Coming off back-to-back upset losses at home, however, it's time to acknowledge the possibility that the Wolverines will have to claw their way into the NCAA tournament picture, even with Beilein on the bench. This team is better than it looked today, but it's also got a long way to go.
Circulating on Twitter
I wrote off Michigan’s struggles against NJIT as an aberration – after all, it’s unlikely that a team that shoots 34% (outside of their game against Michigan) hits 11-17 threes in a game – but at this point, it’s somewhat of a crisis: Michigan’s now 6-3, has two bad home losses, and is ranked 49th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and 98th in Jeff Sagarin’s. With Arizona on deck this afternoon, Michigan’s staring at a 6-4 overall record (really 5-4, as the game against D-II Hillsdale doesn’t count towards their resume) and a three-game losing streak.
Not to be too alarmist, but Michigan – projected by Pomeroy to finish 9-9 in the Big Ten – could find itself on the bubble and those two losses could be an incredible anchor dragging on the Wolverines’ resume. After the surprise run into the tournament in 2011, it’s been a given that Michigan participates in March Madness – two 4-seeds and a 2-seed over the last three years have been evidence of that – but as of right now, it’s hard to guarantee much. Pomeroy’s metrics gave Michigan a 97.5% chance of beating NJIT and an 86.8% chance of beating Eastern. U of M lost both: the chances of that were over 1 in 300.
At this point, Michigan is a complete unknown. Very solid (but not great) results against Oregon, Villanova – yes, it was a positive indicator of Michigan’s strength that they played the Wildcats close – and Syracuse contrast starkly with the embarrassing upsets at the hands of NJIT and EMU. Michigan was supposed to be a quality, fringe-Top 25 outfit and the first part of the young season certainly suggested that, but expectations need to be calibrated after losing a very bad and a solidly mediocre team at best.
Right now, NJIT is ranked 271st nationally and Eastern is 116th (via Pomeroy). In the last ten years, of Big Ten teams that made the tournament, there are only three roughly comparable home non-conference losses: Penn State lost to Maine (#209) and finished with an 10-seed in 2011; Purdue lost to Wofford (#197) as well as a sub-100 Iowa State team at a neutral site and finished with a 6-seed in 2008; Wisconsin lost to North Dakota State (#182) and finished with a 9-seed in 2006. NJIT is almost definitely worse than those Maine, Wofford, and North Dakota State teams. In and of itself, the Eastern loss isn’t that bad, but paired with the NJIT loss, Michigan’s almost certain to finish with a bad non-conference resume. Fortunately conference play should provide tons of opportunities for quality wins.
[AFTER THE BREAK: Panic! Or don’t. Whatever.]
The importance of coach background?
Patterson is a rare defensive HC standout
I know there are plenty of questions about the coaching search coming through, I'd hoped to give a different take.
In your opinion what is the preferable background of a coach. In the modern game with high powered, explosive offenses being the key to success, the trend seems be leaning towards guys with strong background in developing offenses (Tom Herman, Gus Malzahn, etc). I still maintain that the best background for a head coach is having a much stronger background on the defensive side of the ball. A top notch defense requires the ability to adapt to the offense (everyone runs the same offense week to week, defenses must adjust) putting a higher premium on extensive experience multiple jobs running multiple defenses.
The other key to success is recruiting (it seems you can out scheme your way to an effective offense, but a defense is more about the 'Jimmy's and Joe's). In my estimate, the best coach would be a guy with a lot of DC experience who knows what hates to defend and hires that guy. For instance, if Hoke had just admitted he didn't know anything about offense and spent the blank check Brandon gave him on the best guy to run a Denard led team (As I recall there were heaps of Oregonesque coordinators out there who would kill to walk into an experienced Denard job with money to spend on top assistants), we would probably be celebrating Hoke as a genius for not wearing the headset. I'm not sure Rodriguez hiring a stud D coordinator and letting them run the D the way they wanted would have worked because a number of his D recruits didn't pan out, which I believe goes to talent identification.
Please don't excommunicated me from the M family, I still think Harbaugh is the top candidate despite his offensive background!
You've got a pretty good case with "DC who knows what he hates to defend," as that's exactly what Bob Stoops did and he's been pretty successful. On the other hand, the top guys in college right now have a decided offensive bent.
Defensive guys at top 25 schools: Saban, Dantonio, Patterson, Snyder, Whittingham, Mora.
Offensive guys: Meyer, Helfrich, Fisher, Briles, Mullen, Freeze, Rodriguez, Johnson, Richt, Graham, Pinkel, Swinney, Andersen, Malzahn, Harsin, Petrino, Miles, Sarkisian, Kill.
A few of those are tenuous (Swinney was never a coordinator, Kill has been a head coach for so long he's just a head coach); even considering that it seems like the rapid evolution of offense has made OCs preferable to DCs.
And when DCs do have sustained success it's often because they have an oddball system they make work, whether it's Saban's NFL-style pattern matching, Dantonio's hyperaggressive cover 4, or Patterson's 4-2-5. Imposing your will is possible on defense; it seems to be a lot easier on offense.
I know you are being loaded with questions around the coaching search. My question is for after the search is over. The basis of the question is simple. How long do you think until Michigan is back to at least consistent 8 to 9 win seasons.
My personal belief is that with Harbaugh the chances are quick. But, what if it is not Harbaugh and someone who specializes in spread concepts to their offense, ie.) a Mullen or Herman? Do you think those hires would lead to as heavy an attrition as the Rich Rod transition did? If not how well would the current roster mesh with those schemes. Lastly if one of those two or another spread guy was hired, and the transition isn't a great fit, should we be prepared for Harbaugh, Harbaugh, Harbaugh, all over 4 years from now? Thanks in advance.
There wasn't actually that much Rich Rod-Hoke transition attrition. Most of the guys who left did so because they couldn't stay in school or find playing time. IIRC, Cullen Christian and Ray Vinopal left with Tony Gibson to go to Pitt, but I don't think anyone else could be claimed to have left as direct effect of the changeover. (Check the most recent Attrition Watch and correct me if I'm wrong.) In general, transfers are rare. PSU had their program burned to the ground and open season declared on their players and they only lost a few guys.
Recruits who haven't signed LOIs are a different matter, but if Michigan has a coach in January they'll have about ten spots to fill.
As far as spread/not spread, the differences in personnel there are considerably overstated. OSU and Miss St run power-oriented spread offenses built on being beefy mean guys; that kind of offense would fit well with Michigan's recruits on the OL. Receivers are receivers; Michigan has a couple slot guys. Tailbacks like Brandon Minor and Carlos Hyde function in the spread; Michigan's current crew could do just fine.
QB is the big difference, and it's an issue. I do think Morris has sufficient wheels to be a keep-'em honest threat, and as OSU's shown over the past half-decade or so, a spread oriented system tends to keep reads for shaky QBs relatively simple.
Hoke did a very good job stocking the roster with guys who stick around and they are beginning to mature, so a relatively quick (read: year 2) turnaround is within the realm of possibility.
[After the JUMP: frankly, things get very silly.]
META: I'm baaaaaaack. Here's what I know so far; while it's not quite a full diagnosis, like Seth suggested, it's all very good news. I underwent a colonoscopy/endoscopy on Wednesday morning, and while I'm still awaiting the results of the accompanying biopsy, all they found initially was a hiatal hernia and an ulcer—this should rule out Crohn's Disease. I've got a CT scan scheduled for next week just to cover all the bases.
My appointment with an endocrinologist and subsequent testing Wednesday afternoon revealed the really good news: I tested positive for adrenal insufficiency, which explains my litany of symptoms. It's most likely primary adrenal insufficiency (Addison's Disease) as opposed to secondary (driven by the pituitary gland); I've already started treatment with hydrocortisone, which should start helping very soon. The next step is to confirm that it's Addison's Disease—I'm awaiting test results on that—and see a rheumatologist, since the vast majority of the time an autoimmune issue of some sort is the cause of this. I also have a follow-up appointment with my endocrinologist next week. The doctors at St. Joe's have done a remarkable job; after ten years of searching, this is a massive breakthrough.
Thank you so much to everyone who's reached out to me over the last week; I'm incredibly fortunate to have the support of such a strong community, and it helped my spirits more than I can possibly convey. Now, let's talk basketball...
Michigan (6-3) at
|WHEN||5:25 pm ET, Saturday|
|LINE||Arizona -9 (KenPom)|
PBP: Dan Shulman
Analyst: Jay Bilas
Right: The last week or so.
THE HELL IS GOING ON
I mean, seriously.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open.
|G||4||TJ McConnell*||Jr.||6'1, 195||70||21||Kinda|
|Excellent distrubutor and defender. Cold shooting this year, but good over career.|
|G||1||Gabe York*||Jr.||6'3, 185||54||18||No|
|Low usage. Career 37% 3-pt, rarely ventures far inside the arc.|
|F||5||Stanley Johnson||Fr.||6'7, 245||68||27||No|
|Top-3 recruit. Good shooter, rebounder, defender. Draws tons of fouls.|
|F||21||Brandon Ashley*||Jr.||6'9, 230||74||21||No|
|Excellent post scorer, takes most shots at rim but has range. Solid FT rate.|
|C||35||Kaleb Tarczewski*||Jr.||7'0, 245||70||16||Very|
|Efficient finisher, mostly on easy stuff. Turnover-prone.|
|F||23||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson||So.||6'7, 220||65||24||Yes|
|Country's best sixth man? Very athletic; great finisher, rebounder, shot-blocker.|
|G||24||Elliott Pitts||So.||6'5, 285||36||11||Not at all|
|Pure sniper, and good at it: 53% from three this season. Tiny usage.|
|G||0||Peter Jackson-Cartwright||Fr.||5'10, 160||28||18||No|
|23/4 assist-to-TO ratio. Whoa. Shooting really well, too.|
Arizona is off to an undefeated start that includes three wins over KenPom top-100 opponents, though all of those games were close: four points over #78 Kansas State (neutral site), two points over #23 San Diego State (neutral), and a three-point comeback win in overtime at home over #10 Gonzaga. They've blown out everyone else on the schedule, including #110 UC Irvine and #149 Mizzou.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]