Todd Howard came to Michigan in 1998, following the national championship season. We both grew up in the same middle class suburb (Southfield) before moving to more affluent ones. But he was a highly recruited scholarship athlete who played cornerback for four years on the Michigan football team, while I was sort-of recruited journalism student who played guitar on a couch at the Michigan Daily.
Todd now coaches defensive backs in his post-Southfield hometown of Bolingbrook. We've developed a recent friendship over M football obsession, and some heated disagreements, plus wives pregnant at the same time. His perspective is one of a guy who came to Michigan and had it made clear upon arrival that no player is bigger than the program. His perspective is also one of a player who played in an era when "getting your bell rung" was common, "shaking off the cobwebs" was routine, and everybody "saw" a few more snaps than they actually played. But he's also a modern high school coach with responsibility for player safety, and a defensive back who believes inside routes should be punishable by death.
He agreed to let me share a thing he wrote on Facebook and some bits from our text message marathon last night.
From the texts:
- Supports Hoke, says he's a good coach and the right coach for Michigan.
- Players always play hurt.
- Doesn't know what's going on in the administration and can't affect it.
- Want people thinking long-term: Michigan will be great again. Supports people speaking out, but turning away disgusts him.
- Every effort should be made to show the players they're supported, including showing up to games and cheering for them and not distracting the coaches further.
The Facebook open letter to fans:
Dear Michigan "Fans"...I really couldn't have said it any better myself. You took success for granted. 8 win seasons became the norm and you got comfortable. You never saw the hard work and late hours put in behind those brick walls of Shembechler. The lack of sleep, barely being able to drag yourself to class, minor addictions to pain killers, while fighting to remain academically eligible. PLAYING through injuries most of you couldn't make it up a flight of stairs with. The coaches preparation every week from sun up to sun UP, sacrificing valuable time with their own families so the BEST team possible could take the field on Saturday.
Now your "favorite" team is going through some adversity and look at you! Look at how you respond. Are you a Michigan FAN because it's convenient? Sure, every one loves a winner...if that's the case take your allegiance down I-96.
It's so easy for you to call for Hoke's job. You've never met him, never had a beer with him, never seen him COACH! Only interviews and cutaways on Saturday. If you think you want to win, multiple that by 100 and MAYBE you'll attain the same passion he has for football and an equivalent compassion for his players.
My brothers and myself are Michigan MEN, not FANS! So to read some of your comments and rants is a little disheartening. Is this how you would've ridiculed us had we not been as successful? Would you not inbox us autograph requests?
When you're team is up, cheer! When you're team is down, cheer LOUDER! When your team wins, congratulate them. When your team loses, sympathize and have pride in the fact they gave everything they could. That's a TRUE fan...but instead you're spoiled. It's a privilege to cheer for Michigan. It's a privilege to sit in the Big House...not an obligation. "The Expectation is for the POSITION!" Back to yours!!!
/adjusts Michigan hat
...as you were. HAIL!
[My rebuttal, after the jump.]
Michigan football made Al Jazeera's front page. Hooray?
In regards to the way both Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon have handled the whole situation regarding Shane Morris, I have to wonder why we have not heard from the AD since the game. I am concerned that the absence of any comment on the situation screams that he is trying to distance himself from the whole situation. By doing this, I feel that he is jeopardizing the search for a new head coach. Parents would have second thoughts on sending their sons to play for Hoke, while potential coaching candidates would have second thoughts on working for a man who keeps quiet in times of trouble, I know that I would.
I live in Arkansas and thought back to the way that Jeff Long handled the Bobby Petrino situation in April on 2012. Four days after the accident, when it was to come out that Petrino may have covered up the accident Long placed Petrino on paid leave while he did his own investigation. 6 days after that Petrino was fired for just cause. That is the kind of leadership I like to see in the workplace.
I will end this e-mail with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. as I think it speaks loudly as to what is going on now.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Don [ed: Not That Don]
Dave Brandon's 52-hour absence during a PR crisis magnitudes greater than the one Michigan faced when he was hired speaks volumes. We were all temporarily on board the Brandon Express because he came in and talked in his gibberish way to the media about stretchgate. He spearheaded the U's reaction to the investigation, and because his one skill is handwaving at things this seemed brilliant. That was a thing that deserved handwaving.
That PR crisis did not feature literally dozens of prominent opinion-makers on college football calling for Hoke's immediate dismissal, nor did Michigan show up on Good Morning America or ABC World News Tonight. This is so much worse.
And now Dave Brandon is a ghost. When the University of Michigan desperately needs someone to step forth and be Adam Silver, they get a single 1 AM statement from the guy in charge, one that directly contradicts his own football coach. Whatever this is, it doesn't feel like an attempt to save anyone's job.
They learned nothing.
Since some people are defending the Morris incident by saying "its an isolated incident and only getting attention since we are losing", I think its time to talk about Brendan Gibbons. If that incident came out now (post Ray Rice) how would it play? Also, its another incident where you are left to wonder whether Brady Hoke is (1) devious or (2) dumb - a question that as alumni and fans of what the university stands for we should not be asking.
The thing that makes Brandghazi even more inexplicable is that they already had something like this happen to them with the Gibbons thing, where their vagueness and dissembling led Brady Hoke to claim a guy who had been expelled from the university wasn't playing because of a "family matter."
They experienced a lesser version of the media blitz that they intensified with their stonewalling, gathering ugly press. What did they learn from that? Absolutely nothing. This is the PR equivalent of Shane Morris stumbling after a hard hit to the head against Ohio State and staying in the game.
And in the light of the most recent disaster, doesn't it seem a lot more plausible that Michigan was lying about Gibbons's "muscle injury" against Ohio State? We can't trust them about anything anymore.
While I think a boycott is a good idea, I'm curious as to why you want to wait until the last home game to do it?
Mostly I thought the idea would be better if given enough time to gather a critical mass, and that it would be easier to convince people to stay away from a game that was not a night game against a theoretically sexier opponent or homecoming.
Also I wanted to give the powers that be some extra time to get rid of people. This isn't just Hoke, after all. It is also Brandon, and while you can chop the head coach off right now without raising an eyebrow canning Brandon might take some more time to canvass donors, point at the raging tire fire, and say "I hope we can agree that this is very bad and we need to move on to someone not widely hated."
I am all for people doing something for the Penn State game. A suggestion: replace GO with FIRE and BLUE with BRANDON in chants.
[After THE JUMP: more emails in this vein, and a random game theory Q]
Could you please identify yourself for those of us who don’t know you?
“Oh, okay. Greg Mattison. I’m the defensive coordinator.”
Coach, you were playing in your half of the field the entire third quarter. That drive right before the half: talk about in terms of what it did maybe getting the momentum-
“Well, I don’t think it changed anything when we went in at halftime. I was disappointed in that. The thing I was looking at there was that if we could stop them and had a timeout left we could possibly get the ball on a short field for our offense, and that’s my mistake. We didn’t get it done and whenever we don’t get it done I look at myself first, and as I looked at the tape- you know, third down…that’s why I don’t believe in stats a lot. Our third downs were adequate. They were adequate.
“There were some second downs we had to do better that we gave up some chunks of yardage [on], but to answer your question you’re exactly right. As I was making the calls, as that was happening I said to myself, ‘We’ve got to stop them here and get that ball for the offense. They’re going to have a heck of a shot at possibly having a short field.’ And then they hit the screen, which they did twice, which was just a very well-educated play and that comes down to one guy making a tackle and the guy made us miss.”
Greg, Joe Bolden after the game Saturday talked about kind of a lack of execution and said that was a big problem. [He] mentioned wrapping guys up with David Cobb. What can these guys learn from that? He was really the first guy to run over you guys this season?
“I don’t know if he ran over us but he did better against us than we want anybody to do. He’s a very good running back. I’ve already addressed that with our linebackers and with our defense. We’ve got to play a lot more physical. That was the first time that I felt that we weren’t the leaders in being physical against that offense, and it was guys not getting off blocks, it was guys punching and things that we’ve worked very hard on all camp and just not being physical. I didn’t feel we were as physical as we should be and have to be and we’re working on correcting that right now.”
Is that a defense-wide issue?
“Yeah. It’s total defense. Not just one position, it was total defense. I just didn’t think…you know, we take pride and have all year, take pride in being a very physical team on defense and I just don’t think we did as well as we should have there in that game.”
[After THE JUMP: Greg Mattison scouts Rutgers]
Okay. Time to go, guys.
Asked directly if he spoke to Dave Brandon over the last 48 hours, Hoke says, "There's no question about it."
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) September 30, 2014
Ain't nothing to f with. God bless the Daily.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) September 30, 2014
From the paper:
“What I can tell you is we would never, ever, put a guy on the field when there is a possibility with head trauma. We won't do that.”
He later added the following in the same press conference:
“We would never, ever, if we thought a guy had a concussion, keep him in the game.”
More than 12 hours later, at 12:52 a.m. Tuesday, a statement released by Athletic Director Dave Brandon confirmed sophomore quarterback Shane Morris had indeed suffered a “probable, mild concussion” resulting from a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Minnesota.
This is very depressing. As you probably noticed on Saturday, Lloyd Carr's grandson has an inoperable brain tumor.
If you're inclined to pray, keep Chad in your thoughts.
All the wrong stuff. Maize and Brew:
"Without the benefit of replays." Apparently the 20 million dollars worth of scoreboard on each end of the stadium wasn't quite enough. Besides the fact that everybody in that stadium saw the replay, the bigger question is how in the world did anybody not see the hit? Even assuming every coach turned away from Shane the moment he let go of the ball and nobody saw the hit coming, shouldn't the team neurologist have his eyes glued to Shane? After all, on a passing play concussions will come either at the QB or the WR, but given his ankle injury and Michigan's offensive line concern I'd say QB was much more likely. Plus shouldn't all team health staff, medical or training, be looking at the limping QB under center? For Dave Brandon to say nobody saw the hit on the field means he either believes it or believes we will believe it. That makes him a liar, an idiot or both.
Andrew Kahn talked to the guy who does concussion stuff for the Jets and Giants:
“It was obvious to anyone who saw him in the aftermath of that hit that he was not right,” says Kenneth Perrine, a clinical neuropsychologist at New York Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Medical College and the consulting neuropsychologist for the New York Jets and New York Islanders, where he evaluates players with concussions. “At the very least he could have sustained a concussion.”
More reactions. Spencer Hall:
if you are one of the 10 people whose primary beef is to claim it's irresponsible to say that Morris had a concussion, you have internalized the language of the law, reaching insane abstraction in defense of the indefensible. Morris took the crown of a helmet to his chin, then was visibly disoriented while having serious difficulty standing. An MMA ref would have stopped this fight cold. That's how bad this looked: an MMA event would have taken better care of Morris than a collegiate athletics staff did on Saturday.
But sure, point to the man on fire. Tell someone you don't know that man's on fire. You did spy the application of gasoline. You did see the striking of a match and the ignition of a flame on a person's body. But you don't know the fire was what did the damage, do you? Did you establish this with medical personnel? Did you obtain a record of that? Fire's done a lot for us as a species; indeed, we would be long dead without it. Don't just slander fire like that. And who can say the person applying the match knew what he was doing, for sure? Did you ask them if they have an understanding of gasoline/fire relations, chemically speaking? Prove these things, or say nothing.
Spencer's coming up for the Penn State game, by the way, so… yeah. That'll be quite a piece.
I am an extremely loyal person. Too loyal. Especially to Michigan.
Hoke demurred to protect a player dismissed from the university for a violation of the sexual misconduct policy, and I didn't really say anything, because apparently I'm only a feminist until it gets awkward and uncomfortable. Brady Hoke explained away losing in a dipshit manner to opponents less hamstrung by idiocy, and I sighed and tried to move on, because I'm a Michigan fan.
Maize and Blue Nation with the clutch Lebowski embed:
Either Hoke is lying, or Dave Brandon chose not to include Hoke in his meetings with all related parties. One might be attempting to separate themselves from the other here, but its not going to work. This is on both of them. Hoke is Brandon's guy. That can't be undone.
Even 24 hours later, Hoke didn’t acknowledge the possibility of a head injury, referring only to Morris “further aggravating an injury to his leg” in a statement to reporters. He added he is “confident proper medical decisions were made.”
They very clearly were not.
Whether Hoke witnessed what occurred on the field or not, it’s his job to know everything that goes on around his football team, with the health of players at the forefront of those responsibilities.
And so it is the position from all four of us on The Michigan Daily Football Beat that Hoke be fired immediately.
The Mood hits an all time low:
The Hoover Street Rag imagines a way in which Hoke could have given a non-repulsive press conference:
Good afternoon, everyone. After the game on Saturday, I watched the footage of Shane taking that shot to the head. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't catch that live, and I didn't see him stumble afterward. That's on me. We as coaches need to be aware of our players' safety at all times, and I failed there.
As a staff, we should have immediately gotten Shane out of that game, regardless of whether he wanted to come out. Shane's a tough kid and a fighter, so of course he wants to stay in, but it's our job to sit him down there.
But why was Hoke hung out to dry and not told this was all happening? This isn’t just a “medical report”. If Hoke was told this was all happening, at the Monday presser could have talked about his responsibility and perspective on Saturday, but then he should have added, ‘..but we’re reviewing everything that happened to understand what mistakes (if any) were made’ and that the ‘details will be coming soon’, etc. etc.
On Monday afternoon, Brandon allowed his head football coach to step to a press conference podium in an absolute no-win situation. Hoke was unprepared, unsupported and left there to face live bullets.
On Monday afternoon, Brandon threw Hoke -- a man he hired in 2011 -- under the bus, and hung him out to dry.
…the statement comes about 24 hours too late. If that statement is issued at 12:52 AM on Monday morning, there's grumbling and some side-eye. At 12:52 AM on Tuesday morning, everything has changed. Michigan has been put under the microscope on not just ESPN, but has crossed all the way over to Good Morning America. You've promised the media a "medical statement" that never really showed up, unless this is it. And you've sent your head football coach up to his press conference to stand there and look like someone's idiot cousin you wouldn't trust to run a doughnut shop, let alone a multi-million-dollar football program where young men risk their health and safety on a daily basis.
To be fair, this may be the case. Brandon's statement says that Morris was diagnosed with a concussion on Sunday. Brady Hoke didn't get in touch with his injured quarterback to ask how he's doing? Or Shane Morris didn't know he has a concussion? Neither of these seem reasonable, and one is more plausible than the other.
My one-year-old's still figuring out this whole language thing, but she has a couple of sentences figured out. Her first sentence was probably "Go dog go," which she uttered in order to request the book of the same name. Lately, she has been saying "Are you OK?" a lot. These two sentences are apparently enough to make her a qualified medical professional for Michigan football:
NATALIE: Are you OK?
SHANE MORRIS: I'm fine.
NATALIE (pointing Shane onto the field): Go, dog, go!
The hundred-million dollar elephant in the room. Stephen Ross on Dave Brandon:
"He's probably the most qualified athletic director in the country. I think he's terrific," said billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross, a UM alumnus who has given the university $310 million in recent years.
This is a problem. It's a lot less of a problem than when the article came out just hours before the Minnesota game—Ross may like Brandon just fine but have we shown you these other guys who aren't flamingly incompetent?
Also in the room, Brandon's terrible contract:
Michigan signaled its approval of Brandon's work when it gave him a new contract in July 2012 that pays him a base salary of $900,000 in 2014-15. The six-year deal is through 2018, and pays him a $5.55 million base, and he can earn up to $1.3 million in deferred compensation through 2018. He gets fringe benefits such as free tickets, use of two cars, a golf club membership, and travel reimbursement for his wife.
Brandon's contract stipulates that if he's fired without cause prior to Jan. 1, 2016, the university must pay him his remaining base salary and his remaining deferred compensation. Firing him after that date reduces the payout to 50 percent of both the remaining base salary and deferred compensation.
100% guaranteed until 2016. Unbelievable. What possible reason would you have to do that?
BTW, that article includes the credulous claim that Brandon was a "finalist" for the NFL commissioner's job, something that is not true.
Cheaper. Hoke's buyout is a chump change two million, at least:
If he’s not -- if he’s fired by athletic director Dave Brandon, or the university board of regents, or U-M president Mark Schlissel or any of the above -- it will come at a heavy cost.
According to Hoke’s contract, signed on March 28, 2011, he will be owed $2 million to buy out the remaining two years (2015, 2016) left on his contract.
That's nothing compared to Weis/Ferentz level buyouts.
Much better shirt repping. This guy understands his apparel:
Etc.: Center Ice on the new blueliners. Bacon's on every radio station in the country today; here's his appearance on Here and Now yesterday. Headsetssssss. We're in the New York Times so I guess that coo—oh it's about the concussion. Also the Daily Mail.
[Ed-Seth: Hey look everybody, something that's not that thing. Jamiemac of Just Cover Blog and the MGoPodcast was dragged out of quasi-retirement for a weekly thing on lines, tips, and expectations, and Draft Kings’ offered to to sponsor it. How it works: we identify a Draft Kings fantasy game (could be NFL, CFB, CBB, etc.) to commune in, followed by Jamie’s discussions on odds of relevance to you. This week we're playing for… /raises pinky One MILLION dollars.]
THIS WEEK’S GAME: ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
Yeah it's NFL this week, because DK has $1 million out there for the winner. That's enough money to actually have a say in Michigan's athletic department. Or you could blow it on funny hats.
- $2,200,000 prize pool.
- First place wins $1,000,000
- $27 entry fee.
- Top 15,500 are paid.
- Starts on Sunday, October, 5th at 1:00 EST.
- Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 9 spots. 8 players and 1 defense.
- Roster Format: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, 1 Defense.
- First time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600
It'll be a big pool, which is why I (still Seth)'ve got home run threats all over my roster. Here's Jamie:
THIS WEEK’S CHALK
If you've been following my ups and downs over the years, you know I love taking road dogs the week after they've been upset as double digit favorites. This theory has led us to covers—and outright wins—in each of the last two weeks. We had Iowa +7 over Pitt in Week 4, a week after the Hawks blew a game to rival Iowa State and last week we were on Missouri plus the points over South Carolina. A week after inexplicably losing at home to Indiana, the Tigers went into South Carolina and nipped the Gamecocks 21-20. Aint college football, fun?
Good news? We have three options this week. The bad news? One of them is Michigan, catching 3.5 points at Rutgers. Alright, that might qualify as terrible news. I realized midway through the Minnesota second half that UM would be in this spot and immediately decided to cancel this system for a week. There's just no way I'm betting on this team.
[Jump for the Pitt Trick, and every M opponent looking good]
Over the past three days, Michigan's addressed the Shane Morris incident in three different ways:
1) Two-paragraph statement with boilerplate language about student health that claims Morris was removed from the game because of a leg injury and doesn't even mention the possibility of a concussion.
2) Testy Hoke press conference in which Hoke says Morris would have practiced Sunday if not for a high ankle sprain, says there is a statement from medical staff forthcoming, says he hasn't talked to Brandon since Saturday.
3) Medical staff release becomes Brandon statement released at 1:30 AM in which it is admitted that Morris had a mild concussion BUT BUT BUT all this other stuff.
I'm not particularly interested in arguing about whether Brady Hoke is a great dude who's too incompetent to be Michigan's coach or a careless rub-some-dirt-on-it dinosaur who's too incompetent to be Michigan's coach. Either way his lifespan in our lives is measured in weeks, with no pardon coming.
You say he's a great dude, fine. Michigan's still been blown out by every Power 5 team they've played in year four. I'll agree with you that he's a great dude as long as he's a great dude with another job.
The real issue is Dave Brandon. Michigan is caught in a web of contradictions that the Rosenbergs of the world will contort themselves through to say that Michigan technically didn't lie to the world about player safety, and fine! I'm not even going to comb this pile to find the parts that directly contradict other parts. Sure, Dave Brandon is… a great… dude. Let's even stipulate that.
He just evaporated for 52 hours, left his coach out to dry with information that was incorrect, contradicted him on half the stuff he said after most of the western world had gone to bed, and helped spin Michigan Can't Protect Its Players from
- a one-day story in which Michigan acts like adults about a bad situation and addresses the failures that culminated in Morris putting his helmet back on to
- a three-days-and-counting story that makes Michigan look like a mendacious clownshow.
The Brand has been tarnished by Dave Brandon's incompetence, by his instinct to obfuscate and cover his ass. The #1 play of this athletic department is to not quite lie to your face and ask "are you calling me a liar?"
I am. And you need to GTFO.