somehow we're only 124th
All hell: done broke loose
THE BIG NUMBER. The 48 or 49 million dollar offer that had been kicking around the Michigan internets—pretty sure Sam Webb was the first to drop it—has now reached the NFL reporters, who are furiously reminding you that they are never wrong about anything even when they are vastly wrong about something:
Sources: #Michigan has made another run at Jim Harbaugh after he initially rebuffed the school. U-M has made an offer of 6 years, $48M. Wow.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 17, 2014
Rebuffed my ass. Nothing about how this has gone looks like Michigan getting rebuffed, publicly or privately. Michigan took its time to get their offer together, waited until Harbaugh was eliminated from the playoffs, aimed, and fired. Michigan reporters from Webb to Lorenz to Balas (and me!) have been way closer to things than these guys from the start.
Asked why he was considering it now, but hadn’t been previously, one person said now that the 49ers are out of the playoffs, it was possible for Harbaugh to at least consider it.
Bottom line: Harbaugh has some thinking to do and decisions to make.
The implication of all this reporting is that Michigan had not chance because it was not the NFL. This explanation makes it clear that Adam Schefter's earlier reporting was based on hearsay from people with no clue—at best. Harbaugh wasn't going to consider anybody before the 49ers were eliminated.
OKAY. I'M IN. Ran across a twitter feed that felt credible that claimed a connect to Harbaugh's agent, but I was hesitant to tell you guys about it until he put something out that was checkable and not public knowledge. Here's something from 4 PM today:
JH officially offered today around noon PT
— Those Who Stay (@ThoseWhoStay7) December 17, 2014
He got the number right as well. That official offer took a few hours to filter out to the NFL guys, who are now reporting it. The Michigan guys are sitting back with their McKayla faces on after being told repeatedly that Michigan knew they were done, had no chance, etc.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS. Michigan's offer blindsided the NFL guys. The Michigan side of things had the number, the years, and the approximate timing. That gives greater credence to the other half of the Michigan chatter: it's happening.
WHAT I'VE GOT. I don't have anything reportable. By that I mean information that I know is correct because I know who got it and why. I do have just an avalanche of IT'S HAPPENING stuff that is secondhand. Aside from the downer email I mentioned a few days ago, I have a half-dozen bits of hearsay ranging from dubious to pretty credible all pointing towards Harbaugh in Ann Arbor.
If you would like to change this situation, I'm listening.
FURTHER EYE-ROLLING. The Raiders had 16 million a year out for Jon Gruden.
Little doubt Mark Davis could beat any Michigan offer to Harbaugh. I heard he had double this out there for Gruden, who walked. Stay tuned
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 18, 2014
Okay buddy. And I used to think Michigan was arrogant. It is not about whether the Raiders can give Harbaugh another gold toilet; Michigan's offer is highly competitive. It's about Michigan or the NFL.
THEY'VE DONE WHAT THEY HAD TO DO. Michigan assembled a kickass offer to come back to Ann Arbor and run the town. It is now highly public. If Harbaugh doesn't come, that's on him. No milquetoasty private conversations about how he flaked leaking out over the years; no debate about whether Michigan had a bonafide offer. They came strong and public in exactly the way they should have last time. (According to a player on Rodriguez's last team, he was giving everyone the impression he knew he was done even before the Gator Bowl. In that case he should have been gone after OSU.)
If it doesn't work out, okay. Jim Hackett still did this as well as he could, and if Michigan does have to move on to Plan B they can at least do so as a unit, knowing that they did their level best here.
PLAN B. A dollar it's Dan Mullen, if it comes to that.
I guess this one is only mildly entertaining
MORE INSANELY POSITIVE CHATTER FROM THE MICHIGAN SIDE OF THINGS. WTKA's Ira Weintraub:
Yesterday I was 60-40 that Harbaugh was coming to A2. After talking to sources, I was told to move that to 90-10! Too big of a jump but ...
— The Michigan Insider (@michiganinsider) December 17, 2014
... My optimism is rising. Not willing to jump to 90-10 but definitely getting more optimistic.
— The Michigan Insider (@michiganinsider) December 17, 2014
More people in my inbox saying it's all but done, GFunk popping up on Rivals to say the same, etc. It seems like just about everyone in the Michigan community who knows someone or talks to someone or talks to someone who talks to someone is increasingly certain that it's happening.
Money's getting thrown around. Sam had an unconfirmed report of a 49 million dollar offer and an "eight year plan"; the telephone game reached a reporter in Arizona citing a nutty six year, $49 million dollar contract.
Michigan thinks this is happening much harder than I've ever seen any insider community think anything is happening.
CUE JAWS MUSIC THOUGH. Optimistic thoughts about a relatively small number of attractive NFL jobs coming open this offseason should be shelved. The Dolphins aren't heading for the playoffs, which could be it for Joe Philbin. The Bears may actually fire Mark Trestman after just two years. (FWIW, that report comes from a radio guy it seems and no one else has confirmed it—would not take it as gospel.) Sam asserts that the Raiders and possibly the Dolphins are considering coming in with full-control offers.
Those could change the situation rapidly, and that's why I remain hesitant to go all in on it's happening dot gif. Until NFL teams figure out what they're doing and Harbaugh knows what's on the table I'm wary.
This isn't about "flakiness," which every Michigan reporter will reference in the downer section of their post. (I am just as guilty of this as everyone else.) It's about a major change in available information to Harbaugh changing what he wants to do. If this does go sour I guarantee some guys who got burned will blame Harbaugh in order to deflect heat. It happened last time; it'll happen this time.
SO THEN: PLAN B. If things go sour with Harbaugh, what then? Nobody knows. Paysites have all but ceased mentioning anything about other candidates in this feeding-frenzy phase, and when they do the names they mention are far from sure things. One guy who is still looking at other guys is 24/7's Clint Brewster, who has a source saying that it'll come down to Harbaugh and Dan Mullen, albeit after Michigan takes swings at David Shaw and Jim Mora without success.
Brewster's sources are of the agent/coach variety and are thus more speculative than indirect chatter from inside the department… but there isn't any of that. That note feels more like a logical conclusion from available facts than anything truly insider.
I will say that I've heard a couple things indicating that the Plan B names we've heard so far are almost all bunk… and that Mullen is not a candidate either.
Plan B right now: no idea. Which is scary.
ACT LIKE A CLOWN, GET TREATED LIKE A CLOWN. Tim Kawakami samples from the Lochmann school of PR:
@jonathanchait I could care less.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 16, 2014
Kawakami's had some interesting, blunt stuff on the 49ers situation, but that's not a good look. He started getting some heat on twitter after his latest column explaining the reasons a Raiders move "actually might be the most reasonable" option for Harbaugh, and I get why. That column comes off like bloviation, and people don't care what journalist X thinks, they want to know what the people actually involved think. A follow up to get background is natural; for it to get shut down is indicative that the guy 1) doesn't have anything concrete and 2) is insecure about it.
There is a certain genre of journalist who gets ruffled by the dim bulbs on twitter, treats reasonable people like crap, and wonders why nobody likes him. I don't get it, man.
DO IT, DO IT. Paul Chryst to Wisconsin is going to be official at 7 Eastern, so the Panthers are about to be in the market for a head guy. How could that impact the Michigan search? By taking a bullet for us:
#Pitt has had contact with Greg Schiano regarding its soon-to-be-vacant head coaching job, source tells the Post-Gazette.
— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) December 17, 2014
Don't mind if you do. Sorry about this, Spilly.
NO I WILL NOT LET THIS GO. Tom Herman's deal is a little over one million per year. Break glass in case of emergency—it ain't that thick.
ETC.: I feel better about saying that Michigan "couldn't get it up on the road" earlier this year now that today's Michigan Insider turned into a four-hour discussion of jimmy hats. Fox rounds up the rumors. Yeah man just go to Michigan.
Lochmann on the left
Jim Hackett ain't having it. A "Chief Marketing Officer" who can't even market his own brain effectively is not long for the AD:
"He resigned his position to pursue other opportunities," said Dave Ablauf, Michigan associate athletic director.
Lochmann was the living symbol of Dave Brandon's incompetence, a buzzword-spewing yes man whose only ideas were bad ones. The fact that Brandon hired a CMO whose twitter handle was "LochDogg" for at least a year after he was hired says somethin' about somethin'.
Under Lochmann's watch, Michigan aggressively polluted its gameday experiences with relentless noise, chintzy contests, and above all money-grubbing. Michigan came to be defined by the bad ideas Lochmann rolled out only to quickly reverse course on and bad ideas it was too late to do anything about except lie. Michigan lied about hiring skywriters; they claimed the Cokes-for-tickets thing was a failed "retail activation," which isn't English. Michigan increasingly focused on roping in "families of four from Grand Rapids who go to one game a year," as he told a prominent member of the alumni association, taking the core fanbase for granted.
That fanbase rebelled against his boss thanks in no small part to Lochmann. Ticket sales now hover on the edge of collapse and Michigan Stadium is just another generic sports experience.
The best news of all is that Michigan doesn't know if they're going to bother to replace him. Air would have been more effective at marketing Michigan than Hunter Lochmann was, and less expensive.
It can happen.
Some NFL beat writers have been going to great lengths lately to poo-poo the idea of a successful NFL coach going back to college. Well, as you can imagine there are a bunch of NFL guys who've gone back to coach college, though not so many with a legit shot at an NFL position in a short (year-ish) window.
Typically when it happened, it was successful college coach who wasn't very successful in a short NFL stint. There's Saban and Spurrier of course. Also new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley spent three bad years coaching the Chargers in between tenures at Oregon State. Dan Devine, Bill Callahahan, John Mackovic, Butch Davis, Rich Brooks, Gene Stallings, June Jones, Paul Wiggin, Lane Kiffin (giggle), Howard Schnellenberger, Bobby Petrino, Bill Arnsparger, and Lou Holtz all coached one to four years in the NFL without getting to the playoffs. Dan Henning, Forrest Gregg, and Dennis Erickson are three examples of established pro dudes who exhausted their NFL opportunities before accepting demotional collegiate positions.
Between 8 and 10 of the 30 NFL head coaches I could find who went back to college appeared to have some competing pro prospects. They were:
|Though just 60 when the took the job, Walsh, who'd walked away on top of the NFL at 56, wasn't expected to be a long-term answer for Stanford. [Gerry Gropp]|
NFL Record: 92-51-1 with 49ers, 1979-'88. Won Superbowls, established a dynasty, staffed a generation of NFL jobs with his assistants. All-around badass.
College Record after NFL: 17-17-1 at Stanford, 1992-'94
Walsh is the go-to comparison because he's certainly the greatest NFL coach to ever return to the college ranks, but he's also not very instructive, since he walked away from coaching for three years before surprisingly returning to college.
After winning Super Bowl 23 Walsh voluntarily retired, citing burnout, and went to work in broadcasting. Everyone expected he would continue to do so. But in 1992 Stanford, where he'd developed the West Coast offense and been head coach for two years in the late '70s, begged him to come back (he turned 61 that season). There's a book about the return, wherein Walsh says he didn't like broadcasting and was getting an itch.
Certainly ANY NFL team would have taken him. And the Stanford he returned to wasn't a Michigan, but they had gone 8-4 in '91 and returned most of that team. In his first year back, Stanford was 10-3 and shared a piece of the conference championship (but didn't get the Rose Bowl nod, having been creamed by Washington). They regressed back to near the bottom of the conference in 1993 and 1994, losing a lot of close games to top 10 teams in that period, and Walsh re-retired. He lived out his days around the Stanford program, teaching classes and writing books.
[Jump for guys who aren't in the conversation as greatest coach in history]
After a couple players tweeted the news, 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that freshman linebacker Michael Ferns will transfer to West Virginia. Ferns, a 2014 four-star recruit from St. Clairsville, Ohio—very close to the West Virginia border—redshirted last season after enrolling early.
While Michigan loses a once-promising recruit, this is a transfer that shouldn't have a huge short- or long-term impact. Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden, Ben Gedeon, and Mike McCray projected to fill the two-deep at inside linebacker in 2015, while Ferns's 2014 classmates Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich, and Jared Wangler provide options for the future. Michigan also returns James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and Allen Gant; as position groups go, linebacker is one of the deepest on the roster.
Ferns is the first member of the 16-man class of 2014 to depart the program.
never not funny
IT'S HAPPENING? IS IT HAPPENING? TELL ME IT'S HAPPENING. You go out of pocket for a few hours and you come back and the internet's falling apart. Near as I can tell there were a couple of posts around 8:30 last night on Scout and Rivals, both of the positive variety. Allen Trieu mentioned($) something might happen tomorrow(!). Which is today(!!!). (Side note: GBW has a rumors board that they can report more freely on without guaranteeing total accuracy, so don't get down on 'em if they're off some.)
A few hours later, Jeff Moss and Gregg Henson joined in with highly positive updates. I know, I know, I'm considerably more cautious than those two guys. And in this case there are NFL parties yet to be heard from, things that could change, etc. But they've had things before, so that should affect whatever your Bayesian estimate is to some degree.
The night ended with Steve Lorenz adding his stuff to the GOOD NEWS pile($), with "important Michigan-related figures" incrementing their optimism. He's "cautiously optimistic" now. Oh, and Trieu again($).
The upshot from everyone is a rising tide of optimism.
TODAY?!?! No. Trent Baalke's de rigueur "we evaluate after the season" statement happened late afternoon yesterday. Most targets are still in two weeks. It's highly unlikely we hear anything today. I'm betting we have to endure the full 12 days in limbo here unless it all falls apart.
SOURCES OF SAID TIDE. Moss says that Brandstatter is feeding some of this information to people. Brandstatter says he isn't. I have heard that Jack Harbaugh is a major source for both Rivals and the pile of former players who are increasingly giddy. Jack would know a lot about Jim's intentions, but I am a little worried that Jack wants this to happen so badly that he may be overstating the case.
Then you've got players Harbaugh talks to, guys he might be reaching out to as staff members… there is a lot of chatter.
A RISING TIDE… EXCEPT THIS ONE GUY. Some cold water: got a lengthy note from a source who is second-hand but has had good info during coaching searches past that is basically a re-iteration of the NFL reporter position that Michigan's chances are slim at best. I believe the guy, and believe the NFL reporters to some extent—there is clearly a story out there in which Michigan is the wallflower hoping to get noticed by the prom queen. There was a credible-seeming Cassandra on Rivals offering up a similar story about how this isn't happening and was never happening.
Some of this is from people who swear Harbaugh wants to remain in the NFL. Some of this comes from within the Michigan base. It would look pretty bad for Brandon if Hackett did lock Harbaugh down, and it was mentioned to me that he is hoping it doesn't happen. He could be a negativity vector there. That would be the best case scenario for this undercurrent of NOPE amongst the cresting wave of euphoria for the same reasons Jack Harbaugh might be overly enthusiastic.
It is hard for me to reconcile the piles of internal optimism with the idea Harbaugh is just stringing Michigan along. There would be a way to approach this without giving everyone the impression it's happening dot gif. On the other hand, this is a credible person. There are people close to Harbaugh who think it's not happening dot gif.
Many someones are about to be very wrong.
ON THE TRAIL. As a counterpoint to that, heard that a Michigan assistant has been pinging kids in his area asking them to hold off on commitments until Harbaugh is in place two weeks from now. A couple of the staffers are hoping to stick… well, most of them probably are, but a couple in particular have higher hopes than others. They're pitching the big kahuna.
EXIT LES. Les Miles had a weird intro to his press conference yesterday, talking to reporters off the record about his interest in the Michigan job: he has none. Cameras off, direct quotes prohibited, gist communicated: weird.
Why he wouldn't just issue the standard press-conference denial is unknown. The explanation that comes to mind is that he was wary of getting a little emotional now that he knows for-sure-for-sure he'll never coach Michigan. Or he could just be weird. That is always on the table with Les.
If you're so inclined, you could read this as evidence that IT'S HAPPENING, as word trickles out to connected Michigan people and Les's slim hopes have just gone to zero. The other option is that all the people swearing up and down that Miles would come back if given the opportunity are wrong. The agreement there within the Michigan insider community is iron-clad, though.
ON ASSISTANTS? Are we talking about assistants already? Seems way ahead of ourselves, but okay. Ty Wheatley has been rumored to be on his way back ever since it looked like Hoke wasn't going to make it. It's obvious why—Michigan Man.
He has also made his interest in returning known, as long as it's some sort of upgrade on his current role as the Bills' RB coach. While Michigan probably wouldn't want to throw him in the deep end as a coordinator right away, something like OSU's recent setup with Tom Herman and Ed Warriner as co-OCs would work.
Sam Webb recently downplayed speculation by saying their hasn't been any contact; even so that seems like it might happen once a hypothetical staff hypothetically starts being assembled.
Durkin also had a minor role in Office Space
Trieu also dropped($) Florida DC DJ Durkin's name. Durkin was the DE/ST coach at Stanford for Harbaugh's first three years there, then moved on to Florida, where he was an LB coach for a bit before taking over as DC for the last two years. The obvious catch is that he was working under Will Muschamp, who is now making more than a lot of head coaches as Auburn's DC.
Durkin is in demand, being courted by UNC and A&M; as a Youngstown guy who went to BGSU he has a ton of those Ohio recruiting connects. There was some chatter that he'd be retained by McElwain but Thayer Evans reports that UF is going to hire Mississippi State DC Geoff Collins—yes, the you're a baller guy—instead*. Interestingly, Durkin was a GA under Urban Meyer for the two years Meyer was there, then moved on to Notre Dame in the same capacity—no doubt on Meyer's recommendation.
*[Exhibit A as to why Mullen would jump at the chance to move to a school with more resources.]
PLAN B. Heard for a second time that Tom Herman was under serious consideration as a backup plan. With Les out for whatever reason, the non-Harbaugh options get slim fast if Michigan cannot poach a Power 5 college HC in a good spot—always hard to do and harder these days when everyone has buckets of cash.
I'm just sayin', Dan Mullen hasn't signed that extension… because now it's real easy to see Michigan burning through candidates until it's looking at wild-ass swings at up-and-comers like Scott Frost (high on CSU's list) or the Schiano-Addazio-tier Life Is A Grim March To The Grave candidates. Mullen told the local media via text he hasn't heard from Michigan, period, and in this case I believe him. If Collins does jump to Florida he's got to be steamed, though.
I wonder if someone at Michigan will reach out to Herman and tell him not to sign anything just yet—Herman already announced he wouldn't be joining Houston until OSU is out of the playoff. He is looking increasingly like Michigan's best will-obviously-come option. Short term sketch? Yes. Worth it if we don't hire Steve Addazio? Yes.
SERIOUSLY. Bo Pelini. Pitt. Make it happen.