Rather than engaging in the bouts of Hokemania running wild all over this site, or joining the numerous posters who seem to have forsaken Michigan for a love of RichRod forever-more (similar to my childhood fandom of "whoever Warren Moon plays for" after playing Tecmo Super Bowl as the Oilers), I decided to examine the rich and voluminous history of Michigan football to find some historical perspective.
While I bought in at the beginning of each of the last three years and convinced myself we were "just around the corner," I was disillusioned each year as the losses mounted and the victories failed to do so. I don't think the wins/losses did RichRod in, though - my sense from talking to other alums (and trying to track my emotional path through all of this) was that the sense of "time for a change" came less from the losses, and more from the MAGNITUDE of the losses. With that in mind, I first sought out a list of all seasons in which Michigan has been outscored by its opponents. There were twelve, which was actually more than I expected to find. The seasons (with coaches in parenthesis) were:
This list tells me a few things. First, having a season in which you were outscored by your opponent does not create a supportable assumption that you are a bad coach; if you remove the coaches on this list, Michigan's national championships decrease from 11 to 2. Second, having such a season does make it likely that you will be removed from your duties of coaching football at Michigan at some point; while Yost largely retired on his own terms, there was a movement to get the old man to move on by the time he stepped down. Wieman was gone after his bad season; while Kipke got a bit more rope because of his two national championships, his fourth led to his ouster as well. Oosterbaan's one season being outscored coincided with his last, and then Bump got a bit more rope...because he was cleaning up Bennie's mess? Either way, two for RichRod in three years didn't indicate a future of much success if you look at the historical numbers.
Next, I sought a way to quantify HOW MANY bad losses there had been; the three at the end of this year definitely wore on me, and so I looked at (a) how many games each head coach had lost by 10+ points each year, and (b) how many they did so on average. The numbers are as follows:
|Coach||10-pt losses||10-pt losses per season|
This chart was pretty striking to me; RichRod had more double-digit losses in three seasons than Lloyd had in his 13 seasons!! Also, while the likelihood of these events increased in the Mo/Lloyd years vis-a-vis Bo, they were still well below the Bump/Bennie/Kipke mark, and not far from Crisler and Yost's marks. Five per year more than doubled Bump Elliott, Michigan's 2nd worst coach (with regard to big losses).
Finally, I noticed that RichRod had 5, 4 and 6 double-digit losses in years 1, 2 and 3, respectively. I sought to put those in historical context; of the 110 seasons examined, there were only seven seasons of at least four double-digit losses in a season:
When viewed through this prism, it's much tougher to make the argument that the team was "competitive" and "just around the corner" the last few years - 2010 featured the 2nd-worst set of losses we've ever seen, eclipsed only by 1962. While improving from 3 to 5 to 7 wins seemed on its face to be "progress," the margins of victory and loss indicated otherwise - Michigan was soundly defeated in more games this year than in 2008. Three of the worst seven seasons (by this measure) don't point in the direction of a guy that should have been kept.
While we don't know what direction the team'll take under HOKEMANIA, we do know, at least, that our new coach has a love and appreciation for the history that is Michigan Football. Here's hoping we get fewer of these seasons and more that finish in Pasadena!
Illinois OL Chris Bryant (4 Star, 6'5", 320 lbs) is on his way home from a recent trip out to Pitt and Michigan. His visit to Michigan lasted longer than expected, and his family ended up staying the night in Ann Arbor. Here's some film on Chris (it says he's 2012, but he's not), and what he told me about his visit to Pitt and his first meeting with Brady Hoke.
TOM: How did the Pitt visit come about, what made you decide to go out there?
CHRIS: The offensive coordinator from Michigan (Calvin Magee) got the job at Pitt, and we had a good relationship before. He wanted me to check it out and come see what they have to offer. The coaching staff was great there, and it was a nice place.
TOM: And after that you and your parents swung by Michigan to meet with Brady Hoke and (Offensive line coach) Darrell Funk. How did that go?
CHRIS: It was good. We sat down with both coaches individually and were just building a new relationship. They told me they knew me as a player, but not as a person so we were just having regular conversation trying to get to know each other. I talked with them and coach Singletary, too.
TOM: What were each of them saying as far as their offense and how you'd fit in?
CHRIS: Coach Hoke was telling me about the new pro style offense, a lot of schools run that and Michigan used to run it. Coach Funk was telling me how I would fit in their with it. I don't mind either the spread or the pro style. I don't prefer one over the other. We mixed it up in high school so that's not a problem. They were basically just telling me Michigan is still Michigan. I knew how the school is run and how academics go, so it was just building a relationship with them.
TOM: Did you and your parents come away comfortable with the coaches after the meeting?
CHRIS: My parents are both comfortable, and so am I. They asked their questions and said it was a great conversation overall. I feel comfortable with him too. He was a funny guy, he's a player's coach. He's someone that you would want to coach you.
TOM: Feeling comfortable with the coaching staff now, do you still feel the same way about Michigan overall?
CHRIS: I had a good relationship with the coaches there before, but coaching is a business. It's just an adjustment and you need to go on with it. Michigan is Michigan, and they're not going to just bring anyone in. I still really like Michigan.
TOM: When you make your announcement on the 28th what hats will you have on the table?
CHRIS: I'm not sure yet, but I might do three hats, I might do four and go with Michigan, Arizona, Pitt, and Illinois. I'm not sure yet.
A lot has changed since last week, some for good some for bad. I will try to keep you up to date the best I can, and here's a look at what we know so far. Remember if you ever have any recruiting tips or questions you can always email me at [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter to get more recruiting updates as they come through.
We might as well start with the ugly bits and talk about the recent decommitments. K Matt Goudis recently took a visit to Miami and decided to commit to the Hurricanes. Al Golden has some weird obsession with Michigan recruits. He's pursuing Goudis, Dallas Crawford, Kellen Jones, and Kris Frost.
DB Dallas Crawford officially decommitted from Michigan, and it's looking like it's over. Who Brady Hoke hires as his defensive coordinator could still make an impact on Crawford. We'll have to wait to see who the new DC is to know, but it's looking very grim.
OL Jake Fisher decommitted yesterday, and has decided to open everything up after visiting Michigan State this past weekend. He's saying everyone is even and could end up taking visits to Oregon, Florida, and Notre Dame. It's not looking good for Michigan to get him back.
Those three are officially decommited and a few more are on the fence. OL Tony Posada took a visit to Mississippi State this past weekend, and there's a rumor that he loved it. Posada is supposed to visit Michigan this coming weekend. We'll see how Tony feels after that. DB Blake Countess also took a visit to Penn State, but has been vocal about his love for Michigan so there may not be much to worry about there. LB Kellen Jones recently took a visit to Colorado and may end up taking a visit to Miami as well. We'll see if that materializes.
Now that Matt Goudis has decommitted, Michigan would still like to land a kicker in this class.
There were rumors of former high school kicker Derrick Mitchell potentially walking on at Michigan. I spoke with his father to see what the situation was, and he had this to say.
(Former Michigan kicker) Mike Gillette knew about Derrick and connected him with Coach Rodriguez. They said they needed a kicker and had a spot for him if he wanted it. The problem is that Derrick is in the minor leagues right now with the Phillies. He had a pretty good season last year, so I don't know if he wants to give that up just to be a kicker.
The strange part is that the Phillies would pay for part of Mitchell's tuition if he were to come to Michigan. He's getting paid 5th round money right now and is moving up to AA ball so it's not likely he'll come to Michigan this year.
6'2", 210 lbs.
San Diego, California
Wile received an offer from Michigan, which makes sense because he also had an offer from San Diego State. Wile was an Army All American, and would help fill the void Goudis' decommitment left.
Connor Loftus could still an option since he already had a Michigan offer, but the recent offer to Wile probably means the new coaches want him instead. Michigan will have to compete with Air Force and Nebraska. Wile will be in Ann Arbor this weekend.
New Offers and New Contact
The new Michigan coaches have started to reach out to recruits and extend new offers as well. Besides WIle here's a look at some new recruits that Michigan is now targeting. There will be plenty more of these as the coaching staff fills out and we get closer to signing day.
- DT Travarris Saulsberry (6'4", 252 lbs, Florida) - He's reporting he has an offer, but it's an odd offer because Saulsberry is committed to Tennessee, and has been since August. He told me he's 100% committed to the Vols and isn't considering Michigan.
- DE Jordan Williams (6'4", 240 lbs, Florida) - Williams is a teammate of Saulsberry and also committed to Tennessee. He also told me he's 100% with the Vols.
- DB Stefan McClure (5'11", 170 lbs, 4 Star, California) - McClure was just offered and plans on visiting Michigan this weekend. I spoke with McClure recently and I got the feel that he was genuinely open in his recruitment. If Michigan can impress him they'll have a shot.
- OL Pat Flavin (6'7", 260 lbs, 3 Star, Illinois) - Flavin has not been offered yet, but he did receive a call on Sunday from Michigan's OL coach Darrell Funk. He missed the call initially but called Coach Funk back and was told the situation is fluid right now. No offer was extended, but Funk wanted an update on where he was at. Probably means the coaches are waiting to see who decommits, and stays committed.
January 21st Visits
This weekend will be the first visit weekend hosted by Brady Hoke and company. Here's a list of visitors so far. This list will continue to change:
- TE/LB Frank Clark (6'2", 210 lbs, 3 Star, Ohio) The Glenville prospect has showed genuine interest in Michigan, and there is an even greater need for his services with the switch in offensive philosophy.
- ATH Raymon Taylor (5'10", 165 lbs, 4 Star, Michigan) The former Indiana commit has always been a fan of Michigan. He does like the new Indiana staff, so we'll see what happens.
- DB Stefan McClure (5'11", 170 lbs, 4 Star, California). As mentioned.
- OL Tony Posada (6'6", 315 lbs, 3 Star, Florida) Fresh off a visit to Mississippi State, we'll see if he makes the trip.
- K Matt Wile (6'2", 210 lbs, 2 Star, California) Just offered two days ago, will be visiting Ann Arbor.
- WR Hakeem Flowers had a phone call scheduled with the new Michigan coaches on Sunday. He is announcing on the 23rd and it's down to Oregon, Michigan, and LSU. Michigan is still in great position with Flowers.
- WR Devin Lucien is announcing on the 30th. Brady Hoke hasn't contacted him yet, so the interest is starting to fall.
- WR/LB Kris Frost is still waiting to hear back from Auburn on whether his commitment will be honored. He's not graduating early anymore, so he might end up taking more visits. Miami is coming after him, but if the Michigan coaches get in contact with him and push they will still have a good chance.
- OL Chris Bryant took an official visit to Pitt, where former Michigan coaches Calvin Magee, Tony Gibson, and Tony Dews are now coaching. He swung by Michigan on the way home to meet with Brady Hoke. The meeting lasted long enough to require Bryant and his dad to have to get a hotel for the night. I'll try to catch up with Bryant on Monday to talk about the visit.
[Ed-M: Bumped for excellence]
OK, this is not actually a work of staggering genius. You should definitely read the Dave Eggers book it refers to, though - good stuff.
Rather, it is a brief and simple explanation of everything that has happened or will happen in Michigan football. It is based on one simple idea: if you win a lot, you are a genius. If you win most of the time, the fans will grumble but tolerate you. If you lose a lot, you will get fired. I think we all know this.
To make this case, I have simply plotted the wins and losses over the years on the following bar chart, broken down by margin of victory. Here is the graph:
As you can see, the years increase over the x-axis (horizontal direction), and the number of wins and losses are plotted on the y-axis (wins go up from 0, losses go down; ties, when they still happened, are split as half for a win and half for a loss). Wins are broken down into three categories: wins by 15 or more (navy blue), wins by 8-14 (blue), and narrow wins by 7 or less (light blue); losses are similarly split apart, and ties are left white.
I think the graph shows a few important things. First, what an amazing run we had as fans. For almost 40 years, watching Michigan football meant losing a couple or three (close) games, and winning the rest; I wonder if there is any stretch like that in modern football history.
Second, and perhaps most key, is the era that spoiled us: Bo's first five years. What a f***ing first impression that man made! After a "pedestrian" 9-3 season in which he upset the best OSU of all time, Bo's next four years featured: a 1970 loss (by 11 to OSU), a 1971 loss to Stanford (by 1 in the Rose Bowl), a 1972 loss to OSU (by 3), 1973 tie (with OSU, and you know how that story ends), and a 1974 loss to OSU (by 2). Wow!
For those of you not old enough to remember (and this includes me, barely), can you imagine such an era? With a little more luck, Bo could have won three or four national championships. Simply stunning, and what a great way to turn yourself into a legend.
Third, the graph shows I think that in the following years, Bo settled into the pattern we are more used to, with a few losses here and there, and one Year of Infinite Pain before such years were named and blogged about. That year of course was 1984, a year in which Bo went 6-6, almost beat "national champion" BYU in a bowl game, and caused Bo to rededicate himself for his final stretch run.
Fourth, I think the graph shows why some people were unhappy with the Lloyd Carr era - though the general year-to-year record remained very similar to Bo's steady state (which I will demonstrate further below), there are a lot more close wins; in other words, the team continued to win at about the same pace, but more of those wins were in games that could have gone either way. And this makes sense: think back to all those last-second wins against Penn State, Michigan State, and others - we were continuing to win, but not in as dominant a fashion as we were used to.
Finally, I think the graph shows why RichRod was in no way going to get a chance to continue: too many losses, and too many of those in non-competitive games. It was just too much.
Anyhow, to sum up each coach, I also made a plot of their overall win/loss percentage. It is available here:
Instead of just showing Bo's entire history smashed into one bar, though, I separated it into the first 5 years and the rest. The first conclusion from this graph: how similar Bo, Mo, and Carr were, once you take away Bo's first five years! Almost identical, except for that one small difference: that Carr had a noticeable number more of close wins, and both Mo and Carr had a few more not-so-close losses.
And though it's unfair to take Bo's first five years out, those five years were so crazy and unusual, they should be separated and celebrated for what they were: one of the best five-year runs in modern football history. It is those years, I think, where we derive our modern expectations. We think we should always be like that, when in reality it's quite difficult to expect such near-perfection year to year. I think that expectation is what drove all the Carr grumbling, and perhaps caused us all to look to "reboot" the program instead of just "maintain" it.
Imagine a different universe where Bill Martin, instead of looking for the best national coach, was looking for someone steeped in the Michigan way, to maintain its current glory? Who would he have hired? Would one young coach at Stanford, full of Michigan spirit and not yet too full of himself, be considered for the opening? One can only wonder at what might have been, had we been happier with what we had.
[Edit: when I talk about Bo's first "five" years, I mean 1969 through 1974, which as you might have noticed, is six years.]
[Edit (2): Replaced stupid imageshack links with links to Picasa. Imageshack banned the photos; apparently too much traffic!]
The University of Michigan claims to be the leaders and best. Whether it be in the classroom or on the football field the U of M strives for excellence. From the most wins all time, to the hightest winning percentage, to the largest stadium in the country the University of Michigan has staked its claim in the college football world. The football program, however, has failed to evolve with the ever changing college football climate, and nothing proves this more than the hiring of Brady Hoke. This hiring is more a triumph of mediocrity than the pursuit of excellence.
The Bowl Championship Series has forever changed the college football landscape. No longer is it good enough to win the Big Ten and defeat a good team in the Rose Bowl. Now, in order to be called the champions, you must defeat another excellent team - the best of the best if you will. Does this mean that every championship prior to the BCS is worthless? Certainly not, but the method to be considered the champion has changed. In the 13 years of the BCS, Michigan has failed to recognize this change of culture. Sure, Michigan has won their share of Big Ten titles in the BCS era, but they have consistently failed to compete when going up against elite competition in BCS bowl games.
Three years ago, it seemed like the Michigan fanbase had come to recognize that a paradigm shift was necessary with regards to our football program. In other words, we were ready to stop throwing rock on first, second and third down. The fanbase clammored for change and a change was made. We dipped our toe in waters of chage, and many found that it was to cold or to uncomfortable. Instead of being the leaders and best, we have opted for the saftey of the past and the comfort of what was familiar.
Winning the Big Ten championship isn't enough anymore. Or at least it shouldn't be if we consider ourselves the "leaders and best". That is the old way of thinking, and it clearly has not been working in the BCS era. I have no doubt that the current coaching staff can stabilize the program and bring it back to where it was under Lloyd Carr. I am confident they can lead the program to Big Ten championships and even win a bowl game every now and then. But I want more. I expect more. This university and its fans should demand more.
Please don't misinterpret the point I am trying to make here. I don't believe that we should play in the BCS championship game every season. Programs have good years and bad years, injuries take their toll on every team, and sometimes you just aren't lucky. But, there is no reason why the Universy of Michigan cannot compete with the best teams in the country on a consistent basis.
Over the past few weeks, the University of Michigan football team has undergone some rather significant changes at the top, with Rich Rodriguez relieved of his position as Head Coach and replaced by former San Diego State head man (and former UM assistant coach) Brady Hoke. Trying to wrap one’s head around the events and motivations behind this momentous shift can be daunting for a fully-functioning adult (or daytime sports-radio host), let alone the most impressionable and innocent amongst us – the children. Thus, here is a guide with some helpful answers for addressing the coaching change to your littlest of loved ones.
Why was Rich Rodriguez fired as Head Coach of the Wolverines?
Well, there are many reasons why – mostly because he didn’t win enough, especially against UM’s little brother (MSU), that old man who always wants you to mow his lawn but then pays you a nickel (PSU), the fat guy next door who is always working on his car in the driveway in only his undershirt and the music turned up very loud (Wiscy), and especially that kid at the playground who always beats you up the jungle gym but who also eats paste (OSU). He looked really fast and strong when he played against the smaller kids in the park, but when the bigger kids showed up he always was pushed around and didn’t look nearly as good. Also, his defenses were really bad, he didn’t always pick the best kids to be on his team before the season, and used bad words like “fudge”, “shoot”, “mother fiddler”, and “read option.” Some of the local kids got him in trouble by telling everyone that he was a cheater even though that wasn’t true and they were just being jerks, but he still got a bar of soap in his mouth and now everyone has to go to bed a half-hour earlier for the next 2-3 years. Finally, some people wanted him to look more like the Wolverine’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and creepy grass-eating uncle, even though none of them looked the same either.
Why didn’t the Wolverines give him more than 3 years? They gave that nice man who coached the basketball team 6 years.
Very good question. Mostly because, again, he didn’t win enough games. Also, people care more about football than basketball, and that nice man looked a little like a young Will Smith and dressed like a singer in the band Color Me Bad, a band your mother/father and I used to love listening to about 9 months before you were born.
So who decided to fire Rich Rodriguez?
David Brandon, the current Athletic Director and a former player for the Wolverines. He was also the former CEO of Dominos Pizza.
Can we have pizza for dinner?
Not tonight; I already made roast beef and broccoli. Maybe this weekend. Don’t make that face!
Is David Brandon a good guy? You said he should pull his head out of his a...
Don’t you say that! Yes, sometimes when a person gets really angry, he or she may use bad words to show how angry they are, but you shouldn’t.
David Brandon is a good person who maybe made a couple of mistakes. He’s only been on the job for a couple of months, and so it is hard to tell if he is really a good Director or maybe just good at being a boss as a company. We will know more in a couple of years.
And no, it is not possible physically possible to do what Mommy/Daddy said. Unless you are a writer for a local newspaper, in which case that is the only way they can do their job.
So who did David Brandon replace Rich Rodriguez with?
Brady Hoke, a former assistant coach at Michigan as well as Head Coach at San Diego State University and Ball State. Now stop laughing just because I said “ball.”
Doesn’t Brady Hoke play for the Patriots?
No, you are thinking of Tom Brady. He once played at Michigan, back way before you were born and when the coaches kept wanting a baseball player to play instead of him. They were dumb. Also, Brady Hoke was the guy who brought Tom Brady to Michigan from California.
Is Brady Hoke a good coach?
An important lesson you will learn as you grow up is that words don’t always mean the same thing depending on who or what you are talking about. For example, I “love” you (and your brother/sister/wife/husband where appropriate), but I also “love” Michigan football. When I say I love you, it means I’d do anything to keep you safe and healthy. When I say I love Michigan football, it means I like to watch them beat other teams and sometimes when they don’t I throw things around the house and call people “bassbowls.”
The same can be said about Brady Hoke being a “good” coach. He’s definitely not a bad one – he’s won 47 games and had recent success at both schools before leaving them. Also, he is well-respected by other coaches, has a reputation for being good at getting good players to play for his team, and has a plan about how he wants to run his team. Also, he really wants to coach the Wolverines.
But at the same time, he also lost 50 games and is really old, like older than mommy/daddy. He’s never played with the big kids before, so we don’t know if he’ll be able to keep up. He says he wants to play the game differently than how Rich Rodriguez played, but people aren’t sure if he’ll be able to right now, since the players he has on his team all wanted to play like Rodriguez. Finally, some people worry that he’ll be like the old guy that coached the Wolverines before Rich Rodriguez, only worse.
So I’m not sure if Brady Hoke is a good coach, but I do know that he is a different coach than Rich Rodriguez, and sometimes change is good.
Do people like Brady Hoke?
Oh yeah, lots of people like him. Everyone who writes for the newspapers like him, especially since he is not like Rich Rodriguez at all. Lots of people who like the Wolverines all like him because he reminds them of other coaches they liked, kind of like how our puppy reminds you of Bo, our other dog who went to that farm up north to live on. The one with all the rabbits and squirrels to chase.
Now, there are some people who don’t like him as much, but they are just grumpy people who sit in their parents’ basements all day and type on the computer. They complain about him being not that good at his job and something we call a “safety option”, a word you’ll hear when you are applying to colleges and I have you fill out applications to schools you don’t want to attend, like that school Uncle Murray attended in the middle of the state. None of them ever talk to girls, they smell because they don’t take baths, and only eat pizza and drink pop all day.
Can I be one those of people who doesn’t like Brady Hoke?
No, no matter how awesome that sounds. Almost all of them grow beards and like soccer, and unfortunately (pick one: we have a medical thing that doesn’t allow us to grow beards/you are a girl and facial hair doesn’t look right on girls).
Were they are any other people who coach have been the coach for the Wolverines?
Great question! According to Mr. Brandon, the only person he wanted was Brady Hoke, even though everyone knows he was fibbing and yes, fibbing is wrong and don’t you do it. But sometimes when you are older, you need to say stuff that isn’t totally true so that you don’t look dumb or mean in front of others. It’s like when Aunt Belinda asks me if she looks fat in her wedding pictures and I say she looked beautiful, even though I’ve told you before she looked like Shrek in a dress.
But no, I’ve heard that Brandon asked a couple of other people if they wanted to coach the Wolverines, but all of them said they already had play dates lined up. Jim Harbaugh, a former player for the Wolverines who is also a successful Head Coach at a school with a tree as its mascot, decided he wanted to coach in the National Football League. He may have told Brandon that he planned on coaching the Wolverines and then used this to get a better job, which is something we call “leverage.” It’s how daddy/mommy got that new flat-screen television after he/she stumbled on my Google search history.
Brandon also apparently asked Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern University, but he liked his job and didn’t want to move. He might have also asked Les Miles at LSU, but he’s even older than Brady Hoke and likes to chew grass like the cat does when she’s sick.
Did David Brandon do a good job looking for a Head Coach?
I always tell you that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Well, this is an exception. David Brandon royally screwed up this search, like how I forgot to pick you up after band practice a couple of years ago and Susie’s mom saw you walking alone in the rain and drove you home. Except, I don’t think David Brandon can take every Wolverine fan out for ice cream and then buy you tickets to see Space Chimps. Of course, he might be able to give everyone a free pizza.
Brandon said he was going to look everywhere for the best coach, but then he only looked at people in his Wolverine phone book plus the guy next door. People probably won’t care that much as long as Brady Hoke turns out to be a good coach, but people also don’t like being lied to when everyone knows you are doing it. That’s a good lesson for you know. Also, always wash your hands after you use the bathroom and don’t accept candy from stranger. Unless they give you Snickers – then they are just really nice people with great taste.
Will the Wolverines be better with Brady Hoke as the Head Coach?
Nobody knows for sure. They were REALLY good last year at scoring points and REALLY bad at stopping the other guys from scoring them. They should be better at stopping teams because all of the players on defense are older, and the really fast guy on offense with the dreads is coming back and should be good. So they should be at least as good as they were this year, and will probably win a couple more games next year.
In the future, though, I’m not sure if the team will be better. We’ll have to see, especially as Hoke brings in more players that he wants and play the way he wants. My guess is that they’ll win games but will disappoint me enough most years that I’ll be making many trips to the store to refill the bottles of adult drinks I keep in the dining room.