this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
META first: Happy to announce that Ace's thing was diagnosed and he's gonna be fine.
Out of the Blue. It was refreshing, wasn't it, when Hackett killed off the Michigan Man Bler.
Bo retired with a cult of personality because he was great at coaching football, and great at improving the lives of people around him. Trusting him and his guys served Michigan well enough so long as he and those guys and their guys continued to do things well and righteously.
|Camus on why Candyland is the greatest game ever. [Existential Comics]|
Hoke was righteous; he didn't do well. Outside Michigan circles there was general bewilderment that Brady could come to this year's football bust, sit beside the men who fired him for fielding progressively worse football teams, and receive a standing ovation. Winning football games can you earn you a lot of respect, but it's not the only way to get it.
I too want to move on from the Cult of Bo, and I too concede that most football coaches out there are good guys. I don't see any problem with recognizing these things and also recognizing that Brady Hoke stood out among his coaching peers. You see it in his players. We'll see it again in the coming years when there are more transfers and more off-field things to wag fingers at, because Brady is an extraordinary human who genuinely cares about people beyond the normal good guy capacity. That quality isn't what got him fired; it's what got him a shot at his dream job in the first place.
We needed to get out of this Blue Bler and relearn how to make decisions with something other than faith in a dead man—sadly it took the people in charge two transitions to realize it. There's no way to eradicate the bler people; fortunately there is a home run-seeming candidate who grew up around the program and quarterbacked it for a time.
Ultimately the question on Harbaugh is 100% "Will he?" Communist Football made the case for the thing we want to believe. If it happens yay for Michigan and the world and the ozone layer. If not, we're…
Into the Black. If we're not looking for the next Bo Schembechler to run Bo Schembechler's program, what are we looking for?
Nobody's telling us. In his Highlander movie-themed discussion of Michigan's pursuit of Harbaugh, I think Gameboy absolutely nailed the coaching search process, which goes:
- Big list of candidates
- Whittling of candidates into a pool
- Precision ranking and clarity among top tier
- Pick the guy
Because fans don't get to be part of the process, the bits that leak out make no sense. We are the mortals who keep finding bodies beheaded by swords all over town, plus a few bread crumbs left by those who seek to use us for their own ends, and start drawing conclusions.
Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: In looking for a new paradigm a lot of us have settled on Urban Meyer's regime and coaching tree. Copying a successful rival is as good a strategy as any; in fact it's exactly how Canham chose Bo in 1969.
In that vein, Kyle Whittingham is the next Urban Meyer-like candidate to get the alum96 treatment. Among Urban-like names being tossed around, Whittingham is probably the most palatable to the residual bler in Michigan's brass—Mullen carries the stench of the SEC and we have no idea whether they see the things in Herman that we do. Like Harbaugh, his candidacy is more of a "Will he?" than a "Can he?"
[After the jump, there's more to the picture than meets the eye.]
“Today I informed Brady Hoke that he will not be returning as our football coach next year. I had mentioned to all of you a couple of weeks ago that we would be evaluating his status at the end of the season and that's what today's announcement is about, so my primary intent today is to do this with deep respect for Brady, his family, the coaches, and all of those associated with our football program, and it is because of their contributions to the University of Michigan.
“This was not an easy decision. You see, I believe the longevity of our best football coaches are tied to the intersection of the performance or measure of wins and losses with the test and expression of values that underscore their program and everywhere I go there is zero question about Brady's values, and I mentioned this trait to you two weeks ago. Brady’s peers, both active and retired coaches, really respect him and his players love playing for him. He has done a great job of molding these young men and focusing them on success in the classroom and in the community. He's really earned the respect of all as being a value-centered coach. We need more men like him in sport today.
“So, you might ask how do you reconcile the tension between results and values? Well, one could also make the argument that we have a very young team and we’re about to pivot next year into being an extraordinary team. It has to do with making sure then that Brady has received adequate time to exhibit that arc of improvement that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady had enough time to produce results and they're just not there today, therefore I believe it's time to make this transition. I don't plan on sharing more of Brady's performance review or assessment frankly because I believe the dignity of this conversation is for him only. My next focus is to make sure that this exit for Brady is handled in a first-class way with heightened consideration for not only Brady himself but his staff and his family. Brady’s a hero. He's been an employee at our university for over 12 years.
“So what's next? Well, I plan on starting the search for his replacement immediately. We want to build on what's been established by Brady. My message to the student-athletes was that we’ll work to put them in the best position to win and reinforce that their daily effort is contributing toward being champions. The criteria for our future coach is defined in winning with the shared values of the University of Michigan. I ask for your patience with this search process. It's not fair for me to comment on potential candidates today or the institutions or organizations they currently may be employed by. I can't compromise the integrity of our search process by commenting prematurely until we have that new coach ready to go.
“I believe that the head coach of Michigan football is one of the finest jobs in American sports today and we will have great options. The University of Michigan remains one of the top programs in the country. Now, it's true that the pendulum has swung into a negative. However, one truth in physics is that as a pendulum is in the negative state it's always building energy for its eventual move back to the positive arc. My objective is to find the right coach for the University of Michigan; an individual who will recruit the best student-athletes and puts them in a position to win in the classroom, on the field, and in the community. This is what makes Michigan world-class and we're going to support that with great enthusiasm. Now, in the interim I've asked Mike DeBord, who's in the athletic department, to oversee the day-to-day aspects of the football program as a sport administrator until a new head coach is hired. Mike will not be a candidate for that job. So thank you. I'll be happy to take a few questions right now.”
I know that you don't want to divulge specifics of your meeting, but can you at least characterize for us the tenor of the meeting with Brady?
“Yeah, I think that first of all I can’t emphasize [enough] what an authentic and real person, so what you see is what you get so when you have a discussion like this it's a very straightforward and deliberate discussion. We took a lot of time together. I was not going to make this a discussion just about wins and losses, and so I wanted him to understand what I really appreciated about him and where I had said that he mastered certain parts of coaching. He needs to leave understanding that others should learn from him in some areas and of course, then, this is the part I’m not going to get into is what were the areas that we didn’t see the mastery in and I candidly said I wished I’d had more time with him. I would have liked to have had a shot at helping him with that.”
[After THE JUMP: the obliteration of the ‘Michigan Man’ meme]
From left: Brady Hoke & Jerry Kill in 2011 [Upchurch], Les Miles and Cam Cameron at the 1989 spring game [Bentley], and James Franklin as a coordinator [courtesy Maryland Athletics]
For HTTV this year I did a study on Big Ten and SEC, and the factors that led to a marked disparity in football success that grew up between them since 1999. One of the most stunning differences I found was in the splashiness of coaching hires.
Someone on the board early this morning asked whether high-profile candidates are such a big deal. The original study answered this emphatically: "Yes!" I thought I'd extend it to the rest of the Power 5 hires since '99 and see if that's still true.
Methodology: I looked at the circumstances at the moment of hiring of every coach (156 total) who started a tenure at a currently Power 5 program since 1999, and put them into one of three (plus one) categories:
- Strong: Stealing another BCS school's coach, or the heir apparent at a power program, or grabbing the year's hottest candidate, or being the school that finally pries a legendary mid-major coach away when everyone else has been trying for years. Universally, these are headline-grabbing guys who probably needed a major monetary incentive to pry them from their last position.
- Average: A guy who was obviously responsible for turning a mid-major into a perennial 9- or 10-win team, a successful NFL or power program coordinator, promoting your own heir apparent (not after firing his boss), etc. These are the hires that you nod at and say "that makes sense" or "B+".
- Cheap: Promoting a coordinator you didn't plan on, grabbing a mid-major coach with mediocre success or success that's not obviously his. Grabbing a washout from the NFL or the Power 5, or a guy who wouldn't have been on any coaching radar except yours.
- (Interim): Don't count unless they were made full.
- These are of course debatable, since they're the opinions of one dude who's been obsessively following college football over this time period, so you can only draw so much. I didn't remember all of them, obviously, but I was able to jog my impressions by reading articles on coaching searches around the time. This is one instance when my life was actually made better by the annual proliferation of "we grade this year's hires" articles from mainstream outlets. When I couldn't decide, I defaulted "average."
- I welcome your suggestions for changes, so long as they fit the criteria (hindsight must be irrelevant).
- The data:
[After the jump: what we learned]
SUCH a good movie. You chivalric fool; as if the way one fell down mattered. On Wednesday this week I had to put our family dog down—he was 14 and been slowing down since we lost my dad, and he had a stroke during the night, and it was sad but undeniably the best way and best time to go. Afterwards I was supposed to collect my daughter, get the roundtable posted, then get to the facility that's trying to get my Mom able to walk again within the impossibly small window her insurance company will pay for it. I didn't want to engage the sympathy choir, nor was I ready to go fixing things or move on. Instead I wandered into a breakfast place and ordered a coffee, and stared at texts of things people say when your heretofore ridiculously fortunate family is going through the mother of all mean regressions.
SUCH a good movie.
You chivalric fool; as if the way one fell down mattered. On Wednesday this week I had to put our family dog down—he was 14 and been slowing down since we lost my dad, and he had a stroke during the night, and it was sad but undeniably the best way and best time to go. Afterwards I was supposed to collect my daughter, get the roundtable posted, then get to the facility that's trying to get my Mom able to walk again within the impossibly small window her insurance company will pay for it. I didn't want to engage the sympathy choir, nor was I ready to go fixing things or move on. Instead I wandered into a breakfast place and ordered a coffee, and stared at texts of things people say when your heretofore ridiculously fortunate family is going through the mother of all mean regressions.
After a time I struck up a conversation with an older dude who from his Michigan hat I identified with the super Michigan-stickered car outside. He was, of course, a current player's dad, and other than his kid who's the best player in the entire world, he had a lot to say about the darkness hanging over this program that twinkling lights could only temporarily keep at bay.
He echoed a lot of what another player's brother said in a diary earlier in the week:
The program is in shambles. Bo is not coming back and it's time to move on. The cult like adherence to tradition and "this is Michigan" is the very reason we are plummeting towards rock bottom. We don't need another Bo or another Michigan Man, we need a competent, forward thinking administration who will take advantage of the massive institutional advantages Michigan provides.
The players are acknowledging reality while doing everything they can to make sure there's a team tomorrow. We got a glimpse of this from Gardner's aneurism of leadership
…and another from a letter to the players by their senior punter:
"Play for the guys in your class who you texted the day you committed, and live in the dorms with. Play for the elementary kids back home whom you've never even met, but know who you are and where you play. Play for your high school coaches, the guys you've met at combines, your family, your friends. Finally, play for yourself. Pride in yourself means that, win or lose, you worked and competed as hard as you possibly could until the schedule provided no more games to play."
When the fall is all that is, it matters.
[After the jump, I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family.]
What will happen and when?
Obviously, the central issue to our entire fanbase is what is going to happen to Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke, and if something is going to happen to either, when. You have obviously posted at length about your opinions about what SHOULD happen, and I am excited to see part II of your coaching candidates series. But, unless I missed it, I have not seen you post anything about what you believe WILL happen.
Specifically, based upon where we stand now (2-4, 0-2) what is your expectation as to (1) whether Brandon will be removed, (2) whether Hoke will be fired, and (3) if you believe that either is gone, when. I think that many of us would also be interested in your opinion as to how the events that will transpire over the remaining 8 weeks of the regular season could impact that decision. (For example, there is a thread on the board now asking what would happen if we win out).
I know that you are probably getting millions of emails on the topic, but I know that many of us would really be interested in knowing your opinions on this topic.
Thanks, as always, and despite everything, Go Blue!
I just don't know. I'm only answering this because I get a lot of emails to this effect; usually if I can't answer something reasonably I just say so privately and that's it. But… yeah, I don't know.
One thing I've learned is that insider information is often colored by the desires of the source; slap one degree of separation between that source and you and then it seems really true and important. This is not so important when someone has a broken bone; it is vastly so when political infighting is involved. So I don't take a whole lot of stuff about Hoke staying seriously; I know it's popped up on premium message boards here and there. There's a faction amongst the old program alums who can't stand to be as flagrantly wrong as they were and will swear up and down that Hoke can be saved.
He can't. Anyone who watches his team knows that this is a disorganized mess and in year four that goes back to one guy and one guy only. There is no expectation this would get better, and in that light the successful Hoke years look like flukes born of disproportionate talent and flat-out luck, as Michigan's 2011 was.
I guess Michigan could run the table but any reasonable season projection gets you to 7-6 at best and that is a firing, if only because whoever the AD is will know that continuing with Hoke is going to be an inflection point on season ticket sales.
As far as Brandon, I do not know. I've read all there is to read and heard all there is to hear and what is clear is that here is some sort of serious support for the guy that centers around Stephen Ross and his dollars and drops off almost immediately after that. If this was a democracy he'd be booted in an 80-20 election; it is not.
I would have faith that the people around the president who have his ear because of dolla dolla bill y'all would eventually be able to come to this conclusion:
- Someone else would be about as good at continuing the things who make the people in the AD support him
- Anyone else would be less toxic to fans and especially students.
Even if you somehow believe that guy whose PR stunts will literally go in a textbook under what not to do is the best guy for the job, the next best guy for the job is 99% as capable and isn't loathed by half the Michigan fanbase. This flies in the face of our nation's CEO fetishization, but here it's undeniable.
Logic then demands I say that both guys will be gone by the end of the year, but logic ain't got nothing to do with it.
As to the timing, Hoke's not gone until after the OSU game. If he was going to get the axe immediately it would have been after the Minnesota game. Short of that happening again, he's got the rest of the year. Michigan may announce he's done before OSU, a la Earle Bruce; functionally he's your guy the rest of the year.
Brandon could go at any time. I hear that there are some meetings coming up in the next week that could be the impetus for his dismissal, but as long as Stephen Ross is backing the guy it's going to be pulling teeth.
[After THE JUMP: define risk in re: coaching candidates.]
Adam Glanzman/special to MGoBlog
Human beings, and not just those associated with Michigan, are capable of extraordinary incompetence. The biggest brain fart tonight was when a guy watched Amara Darboh make a catch, take two steps, dive out of bounds, and place the ball on the ground, then “confirmed” it “incomplete.” The call on the field was malpractice; getting it wrong with the benefit of a DVR and HDTV is so staggeringly separated from reality that most fanbases will go for sinister explanations.
A Michigan Man knows better. Watching this program try to manage a clock, manage an offense, or manage a press release is the kind of thorough education in the extent of the human capacity for ineptitude that you’ve come to expect from the nation’s top public university.
“Blame the refs!” explains why Wile had to attempt a 56-yarder—which Rutgers blocked—and why Michigan had just one timeout to throw against a 1st down-and-kneel drive to end the game. It doesn’t explain why Michigan manipulated the clock to leave their opponent a comfortable 120 seconds to drive at the end of the first half. Or why they forgot they had Funchess for two quarters. Or why a heretofore deep and competent secondary gave up 404 yards to Gary Nova, overcoming a record previously held by the John L. Smith Razorbacks.
Michigan stayed in it, partly because Rutgers is Rutgers. Also because Devin Gardner laughed off two tackle attempts en route to a 19-yard 4th quarter touchdown that needs to be put to Autumn Thunder immediately. I feel awful about how this guy’s career has gone. Given the schedule from here, the Wolverines would be lucky to go 6-6 and unlikely to win four. When the team is this bad and the coaches’ meat this dead, we can check out, or just enjoy the occasional exploits of those who won’t.
People are just stupid sometimes; even Unpossible Throw God Gary Nova himself took a false start(!) this game. This will be important to remember whenever it’s time to commence a headhunt as inevitable as the Big Ten’s empty apology. Humans are only tenuously rational creatures, and as soon as a coaching search commences, all contact with reality is lost.