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.
I'm taking down the office now. [Fuller]
Open letters to people who don't read them isn't exactly productive, but it's useful in a snowflakey kind of way. The MGoPostal service delivered a few of note: JeepinBen gives the next coach the correct answers to the Michigan questions. A guy emailed Schlissel our complaint list about Dave Brandon. A wealthy alum says to Schlissel or whoever that hubris is the problem.
You can read a form reply from the president's office here.
Brandon at least had the courtesy to provide a personal response to a lady canceling her long-held season tickets [UPDATED: this was apparently sent last December].
How to have a happy life. A few diarists looked a the qualities that seem to lead to success in a head coaching change. That first is a look at the coaching histories of Michigan, OSU, Bama, ND and USC with particular attention paid to whether guys with connections to the university had more success (they didn't).
The second starts by making a comparison of Bo to Stoops and goes on to sort out some common threads in other coaching changes. He came upon the same thing I did when trying to identify common threads in successful transitions: whatever side of the ball you don't know, just keep the coordinator from the old regime.
I would have been dead set against it at the time but in retrospect RR perhaps could have saved himself a lot of problems with the old guard by retaining Ron English. Or that could have led to an even bigger explosion when he fired English instead of Shafer for not running a 3-3-5 or getting along with Gibson. But imagine Michigan right now if Hoke had retained Calvin Magee, which we were VERY MUCH hoping for.
[After the jump, profiles of guys for Hoke's job; why head trauma is a thing and wasn't before]
WELP. When you're a four point dog to Rutgers it's time to start keeping an eye on potential new head coaches.
Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Kevin Sumlin, and various others are not discussed because you know who those people are and it's unlikely Michigan secures them. They're passed over primarily because they're obviously desirable. You don't need to be told Jim Harbaugh seems like a good idea.
It's not worth the risk to hire anyone approaching retirement except in very specific circumstances like "this is the only head coach we've ever been any good under"—looking at you, Kansas State. So out go David Cutcliffe (60), Mike Riley (61), Gary Pinkel (62), and, uh, Kirk Ferentz (59), because it would be ULTIMATE MICHIGAN to go after Kirk Ferentz. I'd take Art Briles in a hot second even though he's 58, but he's also lumped in here or pipedreams since he seems impossible to pry out of Waco. 61-year-old Les Miles is also in this group. If he had a time, it was 2007. I'm not saying there's no chance… but there isn't much of one. And you already know all about him anyway.
Gentlemen of note, then.
Power 5 Head Coaches
Look before we name a name you're going to be all like "oh what if Michigan is a poor cultural fit with the spread shouldn't we go get a pro-style guy or something"… there just aren't many to consider. I included the obvious guy.
DAN MULLEN, MISSISSIPPI STATE
BASICS: 40-28 in his sixth season in Starkville. SEC record 17-24, which is actually rather good for a Bulldogs head coach. Was Urban Meyer's OC before that, and his QB coach at BGSU and Utah. 42.
PROS: Turned previously inept MSU into decent program. Young. High level experience in recruiting wars and as national-championship-level OC.
CONS: Has acquired a great deal of his wins against tomato-can laden nonconference schedule and still struggles to win half his SEC games. Reaction to recent suspension of starting OL for multiple in-game stomping incidents was from the Dave Brandon school of PR.
OVERALL: Desirability on a knife edge right now. If he follows up LSU win with season that sees Mississippi State end up a solid top 25 program he will be a hot name. Slip down to the 7/8 win level he's been at and it's questionable.
MIKE GUNDY, OKLAHOMA STATE
BASICS: Is a man. Is 47. In his tenth season at Okie State, 80-39 record with one Big Twelve championship and Fiesta Bowl win; two other ten-win seasons. Before that was Les Miles's OC.
PROS: Good coach who can insert any sentient being at quarterback and see that guy/spaceplant pass for 300 yards. Young for a guy with a decade as a head coach. Knows what he wants his program to be.
CONS: Availability questionable. Is currently at alma mater and has T. Boone backing him. Last time Michigan pried a dude away from his alma mater things went poorly, partially because of the reputation a man acquires when he leaves his home base. May not have left Oklahoma except for road games in 30 years.
OVERALL: If you can get him, hell yes. Probably can't get him.
[After THE JUMP: the last manball unicorn]