good luck with that
Who is the man, Brady Hoke? Krikor Arman, says Brady Hoke
The other side
So last week I bombed Braylon Edwards and various other people who have publicly or privately undermined the program since Carr's departure. I owe the internet in general a POV from the other side. I met a Bo walk-on at the Michigan Beerfest a couple years ago and he's been a consistent email correspondent; he provides this perspective from the recent billions-return alumni thing:
We had the team meeting last night which started out in the field house with Coach Hoke speaking for a few minutes while introducing his staff. Afterwards we went over to the stadium and had dinner in the club level, which is beautiful. There were probably 200 guys there, including Coaches Hanlon, Burton, Thornbladh, Moeller, and Carr. It was a nice gathering and great to see the old fellas.
Regardless of what some outsiders think or what people want to hypothesize about RR, the fact of the matter is it WAS a different environment and it DID alienate ex-players/coaches, to a degree. Michigan football is different. It's a family. It's steeped in traditions that are older than the vast majority of people on the board. RR did not take care of the program. He did not endear himself to the guys who won 42 championships in the 132 years of Michigan Football. One thing I heard over and over last night from ex-players was "thank God we're done with that bullshit" ("the lack of defense" and "the guy just didn't get it"). It may seem petty, but this isn't like taking over an old, family owned business and revamping the computers and offices. This is Michigan. I can't put it into words, but as much as I supported RR, he did not, in fact, get it.
I talked with Bruce Madej for a while as well as Paul Schmidt. I was surprised to learn that RR did not force freshman/sophomores to live in the dorm. The only players who HAD to live in the dorm were the early enrollees, and they only had to stay there until after spring semester. Think about that. An 18 year old kid is going right from living at his folks place and attending high school to instantly living on his own, with rent and phone bills, gas bills, grocery shopping, etc. ALL THE WHILE trying to maintain his athletics AND play for a demanding coach. There's no way an 18 year should be put in that situation. It's overwhelming. Schmitty told me that was the first thing he told Hoke when he arrived. Hoke immediately switched the policy back to freshman and sophomores MUST live in the dorm.
It may seem like a pathetically insignificant aspect of the RR regime, but I think it's yet another example of how many different ways he failed as the head coach at Michigan.
I am NOT here to say Hoke is the answer because he's getting the young kids back in the dorm. BUT, he has brought back some things that made this the winningest program in college football. AND, he's galvanizing the fabric of Michigan football that had rusted a little bit over the last 3 years.
So… there's that. My position here is endlessly conflicted. I wish the "This is Michigan" stuff wasn't so inflexible that it caused what happened over the last three years and etc etc etc but everyone knows that. This guy, like Craig Ross, just wants to see Michigan win. That's what we all want. We just have different opinions on the best way to go about doing that.
Jake Ryan and WLB
I know that you weren't as high on Jake Ryan after a more thorough review of the spring game than some people, but he did do okay and he got some good reviews from bowl practices. My question is this - why isn't he a contender at WLB instead of SLB? It seems like he's a bigger, stronger, guy that can tackle well but might not be athletic enough in coverage. Isn't that the type of guy you want at the WLB while the athletic converted safety types play the SLB (Gordon, Hawthorn, Jones, etc.)?
I wasn't necessarily down on Ryan. Like everyone else I was impressed by his playmaking, but he was going up against a redshirt freshman walk-on when he blitzed off the strongside. That's a major factor in a 1-v-1/2-v-2 scrimmage.
As for the question, Ryan is a big dude at 6'3" and nearly 230 pounds as a redshirt freshman. The usual S&C path will see him brushing up against 240 next year. That's a good size to be the guy facing down a tight end on the LOS most downs. It's not so good to be the designated super fast pursuit guy. Also, the knock on Ryan from high school was his agility. His recruiting profile is littered with references to his ability to "attack vertically," worries about his ability to cover guys, and vague mutterings about a move to DE.
While Ryan may have been an OLB candidate in the 3-3-5—where attacking vertically is a large chunk of the job description when you're not being coached by Greg Robinson—he's strictly SAM in a 4-3 under. Fortunately, he looks like an excellent fit there.
If you're looking for WLB reinforcements look to safety, where Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman are OLB-sized guys idling behind starters.
Technical blocking stuff
The one thing I noticed from the scrimmage was a lot more "angle blocking" (layman's term, actually the offensive line appeared to be using Wing-T rules) as opposed to zone. The idea is to gain leverage on your opponent by blocking in towards the ball with the tackles/TEs and pull. The biggest thing that makes me say this is first the pulling techniques on the QB sweep looked exactly like a puller in a wing-T system (open deep, run around a down block). "Angle blocking" is the idea in the flesh. However, I actually could see this as an advantage for M going forward. Zone is ubiquitous. Rule blocking is not. Could be an advantage. The blocking did not look that great, yet.
Borges seems to be finding what the personnel does well and focusing on that (hence the grab bag of multiplicity). Holy hell, we need a good runner, I hope Mike Cox is it.
I kind of thought Michigan was good at running zone stuff by last year. The mobility on the interior gave them the ability to get downfield and pick up linebackers on the second level. I worry about their ability to move Big Ten defensive tackles, though. Last year it was up to those DTs to move faster than the OL so they didn't get reached. This year the power schemes will ask playside OL to overpower DL who might be bigger than them. We'll see.
Krikor Arman sets the record straight
Thank you for the excellent reference in today's blog, I am honored. Just wanted to clarify a couple things. I did not come from the club team. I went directly to open tryouts and made the team out of the 10 people trying out. And this "forward #14" scored two goals in his first game, and has four championship rings from Michigan, one a National Championship.
So thank you, because I really appreciate all of my friends reading about how I was "forward #14."
Krikor Arman, M4
No offense was intended to Krikor Arman in this morning's post. Krikor Arman is notable enough to be in Wikipedia, which means he is more important than me, most webcomics and, for a brief time, Old Man Murray. He is also in med school.
It's no Nuge but it's something. Also: Daily.
So it seems a lot of people, including you, I believe, have resisted the "Denard Robinson 2011 = Michael Vick 2010" path to blind hope for the upcoming football season. I'm as hopeful as anyone else because duh, but I'm also aware that Robinson is probably too small and inaccurate at this point in his development for this to be a realistic possibility.
But what about Troy Smith? I believe that kid was around Robinson's size, but probably a little slower and had an arm that was probably a bit more accurate but not quite as strong. Do you agree that Smith (against anyone other than Michigan, against which he was a planet-devouring demigod regardless of the season you want to talk about) is a realistic/optimistic benchmark we can have in mind when projecting Robinson in 2011?
This isn't to say Robinson will be as good as Smith, only that their skill sets are comparable, as are the coaching philosophies under which they operated, and that getting some mixed bag of 2005 and 2006 Troy Smith out of the QB position would be a positive.
Troy Smith's career does give some hope that a hopeless n00b of a quarterback can develop into a lethal gunslinger. When Justin Zwick was injured midway through 2004 he was pressed into the lineup as redshirt sophomore and was somewhere between Sheridan and Forcier until he played Michigan. You don't need to be told he was insane against M: 18 rushes for 145 yards, 13 of 23 passing for 241 yards, three total touchdowns, no turnovers.
Without that game his numbers were turrible: 3.0 YPC, 6.6 YPA, 56% completion percentage. With it—and as much as we hate to admit it, that happened—his redshirt sophomore numbers were about on par with Tate Forcier as a freshman except with fewer turnovers. With the exception of TD-INT ratio, Denard was actually well ahead of him as a true sophomore, averaging almost nine yards per attempt and running for a billion yards at 6.6 yards a pop.
So if he can improve as much as Smith we're in business. The next year he blew up, completing 63% of his passes for 9.3 yards an attempt with 16 TDs and 4 INTs. He also rushed for around 600 yards on 12 carries a game.
- Smith was handing off and throwing to Santonio Holmes (first round pick), Ted Ginn (first round pick), Antonio Pittman (fourth round pick), and Anthony Gonzalez (first round pick). You can see Stonum and Roundtree getting drafted but probably not until late; Smith had a ton more talent at his disposal than Robinson will.
- Smith had the same coaches for the duration of his career.
- Smith's improvement was standard deviations above the mean, so while it's an optimistic benchmark for Denard it's not one it's reasonable to expect he'll reach.
- Smith's running ability may have opened up some passing lanes for him but nowhere near as many as Robinson's did. If you're going to de-emphasize Robinson's legs that should make it tougher to pass and easier to run.
If Smith provides an optimistic benchmark for Robinson he also provides one for Michigan's coaches: as Smith developed Ohio State's offense gradually morphed into a passing spread reminiscent of Purdue at its absolute apex. This is generally out of character for Tressel—he only brings out the spread option for Pryor in times of great need—but as Smith developed he earned enough trust from his coaches for them to play to his strengths.
Have a question for you, Sir. This is all hypothetical but I was wondering what would you think at the end of it all?
April 2011 - Coach Hoke receives email concerning Player X selling comp tickets (nevermind everyone does it, it is still illegal), Coach Hoke emails back, says he'll check into it. Now...what does Coach Hoke do? What do you hope he does? Go to Compliance? Or handle it internally?
So, he decides to handle it internally
April 2011 - Coach Hoke asks player, player denies selling tickets.
April 2011 - Send email to parents of Player X reminding them that selling comp tickets is illegal.
April 2011 - Has meeting with team reminding that comp tickets can't be sold.
June 2011 - Sends email to person who sent first email verifying that Player X did indeed sell tickets (so, he doesn't get tickets for upcoming season)
Dec 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office gets documentation that Player X did indeed sell tickets.
Dec 2011 - Player X confesses to selling tickets...Michigan self-reports and recommends 5 games for the following season (since that is the normal recommended punishment for this type of violation and the fact that the player didn't come forward).
Dec 2011 - Coach Hoke signs document that no other information was available (giving him the benefit of the doubt, since he gets several hundred emails a day and the fact that he's gone through an entire football season)
Jan 2011 - Michigan Compliance office finds emails related to ticket incident while searching for something else.
Feb 2011 - Michigan Compliance Office interviews Coach Hoke and self-reports information. Recommends 2 games hoping that Player X's suspension is reduced.
March 2011 - Player X's suspension is upheld, Coach Hoke changes his suspension to match Player X.
So, what should Michigan do with Coach Hoke? What do you want to happen to Coach Hoke if he got caught up in something he thought that he could handle internally?
I know it is all hypothetical in nature though Player X could be anyone and I imagine this event could easily come to pass, but everyday coaches make decisions, some good and some bad...but I would be interested in hearing what you would want to happen if this particular event were to go down that way.
Really enjoy your site even though I'm an Ohio State fan...as we don't quite have anything like it.
I'm not sure if that exact scenario rises to the level of a firing—which I'm guessing is the aim of the email—but that part at the top where you get a credible email from someone known to you about guys getting illegal benefits and do not immediately notify compliance is a huge deal. Maybe this is just me speaking as a Michigan fan who has lived through the great annoyance arising from a lack of communication with compliance, but I don't think so. Your compliance department is still "internal." It's not the NCAA. It's essentially on your side unless it really shouldn't be, and they need to know exactly these kinds of things. You can handle a bar fight internally. You cannot handle extra benefits internally.
There are also some key differences between the above scenario and what appears to have transpired at OSU. The hypothesized investigation-type substance where Hoke asks the player about selling tickets and gets a "no" is not sufficient in OSU's case—the original email broke lawyerly confidence to reveal a federal investigation had turned this up. The lawyer is a former OSU walk-on who has defended OSU players in court; he followed up his concern with a second credible email. That's a situation in which you can't just say "did you do this?" and be satisfied with the answer. Though we're not 100% sure on the details yet it seems like the information relayed should have been easy to confirm and only wasn't because there was strong motive not to.
I agree the form Tressel signed a few months later is one of those things that runs across your desk and you sign it because it's boilerplate. But once the investigation is underway, not telling the U or NCAA about some funny emails you responded to and even forwarded to Terrelle Pryor's sketchy "mentor" is far less plausibly innocent.
In the end, Ohio State got to and won a BCS bowl because of Tressel's actions that kept five ineligible players on the field; the alternative was likely indefinite suspensions until the investigation was completed. It looks like a breathtakingly cynical act, and it's not just Michigan fans saying this. What's described above can plausibly be described as "mistake"—and that is what separates it from Tressel's deliberate cover-up.
I got into a conversation with one of my close friends from Michigan about something you wrote in a blog post two days ago: "There's no reason any women's basketball coach not at UConn or Tennessee should be making more than 100k. What's going to happen? Are the empty seats going to stop coming?"
My friend had forwarded it to me because he thought your comment was hilarious. It ended up leading into a much more detailed discussion on coaching salaries. Have you by chance seen the athletic department salaries? It is very interesting.
Three things stand out:
1. dominated by the football staff (though not surprising)
2. the sheer number of women's sport coaches (regardless of gender) who make over $100,000 (softball, soccer, etc.)
*3. how many comparable sports where the women's coach makes significantly more than the men's coach. for example, consider tennis (women's coach: $115k. men's coach: $94K), soccer (women's: $152K. men's: $72.5K), track (women's: $122K. men's: $82K), gymnastics (women's: $156K. men's: $91K), and cross country (women's: $103K. men's: $75K). Any thoughts as to the reason for the discrepancies? As far as I know, TItle 9 does not regulate coaching salaries. Is it explainable by length of service? Or perhaps that the men's coaches are making more through other avenues (i.e., camps, sponsorships, etc.)?
BBA '01, Lifelong Michigan Fan
A number of the discrepancies are obvious: the women's soccer coach used to run the national team; the men's coach used to run Michigan's club team. Carol Hutchins has established Michigan as a softball superpower. She's the equivalent of women's basketball coaches at UConn and Tennessee. The women's track coach is in his 27th year while the men's coach is in his second; the cross-country coaches are in year 19 and 1, respectively.
While I don't get why there's such a gap in the gymnastics salaries—women's gymnastics is consistently very good but the men won the national title last year—most of those are easily explainable by seniority or other obvious factors. My main thing is that all these salaries grate when the NCAA claims poverty prevents them from doing more for the guys who bring in the money by risking what now seems to be quite a lot. The only environment in which a gymnastics program drawing 1500 people per meet can afford to pay their head coach 100 dollars for every head in the stands is one in which administrators are like "good God, what do we do with all this money?"
your next UV title most definitely needs to come from this site: http://yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/
I put in mgoblog and got this sample tweet:
MGoPost: TomVH: An Interview with the board can't get any head explodes.
I am very sorry, board, but yes.thatcan.be/my/next/tweet/ does not lie. Not that it's making a huge leap in suggesting that about a sports message board.
right via flickr user bre pettis
You've often mentioned how a single elimination hockey tournament is a poor indicator of who the best team is, due to the randomness that exists in hockey. There is one sport where the randomness of the winner is considerably higher - baseball. And college baseball deals with this by making the tournament, and the college world series, double elimination tournament up until the championship.
Do you think a double elimination tournament could work for NCAA hockey, or if not for the frozen four, at least for the regionals? Each regional would still fit nicely into a weekend, rather than needing to spread out over two weeks if it were a 3 game series at each round. As hockey is poised for a potentially cataclysmic change tomorrow, the time for changing the tournament would be now as well.
Double elimination doesn't work for hockey because it's just too many games. A first-round loser could hypothetically play five games if they reach the final and win the first game, and how are you going to fit that into three days? Even if you decide the final is one and done (presumably playing this exhausted team is advantage enough) you've still got a situation where someone's playing twice in a day. That's not feasible.
The thing that makes the most sense is to go back to the old best two-of-three series. Have two rounds of those and have a Frozen Four. Downsides: it takes a week longer and some schools don't control their rinks, making reservations awkward. Upside: massively more revenue and it looks like people care about college hockey.
Something like this may be coming. As mentioned this morning, the NCAA has not announced regional sites past next year. Last May this was apparently the hot idea:
Under the most popular proposal, the tournament would stay as a 16-team field, but the first round would be a best-of-three series played at the venue of the higher seed.
The eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals would play at one of two super regional sites. The quarterfinals would be one-game shots with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line. The Frozen Four would not change.
That manages to be only slightly better than the current system since you know you're going to this random "super regional" site to watch your team play once. There seems to be no reason not to play another campus series other than a desire to pretend you're a bigger deal than your are.
If hockey is truly insistent on having regionals, let's format them like the first round of the World Cup or Olympic hockey: everyone plays each other and the top two teams move on. That would force teams to play three straight days but without overtime everyone's on a level playing field. That should help attendance since you know you'll get to see your team play three times.
The biggest issue with that format is scheduling the last day. In the World Cup the last group games are simultaneous because there are situations in which teams can assure themselves advancement by walking around for 90 minutes and tying. You couldn't do that at a regional. I think if you're flexible with the final day's schedule you could avoid that by making the teams who are in that advantageous position play first, though.
More money, more reason to travel, and less randomness—it's better than the current setup. The tournament could start out with groups, have a campus weekend, and then have a Frozen Four.
If NCAA determines that OSU must vacate last year football wins, does that mean RichRod went 1-2 vs. OSU?
No. A vacated game never happened—unless you lost, I guess—so officially he'd be 0-2.
After reading your thoughtful post about Webber, I couldn't help but think about why, despite everything, I always loved the guy. Just to try to explain what it was like: The Fab 5 era has many of the elements of the last few years of Michigan football, except they were magnified. First, there was the culture clash. Fisher's coaching style, the new players, all of it received a very similar reception, but unlike RR he had the '89 national championship for protection. And of course the culture clash was magnified because it was not only a matter of a culture clash within the university but on a national level. Think of it as the culture clash times five.
Then there was the electrifying style of play. Every moment of every game at Crisler, you were just sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something amazing to happen. Not just dunks, although people often forget just how incredible not only Webber but Jimmy's ups were. But an unreal block, an impossible pass, a quick as lightening steal. The only thing I can really compare it to in my life of watching sports was watching Denard last year. You were just sitting there with visceral sense of anticipation, knowing you just might witness something amazing. But now imagine if Denard and Rich Rod had taken us to a national championship game -- or two in a row -- and I think that will give you some sense of how it felt to be a student at Michigan in that era and why we simply can't not love those guys. We all knew those players personalities, their faces, their styles of play. It was something close to watching five Denards.
There was obviously a culture clash with Rodriguez's program as a whole but Denard isn't a part of that because Denard is the nicest kid in the history of the universe. I've been going to basketball and hockey games for years and when other athletes show up, they do so in a big group, come late, and leave early. This extends even to nonentities like the tennis team. They signed some autographs at Yost earlier this season and then watched a portion of the second period in seats directly behind mine, then took off.
Denard went to the DEATH TO BACKBOARDS Wisconsin game. He wasn't there with teammates (unless Drew Dileo was there—everyone around him was an average-sized white guy), stayed for the whole thing, and when handed a random maize T-shirt he put it over his futuristic Annie Lennox jacket. You can throw that on the pile of evidence that contains every press conference he's ever attended and every touchdown he's ever kneeled after.
But the larger point is good. Michigan swung away from its baseline attitude in the aftermath of the '89 championship because it won a lot for a brief period of time, and then when it won less and got the program in trouble they reacted by hiring Tommy Amaker and John Beilein. Even more telling was only after Amaker left for Harvard that people started complaining about his recruiting practices.
A lot of people have pointed at that reaction as the Fab Five's doing, but it's really just Michigan returning to its equilibrium state after being knocked out of it briefly. The same thing happened with Rodriguez except it didn't take nearly as long because there weren't any of those win things. At some point in the future Michigan will have a coach with a different idea of what football looks like*, and he'll be tolerated as long as he wins, and then eventually he won't win and Michigan will return to its equilibrium state.
*[Possibly a distant, Humans Are Dead future, granted.]
You are one of the few people I know who defends RR. I do as well. Do you think RR should have been fired? Do you think, if he should have been fired, that it should have happened after OSU game? Do you agree with me that if he had a vote of confidence before the season that RR would have hauled in a top ten class? Do you think with a new DC they would have been better next year with RR then with BH? Do you think DB treated RR poorly as I do? Seems to me that DB wanted RR out even before the season. I am so tired of hearing about toughness, as if that is something that can be taught and as if RR wouldn't teach it if it could be.
Peter from Horsham, PA
There are half-dozen posts discussing this but to reiterate: I thought Rodriguez had done enough after the regular season to keep his job if he fired Greg Robinson, hired an actual defensive coordinator, and never ran the 3-3-5 again unless that DC was Jeff Casteel, then rumored to be open to a move. It was a close thing.
The bowl debacle moved the needle for me to "should fire," but this was under the assumption that Michigan would introduce Jim Harbaugh at a press conference held thirty seconds after the last shovelful of dirt hit Rodriguez's grave. If Harbaugh didn't exist I probably would have gritted my teeth and said we should give Rodriguez one last chance. As you say, even with everything Rodriguez had locked up two five-star guys and was probably going to bring in a recruiting class on the edge of the top ten. The offense was a yardage/advanced metric juggernaut that seemed likely to start turning that into more points as it aged, cut down on the turnovers, added a five-star at the glaring weak spot, and hopefully got some more help from defense and special teams. The other two units were bound to improve from amazing low points, etc.
All the bad stuff is still there but that setup seems more likely to produce wins in 2011 than having Denard Robinson take snaps from under center so he can hand off to someone not named Demetrius Hart.
Does it matter, though? There's a large section of Michigan fandom that would read the above sentence and screech like pterodactyl. The national perception of the program was sinking and while the team figured to get better I'm not sure it was going to get better enough—beat OSU—to make a dent in that. What happens if you go 8-4 next year and lose to OSU by ten? Rodriguez gets pilloried and fired. Hoke gets a bag of popcorn to watch Rodriguez get pilloried. At some point Rodriguez's baggage takes him to the bottom of the sea no matter who tied it to his legs.
[As to the dead man walking meme: I heard it plenty before the bowl game, including from people I know and would have a good read on it, but didn't believe it. Since Michigan got obliterated we don't know. If they'd lost by misfortune or won and Rodriguez still got fired it would be different. IME, Rodriguez was gone. This is just based off Brandon's performance in the press conference.]
I'll admit my knowledge of APR is not very good, but does oversigning not negatively affect a school's APR? If kids are leaving the program/school does that not affect the APR?
So we've overloaded the language here and "oversigning" now stands for two different things:
- signing more kids than you can enroll by going over the 25 cap, and
- signing more kids than you can pay for by going over the 85 cap.
In the former case, signing a kid to a LOI and then shipping him off to JUCO when he doesn't qualify does not affect your APR. Not that it should since you haven't had the chance to educate the player.
In the latter case, the answer is yes… hypothetically. In practice the NCAA has provided boatloads of waivers [scroll down]. They're plentiful enough that Kentucky basketball maintained a 979(!) APR despite having a graduation success rate* of 31%. Hypothetically, a school on the 925 borderline is graduating 60% of its players.
What are these waivers? Well, medical hardships, for one.
Those don't count against you because the player is still in school. It makes sense that they wouldn't… until someone starts beating the rules into profane shapes. There are plenty others that are less obvious but no one really knows what they are.
This invites questions about how the hell Michigan failed to take advantage of any of these when players started leaving the program left and right and Michigan put up an ugly 870-something. I don't know but assume it's a combination of Rodriguez failing to understand the gap between WVU and Michigan academics—though he did seem to emphasize it—and the massive attrition that went so far beyond even Alabama's rampant axe that Michigan couldn't get close to the 85 number. I'm not entirely sure but I don't think walk-ons count, so when Michigan's running around with 70 scholarship players and one of them flunks out that hurts way more than Alabama sending a guy in good-for-Alabama standing to South Georgia.
*[as opposed to the federal rate, the GSR does not count transfers in good standing/early entries against you.]
File under Rich Rodriguez will have a job by then and will pursue this kid with a force unknown to mankind:
The AD at Southfield is one of my closest friends and assures me that he has a freshman football player with what is perhaps the greatest name ever. I give you Lion King Conaway!
And file under testimonial:
I’m a junior in high school, and I recently got my first semester grades. A while back in my Government class, I got an extra point on a study guide because I wrote “which, duh.” In my notes (I was talking about how being liberal/conservative affects voting dem/rep, and I guess my teacher thought it was funny), which is something that I picked up from reading mgoblog. I finished that class with a 93%, which is just barely an A, and I finished the semester with a 4.0. So, reading mgoblog may have been what pushed me from an A- to an A, giving me a 4.0.
Know that if I get into Princeton, I’m giving at least some of the credit to you and mgoblog.
Just don't send a bill.
Most of the questions in my inbox I don't have an answer to, but does that ever stop sportswriters? No.
1. With all the Hoke love from ex-players & everyone else for that matter, how could Bill Martin have misread the whole "Michigan Man" situation when he hired RichRod? He had to get some sort of vibe about supporting a MI Man & not an outsider. Did he ignore this, or was he ignorant of it?
Bill Martin seems like an affable sort of guy, but an affable sort of guy who wasn't actually on the football team and really likes sailing. I bet he was taken aback by the way Rodriguez's tenure developed. I think most people were surprised the vehemence with which Rodriguez was denounced once he started losing games.
But I'm not sure it really mattered, since at the time there were no Michigan Man options that were even vaguely plausible. Hoke—the sole Carr assistant to have a head coaching job at the time—was idling at 7-6 in his fifth year at Ball State. DeBord had failed miserably at CMU. Ron English was in charge of the defense that made The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game possible. Harbaugh was still unproven.
Even if Martin could anticipate a negative reaction from the Carr clan, it's not like there was anything he could do about it without producing a backlash 10 times as massive as this year's Hoke doubt.
2. With all the shouts of failure to hire a BIG name coach, looking at the hires of the last few years from "elite" schools: USC - Kiffin, Miami - Temple's coach, Florida - Tx D Coordinator, Florida St. - Jimbo Fisher, Notre Dame - Kelly, Tennessee - Dooley; big name coaches from big name schools rarely switch jobs within the college ranks - the last BIG name coach to do so would have to be RichRod - food for thought.
I guess that depends on your definition of the word "big." It's true that most jobs on the Michigan/Oklahoma/Florida/ND level are terminal destinations. But Stanford isn't, especially when the guy at Stanford is a famous Michigan alum. Harbaugh should have been poachable, and maybe he was but for the NFL. We'll never know. Meanwhile, there is a list of guys who are acquirable who may not be "big" names but seem like as good of any idea as possible when you switch coaches.
As for that list above:
- Fisher was a hot OC at LSU that was imported to be HC in waiting/by proxy in the same sort of transition that saw Bielema and Chip Kelly smoothly ascend to the throne and experience fairly quick success. (Bielema took a little while to get going.)
- Muschamp is an archetypical hot coordinator.
- Brian Kelly qualified as a big name in the mold of Urban Meyer after championship runs at two different schools experiencing their greatest success.
- Kiffin was the last act of an idiot and was met with the same sort of love at USC he was after his departure from Knoxville.
- Dooley was a last second desperation hire after Kiffin left that was like hiring Hoke in 2007.
I'd say the first three are good ideas, the fourth a bad idea, and the fifth the sort of thing that happens when your head coach leaves in early January. In Tennessee's case they were left in the lurch involuntarily. Michigan did it to themselves.
At least Dooley provides a hopeful example. Despite being in shambles in mid-January they recovered decently enough in recruiting and outperformed expectations down the stretch. Sometimes guys catch fire with more resources and a fortunate recruit—or existing player—and that can quickly erase their uninspiring previous record. One year after Tennessee's Maple Street Annual asked me to write a piece about how to cope with a 3-9 crater, there is palpable optimism in Knoxville.
In the presser introducing Hoke as HC, Dave Brandon mentioned that he was a "data guy," and that the data showed that when you bring in a HC w/no ties to the area and/or university, it usually doesn't work. However, a look at the top programs in recent college football history show important counterexamples:
- Urban Meyer, Florida: no ties
- Mack Brown, Texas: asst coach Iowa State 1 year, OC Iowa State 2 years (1980-81), OC Oklahoma 1 year (1984)
- Nick Saban, LSU: no ties
- Les Miles, LSU: no ties
- Pete Carroll, USC: OC U. of Pacific, 1 year (1983)
Did these guys have assistants on staff who had ties? What was the key to their success in winning over the respective fan bases?
Winning games? Those guys save Carroll and Meyer all came from BCS programs they had significantly outperforming their historical baseline, and Meyer had just turned Utah into the #2 team in the country after making Bowling Green a terrifying MAC opponent. And then they won immediately. Saban was 12-2 in year two. Miles lost six games in his first three years. The first time Mack Brown won fewer than nine games at Texas was this year. Meyer won the national title in year two.
Before any of these guys could be hated they were loved, and Rodriguez probably could have managed that trick if he hadn't presided over the worst three year stretch since Harry Kipke*.
If there's a common thread between these coaches it's recruiting, where all were monsters. You knew that's what you were getting with Brown, suspected it with Saban and Miles, and hoped for with Carroll.
*[I have your back, MVictors]
So, I've accepted the fact that we have Hoke and Borges (mostly). The offensive personnel is obviously geared toward a zone read option type of offense with athletic lineman, lots of slot ninjas and a running quarterback.
Two actual questions for you:
1 - How is this line at pass protection? Do the techniques change much between zone-read option spread teams and pro-style teams? I know Kerrigan, Liuget and Watt were blowing up our plays quite a bit, but I'm hopeful the assignments and techniques would not be very different. Now, Iso-blocks on runs plays....argh.
It was difficult to tell since teams spent most of the year deathly afraid of losing gap responsibility and letting Robinson slip into the secondary. Many opponents seemed content to let Denard sit and survey. In one on one matchups the line did very well against Iowa, Michigan State, and Penn State but not so well against Purdue (ie: Kerrigan) and Wisconsin. The numbers were consistently 1) low in amplitude and 2) good in percentage. The line wasn't asked to do a whole lot. They usually did it well.
It was a mixed bag, but they were starting a redshirt freshman and an injury-laden platoon at the tackles. I don't think there's much of a difference in pass protection between the two offenses in terms of technique, but pro-style attacks usually put a greater premium on five- and seven-step drops.
A bigger concern than this being an awkward transition is how much of the good pass protection last year was an illusion wrought by Robinson and the scheme.
2 - Thinking about a pro-style offense that employs slots and would fit fairly well.... What about the Patriots offense? Slot guys, undersized receivers and running backs....Obviously Tom never runs, but they could incorporate the single-wing QB runs and ISQD's pretty easily as well as roll-out run-pass option plays....Am I dreaming here? Is there any way with the Michigan connections over there that Borges/Hoke could go in this offseason pick Belichick and Brady's brains and/or outright steal some of that offense all together? What about the Eagles offense? It seems this would be a pretty good recruiting pitch - "You know Tom Brady? The Patriots? That team that crushes people all the time? Yeah - we're running their offense."
The Patriots may be pros but they don't really run a pro-style offense anymore thanks to Brady. Unfortunately for Michigan's immediate future, the things that make Brady one of the greatest QBs of all time—pinpoint accuracy and I'm-from-the-future coverage reads—are the things Robinson has in shortest supply.
Long term I'm down with what seems to be Borges's preference for a pass-slanted West Coast offense, which is a system that works and works well when you've got the right guy at the helm. One positive about returning to something resembling the old offense is that college football's tilt towards spread systems has made pocket guys more available, and Michigan's reputation was enough to lure Ryan Mallett north despite that not being the best idea in the world for him personally.
On the candidate pool:
Several respected people, yourself included, have correctly bashed the concept of a "Michigan Man" being a criteria for coaching this job (especially since there are so few actual Michigan Men qualified for the job despite a 38-year era to cultivate it). But what about the feeling that the new coach must be a proven head coach at a decent school? Isn't that a bit elitist of our fan base and narrowing the field substantially?
Obviously having someone with a great track record in a BCS conference reduces the risk substantially, but we just spent 3-years learning that it doesn't eliminate the risk completely. Conversely:
- Florida has been the best program in the country the past few years and just hired an coordinator with no head coaching experience and no ties to the program.
- That same coordinator was being groomed to take over at Texas, another national power, despite only being their DC for two years.
- Nebraska is one of the all-time winningest programs and has returned to respectability (after a similar coaching debacle) by hiring a coordinator with no head coaching experience.
- Wisconsin has been a force in the conference since promoting a DC who had minimal experience.
- OSU has been one of the elite programs in the country after hiring a Div-1AA coach.
What makes us as a fan base require the candidates to be proven commodities at a big school? What about plucking an up-and-coming coordinator from somewhere who will work their tail off because it is their first job? Why aren't their names like that on all the list of candidates being thrown around?
When I put together a list of the six plausible-if-they-'d-come candidates a few days ago they were all D-I head coaches, but I was basing that off Dave Brandon's assertion in the press conference that they'd be looking for someone who's currently a college head coach. I'm not necessarily advocating it myself. In fact, with everyone on that list off the table or a real longshot to start, it's time to move on to hot coordinators at BCS schools.
You want a guy who is in the right age bracket with a track record of excellent performances on his side of the ball under a head coach that either specializes on the other side of the ball or is more of a CEO type: Pelini, Muschamp, and Bielema all fit that profile. So did Chip Kelly, Bob Stoops, and Mark Richt. That's probably four of the fifteen most prestigious programs in the country plus knocking-on-the-door Oregon and Wisconsin. Hot coordinators aren't just for the middle of the pack.
Who's out there right now?
- Gus Mahlzahn, OC, Auburn. Turned down Vandy job for payday at Auburn but there's only so much you can pay an OC and Vanderbilt's a deathtrap he was probably using for leverage more than anything else. Obvious con is that he's a real Southerner from the South and this will set off fainting spells across the land.
- Brent Venables, DC, Oklahoma. A slight violation of the principles above since Stoops is a defensive guy but he's getting up there and has probably removed himself from the day-to-day operations enough that Oklahoma's consistently excellent defense is largely Venables. He's young (40) but has seven years as a DC under his belt. Midwest connections are lacking.
- Paul Chryst, OC, Wisconsin. Interviewed for but either didn't get or didn't take the Texas OC job, but has made the Wisconsin offense terrifying. At 45 about ready to move up after almost a decade as a successful OC. Downside: hard to think of a more extreme mismatch with Michigan's offensive talent. Actually five years older than Bielema so it would take an implosion in Madison for the fact Wisconsin's his alma mater to be relevant.
- Tom Bradley, DC, Penn State. I mean why not at this point, right? Bradley's interviewing for jobs left and right and if he's not actually the new guy at Pitt he clearly seems willing to move on. He's been the defacto head coach at Penn State for years, has been the backbone of their consistently excellent defense, and could bring along a big chunk of staff with him. Caveat: he'd have to agree to an exorbitant you-can't-go-home-again buyout.
- Bud Foster, DC, Virginia Tech. The backbone of the good bit of Virginia Tech. People have tried to pry him out of Blacksburg forever and he hasn't gone but they've been offering DC jobs, not the head chair. A glance at his stats is ridiculous: the last five years VT has been sixth nationally or better in yardage defense. Is 51, so if he's ever going to be a head coach now's the time. Has interviewed at Pitt.
That's a list not far off the list of head coaches with one important difference: Michigan's likely to get one of the above. Again, if Brady Hoke was a former Penn State assistant would he be more attractive than those guys? I prefer someone with a 20-year timeframe who's proven he can assemble half of a conference championship-caliber team in the BCS to someone who, you know, hasn't.
Malzahn might bring scoffs about Midwest ties and Southern oh noes and whatnot but look at him:
This man is kind of a dork. In certain shots he looks a bit like Alton Brown. The latest bit of fluff on him from Pat Forde deploys the phrase "impregnable earnestness." He's also 45 and was the guy in charge of three wildly different, wildly successful offenses in five years as a coordinator. The fourth and fifth years were not quite as amazing but still saw teams rocking Chris freakin' Todd and freshman Mitch Mustain at quarterback finish 18th and 29th in total offense. Brandon mentioned offensive flexibility in the press conference. Mahlzahn offenses have been run-mad (2006 Arkansas and 2009-10 Auburn), pass-mad (2007 Tulsa) or both (2008 Tulsa).
There will be questions about recruiting and ties and whatnot but with Harbaugh gone we're now picking between questions, and I prefer "will this guy with an awesome offense that fits Denard like whoah be able to recruit and find a DC?" to "how long will a pro-style rebuild take and how much of my soul will die watching Denard play for someone else?"
I mean, who would Jeremy Foley hire?
Why not Mike Gundy? Other than the presser blowup and the whole leaving your alma mater thing, he'd seem like a good hire.
He's a man and he's now 43, so he's in a good spot as far as longevity but I didn't throw Gundy on the list because the blowup seemed like it would be offputting in the aftermath of Press Consumes Rodriguez Alive As Family Watches In Horror. Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens will match anything Michigan can put out there and there is the whole alma mater thing. I didn't think he was plausible since the situation was "Pat Fitzgerald except the school can pay him."
In the name of equal time, section in which Hoke is defended:
How you could advocate Patterson over Hoke is absolutely beyond me. Patterson has no ties whatsoever to the midwest. He has only recruited Texas, yes his schemes are fundamentally sound but as we saw with RR there is way more to football than that. I wholeheartedly disagree with you on that one. Give Hoke as much time as Patterson has had in the Mountain West and he will have as much success.
Seriously? How on earth are we supposed to expect that a guy who's had two years in eight above .500 is as good of a coach as a guy with 8 of 10 above .500, most of them featuring eleven wins—TCU has won 11 games six(!) times under Patterson. He's vastly more proven than Hoke, whose single comparable season ended with blowout losses against Buffalo and Tulsa. Patterson just beat Wisconsin. There is absolutely no comparison between their resumes.
"Ties to the midwest" are somewhat important, but a couple local assistants can help smooth over any minor recruiting bumps and shouldn't outweigh a record of 98-28 over ten years. Ten years! Averaging 9.8 wins per year! Flargabargaegabarb.
Despite my antipathy for him it's not like Hoke is a guaranteed failure. However, it's hard to see him not providing another awkward transition period and then being at the tail end of his career by the time he gets something up and going. The upside is low, and frankly I don't want to return to whatever philosophy Carr had at the end of his career when OSU zoomed by him and Michigan flailed about with no answers. Michigan is in this situation because the Carr coaching tree doesn't exist and his version of bringing in Bret Bielema (a wildly successful DC at Kansas State) or Chip Kelly was to gradually force out Terry Malone in favor of Mike DeBord. Look at what Mack Brown's doing at Texas and compare it to the way Carr went out.
I want nothing to do with anyone who was a part of that unless someone else has employed them in a similar capacity because it's clear who you know became more important than anything late. Michigan cannot go home again and would be making a mistake by trying.