First, I need to commend our young men that actually wear the uniforms. They come to work every day and play their hearts with pride and they sacrifice their body every single day. They don’t deserve their embattled, bewildered coach despite how likeable he is, and clown show that is the athletic department. These young men come to be a part of the tradition, the prestige and historic allure that the program has built over time. They come to because they are confident that the program and coaching staff has enough talent and resources to develop them enough to give them a shot. Unfortunately, everyone has lost confidence fast that the current staff can develop raw potential into polished NFL-caliber players. This is not at all an exhaustive list, but here are just a few notes on the underwhelming performance of players Hoke & staff have been charged with developing:
Denard Robinson – his best year was 2010, last year of rich rod. He lived off the zone read, screens and slants. Where he truly got dubbed ‘electrifying.’ Maybe its because defenses started keying in on him more, new system, etc. Borges ruined him, and it was Hoke’s fault for letting him.
Devin Gardner- 5* talent by all accounts coming out of HS. Has spent most of his career under Hoke and has not progressed at all, even regressed at times. Underutilized in his skill sets. A leader on this football team, a shame Hoke won’t make him a captain his senior year.
Everyone on the O-line - name me one O-lineman that has really “gotten it” over the last few years? I even submit that Lewan’s ceiling could have been higher. He made a mistake coming back, I thought that both before the season and after. Kalis, where art thou?
Jake Ryan – I won’t be too hard on Hoke because of the injury, but by many accounts of poster on this board and the UFRs, Jake is not exactly lighting it up at MLB. Coaching?
Countess – I guy we were all excited about when he was starting 5-6 game into his freshman year. Has been getting beat consistently all year. Again, injury caveat.
Frank Clark – love this guy. But ever since the hype train left the station in camp last year, I haven’t seen too many ‘monster games’.
And what will come of Bolden, Peppers, Kalis, Wormley, Taco, or any of our monster O-line classes? Who else?
We’ve had a rough few days but it’s not the real reason Hoke needs to go. Even if everything miraculously blows over, the results are in on a lot of these guys and if I am a recruit and his family and it comes down to who is going to get me the best shot at taking my game to the next level, I am going to that system, to that school, to that coach – which is exactly what we need to get back to. We’ve been there before, we’ll get back there again, but not with this guy. Even if Hoke miraculously beats MSU, let alone Rutgers, and keeps his job in 2014, will he ever be better than a 9-4 coach? Let alone win 12,13,14 or 15 games?
Get busy livin, or get busy dyin.
Preface: Normally, these write-ups are reserved for post-game analyses on the student experience. Given the events of the last few days, and the amount that the student experience has been front and center, I felt it necessary to speak to some of the points I’ve heard raised about everything going on. I apologize for the length.
The situation regarding the job status of Michigan’s current athletic director has obviously been at the forefront of any news regarding the university. While many, many fellow students I’ve spoken to are upset with the AD for a variety of reasons, and many are supportive of the calls for his resignation, some have voiced concern that the events have been perceived as directed at the players. Some have lamented the vociferous impugnation of the character and motives of the coaching staff. Still others have expressed a desire that students get upset about something that “actually matters”. While I cannot speak for any student on campus besides myself, what follows is my perspective on the matter, which is consistent with the conversations that I have had with other students as well.
- I fully support the players. As someone who hasn’t played any form of organized sport since playing baseball in middle school, I have absolutely no appreciation for the amount of work that these athletes put in. I hear stories; I read accounts. But there is no way that I will ever have a good grasp about the sacrifices that these players make day in and day out for the team. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the hell out of them for it. In all my frustrations I have never and will never direct that at a student. I may lament the youthful inexperience. I may lament that players are not always put in the best position to succeed. I may get upset with the occasional poor decision or missed tackle. But my support for these students doesn’t stop. Look at Gardner, a student who sacrificed tremendously (especially physically) for the team in his years so far. Not to mention working to get an M.S.W. in the process. Look at the walk-ons busting their ass to contribute despite not being on scholarship (or not having been on scholarship). Look at Shane Morris, who took a hit that would have any of us calling in from our desk jobs for a week, still wanting to give his all for the team. The list goes on and on but the point is that neither I nor any other student I’ve talked to wants any of this aimed at the players. We’ve tried to time our boos or our frustration such that it was clear in the intent—that we were booing a hit, a time management decision, a personnel decision. We were never booing one of our own players. When Shane Morris remained in the game and when he re-entered a few minutes later, boos erupted from the stadium. To Shane, those may have appeared to be aimed at him. To Shane and to any other players that may have felt as though such booing or frustration were aimed at them, I apologize. Unfortunately, in such a situation, myself and those around me were so stunned by what we were witnessing, so horrified by the prospect that a clearly concussed player was going to remain in the game, so worried for his very safety, that we felt we had to do something and in that moment, booing was nearly all we had. Students around me yelled “Shane it’s not worth it,” they pleaded with staff that couldn’t hear them to acknowledge that Shane was clearly injured, they tried to do something, anything to make someone notice what was going on. But all Shane could hear were the “boos”. And that is a shame. I wish he could have heard the reasoning, could have heard the students yelling for fear of his safety. I wish he could have seen in that moment that booing was one of the only ways left to convey our support of him and more importantly, his safety. I wish Shane and all the other injured players a speedy recovery, and I wish the players nothing but success. I at least am behind you, and I know many others are as well.
- I do not, for a second, believe that Brady Hoke intentionally endangered one of his players. Hoke may not be the best coach that Michigan has ever had. He may have a hard time getting wins on the road. He may not be great at developing talent given to him. He may be a lot of things. “Malicious” is not one of them. From everything I’ve seen from former players, from people that have met him, from everything I’ve read, Hoke is a great person, a great mentor, and a coach that loves all of his players and wants to get the best for them. And that “best” certainly does not include subjecting them to potentially life-threatening injury. I believe that Hoke did not know that Shane was as bad off as he was, was depending on staff to make him aware of the status changes of his players, and made a decision with the woefully limited information that he had available. That does not make him evil. At the same time, however, it does not absolve him of responsibility. As the coach he is responsible for what transpires on the sideline. He is responsible for making sure that there are personnel monitoring what they should be monitoring and is ultimately responsible for the safety and wellbeing of his players. I agree with Hoke when he said that attacking his character or his integrity was unwarranted; but I still think that he should not remain head coach. I honestly feel bad for him. He loves his players; he loves the school; he’s pushed the players to be good people as well as good players; he’s been put in a no-win situation by the AD and left to twist in the wind; but he has demonstrated that he is not up to the task of leading the team, especially in the moments where it is most necessary, and a player’s health was jeopardized as a result.
- Yes, this is about the concussion. No, it is not *only* about the concussion. Ire at Brandon and the athletic department has been building for years. If you ask any signatory on the petition why they signed it they’ll likely have a different story than the others. The common theme will be a tone-deaf department that has finally gone off the rails. Are we upset about the losses? Of course we are. Would we be signing a petition and protesting in front of the President’s house if we were 2-3, things looked bleak for the season, but the AD was not actively alienating students and apparently trying to massage the press release regarding leaving a concussed player in the game? I was here in 2008, and while, as a freshman, I wasn’t as clued in to the events on campus as I am now, I’m pretty confident the answer is “no”. Win or lose the students’ frustration with the AD has been building for years. The tinder was set, and mishandling a concussion, and then subsequently mishandling the mishandling of the concussion, was all the spark needed to set the whole thing ablaze.
- This does actually matter. Is it ultimately as important as situations in Ferguson? As the situation in the Middle East? As so many other big issues in the world today? No, it isn’t. The difference is immediacy. Can the students here protest and change anything in Ferguson? Probably not. Can they stop ISIS? No. But they damn well can raise enough hell that someone takes notice of problems here—problems that students can directly see and feel. Should students be getting upset about other things as well? Absolutely. But I’m not about to be dismissive of them standing up on the right side of an issue just because they aren’t standing up for something else.
To end, let me say that, as a student, I simply cannot stay away from any of the home games I’ve already purchased tickets to. Depending on scheduling I may even go to Evanston to see the team. I need to support the team. I need to support the players. Hell, with all that’s going on—and I still believe that change is necessary—the coaches could probably use a little support, too. What I will not do, however, is support what this department has become. I will not support Dave Brandon. I hope that that distinction is clear.
Fear. Fear intimidates. Fear paralyzes. Fear leads to loathing. If a poll was taken at this current moment, the results would show that the largest per capita loathing resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since the departure of Lloyd Carr (not when we left in utter disgust last Saturday) fear has reverberated throughout the marrow of every maize and blue faithful. From the mind boggling ineptitude of Rich Rod's defense to the ineptitude of Hoke and Brandon's handling of just about everything post Sugar Bowl, Michigan fans and alum have feared for the future thinking the next year, week, or day would be the bottom of the abyss. The bottom of the abyss has yet to present itself and one thing reigns true that I've learned throughout life; it can always get worse. So far it has.
After the humiliation of the Utah game, many maize and blue faithful had underlying joy that the LOLophers were next on the schedule. Not since a decade ago could the Gophers sniff the scent of relevancy from the Brown Jug. I must admit I was one of the many that expected Shane Morris to ride in on a Stallion next to Vladimir Putin and begin the trek towards a B1G championship starting with the eradication of varmints from the land of funny accents.
Oh how blind we were. The glaring problem was hidden by my fandom, or maybe intoxicants. As the game began I noticed no change in tempo, Hoke still coaching Amish style, and a QB that thought he was playing for San Diego State against the hated Trojans of San Jose State. So did Hoke. By halftime the fear was creeping into our veins with no Thorazine to combat it. Fans were booing, announcers on ABC were condoning it, and sense of a rift within the team became apparent.
As much as we praise the players for the work and effort they put in sacrificing their bodies, the sight of Gardner refusing to collaborate with Nuss and young Morris made me angry enough to kill baby seals and feed them to Kim Jung Un with a jewel encrusted spoon haunted by the souls of unborn princes in 18th century France. Although angry at Gardner, leadership comes from the top and my anger again found its way to targeting Hoke and Brandon. As the game went on and all hope was lost, I was enraged with Hoke and Brandon for letting such an athletically talented group of young men fall into a gaggle of squawking pile of hog shit. Development of the line has not improved. Development of a 5th year grad student QB has not come to fruition. Development of clock management and special teams remained stagnant. Then came the incident personally known as Morrisgate.
Shane Morris received a punishing series of hits and twists which left him vividly hurt and concussed. Any sane man with at least an amedulla oblongata would have yanked Morris' ass in a flash. Not Hoke. Hoke believes that MANBAW requires pain and humiliation to build character. Hoke claims he did not see the hit nor the wobbly after effects even though Nuss, 90,000 fans, ABC announcer Ed Cunningham, and Morris' parents were there to all witness it. To be fair, perhaps Hoke did not see it. I did not see him pointing. Perhaps he was shot with shock as he has been lately when down to inferior opponents. To make matters worse, ABC gave a game update where an Arkansas punter outperformed the whole Michigan offense. It was clear that Morris should have been pulled at the half due to performance and inexperience. If one thing is clear, it is Hoke at least has no fucking clue what is going on inside the rectangle of stadiums and at most disregards the social norms of intelligent football play. By admitting he did not see the hit, hear the shouts of get Morris off the field, and see him cradled by offensive linemen, one wonders what the fuck he was watching. Was it Dave Brandon waving at him from his luxury box? Was it Mary Sue Coleman doing a keg stand in row 68? Or was he daydreaming about chugging gravy from the Brown Jug before handing it over to Jerry Kill?
At least the game ended and the suffering was over. The Brown Jug was gone, Morris was off the field, and the rest of us began testing the limits of our livers and consciousness. This is when the fear in Ann Arbor turned to loathing. I've received at least three concussions in my life playing football in high school and lacrosse in college. It took all of 10-15 minutes to diagnose it. At Michigan, it apparently takes more than 48 hours. As Michigan was dragged through squid shit on the national media and gaining attention in the halls of Congress, all was quiet on the western front. Brandon who is no stranger to a microphone and Hoke who is just a complete imbecile, said nothing of Morris' obvious concussion and the decision to leave him in and send him back in. It was as if Hoke began pointing to the nation of Wolverine fans with his middle finger instead of his index finger. Morris was locked in a dark room of silence and Hoke continued on with his arrogant but maybe ignorant ranting of execution, hard practices, and fucking fairy dust ideas of a B1G championship. Finally Dave Brandon broke the silence, albeit at the most offensive hour he could have possibly chosen. He admitted what we already knew, gave a blanket apology, and retired to his room of selfies and pizza box forts.
I awoke on the Sunday post Minnesota after testing my liver's limit on Sobieski. I thought once the fog was gone and my body was revived by herbal medicines that I'd feel better. Then I remembered I'm a Michigan fan. We lost the Jug. Brandon still reigns supreme, and Hoke has his index fingers intact. I fear the future and loathe the present.
I wanted to write earlier but I did not know how to handle such loathing without punching a one way ticket to Bolivia. I also wanted to add constructive ideas to what to do next in order to force the bottom of the abyss. My plebian ideas come down to two different ponderings.
1. I disagree with Brian and do not wish to boycott any games. We are there for the players. Not for the hack jobs in the AD office and Schembechler Hall. If the stadium is filled, this will also give ample opportunity to raise the volume of Fire Brandon chants. Hoke may not notice it because that asshole doesn't know anything going on inside a football game, but the message will be sent. The longer and louder the chant, the better.
2. Allow Hoke to stay head coach. Changing coaches this year will not change anything and will only hurt recruiting more. You cannot strengthen an offensive line nor teach the mechanics necessary within that short amount of time. If Hoke discovers how to be a head coach in 11 weeks, good, if not, he has no legs to stand on and we can send that swine fucker to the depths of ohio where he came from. I highly doubt another player would be put in danger with such an outcry and verbal beating he took on Morris.
Rage on. Loathing is always better than fearing.
As the boards have been going through a list of potential candidates, there is a lot of angst over who was missed in the past so I thought I'd do a review of the 2 big hires last year - Charlie Strong & James Franklin to see how they'd compare to current candidates. In that spirit I will review them as if we had an opening after the 2013 season and do a similar format as other coaching candidate reviews. The other big hire of 2013 was Steve Sarkisian but he was sort of a USC or bust candidate and his Pac 12 record is not much different than say what a Dan Mullen is performing.
We also took a look back to Sumlin (in relation to Todd Graham) in this piece if interested. Sumlin and Strong actually have some parallels in that both only had 4 years of HC experience before a big name came calling and before their HC experience they were at a major university for a good amount of time. Sumlin was at A&M in 01-02, and then Oklahoma from 03-07. Strong was at Florida from 02-09.
(again this is written as if he has just completed his last year at Louisville, and we have an opening)
"2014" candidate.... Charlie Strong, age: 53
Summary: Charlie Strong is a highly touted coach at Louisville and should be a candidate for a few of the top jobs opening up this year. Strong has been a long time coordinator at Florida, first with Zook and then with Urban Meyer. For 3 years he was co-coordinator with our very own (former) DC Greg Mattison. As always when you are with a highly successful HC such as Meyer, Saban, et al the question is do the coordinators get too much credit. Luckily we have some data points of his experience on his own once he moved to HC at Louisville, that seem to show he is not just a product of Urban Meyer.... at least on the defensive end. Strong struggled his first 2 years at Louisville on the offensive side but landed heralded 4 star QB recruit Teddy Bridgewater (who ironically had a Florida offer), and the rest is history. Combining a star QB with Strong's steady defenses - and Louisville surged in Strong's last 2 years.
Recent (10 years) coaching background
- 2003-2004: DC at Florida
- 2005-2007: Co-DC at Florida with Greg Mattison
- 2008-2009: DC at Florida
- 2010-2013: HC at Louisville
Analysis: Very stable; originally was a DC for the Ron Zook Gators. When Meyer showed up Charlie Strong was the only assistant Meyer retained (sort of the Fred Jackson of Florida football). Meyer did bring Mattison and he and Strong co-coordinated for 3 years. After Mattison's departure, Strong continued for 2 years until Louisville came calling.
Before arriving at Florida, Strong was a DC for 3 years at South Carolina, and a DL coach at Notre Dame in the late 90s.
In terms of Big 10 footprint, we can say Louisville is close enough as you have a nice radius of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana close by... he also has 4 years at Notre Dame. Combined with a long term history in the South - to me this is a perfect candidate for the Michigan job as the Midwest talent pool shrinks. You still have a guy who can legitimetely speak to experience recruiting OH/PA/IL kids but also have a guy who knows the Southeast very well.
Caveat for results ----> (a) nothing exists in a vacuum (b) as a coordinator you can benefit or be penalized if your HC is good or bad or average (c) injuries or graduation can change your results dramatically in any 1 year. This is the type of stuff you'd research as an AD staff on every potential candidate.
I will break down his results at 2 time frames - DC at Florida, HC at Louisville
(1) DC at Florida
Strong was at Florida for 7 years thru 2 head coaches. He also was a co-coordinator for 3 years which I have placed an asterisk next to. Let's see how the total defense rankings stood for the Charlie Strong era, along with the year prior to Strong's arrival (2002).
|W/L||Tot Off||Tot Def|
Before Strong arrived at Florida they had a quite solid 25th rank defense under John Thompson (NTJT). Truth be told, Strong struggled in Zook's fnal 2 years as you'd never think a Florida team with access to that level of talent post Spurrier era would be anywhere near 50. But it was. You could blame it all on Zook but his prior DC did pretty well. So up to that point some question on Strong.
(please note just as I penalize all Big 10 defensive rankings due to their lack of pro level QBs and quite bad offense in general up in the Midwest, you have to allow the SEC defenses some leeway as there are some high powered offenses down there)
In came Urban Meyer and gosh darnit, as usually happens when Urban shows up, total offense and total defense rankings magically improve. The Strong and Mattison combo had 2 great top 10 years. The 3rd year was back to average but without looking at that year closely (major graduations of key seniors, injuries, etc) we will consider that a blip when we see what happened in 2008-2009 which was a return to excellent defenses. The Meyer/Strong combination was excellent for 4/5 years - give kudos.
This was enough for Louisville to come calling with an offer.
(2) HC at Louisville
Louisville came calling at this time and 49 year old Strong got his first chance to be a head coach. While technically a "Big 6" conference the Big East was dying off in tis period with West Virgnia being the "power" team. Other members were the Rutgers, Syracuse, Cincy, Louisville cabal. By Strong's last year in the conference the Big East had died and had been replaced with the American Athletic Conference. West Virginia was long gone and had been replaced by teams like SMU and Temple. So SOS was not super high bu a lot of coaches get their first chance in conferences like this, the Mountain West, and Conference USA.
Let's look at Strong's data along with Steve Kragthorpe led 2009 squad:
|W/L||Tot Off||Tot Def|
Strong came to a pretty bad team - it was 4-8, and bad at offense and middle of the pack in America (there are ~120 teams in FBS) in defense. Forgetting the record what you can see is excellence in defense all 4 years of Strong's tenure. This would be the open question for a coordinator who is attached to a very strong HC such as Meyer .. is he a product of Meyer or was he indeed talented on his own? (This is the type of question Narduzzi will have to answer once he spins out to his first HC job). In this case Strong answered the call.
The offense? Not a good start. So bad in fact, in year 2 of his regime Strong replaced his OC. 2012 saw a large improvement - but it sure helps when a talent of Teddy Bridgewater arrives to the scene. 2012 was ok and 2013 was quite good, especially for a pro style set. Which of course would be an easy transition (in theory) for the type of players UM has recruited in the Hoke era.
The overall record obviously improved as well in the last 2 years so let's look at some key results:
Analysis of wins and losses
The 2010 Cardinal was 3-4 in conf, and 7-6 overall. Losses were to Kentucky, Oregon State, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida, and West Virgina. West Virginia was a 9-4 team (ok loss) and Cincinnati was a 4-8 team (not a good loss). The other 4 teams were basically at Louisville's level. Key point - other than a 20-3 loss to Pittsburgh all losses were by 7 pts or less. That's the benefit of having a good defense. On the flip side a few baby seals were beat but Louisville did beat co-conference champion 8-5 UConn and and ok 8-5 Southern Miss in a bowl.
2011 was the year of very bad offense. That said Louisville did finish 5-2 in the conference which was good enough for co-championship with #17 West VA and #25 Cincy. Both those teams had better overall records though and by a wide margin. Again just as in 2010 all losses except 1 (25-16) were by a touchdown or less. So even as the offense flailed away, the defense kept Louisville in every game - something you like to see, a coach with an expertise on 1 side of the ball. CIncy was a 9 pt loss and West VA was a 3 pt win. So in year 2 despite struggling, Louisville did beat the highest ranked team it played - you want to see that early in a tenure IMO. The overall record may not be great but you are beating some of the top teams you play.
2012 Louisville again was co-champion of the league with Cincy, Rutgers, and Syracuse - all at 5-2. The only losses were a beatdown by Syracuse (19 pts) and a strange 3 OT loss to mediocre UConn. Cincy (a good 10-3 Butch Jones team) was beaten 34-31 in OT and 9-4 Rutgers was like wise beaten by 3. Out of conference Louisville beat a very bad Kentucky and a solid North Carolina squad.... along with 2 baby seals. The big win of the year was versus (at the time) #4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl: 33-23. I think that was the game to announce the arrival of Charlie Strong nationally.
2013 was a great year with a revved up Teddy Bridgewater combined with a high quality defense. The only loss was to a very good 12-1 Bortles led UCF, 38-35. Baby seals + Kentucky provided 4 wins. In conference, Cincy and Houston were really the only 2 decent teams outside of UCF. So one can question strength of schedule but it was a good year. A 9-4 Miami FL team was decimated in the bowl to the tune of 36-9.
There are not too many "perfect" candidates that come around. For UM there was probably Brian Kelly who parlayed a long successful run at GVSU to decent success at CMU to great success at Cincinnati. And probably Urban Meyer pre Florida when he declared UM, OSU, and ND his 3 dream jobs after romping at Bowling Green and Utah. Strong is not quite that perfect but right behind those type of guys. Worst case scenario he looks like he will bring a bad a$$ defense up here - we have the players to help! and he seems to have groomed a nice defensive guru in Vance Bedford. Yes THAT Vance Bedford! With our very young offense it may be a case like early at Louisville where we struggle until he gets his players in, but at least we have a 5th year SR QB poised to make a big jump and super weapon Funchess.
I like Charlie's hard nosed approach as well - since we can't get Jim Harbaugh this is the next best thing. I don't want the players to have a friend as their HC when they are here, I want them to have a friend after they graduate when they can understand what their HC was doing to and for them - see Bo, see Lloyd, see Harbaugh, see Saban. His age is great, his footprint is perfect for the shifts in US population, and even early at Louisville he won versus some superior opponents ala Harbaugh.
In summary - I don't see a better candidate out there to help fix the situation after Hoke. That said, I assume USC and Texas and PSU will all have interest. And Florida might fire Will Muschamp after that 4-8 disaster to go get Strong. So after firing 2 coaches after 3 years each we are at risk of turning into Notre Dame for 15 years. This next hire has to be the one or Brandon goes bye bye and we're in a friggin 20 year abyss. Brandon better bring the big boy bucks - we're talking Urban Meyer money circa $5M. Go get it done Dave!