to play football, not to play trumpet
“Today I informed Brady Hoke that he will not be returning as our football coach next year. I had mentioned to all of you a couple of weeks ago that we would be evaluating his status at the end of the season and that's what today's announcement is about, so my primary intent today is to do this with deep respect for Brady, his family, the coaches, and all of those associated with our football program, and it is because of their contributions to the University of Michigan.
“This was not an easy decision. You see, I believe the longevity of our best football coaches are tied to the intersection of the performance or measure of wins and losses with the test and expression of values that underscore their program and everywhere I go there is zero question about Brady's values, and I mentioned this trait to you two weeks ago. Brady’s peers, both active and retired coaches, really respect him and his players love playing for him. He has done a great job of molding these young men and focusing them on success in the classroom and in the community. He's really earned the respect of all as being a value-centered coach. We need more men like him in sport today.
“So, you might ask how do you reconcile the tension between results and values? Well, one could also make the argument that we have a very young team and we’re about to pivot next year into being an extraordinary team. It has to do with making sure then that Brady has received adequate time to exhibit that arc of improvement that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady had enough time to produce results and they're just not there today, therefore I believe it's time to make this transition. I don't plan on sharing more of Brady's performance review or assessment frankly because I believe the dignity of this conversation is for him only. My next focus is to make sure that this exit for Brady is handled in a first-class way with heightened consideration for not only Brady himself but his staff and his family. Brady’s a hero. He's been an employee at our university for over 12 years.
“So what's next? Well, I plan on starting the search for his replacement immediately. We want to build on what's been established by Brady. My message to the student-athletes was that we’ll work to put them in the best position to win and reinforce that their daily effort is contributing toward being champions. The criteria for our future coach is defined in winning with the shared values of the University of Michigan. I ask for your patience with this search process. It's not fair for me to comment on potential candidates today or the institutions or organizations they currently may be employed by. I can't compromise the integrity of our search process by commenting prematurely until we have that new coach ready to go.
“I believe that the head coach of Michigan football is one of the finest jobs in American sports today and we will have great options. The University of Michigan remains one of the top programs in the country. Now, it's true that the pendulum has swung into a negative. However, one truth in physics is that as a pendulum is in the negative state it's always building energy for its eventual move back to the positive arc. My objective is to find the right coach for the University of Michigan; an individual who will recruit the best student-athletes and puts them in a position to win in the classroom, on the field, and in the community. This is what makes Michigan world-class and we're going to support that with great enthusiasm. Now, in the interim I've asked Mike DeBord, who's in the athletic department, to oversee the day-to-day aspects of the football program as a sport administrator until a new head coach is hired. Mike will not be a candidate for that job. So thank you. I'll be happy to take a few questions right now.”
I know that you don't want to divulge specifics of your meeting, but can you at least characterize for us the tenor of the meeting with Brady?
“Yeah, I think that first of all I can’t emphasize [enough] what an authentic and real person, so what you see is what you get so when you have a discussion like this it's a very straightforward and deliberate discussion. We took a lot of time together. I was not going to make this a discussion just about wins and losses, and so I wanted him to understand what I really appreciated about him and where I had said that he mastered certain parts of coaching. He needs to leave understanding that others should learn from him in some areas and of course, then, this is the part I’m not going to get into is what were the areas that we didn’t see the mastery in and I candidly said I wished I’d had more time with him. I would have liked to have had a shot at helping him with that.”
[After THE JUMP: the obliteration of the ‘Michigan Man’ meme]
11/30/2014 – Michigan 28, OSU 42 – 5-7, 3-5 Big Ten
In one of last year's season preview posts I wondered if Michigan was going to end up on the wrong side of the war after Hoke's hire. I got piles of crap for this take from people waving Stanford anecdotes around. I think a lot of people read "pro style can't work" when what I'm saying is "it's clearly less likely to." I'm not going to turn my nose up at Jim Harbaugh no matter what he wants to run. Wing-T? Yes, sir.
Anyway: the crux of that argument was that if you think running a spread makes your defense soft when you have to play Wisconsin, the corollary to that is that if you're not preparing for spread elements daily you will struggle when you go up against them. For the most part this held true during the Hoke era (if I say "tempo" you will dive under a couch), and never more so than against OSU.
Statistically, Michigan has had a defense somewhere between good and terrific under Greg Mattison. Ohio State looks at that and says naw:
- 2011: 34 points, 376 yards, about two feet from another 70 yards and game-winning points.
- 2012: 26 points, 396 yards. A decent performance, year one of Meyer.
- 2013: 42 points, 526 yards. An obliteration.
- 2014: 42 points, 416 yards. Seven of those points are via a defensive TD.
These were all slow games featuring a lot of running and a lot of Michigan dawdling. This year's version of The Game had just nine OSU possessions, which is the practical minimum. Anything played at a Pac 12 pace would have been ugly.
Michigan had a vaguely acceptable performance once in four years, and two of those games featured freshman OSU quarterbacks who weren't even supposed to be the starter preseason. Hell, this game featured an eighty yard drive led by the third string QB.
The whole "Big Boy Football" thing is all the more galling since OSU has consistently ground Michigan into paste without bothering to throw the ball much. OSU QBs have thrown an average of 20.5 passes against Michigan in the Hoke era, and I'd guess about a half of those were screens and easy stuff in the flat. With most of the rest downfield bombs, OSU's offense avoids turnovers while simultaneously being lethally efficient. If the spread does get your QBs hurt more often—something that's been hard to confirm with numbers—that's not something that has affected Ohio State. Cardale Jones came in and sealed the game.
OSU is running twice as much as they're passing against Michigan and averaging 6.1 yards a carry. These are Rodriguez-at-WVU type stats, the kind that blew me away when I was looking at his track record after his hire.
The funny thing about the Danielsons of the world is that they're old school RUN THE DANG BALL types, but they manage to sidestep the fact that forcing the defense to account for a running quarterback is the best way to run the ball. I can think of no better way to make this point than a chart from back in 2008 that compared Michigan's YPC in year one of Rodriguez to the previous seven years of Lloyd Carr:
Threet and Sheridan and no linemen and they still ended up above average. Michigan would easily top 2006 from 2009 to 2012. Lloyd Carr could talk about running the ball. His teams couldn't do it, at least not well.
I want to run the ball. I want to run an offense that doesn't ask the QB to make complicated reads, but rather asks him to make a decision about one guy. Hoke was a mistake for a thousand reasons, but prime amongst them was his "we're gonna run power" crap after he'd never been able to do that anywhere else.
Michigan spent the 2011 game running the inverted veer wrong and they still put up 40; that this had no impact on his approach speaks volumes about Hoke's lack of quality as a coach. Bo made the shift to a modern passing offense when he had to. Saban is grudgingly moving in that direction: I was watching the Iron Bowl on Saturday and Herbstreit made multiple references to how Alabama was now a no-huddle team. They found themselves down multiple scores in the second half and ripped off five straight TDs in short order.
The game moves; move with it or die. Michigan chose hidebound traditionalism on the field and whiz-bang idiot modernism in the pageantry. The former is a natural reaction after you get burned. The latter is a natural consequence of hiring a pizza marketer.
But can we learn? I would like to learn. Rich Rodriguez blew it here, and he learned. He dumped his defensive staff, got Jeff Casteel back, and is headed to the Pac-12 championship game with a freshman QB after having beaten Oregon in back-to-back years. This is our opportunity to do something right this time.
Unfortunately, Michigan's current coaching staff is going on recruiting visits today when they should be taking a day with a bottle of scotch before polishing up the old resume. I have no idea what they're supposed to say on these visits.
RECRUIT: Aren't you guys getting fired?
COACH: Almost certainly.
RECRUIT: So why are you here?
COACH: I'm like a corpse still twitching. Held in this hellish no-place, I pine for my soul's release and reincarnation as the offensive coordinator at a D-II school.
COACH: You said it.
Florida knows what's going on; Tulsa knows what's going on; Illinois knows what's going on. Michigan doesn't. Comparisons to Nebraska are invalid. Michigan's not 9-3, and no one is going to be blindsided by Hoke getting axed.
Poke the Russia Today outlet in the Michigan e-sphere and you'll hear that it's about Doing Right By The Staff and that it's about Keeping The Pressure Off Harbaugh; neither of these explanations make any sense. That coach doesn't want to be on that visit. He wants to be looking for another job. Harbaugh speculation does not start with, or even focus on, Michigan in NFL circles.
I can't see a reason to drag it out, but here we are, dragging it out. The guy in charge may be competent but he has no track record. We're stuck here hoping this guy is actually qualified and that things turn out for the best. Maybe it will. Forgive me if I have a tendency to look on everything this department does as a mistake.
That's' going to be a tough habit to break, but here's a suggestion: act like a collection of people instead of a committee for once and acknowledge that there's no good way for this to go down. The first major Brandon warning sign was when he infamously took two days of meetings to fire Rich Rodriguez when that was a fait accompli.
[After THE JUMP: offensive line ups and downs, clock lol, etc.]
"This week, and we talked about it earlier on Monday, is always a different week. We had two very good sessions. You always start early it seems like for this game, but in preparation we were outside yesterday. Had a really good practice. Team’s working hard with the preparation. We got a lot that we've got to correct from a week ago but there's a lot to build off from a week ago also. The big thing is you always, listening to coach Schembechler and coach Moeller and coach Carr throughout the years, you want to play your best at the end of November. That's what we're trying to do, have our best performance on Saturday. Great rivalry. We've talked about it and it’s special. Unless you've coached in it and played in it I think sometimes it's hard to explain, but the intensity in this game is like no other you'll play."
Do you bring in special speakers? You mentioned Mo and those guys. Do you bring those guys in? I know Mo’s around here a lot. Does he come in and talk?
"At times you do. We have in the past. It hasn't been every year but yeah, we've had people come in. We do a lot of that in August during camp because you've got those days and you’ve got each other so you refer back to some of those if you're not bringing somebody in."
Bo was famous for every practice they did something for Ohio State. Is that how you handle that?
"Not every practice. We talk about it. It's visually up here in this building all the time [the countdown clock], and we talk about it weekly if not daily about the rivalry and the extent of it."
But you don't do something specific and practice for Ohio State every week?
"Not every week."
For a player like Mason Cole or Bryan Mone, what is this first experience like? How do you bring them into the rivalry and what is it like for them to go into it?
"I think a couple things. Number one, you bring up those two true freshmen. Playing at South Bend this year and then at Michigan State and now going to Columbus, which we've never done that, and we've never done that with those two teams [on the road] in the same year so playing in those venues, and Michigan State playing a night game on national television – er, Notre Dame, I think that's part of it. I think the passion in Spartan Stadium is hopefully something they can refer to but as I said earlier this is even a louder environment. It'll be a test but they've been playing football a long time and that's, at the end of the day, what it is is playing football."
[After THE JUMP: So about last year…]
Greg, two-parter. First, as a defensive coordinator, preparing for JT Barrett. Secondly, as a defensive coordinator, looking at what Joey Bosa’s able to do and affect offenses.
“Barrett is an outstanding quarterback. He’s very, very talented. He can throw the football. He can run it. He runs that offense very, very well. We’ve played against some great quarterbacks so our guys will be ready and we know what we have to do and we’re looking forward to the challenge of doing it.”
Is he your biggest challenge?
“I always look at the next challenge as being the biggest challenge so this is the next one so yes, it is the biggest challenge. It’s the next one, whoever you’re playing next. That’s the way we look at it and we’re excited about it.
“Joey Bosa, I recruited him. I’ve seen him as a youngster. He’s an outstanding football player. He’s like some of our guys. He’s a good football player. He’s young. He does some really good things, and it’s fun to watch him.”
What’s the single best game that sticks out in your mind in the series that you’ve been involved with, and what do you like about the challenge of going into that stadium and playing?
“I’m very, very fortunate to have been in this rivalry a number of times, and there are a couple of them. Every time we play is great. I was very fortunate the five years prior that I think our record was 3-1-1, and I remember going down there in ‘96, I believe, and they were second in the country and we beat them 13-9 and I remember that very well. I also was part of another school that had a pretty good game against them, too, at one time. I remember that one too and I still felt pretty good about that one too. Going down there’s special. To me it’s the greatest rivalry in college football. There’s nothing better. It’s two great programs and we are very, very excited to be part of it and we are excited to take our guys down there and see if we take the next step, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Brennen Beyer seems to step up a little more each week, and you’ve had him the whole way through. Talk about how you’ve seen him develop and what he’s doing for you this year.
“Brennen Beyer’s a Michigan football player. I mean, Brennen Beyer, I said to him before the game, and I couldn’t- I told him, I said, ‘I will not look at some of you guys because if I look at you I’ll fall apart seeing as how we all came together.’ I remember Brennen Beyer as skinny little guy and we came walking in the office and he was guy that the last staff recruited and I coached him for a number of years, and just to see the man that he’s become. He’s always been a man, but he’s what you hope every young man that goes to college becomes. He’s an outstanding football player. He gives it everything he has. He’s played through injury. He’s played through ups and downs, and he comes out every day and does his best in the classroom, off the field, everything. He’s just why Michigan is Michigan, and he’s just why it’s great to have an opportunity to coach him.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison’s Monologue]
News bullets and other items:
Derrick Green won’t be far enough along in his recovery from a broken collarbone to play against Ohio State
Hoke said that he has no idea whether a win over OSU would help him keep his job
He said he doesn’t worry about his job, because that would be a distraction and would detract from what he’s trying to do for his players
Someone asked Hoke how he would make the case to Jim Hackett that he should keep his job and he declined to make said case, saying that a press conference wasn’t the venue for that
The Game, mutual respect, rivalry, atmosphere, preparation, etc.
"Thanks for coming. This is one of those weeks where there's a lot of excitement and obviously with this rivalry, which I believe is the greatest one in sport and that obviously would make it the greatest one in college football, and so it's fun and it's fun to prepare. It's a game where the intensity level between both teams is always at its highest. I think we all want to play our best, and that's the goal, to play your best game that last Saturday in November. Very balanced team we're going to play when you look at what they do from [an] offense, defense, special-teams standpoint. There's a great deal of pride when you play in this game and coaching this game that's special, and you talk to the guys who've played in it and they can tell you how special it is.
"We've got to improve. We've got to improve every week, and that's one of the goals we've always had. At times we're making strides and at times we're not as good executing as we'd like to be, but this is a game that is like no other and we're excited about it."
So many people thought that Ohio State was going to be in big trouble when Braxton Miller went down. Can you talk about what their quarterback is done just filling in?
"Yeah, I think JT [Barrett], I think you look at the progression from the first start to going through the season and I think he's done a great job in how they manage and what he wants and has to do offensively. He's athletic obviously. I think the way he's thrown the ball, the precision on that – I know last week was one of those games where the way it started wasn't as good. I think he's overcome a lot when those things have happened and I think he's been a guy who's done a great job for them."
Given the nature of this rivalry, given the perceived disparity between these two teams, in what ways do you prepare differently for this weekend differently than past weeks if at all?
"I think it's always a little bit different preparation, number one, because of the game itself and being The Game that you both on both sides have a lot of passion for and those kind of things. In rivalry games I think the preparation that you put in, how hard you're going to play is a big part in what happens in it."
From your perspective having lived in Ohio, having coached in Ohio, even having coached across the nation what makes the Michigan – Ohio State rivalry unique compared to other national rivalries?
"Yeah, I think the intensity and the masses themselves. Buckeye graduates and Michigan graduates, I think that's huge is how they feel. The size of the stadiums they both have, the atmosphere in the stadiums, and the passion in the stadiums."
There's obviously some speculation about your own future. How do you handle that personally and professionally, especially this week when there seems to be more speculation?
"Well, you know, they can speculate and do all that. I honestly – if we get distracted, if I get distracted with what we're doing then that's not fair to those 115 kids, so from that piece alone, and I think I've said it, I've never been worried about a job. I worry about the job we do for those kids."
[After THE JUMP: Basically “can you explain why everything is so terrible?”]