coaching fiasco 2011
Oh, Lord. Kelvin Grady is using the twitter cryptically:
And Flight Aware caught that winged helmet Learjet touching down in Baton Rouge, so it's time to blow up again. Yes, Les Miles is in Dallas. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the winged helmet Learjet has nothing to do with the university. No, WE WILL NOT BE DISSUADED FROM EXPLODING.
So LSU boards are virtually overrun with speculation about Miles leaving Michigan, and Miles was less definitive in his post-Not Cotton Bowl press conference and there's a LA radio station* reporting that Miles will take the Michigan job "within 48 hours." Of course, I'm listening to it at the moment and the first caller is deliciously confrontational, forcing the guy to back off a little bit. "His sources" directly contradict random radio guy's sources, which given the track record of radio stations when it comes to breaking news is just about as worthwhile. They pegged their confidence at "8 or 9 out of ten."
Despite that radio call-in smackdown, there is an absolute ton of buzz about Miles to Michigan from the LSU side of things. I have a second-hand non-gospel report originating from LSU boosters saying he's gone that's two days old now and Tiger Droppings has been burning up with stuff. You take the word of message boards at your peril but as a guy who's wandered around them for years the widespread buzz has the air of something true.
On the other hand, if Miles is leaving he's apparently not only not told his players but bluntly lied to them:
Russell Shepard just told me Les Miles assured team he's coming back. Not going to Michigan. … So have many others.
He did cut that one guy with a form letter so maybe they haven't checked their mail recently.
I've made my opinion clear on this: Miles is old, has enthusiastically adopted the tao of SEC, and just saw his program take a more serious hit from the NCAA than Rodriguez did. Even if it works out in five years Michigan is going to be saddled with a coach exactly as old as Carr was when he retired and will either get to experience the extended senescence of a guy who's already wacky or experience yet another transition. I would prefer Brady Hoke.
I'm probably alone in this, I know.
UPDATE: More from LSU players:
"He said, 'They have rumors going around about (me) going to Michigan, but it's not true,'" Jefferson said. "'It's nonsense.' He said hasn't spoken to anybody, anything about Michigan. We're going to stick with that and get ready for next year." …
"He told us this is his football team and this is where he's going to be," Ridley said. "We respect our coach, and this is our coach for right now, and we're going to enjoy him as long as we can. Coach Miles is a Tiger. This is his group of guys, and he's proud of us. I think this is where he will be next year."
Seems fairly unambiguous there.
There's a press conference scheduled. It's over:
Jim Harbaugh agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach Friday, according to team and league sources.
The 49ers announced a news conference scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET, but did not indicate the reason.
Commence the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Turns out I have less than I thought I did after reviewing items, but the remainder…
Other people are on planes. So. It's that time again:
It's not a coaching search without people tracking a plane they think might have Dave Brandon in it and pointing out that Phoenix is somewhat close to Jim Harbaugh but not too close, right, so probably they're definitely meeting in Phoenix at an Applebee's wearing big Groucho Marx noses so no one recognizes them, right?
A point in the conspiracy theorists' favor: the plane is registered to Domino's Pizza and spent the new year hanging out in Jacksonville watching Michigan get crushed by Mississippi State. Since then it's done this.
- Wednesday, 5 PM: Headed out to Latrobe, PA.
- Wednesday, 10 PM: flew from Latrobe to Chicago.
- Yesterday, 1 PM: flew from Chicago to Phoenix
What does this mean? Eh… probably that someone other than David Brandon is using the plane for purposes related to the business of Dominos. But it's a coaching search so you get Flight Aware. These are the rules.
But wait! There's more! Another plane suspiciously not registered to anything related to the University of Michigan—"Unknown Owner"—has been flying places. A reader relates its progress:
- Willow Run flight left for Miami midday 1/4 when firing "reported" but supposedly not made (Mary Sue Coleman or other agent leaving)
- Miami flight scheduled to Van Nuys, CA on 1/5 and does go, but makes previously unscheduled stop in Lubbock (?). Timing is 2 hours post firing presser. Could be to finalize plan, get gas, time up the following #3, or who knows. Only on ground 47 minutes. Arrives in Van Nuys at 5:09 pacific (Ross in tow to make help make pitch?)
- Gulfstream flight from San Jose, CA lands in Van Nuys at 5:52 pacific (Harbaugh?)
- Flight from Miami to Van Nuys leaves for Palm Springs at 5:57 (easy switchover for "Harbaugh" w/ a private aircraft) stays night there.
- Miami flight departs for home (Boca airport) at 10:05 A.M on 1/6
- Next flight out of Palm Springs at 10:11 AM is private plane to Monterrey Peninsula airport--less public than San Jose airport and 60 miles south of Palo Alto--lands at 11:03 AM
- 49ers meet w/ Harbaugh today in undisclosed location - he flies somewhere else or drives somewhere between SF and airport to meet 49ers.
This is all bats and obviously means Mike Leach is the next coach. Stop in Lubbock, people. Mike Leach.
But wait! There's actual information possibly worth reading! So… as mentioned the sudden reversal in the Harbaugh story now lends some credence to the old acquaintances/teammates from yesterday who were predicting Harbaugh to Michigan in the face of the Twitter army. I'm still a little leery that the only thing out there other than this site that says M-to-Harbaugh isn't dead is John Elway's random opinions on the radio, but…
- Solid source says Harbaugh and Brandon will speak today. There is a separate, extremely fuzzy and probably untrue rumor that it's happening in Phoenix.
- Another says Ross spent most of his time with Harbaugh badgering him about taking the Michigan job, not making him richer than Stephen Ross, and that Michigan is "still in the game" but Andrew Luck's dastardly desire to get a degree isn't helping.
As of 1:30 PM on Friday 1/7, there seems to be a chance.
Hat. Despite my antipathy for Miles—it's a sign of the fanbase's vast desperation that people are trying to talk themselves into the guy—I'm duty-bound to report that a southern correspondent reports that LSU fans are rumbling about losing Miles shortly after the Tigers play A&M tonight. These are fuzzy indeed.
There is also a random thread on Tiger Droppings saying players think Miles is gone as well because in private he's been "much more melancholy," which what the hell does that mean?
I've repeatedly stated the reasons Miles makes no sense—repeat "he will be sixty in three years" if nothing else works for you—and there's an element of wishful thinking around the reports since losing Miles to Michigan would resolve the great idiot/genius debate surrounding him.
Hoke. Endorsed by Jason Whitlock.
Patterson: door not exactly closed. This seems like a guy who will at least listen:
"No, I haven't been contacted," Patterson told 105.3-The Fan. "I've got a great job here.
"TCU has a chance to be maybe the No. 2 or No. 1 team (next season), depending on what poll, in the nation. Maybe we are one of those people (elite programs) now. That's what I've been trying to build the program to get to. Michigan has a great tradition and is a great university. I'll cross that bridge when I get there."
Someone talk to him, yes? I mean, seriously. Someone contact him.
WHO WILL THE BRIDE BE?
WILL MICHIGAN BE THE SAD GUY IN THE HAT STANDING IN THE RAIN?
Fitzgerald: "No." Yesterday it seemed we'd established that Michigan was interested in Pat Fitzgerald but the inverse was still in question. It's no longer, according to everyone. Picking one at random:
A person familiar with the situation says Michigan expressed interest in him, but he will remain with the Wildcats. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity.
At least the first semi-official name in Great Coaching Search Debacle II makes more sense than offering Kirk Ferentz a paycut, but that means we have to move on to…
Not Bo Pelini. The Blade published a story indicating a "source" said Bo Pelini would be interested in the Michigan job if it was interested in him, please check y/n. From the outset this screamed "agent" and a man on the twitters from the AP says Pelini is vehemently denying everything:
Bo Pelini tells me in no uncertain terms that he has no interest in Michigan job.
If Twitter allowed longer posts that would have finished "and then he ate my head." After what went down with a nice but naive and sweary guy like Rich Rodriguez I have no idea what would happen if and when a guy whose veins must have the tensile strength of spider silk and had to formally apologize for his sideline behavior got the head job.
Bo Pelini's agent is Neal Cornrich, who is based in Cleveland, which is the only reason someone in Toledo would have something on Pelini. File under "agent wrangling" and move on.
OH MY GOD THERE'S A CHANCE. So Jim Harbaugh did not get adopted by Stephen Ross and made the dauphin of Versailles, nor do the people on the twitter who talk about Jim Harbaugh think the 49ers are a viable option anymore. The Dolphins are keeping Tony Sparano—who must be overjoyed at the vote of confidence—and here's Adam Schefter, with the Schefter bit* in bold:
RT @jcashen87: I think it is between Stanford and SF. ... I don't see 49ers as viable alternative at this time.
The other thing is something the other guy tweeted at Schefter, drawing that response. The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, have just dropped plans to interview him, which would essentially take the NFL off the table.
That leaves Stanford as a major obstacle. Stanford has some major attractions people thought they wouldn't a month ago: Andrew Luck and a kajillion dollars. From the Broncos story:
Including all bonuses and clauses, Harbaugh could earn more at Stanford than with the 49ers, who met with the coach Wednesday and have offered around $4.5 million to $5 million. Also, Harbaugh's quarterback, Andrew Luck, announced Thursday that he will not apply for entry into the 2011 NFL Draft.
Wait what? Stanford is going to pay Harbaugh more than an NFL team? I'll believe that when I see it and we won't see it since Stanford is private but they do have an epic ton of money. No one to fill their tiny stadium, but an epic ton of money.
But people, before we get excited we need completely off-the-wall speculation from someone not particularly close to the situation badly transcribed from radio and jammed into too-few characters. Let's not start su—
John Elway says he thinks Jim Harbaugh wants to stay at Stanford&Michigan may be back in the picture.Aprntly will NOT be Broncos next coach.
We may be back in the picture! Everyone start! Start right now! Like that episode of South Park with the pile!
Elway did say he thought Stanford would keep him, according to everyone else's bastardized twitter recaps, FWIW, none of which mention anything about Michigan being back in the picture. The NFL stuff evaporating lends a lot more credence to the Harbaugh chatter from yesterday, though, and I'd rather compete against just Stanford in a quien es mas macho contest than Stanford and half of the NFL.
More in a bit.
*[As always, the nature of Twitter—the most unusable nightmare software ever foisted upon the world—lends itself to mass confusion.]
Understand decades of on and off mediocrity because no one is that dead guy
"Understand Michigan." Desmond Howard was busy blowing this up on the teevee a coupe days ago but that doesn't stop everyone in the world from writing columns about how the new guy "must understand the Michigan way" or "came to Michigan three years ago as a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt in an athletic department of blue blazers." Or the university must "regain its identity."
All of this gives me hives. We have learned that someone who naively enters and expects everyone to be nice, as Rodriguez did, is in for a rough time. All things being equal, Michigan should go with a Tresselian non-speaker who regards the media as cancer and bores everyone to death.
This is different than chasing some sort of mystical "Michigan way" that needs to be recaptured. The guys with a connection to the Michigan way before that meant always losing to Ohio State with occasional fun Horrors thrown in are either Jim Harbaugh (not coming) or Les Miles (plain slimy*). The Michigan way is dead, literally and figuratively, and Michigan needs a new way. They seem poised to repeat the mistakes Alabama did as they fruitlessly tried to replace Bear Bryant, ("Mike Shula has a vague connection to Bear! That's the ticket!") except in this case the most OMG BO hire would be awesome but isn't interested.
If Harbaugh isn't coming, just go outside again instead of shoehorning a guy into a spot he doesn't deserve and putting him behind the eight ball from the start.
*[Protests about this will fall on deaf ears. LSU just got hit with much more important NCAA violations than Michigan did. Miles cut a kid who had been on campus for months, offering a "greyshirt" he had never discussed with him. And he 1) cut a quarterback with a form letter, 2) refused to speak to that quarterback about the form letter, and 3) baldly lied about the kid at SEC media days. He's a media firestorm waiting to happen and he might bring Gary Crowton and he might make my head explode by letting the clock run out in the fourth quarter and he's reaching the age when coaches decline precipitously. Hoke is vastly preferable.
LSU fans currently making snarky posts about how awesome he is will be coating him in batter and thrusting him into a deep fryer at the first sign of weakness.]
Meanwhile, exiting… Brock Mealer on Rodriguez:
"He's just always been (portrayed) as a villain, and he's nothing like that," Mealer said. "He's one of the greatest guys I have ever met in my life, and I wish people would just acknowledge that. As little as I know about football, I know his character is much different than people played it out to be."
Someone punch Jeff DeFran in the throat, thanks. It didn't work out and there's plenty of blame to go around but Rodriguez was probably damaged more by Michigan than vice-versa. Is there any coach in recent history who's been fired and still has fans hoping he succeeds wherever he goes next as the media gleefully jumps up and down on his grave? Multiple people who were at the Brandon presser described the mood as "celebratory," or words to that effect.
As of yesterday, no Patterson contact. At least not according to Dennis Dodd:
Gary Patterson had not been contacted by Michigan for its opening as of Wednesday night according to a source close to the TCU coach.
Patterson, fresh off a 13-0 season and Rose Bowl win, is thought to be a candidate for the job left open after the firing of Rich Rodriguez by AD Dave Brandon. Brandon said earlier Wednesday he expects to move quickly to fill the vacancy but arguably the hottest coach in the country had not gotten a call 12 hours after Rodriguez had been let go.
Suboptimal. Or lies, I guess.
Speaking of oversigning castoffs. Michigan doesn't have a coach but the Blade is reporting that a Mike Marrow wants to transfer in. Marrow was a three-star fullback who redshirted at Alabama and then moved closer to home to "deal with the deaths of three grandparents" but could not get eligible at Eastern Michigan and now is looking for a new home. Marrow's two years removed from playing time and has a skillset duplicated by Stephen Hopkins on a team with plenty of RB depth and desperate need on defense—the chance he actually ends up at Michigan will depend on how shattered this recruiting class is on Signing Day. So welcome Mike Marrow, everybody.
Hoke in, Denard out? Hoke on the Oregon offense, which I will remind you is the OREGON OFFENSE and is playing essentially the Oregon offense in the national championship game:
When asked recently about the influence of Oregon’s offense, Hoke subtly revealed his disdain for the tactical shift Michigan experienced under Rodriguez. He is convinced that modern spread option offenses can be counterproductive to the core values of smashmouth football and are, therefore, to be avoided.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time -- when you’re playing basketball on grass -- you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football,” Hoke said. “I don’t think you’re prepared.
“I think there’s a toughness level (required in college football). I still believe you win with defense. That’s been beaten into my head a long time, but I really believe that. The toughness of your team has to be the offensive front and your defensive front.”
(Oddly, that article is by Tim Sullivan. Not that Tim Sullivan.)
If you're eager to get Michigan started on a painful transition away from the offense they just painfully transitioned to, Hoke's your man. If he's hired we'll get some soundbites about flexibility but they'll be about as convincing as Tommy Tuberville's strained "hhhhyyyarrrrr" upon his hiring at Texas Tech. If there are coaches out there comfortable with the spread offense that's proven itself kind of good across college football they'd be preferable to a guy who professes disdain for "basketball on grass" and doesn't have the track record to suggest he's anything more than average at the other stuff.
And he's not even right. Three of the top four yardage defenses in the country play opposite offense that are pretty much basketball on grass: TCU, Boise State, and West Virginia. It's a bit different if you look at FEI but something like half of the top ten plays opposite a full-on spread: WVU, Missouri, Virginia Tech and Auburn are spreads and Clemson, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Nebraska use a fair number of spread concepts.
I'm not sure you were paying attention. Who's surprised Rodriguez is fired? No one except his players:
"Definitely I'm surprised," said Gordon. "I have a lot of love for Coach Rod. He's the guy who brought me here. He's a guy I definitely respected and I loved him as a coach."When asked what his future plans are, Gordon replied, "I'm here. I came to school for Michigan."Said Gordon: "Yes it is surprising, but it is what it is. You've just got to move on."
This explains something about or secondary.
The batphone rings. ALERT THE MEDIA
I followed Mr. Robinson for one day, which started at 7 a.m. with treatment for his swollen knee, followed by weightlifting, classes, an interview with ESPN Radio, more treatment, meetings, practice, a third round of treatment, dinner and study table. When he walked out of the academic center at 10 p.m., two adults who had been waiting all night for him in the parking lot approached him to sign a dozen glossy photos. I went home exhausted—and I hadn't done anything more than take notes.
FETCH THE DEEP FRYER
(Also that's a John U Bacon story on what went on inside the program that will become an undoubtedly fascinating book.)
Etc.: Penn State denies Bolden a release because Paterno doesn't have enough quarterbacks without him. This will end well. How Gary Patterson's undersized defense shut down Wisconsin. Yes please. Ever notice how it's always Carr's old players talking crap about Rodriguez publicly as the Bo guys remain mum? Nevermind! Of course Lynn Henning thinks Hoke is a great idea. John Niyo says let's wait for a new coach announcement before we hand Brandon over to LSU fans to be battered and fried.
This is what I currently believe is going on, tenuously. Extreme caveat: this is nuts.
Seriously, people, the Jim Harbaugh boat has sailed. The latest awesome conspiracy theory is that Miami is going to bid Harbaugh up into the stratosphere so the 49ers hire someone else. Then Stephen Ross is going to say "whoops I apparently still have this Sparano guy around" and cackle his way to Ann Arbor with a contrite Harbaugh in tow. This is truly an awesome conspiracy theory. It's not happening:
Ross had dialogue with University of Michigan officials to ensure that he would not be competing for Harbaugh's services with his alma mater, sources said. Ross, who is one of Michigan's largest benefactors, was assured by a Michigan official that Harbaugh was not reciprocating interest in the college's now-vacant head coaching position.
"But that's what they want you to think!" Yes. Yes, that. Apparently we don't have to rename the school of business The Jerk Store, so we've got that going for us. That and nothing else.
…Unless it hasn't (but it probably has). I do have some stuff in the inbox second-hand from Harbaugh friends that says he's "likely to be coach by the end of the week" and that in mid-December he was asking people close to him in Ann Arbor about schools and whatnot. Given everything public—most prominently Dave Brandon all but screaming "JIM HARBAUGH WILL NOT BE COACHING MICHIGAN NEXT YEAR" during the press conference—I think the former is inaccurate but it does cite something I've heard from a reliable source: that the big issue was always going to be the amount of Harbaugh's buyout for the NFL in case he wanted to pull a Spurrier at some point. So there's at least some credence there.
The latter would indicate that Harbaugh did indeed change course recently, thus spurring the somewhat bitter/smarmy "NFL challenge" routine from Brandon yesterday and potentially explaining why we're at sea three weeks from Signing Day. An established source says "something terrible happened in the last two days"—those being Monday and Tuesday—that caused Rodriguez to go from 100% gone to possibly back if he can assure Brandon things are going in the right direction back to gone. Terrible thing seems likely to be Harbaugh backing out, no?
FWIW, that last source is still holding out hope that Brandon and Harbaugh can work something out. Dim hope, but hope.
Les Miles? Do I need to say this about a grass-eating nutcase pushing 60 who can't count to 85? In case I do: Les Miles should not be happening.
Yes, I have a crazy fourth-hand rumor that one of the assistant's wives says "Hoke and Miles" are the current the focus, but even the emailer says he's not sure why on earth a just-fired-assistant's wife would know that. Welcome to a coaching search. I also have a second-hand source saying someone you've heard of lists him as one of three main candidates along with Hoke and…
One mid-major P may be in play. An emailer from outside the Michigan fanbase who I've known a while is connected to one of those firms that conducts coaching searches and relates that Boise State's Chris Petersen "doesn't even return exploratory phone calls"—which is probably why he's never rumored to be a candidate anywhere outside of blogger lists. You can write him off if you haven't already.
On the other hand, there is a "sense that the TCU boys were finally ready to move on," though this was before they got the Big East bid. There is obviously a vast chasm between this and Michigan actually talking to Patterson and company, but the aforementioned person you've heard of says Patterson is the third name on the list.
Fitzgerald buzz continues to seem real. If you were listening to WTKA this morning you heard Craig Ross cite a couple of sources within the department saying Michigan was going to look at Fitzgerald, which makes something like a half-dozen independent corroborations that Michigan is interested. This is not on par with the Hoke stuff but it's obvious people would be pushing Hoke because of their personal relationship with him even if San Diego State had gone 0-12 this year. Fitzgerald does not have any in-house friends.
As to the question hanging over any discussion of Fitzgerald—will he leave Northwestern?—a second-hand source says Northwestern has a wealthy alum willing to fork over serious cash to keep him. However, while in the past personal conversations with Fitzgerald led the source to believe he would "never" leave Northwestern, recently that stance has softened and "he can't say that anymore." Still… that's going to be a tough guy to pull. Money won't be the reason Fitz leaves if he does.
There's a decent chance Scot Loeffler returns. Loeffler may or may not be out of a job in the aftermath of Florida's coaching search. Even if he's still the QB coach in Gainesville if the new coach wants him he will come back to Ann Arbor. This would make the recruitment of FL QB Jeff Driskel (who is kind of good) interesting. Since Loeffler is one of two Carr assistants to actually land comparable jobs at other schools (Eric Campbell is the WR coach at Iowa) and he's still carrying around that ability to recruit awesome quarterbacks anyone with pro-style inclinations should definitely hire him.
Mike Barwis may be staying long-term. Unlike everyone else who got the broom, Mike Barwis was kept on as S&C coach, "really likes Michigan," and may retain that job if someone amenable to keeping him is hired. Hoke might keep him; Miles—who seems incredibly implausible—would not.
Keeping Barwis would go a long way towards minimizing transfers, FWIW.
Dave Brandon did a good job with the players yesterday. Reports from the meeting with the players are reassuring after what was a very wobbly press conference. One anonymous player: "It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders." It sounded like there were plans bigger than "one of the usual suspects," but if it was a usual suspect it would be because he's earned the job.