Mike Lantry, 1972
the dude attempts to abide
ON THIS DAY MY HAIR IS VERY APROPOS
So this isn't two thousand words of swearing as promised. That requires some level of verve to pull off and I'm out of that. I'm depressed and waiting for the other shoe to drop and far too sober. A few things:
"This is not Brady Hoke's fault." Repeat 1000x. This is not Brady Hoke's fault. He seems like a nice enough dude. It seems unlikely he actively participated in the submarining of Rich Rodriguez. Unlike everyone else ever associated with the Michigan program with even the most thinly plausible of resumes, he actually wants to be the head coach here. So that's nice.
This is a stupid hire. It will always be as stupid hire and David Brandon just led the worst coaching search in the history of Michigan football. He managed to chase off half of an already iffy recruiting class, hired a Plan C coach on January 11th, probably ensured the transfer of the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and restricted his "national search" to people who'd spent at least five years in Ann Arbor. Michigan just gave themselves a year of USC-level scholarship reduction voluntarily.
What are the chances that the best available coach is a 52-year-old with a 47-50 career record and no experience as a coordinator? Why weren't a half-dozen coordinators with time and results on their side given the opportunity to interview? Why did Brandon waste time with Les Miles, a guy on the downside who may not have even gotten a serious offer? After learning a hard lesson about program continuity with the last hire why did Michigan hire a guy who professes to hate the spread 'n' shred a day after two spread teams played for the national title?
I'd rather have Rich Rodriguez entering year four with a new defensive staff than this, a total capitulation. Does anyone remember Tressel's record against Lloyd Carr? 5-1. Change was necessary. It didn't work, but that doesn't mean you go back to the stuff that required change.
Michigan should still be better next year. It depends on what goes on with the offense. Calvin Magee has already been hired at Pitt, so don't get your hopes up about tempting Denard by keeping the offensive staff that matters (QB coach and OC) unchanged.* The defense should be much better simply by virtue of returning approximately ten starters if you throw in Troy Woolfolk and not dragging the devilishly handsome corpse of Greg Robinson around. At the very least Hoke should have a quarterback, even if it's redshirt freshman Devin Gardner.
A completely average coach should be able to take 20 returning starters on a 7-6 team that sees the schedule ease considerably and get to 9-3. That's good, because that's probably what we hired. If Denard's out the door all bets are off except "will Brian cut down or across?"
*[Tony Gibson immediately found work at Pitt, too, which is amazing: the most maligned position coach on RR's staff is unemployed for ten days while most of Carr's coordinators fled to the NFL to be an assistant (to the) position coach. The exceptions are Stan Parrish, who is on a quest to rack up the worst winning percentage as a head coach in CFB history, Greg Mattison, who left voluntarily for an equivalent job at Notre Dame and shouldn't count as a pro, and Ron English, who got hired by Kragthorpe.]
Prepare for the media 180. This hypothetical 9-3 will cause the media to fall all over themselves declaring Brady Hoke the polar opposite of Rich Rodriguez (lazy media meme #1 is already underway) and whipsaw Michigan back to the positive side of the media ledger, whereupon that period where Michigan State could literally have 20% of their football team descend upon innocent bystanders in back to back years while Michigan gets painted as the Program Out Of Control will end with authoritah. Sportswriters—even the good ones—love nothing better than holding themselves above the outraged plebes, arguing that whatever they think is foolish.
We're unhappy, so they'll defend Brady Hoke to their dying single-sentence paragraph. This would have been a fascinating dynamic to watch if Miles was the guy. Seeing Rosenberg paper over Miles's oversigning hijinks would have been hilarious/infuriating. Since it's Hoke it will just be generic "why can't you be happy going 9-3 every year and beating OSU 30% of the time, I mean look at Rodriguez!"
Prepare for the program alum 180. Judging from twitter, Michigan guys in the NFL are happy, so there's that. At least we won't have Mark Bihl advising recruits to go to Michigan State and Dhani Jones walking into David Brandon's office and demanding a firing. Thanks for your support, guys! Your loyalty in this tough time is appreciated.
This is actually Hoke's main asset relative to non-Michigan candidates: the program won't be actively hoping he fails. This is not an insignificant bonus relative to Rodriguez.
The Gene Chizik plan is dodgy, temporary, and requires a bucket of money and amenable prospects. All right, so maybe we can hire the next Gus Malzahn and the next Ted Roof and import JUCOs like Nick Fairley and Cam Newton. This is lazy media meme #2, because lol those crazy fans, amirite?
- Who is Gus Malzahn? Texas just blew their coaching staff up and hired Manny Diaz and the Boise State OC, so they're off the table. It is January 11th. Next up is… I have no idea. Honestly, if you were going to poach an up-and-coming coordinator your best option on defense is none other than Scott Shafer, and on offense there isn't anyone, really. I'll believe Michigan has hired Randy Shannon as a DC six months after it's announced, but that's what this plan requires: hiring Randy goddamn Shannon as DC at a million a year.
- JUCOs are not available, and I'm not sure anyone can wave a towel like Trooper Taylor anyway.
- We hired a manball advocate unlikely to stick with the bits of Michigan's team that kind of worked, and his defensive coordinator is going to be the head coach at SDSU.
- To date Michigan's pay packages for assistants have been pathetic. Brandon promised that would change. He also promised a national search and hired a guy who will probably be one of the lowest-paid coaches in the Big Ten.
- The figurehead approach leaves you vulnerable to having your quasi-HC poached, as West Virginia found out when Doc Holliday was hired by Marshall and Auburn will find out soon enough. If you can plug and play Cam Newton that might work, but Michigan can't.
Also, Chizik was an established ass-kicking BCS coordinator who led the nation's #1 scoring D at Auburn, was 5th in yardage allowed in back to back years, won the Broyles award, and then went to Texas to win a national title opposite Vince Young. He didn't really need Roof. He had Gene Chizik. He did not immediately turn Iowa State into a team of ninjas but Chizik was a better hire than Hoke even absent the ludicrous money that went into his staff. Hoke's never even been a coordinator, and his results as a head coach are less than a slam dunk.
I am all in for being wrong. Or not really so much wrong as properly skeptical in an environment where success turns on a blade of grass and real games are few and far between and randomness is so important. Kenpom just put up a great post today about +/- and its general lack of usefulness as a stat because of its immense noise—college football has a lot of noise. It is possible that Brady Hoke was just unlucky or unprepared and that his last three years are more representative of his talent than his first five. I won't become what I hate, Emperor Palpatine.
With the dual boosts of a pliant media and cooperative network of former players plus a program that should find itself on an upward trajectory instead of a downward one, everything's set up for him to look like the white knight who "saved" the program and ride that to something approximating success. Michigan's just thrown in the towel on being a national power but this could be Nebraska after Callahan instead of Notre Dame after Davie.