I did not make this headline up
who are you going to believe, a black and white 1950s comic strip or common sense?
YOU HAVE BEEN OFFERED THE JOB. Michigan is talking to people now. One of those people was David Cutcliffe or his agent, which led wildly inaccurate NFL.com insider Gil "Thorp" Brandt to assert that he had been offered the job and turned it down. What actually happened: Michigan gauged his interest and he said no thanks*. Or nothing at all, but taking public statements from the people involved at face value is never advisable in a coaching search.
If Michigan did contact him, why would Cutcliffe say "no thanks"? He's 60 and underwent triple-bypass surgery in 2005 that he thought might end his coaching career; Duke was described to me as a "surprise retirement job" for him. Anyone could call him and he would not leave Durham, where he has infinite job security and a level of commitment he can be comfortable with.
What does this say about Michigan's end? They're casting a wide net and poking anyone who looks like a quality college head coach so they have a list of interested people in the event they don't get Harbaugh. Asking after Cutcliffe is a good idea—he's a terrific coach. Or it means nothing at all in the event it didn't happen.
NEXT UP ON LET'S GO NUTS ABOUT A PHONE CALL. Michigan talked to Les Miles's agent yesterday, according to everyone except LSU. (See what I am saying about public statements?) This spawned a WHAT DOES IT MEAN thread on the board that was a little overheated—not that I expected anything else. It's clear that Miles is a guy Michigan should ask about if their policy is "let's talk to good head coaches," even if there remain conflicts between Miles and big chunks of the program alumni.
A call is a call. It means that Miles is not entirely off the list; it doesn't mean much more than that. It has spawned a lot of insiders chattering about how he might be #2 on the list, which would be a shock to me. If so, Hackett is an OG for real. There are a lot of "over my dead body" hurdles to clear there.
An alternate possibility: Hackett made a very public overture to Miles—every newspaper and site had it yesterday, and prominently—in an effort to spur Harbaugh to a decision. That doesn't necessarily mean Miles isn't a legit candidate. The nature of the contact when everything else is murky and disputed is a clear signal to Harbaugh, though.
*HERE IS HOW THIS WORKS. Search firms create a pool of candidates; when they do that they make sure that pool consists of people actually inclined to take the job. A reader who's been involved in these sorts of things details the process:
Anybody who’s been involved in either side of a job search conducted by a search firm knows that the search firm’s job is to create a pool of candidates. As a potential candidate, you get a call (or, I guess if you are important enough, your agent gets it) from a staffer at the search firm. The person asks you whether you’d be interested in being a candidate. (Sometimes the first question is whether you know anybody who’d be interested and would be a good candidate.)
You ask about the process - how many people are they contacting? What’s the timeline? In my world, to commit to the process, you actually have to do something like write a letter of interest and submit your C.V, and I don’t know if that’s true for coaches. But you DO have to commit to expending time, energy, and the possibility of disappointment if you say “yes.”
So from time to time I will get a call about an opening because I’m a plausible candidate, even if it is only to make sure that the firm has fulfilled its duty to create the pool. And in most cases, I’ll make an immediate decision that throwing my hat in the ring isn’t worth it, because the likelihood of getting the job just isn’t worth the physical and psychic costs.
The news story on Cutcliffe in particular struck home that way. He’s a plausible candidate to have in the pool. He’s got a good job. He’s not likely to make the final cut. He says, “no, thanks, I’m not interested,” not because he wouldn’t like the idea of being the coach at Michigan (just as I wouldn’t mind being the dean at the XYZ Law School), but because he says or thinks, as I do, if Jim Hackett (or the equivalent provost in my case) really wants me, have him give me a call and we can cut to the chase, but I’m not willing just to fill out your NCAA 64 team bracket.”
There, I feel better.
Michigan is obviously creating this pool in earnest now.
BUT WHAT ABOUT HARBAUGH? I don't think this means much about Harbaugh. It rules out wildly optimistic scenarios in which Harbaugh has already agreed to the job and is going to punch Jed York on the field Sunday before escaping in a block M emblazoned helicopter, giving the stadium an epic double bird while laughing maniacally on his way out.
Michigan is uncertain enough that they're giving themselves a fallback option, or fallback options. This fits with the general belief that Michigan has come after Harbaugh with a very strong offer and hopes he accepts it, but doesn't know.
I've heard conflicting things, but one thing that seems clear is that Harbaugh is 100% honest when he tells the media he is not focused on anything other than his current job. If the 49ers get eliminated from the playoffs things might start moving faster then. Right now Harbaugh is still maniacally focused on something other than where he'll be next year. Frustrating; also why he's a very good coach.
NFL OPENINGS NOT SO OPEN. Despite currently being 5-8 in his second year with the Bears, local opinion holds that Marc Trestman will be back next year. Harbaugh was of course a Bears QB for a long time and an open Chicago job was described as a "problem" a few weeks ago.
how not to conduct a coaching search
an epic poem in iambic pentameter
by Jeremy Foley
"DISORGANIZED." Bruce Feldman called Michigan's search that while discussing Cutcliffe, and we've heard other media people echo that assertion. For one, I don't think that's knowable. For two, M has been laser-focused on Harbaugh; agree with that approach or not it is a clear goal Michigan is pursuing before exploring other options.
For three, I fail to see why Michigan's search is being held up for ridicule when Nebraska just hired a 62-year-old who's under .500 in the last five years and Florida—Florida!—botched their search so badly that half of the media in a five-state radius descended on their negotiations. Those negotiations fetched a guy with three years of head coaching experience for a seven million dollar buyout. Michigan doesn't have a coach yet, sure. I'd rather have this search than either of those.
PLAN B. Still nothing resembling clarity. Scout's Jamie Newberg reports($) that Jim Mora, Dan Mullen, Bob Stoops, and Butch Jones have all said no thanks; 247's Clint Brewster reports that Mullen and… erk… Bret Bielema could be next options after Harbaugh. He also says Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell is not so much, after Sam named him a person of interest. Nobody knows!
Similarly, opinions on how realistic a Miles candidacy is are all over the place. Brewster says "some people directly tied to NFL and college agents" say it's his to lose(!); Rivals and Scout are far more circumspect—or at least were. Today the chatter is that he's moving up, potentially way up. In this case I place far more trust in the local guys than some agent chatter. But, man.
At least there's this: on GBW's new, insane rumor board Sam noted that Schiano's support comes from his agent and this guy who runs the search firm and his detractors include($) "anyone with coaching experience" still affiliated with M. So we can rule that out, I imagine.
Greg Davis is drawing up a zone read, so he can't be a candidate at least
Seth: How does Michigan screw this one up?
Either of those would be a swift kick to the searchbits; otherwise I'm optimistic about the search (both process and outcome). This may lead to me posting a bunch of Gob Bluth clips on Twitter, but I don't think Michigan screws this up.
[After the jump: more all too realistic scenarios in which Michigan decides we need more mediocrity and stupid.]
I don't really have much today. Sorry. Monday must be trash night. Wait a second…
/takes out trash
never not funny
ANYWAY. Yesterday was notable for two reasons: the Football Bust and a you-dead Harbaugh press conference. Harbaugh's response to the inevitable Qs about his job:
“I don’t talk about any other job other than the one that I have,” Harbaugh told reporters on Monday. “And I’ve answered this question many times, even recently, so you’d know exactly what my priorities are. I get this from the Marines, ‘Leaders eat last.’ My number one priority is winning football games. Second priority is the welfare of our players, our coaches, all our staff, for the welfare of our team. And lastly is my own personal professional future.”
If that quintessential non-denial-denial was not sufficient, poke a Michigan insider and he's calling BS on reports that Michigan is out. Webb:
…the growing NFL sentiment that Harbaugh will remain in the professional ranks is an overstatement in our view, it does speak to the belief held by some that have talked to him in recent weeks that he will be tougher to lure away from the pros than previously thought. The source to which Harbaugh reported his ongoing uncertainty about the future to put the odds of his return to Ann Arbor at 50/50.
See also 247, Rivals, etc. The divergence between the Michigan people and the NFL people is massive. It would probably be even larger if anyone knew exactly what happened with Brandon and Harbaugh in 2010. In retrospect, the popular story about how he was in the bag and then flaked sounds a lot like Dave Brandon making himself look good instead of objective reality. Brandon blew everything else and was a pathological liar. If his version of 2010 events is the reason people are hesitant, I might increment myself from hopeful to optimistic.
WE DON'T HAVE FLIGHT AWARE SO GIVE US THIS AT LEAST. We're gonna extrapolate from minimal information and nobody can stop us. Block the plane, fly commercial: whatever, man. We've got body language.
Watch the relevant part of Jim's latest press conference here, from 7:40 to 8:35. http://mgovideo.com/jim-harbaugh-monday-presser-12-8-14/
Now watch this youtube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiIP_KDQmXs
HE'S HIDING SOMETHING!!!1!
Seriously though, he tenses right up, starts using his hands/arms, sort of rambles, etc. You get a body language expert in here, and that's a Michigan coach at that podium.
Let's get a body language expert in here then.
SHORTLY AFTER, YOU SAY? Tyree Kinnel tells Scout's Dave Berk that a Michigan assistant contacted him and said that Michigan hopes to have a head coach in place($). "right after Christmas." Like, four days after maybe?
MILES? Webb also reiterated what Les Miles himself said a couple days ago: unlike everyone from Steve Addazio on up, he hasn't heard anything from Michigan. Lorenz thinks that's not a death knell for his prospects($) if Harbaugh doesn't happen; John U Bacon had a similar take in a post-Bust interview with the local Fox station that MGoUser michgoblue provided Cliffs Notes for on the board. I'm still skeptical, as you know.
AS FOR THE BUST. Not much of interest coaching-search wise, just Hackett saying he has been "blown away" by the level of interest in the job and Reggie McKenzie advocating Mike Trgovac.
Trgovac was an interesting candidate in 2007 while he was in the midst of a pretty successful run as the Panthers' DC, but he's been stuck as the Packers' DL coach since 2009. It is kind of surprising that we hear about Teryl Austin but not him; neither is likely to be plan B… or G.
PLAN B? OKAY. I've heard Bob Stoops may be available as familiarity with an .800 win rate breeds contempt at Oklahoma; Lorenz echoes that strongly($) in his latest, and you begin to wonder if there was something real behind that Stoops-should-leave moment we had a few weeks ago, as unlikely as that seems. Chris Petersen was never going to go anywhere until he did; Bob Stoops could be in a similar boat.
It still seems highly doubtful. It's just plausible enough to kick the tires and see what happens, which at least makes it a lot more sensible than Sean Payton.
Meanwhile: this is yet another spread coach. In Stoops's case it's an Air Raid so prolific that seemingly half the country has an offensive coordinator from the Stoops tree. Stoops famously installed Mike Leach in his first year as a head coach because he hated defending Kentucky's offense and wanted to hire it, and he's never waved. That shouldn't be a problem, but recent history of Michigan etc etc etc. The Air Raid is a better fit with Michigan's current QB corps, but if you want a pro-style guy this is not it. (If this does not make you reconsider your pro-style dogmatism, I cannot help you.)
COORDINATORS? I'd be fine with a coordinator if he came with the correct combination of impressive performance, recruiting output, and long-term upside—I've got a brief post later today on how frequent the promotion is even for big time programs. Sam's starting to poke around those guys as well, mentioning a few NFL guys($) even outside the obvious Teryl Austin. IRL troll Colin Cowherd brought up Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell, a former Wisconsin QB who's been an OC in the NFL for about a decade. If Michigan is going to make the dubious decision to grab an NFL coordinator, he is one of the guys who makes some sense.
I'm not too interested those gentlemen, but Sam also says that one of the 14-man list Hackett told the team he was evaluating is a current Big Ten coordinator($). That can only be one of two guys: Pat Narduzzi or Tom Herman.
Who's up for decades of Herman's Head jokes? Just me? Oh.
This site is highly intrigued by Herman, who Urban Meyer yoinked off an uninspiring three-year tenure as Iowa State's OC to his great profit. Since, he's coordinated consecutive top-ten offenses by any metric you care to name. The latter is an incredibly resilient year in which Herman lost four OL, his QB, and his top RB without batting an eye, then lost his second-string QB and still turned Wisconsin into a radioactive, glassy plain.
Herman is a Broyles finalist this year and was the 2013 Rivals Big Ten recruiter of the year—he's the total package.
Narduzzi is a bit less exciting because it's hard to tell exactly how much he is the MSU defense and how much is Dantonio. That's less of a concern for Herman because Dan Mullen went on to succeed at Mississippi State and Florida cratered under Steve Addazio; Meyer is also less insanely involved in the day-to-day after his UF freakout period.
There were also some signs that MSU's defense was beginning to get figured out this year. Oregon and Ohio State took advantage of MSU's aggressive cover-four safeties by blazing guys down the slot until the Spartans didn't know what to think; I'd prefer the guy who put up 49 this year on the MSU defense instead of the guy who ceded same.
Either would be preferable to a low-upside head coach, be he an older gentleman or a debatably good idea.
PLAN Z. File this under "agent": Washington coach Jay Gruden, who has done nothing in his coaching career of note other than be named Gruden, is getting fired soon. You will not be shocked what is being floated out there by his agent, then:
One source I trust tipped me off to a potential landing spot for Gruden: The University of Michigan. This source, who is intimately familiar with the Wolverines’ rapidly emerging coaching search, informed me on Thursday that initial contact has been made between the parties and that Gruden’s representation was enthusiastically open to the potential. I can’t put a figure on the likelihood of Gruden fleeing to Ann Arbor, and another UM source I trust refused to confirm anything I asked, but it’s an interesting leverage point nonetheless.
Never trust a sentence with "rapidly emerging" in front of words that need no adjectives. Gruden is 3-10 with Washington and most of his coaching career prior was spent in the Arena League; this snippet means that Gruden's agent called Michigan and was not quite laughed at. The only thing this means is that he's out the door in Washington; it has no relevance to Michigan's search.
Etc.: I agree.
RATS. You're no fun, N582CJ.
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. First, this is completely false:
Multiple sources I spoke with told me Jim Harbaugh has already told Michigan that he is not a candidate.
I know from people who have talked directly to Harbaugh that he has interest in the job and is telling Michigan that. The concern previously was that Michigan was not reaching out in any sort of semi-official manner. 247 reported earlier this week that bridge-mending was going on between Carr and Harbaugh.
This may be a he-said-she-said battle of the sources, but look at it from Harbaugh's perspective (or possibly his agent's). Harbaugh is under contract; the 49ers may try to trade him; any trade necessarily hampers his ability to win at the new place; the possibility of leaving for Michigan brings the price down and improves his leverage. Even if Harbaugh had 0.0% interest in returning to college he would not be telling people that.
And unless he's flat out lying to multiple former teammates that's not the case. If so, this is the appropriate GIF.
With that in mind, I'm not inclined to take the rest of Scott Roussel's alarming post seriously. His previous report about Hackett informing the regents he had not found anyone who could do the AD job at Michigan was 90% crap. It is a funhouse mirror version of the truth in which Michigan has decided that they should use Hackett for a transitional period specifically because football has a hiring season and they don't want to throw a guy in right now and expect him to get the thing right. Hackett's timeframe here is not likely to last past the summer.
The feedback I heard isn’t going to excite many at Michigan; in fact, one source was very blunt, saying “Michigan is struggling to find their next head coach.”
Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett and senior assistant athletic director Mike DeBord have spoken with a number of potential candidates is the what I’m told; and the reception thus far hasn’t been positive. We are told that the Michigan administration was hoping to have largely have their man identified by now and that does not appear to be the case as calls were ongoing yesterday.
This is how coaching searches go, and this year was particularly likely to end up with a lot of thanks-but-no-thanks calls as Michigan checks on Stoops, Patterson, Gundy, and maybe Shaw or Richt just in case. Florida got a head start and has already passed through this phase. Check out the names for Gainesville later in this post; they are not exactly A-listers for a job that's at least on par with Michigan.
After this period Michigan will get down to identifying a real set of candidates that are not ensconced at stable programs. Roussel does say that Michigan check on Butch Jones and he "won't be a candidate," and I believe that. It is a specific piece of information that I have not had directly refuted to me multiple times.
ON LES MILES. That story also has a bit on Les Miles. It is correct that there's a great divide in the program alumni about Miles, but it also asserts that Michigan would avoid him because of the chance they get turned down humiliatingly. That would not happen. If Miles is offered the job he would come.
Personally, I'm not enthralled with a 61-year-old who's been the subject of an OTL episode about cutting players, coming off a meh year and possibly the downside. But he'd come. Assertions to the contrary are from the camp that doesn't like Miles because of the way he and Carr have butted heads over the years.
THINK OF THE THE SCION IN CHARGE. Last week's deflating loss against Seattle caused the 49ers' owner to tweet something about how it was "unacceptable," leading to a veritable e-kerfuffle. Jed York was seen talking to the GM! A teenage girl said something nasty about Greg Roman! Dark days. Speculation about an immediate firing was faintly ridiculous then and more so a few days later.
In the aftermath Adam Schefter reported that Harbaugh's fate would be determined after the season and that the Raiders and Jets were the favorites to land him.In general, NFL sources are swearing up and down that nobody leaves the NFL on purpose. Historically, they're correct. But I roll my eyes when they start making those assertions about Harbaugh staying on the West Coast because his wife likes In And Out.
There is a large complicating factory with talk about the Raiders that national guys completely overlook. Tim Kawakami:
I doubt York wants to see Harbaugh coaching the Raiders, wherever they end up playing in 2015–and remember, there is a possibility the Raiders play in Santa Clara for a few years.
Harbaugh coaching the Raiders in Santa Clara? That is NOT what Jed York wants, though who knows, he might Tweet something to clarify all this.
Underestimating the petulance of the extremely rich is never wise. Where would York prefer Harbaugh to be: Oakland or Michigan?
PLAN B? With Harbaugh uncertain, Michigan is going to need to do groundwork to have a set of alternate candidates in place to prevent a repeat of the 2007 search, in which ideas after Les Miles ranged from "uhhhhhhh" to "wellllllll". Oh, and the 2011 search, in which ideas after Jim Harbaugh ranged from "welllllll" to "welllllll". Who might those guys be?
I think you can strike everyone who may or may not be available. Early returns from not only the Michigan search but the Florida search indicate that the Petersen will-he-or-won't-he types are firmly in the NOPE camp. So who might Michigan look at after you excise the Gundy/Patterson types? I have no idea. I hope Jim Hackett does.
I don't think Les Miles is going to be the guy. There is a ton of opposition to him that would be difficult to overcome. After that you're outside the realm of guys who got yelled at by Bo.
Obviously, Dan Mullen is a guy you have to kick the tires on. The recent issue with a QB getting his offer pulled looks bad; you have to get Mullen's side of that, as he's prevented by NCAA rule from offering it publicly. Lloyd Carr had a few incidents in which he got blasted by recruits that I don't think were entirely, or even mostly, on him. In this case Mullen asked the guy to grayshirt out of the blue, which is not kosher but isn't as bad as a total kiss-off.
After Mullen it's down to flier types and coordinators. And extremely angry unemployed guys. You know me: I prefer the coordinator/innovator route to a guy with veins permanently etched on his forehead.
WHAT'S GOING ON AT FLORIDA? A reported 4 million dollar offer to Ole Miss's Hugh Freeze resulted in a raise and extension for—surprise!—another Jimmy Sexton client. Florida sources are chalking that up to Ole Miss getting Sexton'd; the SBNation reporter who broke the news is standing by the report since these days a coaching 'offer' is only definitively given to the guy that gets the job. And I see his point.
But whatever, Freeze seems off the table. The current names are:
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a consideration, according to one source, confirming a report by Football Scoop, although there is concern regarding McDaniels' availability to join Florida immediately upon his hire. The Ohio native and longtime Bill Belichick assistant has not coached in college since a stint as a graduate assistant at Nick Saban's Michigan State, and his only head coaching experience came in 2009 and 2010 with the Denver Broncos.
This is good news from our perspective since none of those names seem like they would become prominent here in the event M strikes out on Harbaugh. I'd be shocked if Patterson was available for anyone; McElwain's reported $7.5 million buyout is offputting when there are guys with better track records who would require less outlay.
And then there's Josh McDaniels. That is particularly bats. He's barely coached in college and has made his name coaching Tom Brady from 2004 on, after the point at which Tom Brady's QB coach was himself. His brief foray as the Broncos head coach ended before two years were up; he had one year as the Rams' OC, and now he's back under Belicheck's wing. He is 1000% flier.
Foote in mouth. Larry Foote claimed, forgivably inarticulately, that Michigan's problem is we don't recruit enough kids who are used to a tougher road. I found a site that will take places in a spreadsheet and plot them on a map, and did so with the 2001 (Foote's and my senior year) and 2014 rosters, minus non-Kovacsian walk-ons. Yes there are errors still. Go ahead and zoom in.
Yellow is 2001; blue is 2014. Fullscreen
It sometimes does weird things like put Warren, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula and I am fixing those one by one as I spot them. Findings:
- Lloyd had four guys from the Memphis area while Hoke did much better in Southwest Ohio. That's where those guys are from.
- Carr was able to penetrate deep into SEC country while Hoke has only managed to pick around the edges.
- Hoke gets more kids out of private schools and magnet schools (e.g. Cass Tech) than Lloyd did. This is because when I was in high school the big prep programs weren't recruiting as much as they do now, so talent wasn't as concentrated.
The differences are minor and speak less to changes in Michigan recruiting than general trends. It all amounts to mostly nothing.
Off the top of my head, the players Michigan has who come from 1% means are Wilton Speight, who's a redshirting freshman right now, and Matt Wile, who burned his redshirt because of Hagerup and waited patiently for three years behind a guy who probably shouldn't have been on the team. Foote's starting QBs were Tom Brady from a nice place in California, and John Navarre from Cudahy, Wisconsin, which is suburban Milwaukee on the Lake Michigan coastline. Meanwhile Devin Gardner went to Inkster, which doesn't even exist anymore. If Foote had been 13 years younger it's likely he'd have been picked up DCD (Mo Ways), OLSM (James Ross) or Cass Tech. Talent comes from all over; Michigan's talent comes from where it used to.
Bye week is wife day, as per Six Zero's family tradition. The espoused among us are encouraged to move back from the football for a moment and pay service to whatever your weird marital tradition might be. If she'd like you to lose an entire Saturday to outlet stores, that's rough, but she's worth it. If your wife would rather just get random butterflies from you and spend Saturday helping you rake leaves, then you're married to the bestest in the westest. Congratulations only me.
[Jump: on the Wisconsin coach we can't steal and the LSU one we probably shouldn't]
You're going to see plenty on these pages about guys we think might coach at Michigan next year, since it's pretty much a sure thing at this point that Hoke will not. I thought it would be as good a time as any to build some sort of consensus of what we're looking for and how much of it we want relative to other factors. Other than, you know. "Jim Harbaugh."
Last week one of the diarists put together a matrix for evaluating the coaching candidates. I didn't like how he weighted the things, so at the time I put together a draft version of a more detailed "what we're looking for" system. I have since overhauled and updated it to be a more accurate reflection of my feelingsball:
The last five Michigan hires are given at the time of their selection to establish a baseline. Some things may seem wonky, like Bo being rather low, but remember his resume was that of an assistant (not coordinator) who'd been successful in the MAC. Some candidates in short:
|Category:||Jim Harbaugh||Dan Mullen||Gary P'son||Les Miles||Mike Gundy||Tom Herman||Bob Stitt||Pat Narduzzi|
|Success (25 max)||43*||24||23||42*||28*||12||12||12|
* I calculated success but maxed it out at 25, at which point the guy's proven he can coach.
We can change things around but I figured one matrix would be useful for our discussions going forward. At least it passes the eye exam. Kinda. I don't know how to make it stop rating Les Miles so high unless I need to raise the importance of long-term success.
Why the matrix?
Usefulness is in discussing the particular pros and cons of these guys in context, because things like "is he a culture fit" otherwise tend to outweigh "can he coach football." A brief explanation of my scoring system after the jump.