TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
“Number one, thanks for coming. I know there's been a lot of talk, a lot of speculation, a lot of rumors, innuendo, whatever on what happened and what's going on with Shane.
Obviously I can tell you from my perspective of being on the sideline what I know and I'm going to touch [on] some of those things a little bit, but at the same time I think there's other experts that will also have a statement and an opinion.
I'm a football coach. Some of you don't think we’re doing that very well but that's what I do. I don't make decisions who plays, who doesn't play as far as when there's injuries and particularly if there was any head trauma or head injuries. And for those of you who know or don't know I would never put a kid in that situation. Never have and never will because you get into this to coach kids, believe me. And that's what this game is all about, and helping those guys in a lot of different ways. So we are not going to– as a staff I can assure you that's never going to happen.
“The one thing I can tell you is during the process of… let me share this first. Number one, we practiced yesterday. We practiced last night and Shane Morris would have practiced were it not for a high ankle sprain, and that's one reason I'm telling you that is because that's what I've been told and a high ankle sprain, they have a new word for it that I can't really pronounce but he would have practiced if it wasn't for that.
During the course of the game when Devin lost– and I think that's where the critical junction is for some of you, but the…Devin's helmet comes off and my intention is to go out and I get the referee’s attention who I think, by the way, is one of the better referees in this league, and I want to buy him back with a timeout. That, and when I say that- and I've talked to the Big Ten about this, I've talked to Bill Carollo last night about this, I was told I couldn't buy him back and I said, ‘Yeah, I can buy him back,’ so him and I had a little bit of a discussion because you can buy back in because of the helmet, not because of any injury but because of the helmet coming off.
Well, the linesman comes up and him and I, I say ‘I want to buy him back,’ and the referee says you can't do that’ and the miscommunication or whatever it might be, the head linesman says, ‘Yes, you can’ and so by that time Shane’s on the field taking one more snap, handing the ball off, [and] Devin gets his helmet back on. That's how that sequence went.
What I can tell you is we would never, ever put a guy on the field when there's a possibility of head trauma and we won't do that. Guys play beat up every day. If they’re not beat up a little bit, they’re never 100%, then we need to – then they’re not doing much. Guys also have nicks and bumps and bruises and strains and everything else. I can also tell you that football is a sport where guys have got to be highly competitive and they are highly competitive because they love to play the game and they love to compete and that's just part of their DNA. And I think it's different, obviously, than a lot of other things and professions and those things.
“Let me finish with we've got to do a better job of playing football, coaching football and being a team. We get to go to Rutgers this week and we’re excited about that. Had a good practice last night. Focused on the fundamentals and the techniques that you need to have and that is what this game is. We played a little bit- and I know Jack Miller said this after the game, offensively we played a little bit of 10 man football and you can't do that. Every guy has a responsibility. Every guy has to do their job.
“Defensively, I think the disappointing thing is our tackling and leveraging the ball. I don't think and we don't think we did a good enough job there and that was addressed last night and will be addressed throughout the week. We’re excited about going to Rutgers. These are the two schools, besides the Ivy League schools, playing football. I think the history of those two schools playing football besides the Ivies, so that's exciting and it'll be a new environment so we’re excited to get on the road.”
[Much more after THE JUMP]
For what it's worth:
“The safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority. We generally never discuss the specifics of a student-athlete's medical care, but Shane Morris was removed from yesterday's game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest. He was evaluated by our experienced athletic trainers and team physicians, and we're confident proper medical decisions were made.
The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition. The health and welfare of our student-athletes is and will continue to be a top priority.”
For posterity I've clipped the video of the helmet to helmet hit and Michigan's actions after, plus the decision to insert him into the game after Gardner's helmet popped off.
The booing you hear in the background is fans demanding that Morris be removed, as it was even more obvious Morris was not right if you were looking at him for those 20 seconds uninterrupted. The only guy in the stadium who didn't know was Hoke.
Bluntly, anyone arguing that we shouldn't jump down Hoke's throat because of the slight possibility Morris was not concussed is an idiot.
News bullets and other items
Hoke didn’t know whether Shane Morris was concussed or not
He also didn’t see Morris struggling to get off the field after the hit
No injury updates were provided
Next week’s starting quarterback will be determined after reviewing the film and, presumably, after the next week of practice
Hoke is surprised some of the same issues keep cropping up considering how hard the team practices and how good they look during the week
“Number one, Minnesota – give them credit and give Jerry [Kill] credit but at the same time we didn't… we’re disappointed in how we played football today. I think when you look at different aspects of our game I don't think we played as well as we can. I don't think we executed as well and that always comes back to me first as a coach and what we can do better to help ourselves and help our team. Didn't tackle well and that was disappointing and that part of it. And part of that [is] we needed to leverage the runs a little better. There were too many times where the ball got outside the defense and that's never good for you when you're playing defense.
"I think from an offensive perspective we struggled in a lot of different areas. DeVeon had some nice runs early in the football game but we struggled just in various different areas at times. Either a negative play that puts you behind the sticks– you've heard that; probably heard it too many times and I've said it too many times – or just not consistent in what we are trying to get done and that’s something that we have to make sure we are getting to that point where it's going to be consistency and so that's a big part of it. I think field position was a part of the game. We've got to do a better job. A couple of punt returns went for way too much yardage. I thought Will made a couple good punts and a pooch punt and kind of drove the ball a little bit but we've got to get better coverage and do a better job there.
“From the standpoint of our team and their attitude, number one, they’re disappointed and they should be. We all are. Secondly, I think the guys in that locker room, and I've said this before and you may think I'm not telling you the truth but they work their tails off and that's the sad thing is they've got to keep working and we are going to keep working for each other. We are going to keep pushing ourselves to be the best Michigan team we can be and our goals are still out there. There’s a lot of football to play and we talked in the locker room [how] there's two things you can do: you can quit, you can shy away from it or you can be honest with it and go back to work and that's what we'll do is a football team.”
Brady, can you share with us what you saw in Shane this week that gave him the start that we didn't see you today?
“Yeah. I think, number one, I've said this before and I'm going to say it again is we've got two guys who we have a lot of faith in at quarterback. Shane had a good week of practice. He's had a good practices throughout fall camp. I think that I talked about earlier in the year and he had a good practice last week.”
What do you think was wrong today?
“Well, again, I think sometimes we want to point the finger at one guy because he's the quarterback and I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's fair. Obviously we've got to do a better job with some protection things he had to step up in. Pocket closed a couple times on him. I think, you know, the interception was a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage that gets knocked up into the air. We've got to have better ball security. He’d be the first one to tell you that. A couple times the ball was on the ground but as far as how he practiced and what he did to deserve to start, he's been doing that throughout camp and fall.”
Is it still his job?
“We’ll evaluate it, like we do – like we did last week. We evaluate. For me to sit up here when you don't look at all the film yet, and believe me, you can't see everything from down there and we'll evaluate it.”
Brady, curious as to the decision to leave Shane in after he got hit. Might've had a concussion…
“Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know if he might’ve had a concussion or not. I don’t know that and that wasn’t something- Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid and Shane wanted to be the quarterback and so believe me, if he didn’t want to be he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.”
Was it your decision then to leave him in after the late hit foul?
“The late hit foul…yes.”
[After THE JUMP: more on Morris’ potential concussion, finding a spark, and Hoke’s feelings on the “Fire Brady” chant]
“We’re not going to talk about injuries and I might as well bring that out now. And some of that is because you can say something about something and then you’re wrong. Everybody heals a little differently, and the other thing is for our kids. I want to make sure we’re doing a good job protecting them.” — Brady Hoke, 9/17/14
Regardless of how you felt about the on-field performance, what Brady Hoke did in putting an almost certainly concussed Shane Morris back on the field was reprehensible and, if you believe the first job of a head coach is to protect his own players, worthy of a firing. The fact that Hoke let Morris stay on the field as long as he did in the first place—when Morris, at one point, waved at the sideline while needing a lineman's support to stand—was awful enough; to ask Morris to re-enter that game was beyond the pale.
A national television audience just saw every reason why they shouldn't send their football players to Michigan.
An ornery crowd filtered in slowly, with the "attendance" of 102,926 such an obvious farce much of the crowd booed when it was announced. Booing, in fact, was a theme on the day. It started early, when a couple inside running plays netted little. When Minnesota entered the tunnel with a 10-7 halftime lead, the boos rained down again.
By the time Morris lost a third-quarter fumble when he simply dropped the ball in the pocket—the press box announcer flatly stated "fumble not forced by anyone on Minnesota," afterward—the student section had moved on from boos to chants of "Fire Brandon." For the uninitiated, that would be in reference to Dave Brandon, Michigan's embattled athletic director.
The first half proved competitive, at least, if not at all interesting. Michigan punted on their first three drives, Minnesota on their opening four; provided stellar field position by the defense, the Wolverine offense tallied their first red zone trip and touchdown against a Power 5 team this season on a nifty ten-yard scamper by De'Veon Smith. The Gophers answered just two minutes later, however, with a ten-yard scoring run of their own when quarterback Mitch Leidner ran untouched around the corner off an inside run fake.
Minnesota added greatly to the fan unrest when they marched 92 yards in 2:17 to end the half with a Ryan Santoso field goal. Then the floodgates opened in the third quarter. Minnesota forced Michigan to punt from deep in their own territory, allowing the Gophers to "drive" eight yards in seven plays for another Santoso field goal, putting them up 13-10. Two plays later, Theiran Cockran tipped a Morris pass to the flat, and it fluttered right to Gopher LB De'Vondre Campbell, who brought it back 30 yards for an easy touchdown.
After the Morris fumble on the very next drive, Leidner ended a five-play drive with a little flip-pass to Maxx Williams for a one-yard score. What had been a 10-7 game just 4:32 earlier morphed into an ugly 27-7 blowout. When Morris was finally pulled, Devin Gardner entered the game and immediately engineered a touchdown drive, capping it off with a three-yard run, defiantly standing as two defenders collided with him upon entering the end zone. During that drive, Gardner lost his helmet for a play, necessitating either a timeout be called or a backup enter. While Russell Bellomy also grabbed his helmet, Morris went in.
On what would ultimately be Michigan's last drive, another woeful three-and-out (their seventh of the game) from the shadow of their own end zone, Devin Funchess also went down injured, and left the field with a noticeable limp. When the game mercifully ended shortly after Michigan punted, still technically down just two scores on the scoreboard, Funchess and his teammates limped to the locker room; Morris left the field on the back of a cart.
"I didn't see that. I can only answer for me," said Hoke, when asked if he noticed Morris looking wobbly on his feet.
If that's the best you've got, Brady, it's best if you let someone else protect the players.
I scrapped the original question because there's a burning one out there:
Gardner or Morris? Who should start, who will start?
Ace: Before the press conferences this week, I'd still have gone with Gardner—despite his awful performances against Notre Dame and Utah, I think he still gives Michigan the best chance to win. We've seen him at his best—and playing at his best while overcoming injury and a horrendous O-line—and that best is right up there with any college QB, while Morris has yet to show much other than similarly inconsistent, turnover-prone play in his short time on the field. If this team needs to win now, and to save Brady Hoke's job they clearly do, I think Gardner is the play unless he's so broken physically/mechanically that it's impossible for him to scrape his ceiling. (I'm about 80% there on thinking this is the case, by the way, but last year's Ohio State game lingers in my mind as a strong counterpoint—remember, that performance came out of nowhere, and he had a broken foot to boot.)
That said, the way this has been handled publicly makes me believe Morris will be the starter—why not dispel the speculation if there isn't going to be a change?*—and at this point I think they have to go with that. Most fans believe Morris will be the starter and most are ready for the change now whether or not they were on board; if they head into the Big House thinking that way and Gardner is announced as the starter, there are going to be boos directed at that decision—which is basically booing Gardner, probably the person associated with the football program who least deserves that treatment—and that's just not going to help anything. I understand the reasoning behind putting Morris in—he's the future, the present option isn't going so well at all, and he gets the chance to learn on the fly in a game setting and hopefully improve before our very eyes—but it's a huge risk for Hoke if he goes there, especially if he sticks to his word that he won't rotate QBs.
Playing Gardner comes with its own risks, of course, but the biggest risk is still playing a QB with this career stat line: 36/67, 340 yards (5.1 YPA), 0 passing TDs, 4 interceptions.
*Since the most common response I've seen to this is "so Minnesota has to prepare for Gardner," I'll note that there's no way in hell Minnesota isn't preparing for Gardner—and Morris, too—no matter what Brady Hoke says in a press conference.
[jump for the rest of us]