Mike Lantry, 1972
I tried to think about the coaching hire from DB's perspective. Dave is a member of the Michigan football alumni fraternity. This fraternity was consumed in group think. The vast majority of former players seemed to think that the traditional the program had suffered greatly under RichRod. He came in and changed traditions about the #1 jersey and team captains. RichRod didn't know to dance a jig around the Little Brown Jug on St. Patrick's Day or to salute the moon after each NASA launch to honor UM grads involved in the space program. The changes to traditions resulted in losses, ANGAR, and the Gator Bowl.
Dave saw a fractured fan base and decided that a new coach was needed. He settled on three criteria the new HC must meet. The new coach would have to head coaching experience at the highest level of college football and he would have to be a "Michigan Man." Applying the first two criteria left DB with just candidates: JH, LM, and BH.
What was the third criterion? The new coach would have to be a good employee. Why the third criterion? Because Dave is a hands-on businessman who values control. The new coach would have to coachable. DB is the boss and he does not tolerate insubordination. BH was plan A because of the third criterion.
I see DB imagining his interactions with the possible head coaches:
Scene 1 - DB busts in on JH's team film study.
DB: "Hey Jim."
JH: "What are you doing here, Dave?"
DB: "I came to watch film and to evaluate the way you interact with your players."
JH: "Get the hell out, Dave!"
DB: "Jim, I'm the boss! Now get on with it."
JH: "Get the fuck out Dave before I call the 49ers!!"
Scene 2 - DB tries to discipline LM after UM wins The Game:
DB: "Les, may I have a word with you?"
DB: "Les, quit it an listen. You can't go around lifting up the cheerleaders' skirts and eating their pom pons."
LM: "We just beat tOSU on their field. I can do whatever I want."
DB: "QUIT IT LES BEFORE I FINE YOU!"
LM: "Try it and see how fast I apply my abilities to another opportunity to be taken advantage of."
Scene 3 - DB busts in on BH's team film study.
DB: "Hey Brady."
BH: "Hey Dave."
DB: "I came to watch film and to evaluate the way you interact with your players."
BH: "Do you want some popcorn?"
What does it all mean? It means that DB found the best coach for DB. The hire of BH gets his frat brothers off his back and gives him a compliant employee. The coaching change was for the benefit of the AD. He has his model of how to run an organization. Apparently it does not include sharing power.
Is BH the best fire for UM? Time will tell. My initial reaction to learning of the hire was deflation. However, I am willing to give BH the benefit of the doubt. I believe he will give his best effort. I have noticed that most of the negative reaction about the hire has to do with his physical appearance. I know that people tend to overestimate the competence of attractive people and to underestimate the competence of those less fortunate. We have a new HC who is no Fabio and an OC who is no Brad Pitt. They will not will beauty contests. I hope they win games.
I want you to think back, carefully, think back to the days of Coach Carr. What did you used to say, muttering to yourself grimly or shouting to others in the room angrily during the game? “A field goal will only put us up 6 and there’s plenty of time for another drive left. Go for it!” I shouted this at the TV on many 4th and 1’s from the opponent 14. “We’ve been blitzing successfully all day, and now we get down to the last minute, and you go to this totally ineffective Prevent? Play to Win!” You may have supported Coach Carr to the upmost, like I did, but you can’t deny that his choices infuriated you on occasion. He so often played not to lose. He so often did things ‘the old way’.
And so, we brought in Rodriguez to change all that. To finally do away with the run up the middle on third and 50, and the QB who couldn’t get out of the way of the world’s slowest developing pass rush. We brought him in, scary as it was, to reverse the field and have lightning quick snap counts and to play to win. And it didn’t work.
Monday night, a spread & shred offense as good as anything Rich Rodriguez at WVU ever put on the table played in the national championship game opposite Auburn, a team featuring a more traditional spread. True to form, the scoring in this game was quick and furious, featuring scoring drives of less than a minute in many cases. Full field reverses and lightning quick snap counts were the play du jour. At times, it was awesome to behold.
Keen observers may note one thing, however, about the game. With a final tally of 22-19 and scoring that included safeties, goal line stands and field goals from within the red zone, the battle was undeniably defensive. In a game where the question was expected to be, “How long can these good defenses stand up before these excellent offenses find a chink in the armor”, we instead found ourselves asking, “How many chinks in the armor before the offense runs out of little things to exploit and can’t make anything else happen?”
And we were left with one more question. Why did the Auburn defense not get tired, slow down, and slowly but surely give the game away in increasing chunks of yardage, as every MSM talking head had prognosticated for weeks?
Ladies and gentlemen – we brought in Rich Rodriguez to be our coach to lift us out of our mediocrity and to finally lift our sights higher than a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth. We brought him in to reinvigorate the program and bring speed, style and a modern flair to Saturday afternoons in the Big House. We brought him in to win National Championships. And we sent him on his way because while the speed was coming, the rest of it, so far, was frustratingly not. And now you question it?
No, don’t say, “He needed more time. He needed more time to install this and ready that and yadda yadda yadda.” No. We brought Rodriguez in to take us beyond dreams of Big Ten Championships and Rose Bowl berths where we were never really in the national picture. We brought him in to wake up from our dreams of Bo. And as I’ve already pointed out, that’s no guarantee, even if everything works perfectly. The best Spread & Shred in the history of Spread & Shreds just played in the national title game, and lost, in a DEFENSIVE BATTLE. I’m not saying that the spread doesn’t work. Obviously it does. But think back to Michigan/Florida in the Capital One Bowl. Just because it’s the spread doesn’t mean it’s a winner, either.
And we recognized this. And we fired our coach. And we were prepared once again to move on. Except now, the name we wanted – we couldn’t get. And people are lamenting, “If we couldn’t get Harbaugh, we shouldn’t have fired Rodriguez.” Well, I’ve got news for you people. “4th and 1 from the 14? We couldn’t get the TD, so lets just kick the field goal.” “1:15 left up by 6? I think it’s time to pull out that prevent defense.”
No, we may not have gotten exactly who we wanted. But who we had was not getting it done, and even if everything was optimal, it very well may not have been enough.Brian talks about how we sacrificed our chance at being national champs to be conference champs. Well me, I think that's a lot of bull. Rodriguez was a good coach, but we were still a million miles from becoming a national power, and the next flash in the pan wasn't any more likely to do it. And last I checked, winning the Big Ten goes a long way in your national perspective. Keep Rodriguez if we couldn’t get Harbaugh? Avoid the perilous situation we’re in now? You’ll excuse me if I don’t feel like kicking the field goal and playing prevent. It might cost me, but I’m a Michigan fan. I want to PLAY TO WIN.
I won't be able to watch this afternoon's press conference for our new coach, but it might be fun to guess what words/phrases he may focus on to get his point across.
"Physical" o/u 6.5 times
"Tough" o/u 4.5 times
"Get back to playing Michigan football" o/u 2.5 times
"Get bigger" o/u 2.5 times
"Get stronger" o/u 2.5 times
"Get faster" o/u .5 times
"Michigan family" o/u 3.5 times
"Denard" o/u 1.5 times
"Carr" o/u 1.5 times
"Rich Rodriguez" o/u .5 times
"1997" o/u 2.5 times
"Ohio State" o/u 1.5 times
"Michigan State" o/u .5 times
"Rose Bowl" o/u 2.5 times
"decided schematic advantage" o/u .5 times
...add your guesses and other words/phrases as you like. Here's hoping for a good, informative press conferenec!
That's right, 318 Days.
So after they announced the hire yesterday, I too was a little peeved. I called my father (who lives and works in Ann Arbor) to get a good feel for what was going on. He made some excellent points which got me off the ledge and onto the Hoke bandwagon. Brian seems to be bent on shooting himself and renouncing everything Michigan, but some of you might find this helpful.
1. The Little Things - His best point IMO, was about the little things. Do you remember when you didn't have to worry about the little things? Do you remember ever worrying about the punt returner catching the ball? Do you remember every worrying about a 25 yard field goal? How about kick coverage stopping the other team before they advance past he 30? Do you ever (In your entire lifetime) remember Michigan turning the ball over the most in the Big Ten?
Hoke will fix the little things. This guy is a detail oriented coach who is tough, challenging, and endearing. He learned from the best, and went out into the coaching world to learn more from experience. Those of you saying that "all RR needed was a good defense" were simply not correct. His special teams were the worst in Michigan history. His turnovers were abundant and devastating in all three years. There are so many fundamental things wrong with this team that we desperatly need to get back to basics. Hoke is the perfect coach to do just that.
2. Where's the BEEF? - I grew up with Michigan football. It means everything to me, and it has given me much more joy than it will ever give me sadness. Going to the Big House is my favorite thing to do - PERIOD. Since I was a kid, I watched Michgan's smashmouth style with glee. I loved seeing the opposing team give up more and more yardage as the game went on. I loved to see us dominate the other team, even though they knew what we were doing. Try to stop us, I dare you.
Hoke will bring back the physicality that has been missing from this team. We had no killer attitude, and no dominating presence. With all the amazing weight training and strength building, we never got to see the Barwis effect on our physical nature. I read that he loves Michigan and might stay. That would be fantastic, and I think Hoke will quickly learn to appreciate his ability to shape and mold players. They won't be focusing on speed and quickness now, as much as raw power and explosion.
Sitting there on New Year's Day I watched in horror as my favorite team was demolished and embarassed. My Mom was remarking that our team just "didn't look like a Michigan team any more." When the Wisc/TCU game came on, she was like, " That! That is what Michigan used to look like!" And she's right. We used to be a team people were scared to play. Not just because of the threat of losing, or the intimidating stadium. We were big and scary - the kind of team that gets off the bus looking like hell is on it's way.
3. A Fanbase united, Finally. - This might seem like it's not such a big deal, but it certainly is. We need our former players to stop saying things like "Lloyd Carr's Michigan." We need all the boosters, facutly, and especially all of you to get behind our new coach 100%. We really, really need Brian to get behind this guy because he is probably one of the most influential Michigan fans in the history of our program. There are so many things out of whack about this team right now that we really need someone to get us back on track.
Hoke isn't a glamour pick. He's not the "hot name" whatever that is. He is simply what we need at this time. I think David Brandon was hired to come in and fix our football program. He is smarter than most of us, and I watched him really get to know the coaches and players on this team. When I went to the Purdue game this year, I sat and watched him, Rich and Rich's son talk for 30 minutes. Most AD's don't even travel with the team for away games. (Esecially not by bus) Hoke is a proven coach that has turned programs around who are perrenial losers. Ball St. quickly went back to a bad school soon after Brady left.
4. Defense wins championships - Michigan fans now know this better than most. The last three years, we have seen why having a great offense isn't really that great. If you have a great defense, you will be in every game you play. Hoke will concentrate on running the ball and stopping the run. This philosophy works today, worked yesterday, and will always work in football. I know that the spread is fun to watch, and that the two teams in the title game this year ran the spread. It's all over college football because it works. That doesn't mean smashmouth football doesn't work, though. Any offensive scheme can be run successfully. In fact I could point out several championship teams in this decade that were as good as any spread team. Bringing the core values of what we all know to be Michigan football back to the Big House is what David Brandon did. I applaud him, and can't wait to see this team next year. GO BLUE!!!
Most of you will say, "TL, DR" - or something like that. But I'm writing this for the few out there that will have a bit of an epiphany like I did yesterday. I'm really looking forward to smacking other teams in the mouth again. Look at BH's stats from previous schools, he's not all about running the ball every play. Hell, we used to turn out NFL QB's like we were growing them in petri dishes. It's all headed back to us now. And who's to say that we can't throw some option in there as we're driving defenses into the ground? Bo ran some option back in the day, peeps.