There's a David Foster Wallace story from Oblivion in which a main character has an incredibly talented sphincter. He becomes renowned for pooping out beautiful works of art and it's all very confusing and revolting and weird and sad because that's the overall thrust of Oblivion. It's called "The Suffering Channel." You should check it out if you've always wanted to read a 90-page story about poop art*.
What I am saying to you is this: Brady Hoke is not entirely dissimilar from the talented Brint Moltke. The man poops magic. In this he is the exact opposite of the star-crossed Rich Rodriguez. Because we are (largely) not clinically depressed people trying to grapple with 9/11 we can leave out the existential dread. The man poops magic. Yay!
When Hoke took the job he brought some dudes with him and no one was that impressed since no one had ever heard of them, and then he asked Greg Mattison if he'd like to come back to college a year after he'd flirted with Florida and his defensive backs coach was going to be hired away. If you listen to Peter King, they really liked the defensive backs coach and didn't necessarily love the idea that their DC would constantly be flirting with a return to college. So they said "okay, you should probably go" instead of backing up the dump truck of money at his house. So now Michigan has a veteran defensive coordinator Urban Meyer says is "the best recruiter in the country" who can say "you == Ray Lewis."
When Hoke took the job Michigan State had barely had to fight for the top player in the state the past couple years because his coach had him ready to pick Michigan State a year before he signed. The guys responsible for that are no longer at those high schools and four of the top five players in the state are either from Cass Tech, best friends with the guys from Cass Tech, or Michigan fans. Michigan got all those guys.
When Hoke took the job Ohio State was the omnipresent Big Ten Death Star, scandal free since the arrival of Darth Tressel and merrily blowing Michigan's seasons to bits. There was no reason to believe it would change until Tressel entered his JoePa phase about ten years from now, which is when Hoke would be getting ready to retire himself. Then a lawyer inadvertently sent a photon torpedo down the exhaust hatch.
So. When Brady Hoke was hired I put up "We Are ND" which wait why link when you can embed:
This was both an opportunity to post "We Are ND" again and an editorial commentary on hiring an old guy with an indifferent career record instead of a young one who can plausibly be declared up and coming. At the time I thought Hoke was good to beat OSU maybe three times in a ten year career and then would give way to the next guy because he'd be 65 by then, and while this would be an improvement on the last decade there are several Southeast Asian prisons that would qualify as an improvement on the last decade vis a vis OSU.
A few months after Hoke's hire the two low-probability events above have transpired. Michigan's ceiling in this brave new world is now unknown. Or more unknown than "probably not as good as Ohio State," which wasn't exactly an axiom in the first place.
It's likely Ohio State will be searching for a new head coach soon, and the addition of Mattison not only promises defenses better than not only the Rodriguez-GERG debacles but those of the last half-decade of the Carr era when punt-and-strangle became punt-and-strangle-the-DC. Even if Tressel manages to survive he will take a heavy hit from the NCAA. His reputation is already in tatters. Michigan State's renaissance will be brief and quickly ended if in-state recruiting continues on the path it has this year, and Michigan already has the top guy in 2013 whispering in his classmates' ears about where they should go.
Meanwhile, Hoke has done a tremendous job to not screw it up. This is not a backhanded compliment. Not screwing it up is really hard. Greg Robinson: QED. Hoke knew and acquired Mattison; even if the Ravens weren't fighting hard having the temerity to ask or the knowledge he could get him is something. He has not lost any of the in-state locks to Penn State or Ohio State or Notre Dame or Michigan State and along the way he flipped two of the three guys Michigan State fans were banking on and probably the third if he can get his grades up. A wave of media and program adulation was waiting for anyone who could say "hi, I'm not Rich Rodriguez"; Hoke has turned large sections of Southeastern Michigan into lovesick tweens by saying "you're not Rich Rodriguez either!" He hasn't blown his layups, which is more than Michigan's head coach has been able to say for a while.
The prognosis now is much better than it was in January. Hoke will be able to shovel early missteps onto Rodriguez's grave—already the tallest mountain east of the Rockies—and ride out the awkward transition from the spread, at which point he'll have a roster full of guys who are qualified, a career record worlds better than Rodriguez's, and a talent advantage over his division opponents. From there it's a matter of grabbing that goddamn win over Ohio State and seeing what happens. It's hard for me to think we'll be as good as spread terror du jour in any particular year, but let's whine about that bridge when we get to it.
Being a pretty die hard Ravens fans, I followed this Mattison situation pretty closely when it went down, and the word on the street was that the players loved Pagano (the Secondary Coach), and the Ravens weren't willing to lose him. It wasn't that they didn't want to keep Mattison, but if Mattison wanted to go and the Ravens could keep Pagano, that would be just fine with them. Apparently, it was more of a compliment to Pagano than an indictment of Mattison.
That being said, I was initially torn when Mattison left my die hard NFL team for my die hard college team. But in my opinion, it couldn't have worked out better. Everytime I picture a recruit watching Ravens film while Mattison points out which Pro Bowl defender that recruit will become, I can't imagine anyone not being swayed. MATTISON!
Yeah, and this was one of Rodriguez's weaknesses. For every Calvin Magee, there was a GERG. I think he also struggled to reach all of his players. Some were really all in, but too many weren't and motivating players and getting them to buy in is an essential part of being a coach.
i hope that hoke has a good eye for some young coaching talent he can groom into the next head coach in ten years or so, because as you say, he is not a young man. this is not meant as a slight, but it probably is, hoke has not really gone very far outside his previous staff or previous michigan staffs to find anyone. mallory and montgomery are pretty young, so we will see.
I think sometimes in recruiting, the attitude, work ethic, and dedication of the athlete can sometimes be way more improtant than the stars behind his name. A team that plays as a team always has a chance to win and be successful (reminds of the 2004 Pistons, not necessarily the biggest names, but a great cohesive unit). While not always the case, i am sure there are some egos attached to that 5th star.
I think Hoke is recruiting guys who he believes in and who in turn believe in him and what he is doing. That is something that is really awesome, because I think when you take an existing group of players that have been through a lot and are really bonded through the adversity, then sprinkle in new young guys who want to make a difference and want to give their all, you have a team that can produce something special.
At this point, analyzing Brian's motivations in his Hoke articles is more interesting than the articles themselves. (That is not to say that the article isn't interesting, just that the motivation thing is more so.) He has gone from WTF! to backhanded to begrudging - which is progress.
The implied theme of the article is that Hoke has just been "lucky." In my experience, pure luck is limited to winning raffles. What many people call "luck" is normally the product of someone taking advantage of an opportunity through hard work. Both Hoke and Brandon have done this and, so far, there have been impressive results. If you just want to say it is "luck" or "not screwing up," you have your head in the sand. These people are working hard and getting things done.
Put another, one might say that anyone who happened to know about computers when blogs were taking off and the mainstream media was begining to die, and just walked into this huge Michigan fanbase would be "lucky" if he created a blog that is successful and gets him on the radio. I would say that person saw an opportunity which he grabbed by applying knowledge he had already gained and backed it up with investiment and one hell of a lot of work. I would call the results to date "success."
“Your satisfaction lies in your illusions/ But your delusions are yours and not mine”
Luck, in situations like this, seems to be things that happen that are good for you that you have no control over. Did Brandon or Hoke have any control over the coaches leaving Detroit Southeastern? Did they have any control over leaking all that info about what's happening at OSU? Did they go back in time to impregnate women 17 years ago in the Cass Tech area to make sure there were good recruits from there?
Both things can be true here. He can be incredibly lucky and he can be working hard to take advantage of situations that arise. That seems to be happening.
Of course you never have control over all of (or even most of) the events in your life. However, spotting and exploiting the opportunities that those events may provide is not luck. it takes varrying degress of insight and hard work.
“Your satisfaction lies in your illusions/ But your delusions are yours and not mine”
Again, the two things aren't mutually exclusive. If OSU doesn't implode, if all those Cass Tech kids are at Southeastern with the MSU coaches are still there and the other top in-state kids grew up MSU fans instead, Hoke and co. could be working as hard as possible and they probably wouldn't have gotten that many of those recruits and OSU would still be dominating MIchigan in every aspect.
I think we are agreeing, except for the use of the word "luck." The problem is that others, though not you, point to the events you describe as "luck." They then use it to discount to zero what Hoke has accomplished so far.
It is also a personal belief of mine. Successful people aren't lucky - they take advantage of situations, normally through a lot of hard work. To say a failure is just "bad luck" is a mistake which often brings more "bad luck" in the future. We may have to agree to disagree on this one - I am starting to sound like a motivational speaker.
“Your satisfaction lies in your illusions/ But your delusions are yours and not mine”
But you don't get that Brian is saying exactly what you're saying. Hoke was handed a very good situation, for the reasons Brian lists. Hoke has done a good job recognizing and capitalizing on this situation, which Brian gives him credit for. Hoke has done so better than recent Michigan coaches liekly would have, which Brian explicitly states.
It's sad that a Michigan fan has to try this hard to talk himself into feeling good about good things happening to Michigan. Large portions of this post could have shown up on a Buckeye message board and nobody would have batted an eye.
Sometimes when someone says something, it's true, even after you think and analyze.
If I told a highschooler he had the potential to be a great DII basketball player, is that a backhanded compliment? No. Because playing DI is really super effing hard.
Hoke hasn't had a chance to excel yet in his coaching duties. Brian is the first to admit that he's excelled in his PR campaign, as well as in alumni relations. As far as actual football goes, he's avoided screwing anything up, which would have been very easy to do.
I haven't had a live-in relationship, and I understand what you mean, but It's not that hard to make a decent dinner. That's why Brian followed it by explaining why it wasn't a backhanded compliment.
I personally think Hoke has done a great job at everything he's had to do so far, and I'm somewhere inbetween Brian's opinion and yours. I'm trying not to come off as some idiot that just agrees with everything Brian says, I just think he's warming up to Hoke in his own way, and the people that were super gung-ho about the hire because of the tradition returning start to twist his words to make it sound like he still hates the guy.
At this point, everyone can agree that if he coaches as well as he does all of the things he's done so far, we're in for an exciting season. If he can't, this stuff doesn't really matter.
Applying a filter that turns everything Brian says into barely concealed Hoke hate is not "analyzing" or "thinking". It's purposely misconstruing an argument because you like bashing Brian's opinions.
In case you didn't notice, Brian explicitly states that he thinks Hoke is doing a better job than previous coaches have / would have done in this situation. Apparently this is "backhanded". His point is that Hoke has done well, but hasn't done anything that should be considered a miracle. Which is a totally reasonable assessment - some things beyond Hoke's control are making recruiting this year an easier road than it would have otherwise been. A great crop of in-state recruits who aren't locked into Sparty by previous association, a bad vibe around Ohio State, and the general honeymoon sense of optimism that surrounds any coach replacing an unpopular predecessor, are all things that Hoke had absolutely no control over. He has so far successfully picked this low-hanging fruit. This is good, but not earth-shattering. But, as Brian says, not screwing up is hard. So good for Hoke.
I think it's reasonable to save any praise higher than "not screwing up" (presuming you consider "not screwing up" to be above average, which Brian apparently does) until Hoke wins some games. I thought we wanted "not losing instate recruits to Sparty and not losing our star QB" to be par for the course - why are you so quick to label it "excelling"?
Frankly, I find it strange to read and write of Brian as if he were not always here, always watching. Much like speaking about someone who is sitting next to you, I find it awkward to write even these very words before Brian's omnipresent mane and spectre.
Being an in state guy is the new "perfect for the system" that turns "meh" level recruits into sure fire all americans. If this class continues on the present trajectory, it looks like it will be a certainly top 30 not sniffing top 10 class. To me, that's not the recruiting coup the mgohivemind sees it as.
Of course, there's a long, long way to go, but the Hoke recruiting love has gotten way out of control.
Great article Brian. As others have noted, I'll buy into Hoke completely when he starts to coach on the field, but he guy has performed well so far and definitely has changed the mood around the program. Getting Mattison is huge, and Borges shuld be a good OC with some clear designs on a functioning offense even during the transition. And to be frank, Hoke has been very lucky but he has also been able to put the puck in the open net - something that isn't nearly as simple as it looks. But the biggest difference between him and RR is that Hoke seemingly trusts his assistants and peers to do their jobs and for him to do his, a trait RR never displayed with any real consistency. He was constantly fiddling with the defense, fiddling with the linemen, fiddling with whomever instead of being the coach, hiring competent coordinators, and pumping out devastating offenses. Hoke isn't nearly the tactician that RR is offensively - few people are - but he knows how to run a football team and how to trust others, and that is huge. I will always believe RR could have succeeded here with a different climate and a better DC choice, but Hoke has proven to be a nice surprise.
As many have said, he knows how to stay in his lane, and so far that lane has been flying along at 90 MPH.
I've never understood the "Brian hates Hoke" argument - there is a fine distinction betweeing whining and asking legitimate questions about the guy, and I felt that Brian usually walked this line effectively. Hoke has been impressive as an organizer and recruiter so far, but I still feel the jury is out on him as a gameday coach at UM until he actually, you know, runs some plays on Saturday this fall. I do think Brian's tone toward Hoke has naturally softened a bit as the year has progressed, but at no point since very early on in the Hoke era has Brian taken an unprovoked "shot" at Hoke.
"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."
I wonder if "dahblue" ever read that? Doubt it ...
Oh, and dahblue, if you read this, please understand that I value the "diversity" you bring to MGoBlog. I just think you're a jacka$$, that's all.
I agree that some super fortuitous occurrences have put Hoke further down the road than many expected, but I think you're selling him short on Mattison. Sure the Ravens might have said "see ya" once he got offered by Hoke, but it wasn't like they fired him. He's also been quoted many times saying he wouldn't have come back to college for anyone else but Hoke. While the answer probably lies somewhere in between, I don't think your post gives him enough due on that hire.
I think I would classify landing Mattison as a lot more than "not screwing up". Letting the media tickle his belly and feed him berries while providing no fodder to change their tune is not screwing up.
Also dahblue and his like-minded-friends need to move on just like it appears Brian is actually doing. Things looked pretty bleak for awhile and it was easy to get overly dramatic. But as already pointed out, Hoke's story at Michigan is only about 5% written, so to expect Brian to come out and say he was completely wrong doesn't make sense. There is still unfortunately a reasonable chance that Hoke/Borges will screw up an offense featuring perhaps the most dynamic player in college football. We shall see.
Except that Mattison seemed pretty willing to make the jump back to Michigan to work with a personal friend. That's more "who Hoke is" than "what he did". So it's a great result for Michigan, but an easy shot for Hoke. Plus, as Brian says, the Ravens could have made things much harder than they did. While hiring Mattison was a great result that we didn't see coming, it doesn't seem like it took a real stroke of genius or masterful moves on the part of DB or Hoke to land him.
I don't think Hoke, by himself, is that great of a coach or a coaching genius. His record / C.V. just doesn't scream anything special. What I am hoping for, is a CEO type of coach. His strategy is this: