So, Greg Mattison. He's been a coach forever, starting out as an Illinois GA and winding his way through a half-dozen schools coaching defensive linemen with a brief stint as WMU's DC in the mid-80s.
In 1992 he moved from Texas A&M to Michigan, where he was the DL coach from '92 to '94; in '95 he was promoted to DC. Notable players he coached include All-Americans Chris Hutchinson, Will Carr, and Jason Horn, '93 team captain Buster Stanley, and the bulk of Michigan's terrifying '97 defensive line that featured Glen Steele.
Mattison's Michigan defenses were good even for the standards of the time. Opponents averaged 12.1 points per game in '95, and none of them scored 30. Michigan State got a punt return touchdown to get to 28 in a 28-25 win, the most points actually given up by the D that season were the 27 ceded Penn State. It was kind of good:
The team earned the fifth of six 1990s Big Ten rushing defense statistical championships for all games by holding opponents to 93.2 yards per game. The team also earned the fifth of five consecutive and six 1990s Big Ten rushing defense statistical championships for conference games by holding opponents to 88.1 yards per game. The team led the conference in total defense for conference games (314.5) and all games (284.8).
In 1996 the D took a moderate step back, giving up 15.3 PPG and twice allowing 29 points, one in a comfortable win over MSU and once in another loss to PSU. In Michigan's three other losses the offense scored 16, 3, and 14 points. The bit about M standing for "mediocre" was launched after that season but it wasn't because of the D.
After the year Mattison left to be Notre Dame DC under Bob Davie. At the time this was high treason, but now people are talking about how his kids got free tuition and back in the mid-90s that meant something for assistants. I'm all like whatever in re: this matter.
Mattison was the DC for the entire dismal Davie era, a stretch of five years from 1997 to 2001. The NCAA database kicks in in '99, so we can provide (most of) the 1,000 foot view for his last three years:
Pass Eff D
[The 1999 stats don't have pass yardage D but we can surmise from the other numbers it was Not Good.]
At the time ND was playing legitimately brutal schedules—have fun storming Nebraska and Tennessee, kids—and in 2001 Davie saddled Mattison with the 110th-ranked offense in the country, so that last bit is something of an achievement. Caveat: it's hard to tell exactly how much influence Mattison had since Davie was a DC before he ascended to the top chair but given their respective career arcs it seems reasonable to assume it was Mattison doing the good things.
When Davie got broomed the next year Mattison was kept on but demoted to DL coach, where he remained until Ty Willingham got the axe. This could have been curtains for his career but instead he moved to Florida, where he operated as a co-DC with Charlie Strong. The rankings from that stretch:
Pass Eff D
You may remember the '07 Florida defense from such bowl games as "Aargh You Could Have Been Doing This For Years." That season Florida's untenably young secondary spent the season getting toasted tasty-crisp; the next year they'd recover en route to a national title, finishing 9th in total D.
Mattison was in the NFL by then. He left Florida for to be the Ravens' LB coach and was quickly promoted from that spot when Rex Ryan left to coach the Jets after his first year. In both his seasons as Ravens DC Mattison's charges finished 4th in DVOA, an advanced metric from Football Outsiders that adjusts for schedule strength and other vagaries. That's actually a tiny step back from Ryan's tenure, when the Ravens were second, fifth, and first in the league in defensive DVOA, so that wasn't exactly a rebuilding job.
In fact, most of Mattison's career as a DC consists of him walking into established situations and maintaining high levels of play for brief periods of time. The exception is his run at Notre Dame, where there were obviously some things very wrong that Mattison (and/or Davie, but again career arcs) repaired as the Fighting Irish footbaw era drew to a close. He's never walked into Chernobyl and walked out with an extra arm for ass-kickin'.
That and a couple of years here and there where his defenses weren't at least good are about the only knocks. He toiled in the ND salt mines forever and when Willingham's staff got fired he got a promotion at Florida; he then was the instant choice in Baltimore despite only being around one year. Both the circumstantial evidence and number suggest that Mattison is for real and the kind of A-list hire that Michigan sorely needed after the GERG/surprise-3-3-5 era.
Greg Mattison is not a man with a stuffed beaver.
BONUS CONSPIRACY THEORY: Hoke hired Mattison just to fire him after this year. Mattison leaves Michigan: national title. Mattison leaves Notre Dame: BCS game after being terrible. Mattison leaves Florida: national title. Put your money on the Ravens next year.
Consider me intrigued by what our base formation will be.
Hoke ran a 3-3-5 the last few years at SDSU and seemed to indicate he'd stick with it. However, Mattison's best success in the college ranks came while running a 4-3 and he's spent the last 2 years running a 3-4.
With our lack of depth and experience at DT (Martin and ????) it seems the 3-4 or 3-3-5 would be the best bet.
"In fact, most of Mattison's career as a DC consists of him walking into established situations and maintaining high levels of play for brief periods of time."
Normally this line would be disconcerting, but given his age (i.e., how long will he be in AA, really?) it's not too big of a worry at this point. I'd rather have a few years of excellent play and then hire a youngish DC a few years down the road then have none at all. In any case, the fact that we were able to pull him from the NFL to take the same position in Ann Arbor is great news indeed.
Good hire. Let's not forget, though, no matter how well GMat did with the 95 and 96 defenses and however much he contributed to the 97 defense, the game is much, much different in college than it was in the late 90s. I'm not saying he doesn't still know how to coach. I believe he does and we will see this fall. I'm just saying that stats from the mid to late 90s probably aren't worth a whole lot in 2011.
But because Mattison was interested, Brandon says, "We looked hard at what we could put together that would make it worthwhile for him and his family."
Brandon figures that because of Mattison's NFL credentials, Michigan is buying more than just his coaching ability.
"Playing for someone who has been on the big stage, who has coached the Ray Lewises of the world should be a treat for our current players," Brandon says, "and give recruits a reason to think about us, as well."
When I heard Mattison's name come up, I thought there was no way we could secure his services. Now that he's signed, I'm really pumped. Mattison's pedigree and cache as a successful college and NFL coach are second to none. While I was not high on the Hoke hire, this is the kind of staff hire that really makes me think Hoke has the stones to get the job done. Hoke is obviously secure enough in his ability that he can bring in a top flight DC and not worry about someone looking over his shoulder.
Well done Coach Hoke.
"I am delighted to have you play football. I believe in rough, manly sports."
- Theodore Roosevelt