“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
I follow a blog called "Fund My Mutual Fund." The title should be taken literally: the guy running the blog wants you to pledge money so that he can get a mutual fund based on his stock picking method off the ground. He's done amazingly well on a publicly-tracked simulator, has sufficient pledges to break even, and is in the process of getting SEC approval after establishing a years-long track record. He's good.
He struggles when his method (technical analysis) is battered by external events that cause the stock market to veer from a well-established logical way of doing things, which is happening a lot lately thanks to Ben Bernanke. He responds to these events by publicly reminding himself the underlying fundamentals have changed, that logic means one thing when you're talking about five years and another when you're talking about five days and that even if the market goes up for stupid reasons it's going up. Here's one from this morning. He also lacerates the country's financial honchos in sarcasm-laden posts that get a little tiresome the tenth time you read essentially the same thing. He went to Michigan, too. He might be my Tyler Durden, or maybe I'm his.
A couple weeks ago I proclaimed there was a "zero point zero" percent chance that Brady Hoke was named Michigan's head coach because I assumed Hoke's flimsy resume was only acceptable to people who really truly believe that Michigan Men are Michigan Men who make other Michigan Men, who in turn create more Michigan Men until you enter a warehouse and it's like that terrible Will Smith movie with winged helmets.
My underlying assumption was that David Brandon was a cold-hearted corporatist who would tell someone to assemble a powerpoint about head coaching candidates and take the Michigan Man stuff as merely a relevant bullet point. I was wrong. Brandon is king of the Michigan Men, and my predictive performance has lagged the market.
Not much of consequence was said at yesterday's press conference to introduce Brady Hoke—that is the way of things—but at the very end Dave Brandon started pointing and became emphatic and the world rearranged itself:
That's the athletic director version of Kurt Wermers saying "not my kind of crowd." Rich Rodriguez never had a chance after the Ohio State game. Why David Brandon decided to go on with a dog and pony show even he admits was pointless should be a frustrating mystery, but it's not. People had to be placated. This program will eat itself alive if given half a chance.
So maybe Brady Hoke is the best choice. This organ transplant will not be rejected. Given time and an upperclass quarterback or two and a defensive staff that's not utterly clueless, Brady Hoke will quickly prove himself to be the one true Notriguez. He'll quickly improve the program and get Michigan back to being Michigan.
But I think the way this went down proves that all the things rivals say about Michigan are true. This is an unbelievably arrogant program convinced its past glories are greater and more recent than they are, certain outsiders have nothing to teach it. We will enter bowl games against opponents that say "boy, that Michigan just lines up and comes after you," and we probably won't win many of them. We never have, and trying to out-execute Alabama or Oregon seems like a tall order these days.
I hoped we could be block-M Michigan without that, that we could have an exciting, modern offense that pumped out Michigan Men and maybe shredded Oklahoma for 48 points in a BCS game. I hoped we could reboot the program, keeping the things we treasure about it but maybe leaving the dismal bowl record and recent inability to compete with Ohio State behind. For a lot of reasons we can't. We are who we are.
So, no, I'm not super happy. On the field I was done with Lloyd Carr, done with punting from the 34 and running the same damn zone stretch thirty times a game, done with the premise that it's only the players who have to execute on gameday. To me, getting back to being Michigan means going 9-3 and losing to Jim Tressel. I remember thinking "this is the year" every year growing up, expecting great things literally every season until Rodriguez showed up and Mallett transferred. I don't think that now, and I can't imagine feeling like that in the future. Sometimes having an identity feels like having a ceiling.
Selecting a coach is a lot like selecting a recruit. The resume is the equivalent of a recruiting ranking. With recruits, a high ranking correlates with success, but a correlation is only probability, not certainty. Sometimes high-ranking recruits flame out, and sometimes sleeper recruits turn into stars.
While I'm down on the hire except insofar as it appears to be the only one that would get institutional support, Hoke could surprise people. He's in a great spot to immediately improve a team that returns damn near everyone and should profit from that momentum. Rich Rodriguez was always pushing uphill; Hoke has a much easier path to positive attention.
I didn't want to say this during the many fire-Rodriguez discussions because it seemed like the most cynical thing imaginable, but cutting Rodriguez loose right now sets the new guy up to look like 2006 Ron English after he replaced Jim Herrmann and inherited Woodley/Branch/Hall/Harris: a freaking genius. We'd find out during The Horror that he was not, but for a year the guy was untouchable. Hoke is going to get all the rope left over from the Rodriguez era and then some.
So, yes, the internet has overreacted.
I will swear now. The inbox is overflowing with pleas of varying levels of politeness to get behind Hoke, stop being so negative, etc. If you phrased it nicely, I appreciate the sentiment and the too-generous belief that I have any influence over the success or failure of Michigan's head coach. I'm not going to change my opinion overnight, however, and this remains a No Sugarcoat zone. No sugarcoat. I can promise that I'll go into the Hoke era looking for reasons he'll work out (you know, on-field reasons, not "Brady Hoke is the best human" stuff), if only because of human nature. His flexibility with Nate Davis and successful deployment of Rocky Long as a 3-3-5 DC gives me hope he's not a stick in the mud, and I'm sure Craig Ross is mailing him the Romer paper as we speak.
If you called me a hypocrite for not liking the hire when I didn't like the three years of shit Rich Rodriguez had to wade through when I haven't said one negative thing about Hoke that does not boil down to "does not have a thrilling resume," please fuck off and die. Especially people complaining about how constantly negative I am when I spent the last three years as the last guy on to die on Rodriguez Hill, as a commenter whose name I can't remember aptly put it. Double especially for people complaining like that a week after calling Rodriguez a "hillbilly" because "only hillbillies leave their alma mater."
What I am negative about is the Carr-era players—like the hillbilly guy above—whose loyalty to the program stops at the water's edge. Aside from one recent Harlan Huckleby outburst, the Bo guys either shut their traps or tried in vain to support the head coach at the University of Michigan. But I've made that point over and over again. (Mike "I support the head coach x1000" Hart is an obvious exception to this and should have been the model for his teammates.) The culture that made the last three years happen is petty and arrogant and utterly fails to live up to the Michigan Man ideal it pretends to espouse, and though I'm about a day from shutting up about it because even I'm tired of it I'm not backing off.
This will be fun. I hope everyone loves Jason Whitlock columns, because we're about to get a boatload of them. As Over The Pylonpoints out:
In a panicked desperate move, the administration at BSU freaked out and hired an in house coordinator to quiet the fans and hopefully maintain the momentum that was building. Michigan did much the same, only the “in house” became “Michigan experience” and the “maintain momentum” became “rebuild the program”. In BSU’s case, the failsafe went 6-18. Let’s hope for UM’s, Brady’s and everyone associated with the Wolverines’ sanity that the performance isn’t also duplicated, lest they become the target of one particular columnist with a national audience, a significantly close connection to the head coach, and a nicely sized ax that could always use some grinding.
Carty on the dude. You can hate on Carty if you want but this is probably more interesting than anything that's been written about him so far:
The thing that separated Brady Hoke from most assistant coaches under Lloyd Carr was the confidence to be the same guy in a media interview as he was when the cameras were off. Michigan assistants never talked much in those days, and when they did, most of them were obviously concerned about saying something that would be met with disapproval by their boss.
Hoke wasn't very polished or made-for-television, something he poked fun at himself. He laughed a lot more than the other assistants did, at least in public. When he did do interviews, he asked more questions than most assistants and seemed genuinely interested in how reporters did their jobs. When a sensitive topic came up, he'd simply chuckle and say, "You know I'm not going to talk about that." He didn't shy away from criticizing players or performances when he had to. I don't ever remember him asking to go off the record or take back something he said, both common practices with assistant coaches at Michigan and elsewhere.
Search fiasco: somehow still growing. I still think Jim Harbaugh was supposed to be Michigan's next head coach before he backed out sometime after it became clear the NFL wanted him badly, thus resulting in the month-long post-OSU limbo and panicked search, but seriously if Dave Brandon means what he says about not offering Miles the job he traded the opportunity to not obliterate Michigan's chances with a few key recruits for some PR. If this was going to be the result Hoke should have been hired two seconds after Rodriguez went out the door—there were no serious overtures made towards anyone else except maybe Pat Fitzgerald.
My verdict on the Hoke hire depends somewhat on my view of the Lloyd Carr era. I liked Carr as a coach and as a representative of the University, but I wasn’t upset when he retired in large part because he had not done a good job of surrounding himself with top-notch coaches. It’s in this respect that he is no Bo. Bo Schembechler created modern Michigan football and one aspect of his greatness was that his coaching tree was excellent. Carr, on the other hand, doesn’t have a coaching tree to speak of. Thus, the two obvious candidates for Michigan’s head coaching position were Jim Harbaugh – a Bo quarterback whom Carr declined to hire when he was looking for a quarterback coach – and Les Miles – a Bo lineman/assistant whom Carr reputedly did not want as his replacement in 2007. If Dave Brandon’s much-discussed Process was designed to bring back a Michigan Man from Bo’s lineage, then that would have been fine because hiring a Bo protege can be done on merit. The fact that the Process produced the one sickly branch from the Carr tree is the reason why Hoke’s hire has been greeted by articles with titles like "Advice for the Despondent."
This team spent the last three years building something, and I spent the last three years not simply waiting for future glory but anticipating it. Times were certainly tough, but I could still see the payoff at the end. The top ten offense paired with what I still believe could have been a fast, havoc wreaking defense with a couple more years of experience and depth--and probably a new coordinator. It wasn't always easy to watch the games, and the losing streaks against rivals always hurt, but I could take the taunts and laughter from other teams fans because I believed. That belief wasn't ever there under Lloyd. It was always just an ominous feeling that the other shoe was about to drop.
Another bit was not happy after the hire, either, focusing mostly on the Les Miles discussion that does not and never will end up being an offer.
You know it‘s a bad decision when one’s first reaction to the news is to draw easy comparisons between Michigan football and the Big 3 Automakers decline and to scramble to the Wikipedia page for the Romanovs to confirm that yes, this moment fits perfectly within the arc of a decaying empire. The emptiness that follows, however, is a bitch.
For its part, Straight Bangin' is "paralyzed." That's probably for the best.
I loved Lloyd as our coach, but I think Brian is right that Carr didn't have the type of coaches that he needed towards the end. I agree that we can run an offense like Alabama or USC and win. I think it just comes down to getting some of those big time athletes back to Michigan. Not necessarily 5 star guys, because we all know that is crap sometimes, but guys that love and want to play for Michigan. Guys that will go out there every Saturday and fight until the end. I am not saying that the current team isn't like that, but I think we can get back to being a top notch program in the B1G and the country and I think Hoke could be the one that takes us there. If not, fine but we all need to give him a chance and see where this goes.
“What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve and those who stay will be champions.” - Bo
I actually have no ill will toward Carr except the fact that he doggedly held onto a 1980's mindset about "we are UM and we can just out-talent you" even though things were changing. He won a NC but the second half of his tenure was marked by disappointments and underperformance (even 2006 was exposed as a bit of a fluke). RR wasn't perfect, but it represents a departure from an outdated model. With Hoke, unless he suddenly recruits like Alabama or USC - which means accepting JuCos, paying players, greyshirting out of the wazoo, etc. - UM will be at a disadvantage. And I'm not looking forward to 9-3 and a curb-stomping by Alabama or Texas in a bowl game.
For me it was the entire 2007 season. Going 8-4 with half your offense nfl-bound upper classmen is just horrible. We're never going to have more talent than that; that was the ceiling of our program under Lloyd and his refusal to do anything except run left. He took the chains off the offense against Florida and great things happened. It was depressing.
Usc and bama are going to be more talented. That's just the way recruiting goes. Yes, michigan can be successful with a vanilla pro-style offense. But not against more talented teams, not in bowls, and not against osu. If that's ok with you, then we should have kept Lloyd, and Hoke was a good hire. I really hope I'm wrong here, but I'm afraid that I'm not.
Lloyd and his cronies are behind most of the shit and decension that RR faced. He never supported RR and left like a bitter old man. Face it, he helped submarine RR and our program. "cut off the nose to spite the face" And that Championship he won was with Gary Moellers guys. He also did way less with a lot of talent. I used to respect Lloyd, but i hate him now. He is not a "Michigan Man" and I hate that Micigan Man crap
If the Hoke improves immensely next year, then I will totally give Hoke credit. But if the team wins 8-9 games and the defense improves to mediocre, I'm not going to attach that to Hoke. In 2-3 years, sure I'll give him credit. But we saw this with ND - Willingham and Weiss both had early success but then suffered once the upperclassmen left. If Hoke is still beating OSU and out-performing Alabama in 3 years, then he will be judged a great hire.
8+ games next year and look competent in our losses, that's more than RR ever had here and you can bet your ass I will credit Hoke. One would expect a consistent improvement with players given more prep time. Look at the bowl game...this team was not improving, at all.
As a Bengals fan, I recognize the mindset that led to firing of RR and hiring of Hoke. Mike Brown treasures loyalty and deference above all else, and wants to think he is special and better than everybody else. The group of "Michigan Men" alums responsible for this faceplant, who apparently wield far more power than I ever knew before, have shown a startling similar attitude throughout this process and are in perfect company with DB the DB.
Agree as well, this is the crux of my issues right now
I am so pissed off at the group that worked behind the scenes to torpedo RichRod's efforts, primarily because they are absolute hypocrites, claiming to be Michigan Men but they worked against the institution just to further their own damn vision. I won't say that I think Lloyd was behind it, because I have no idea if he was or wasn't. I'd have a hard time believing he was. But what I will say is that I don't give a damn who it was or what they've done for M previously, they burned their Michigan Man cards with those efforts and they can go eff themselves. Frickin' hypocrites.
the only thing I've learned since Christmas is that Dave Brandon is a gelatinous bag of smegma and I desperately hope he hears the siren song of pizza marketing before he puts his smarmy face on the 50 yard line
More likely he'll answer that siren song of pizza marketing right on the 50 yard line. And the endzone scoreboards. And a new "halo" with leadership sponsor recognition. And parking lot naming rights driven by UM's elite value proposition...
I was actually in the middle of editing that, but you beat me to it.
What I was saying was:
I appreciate Brian's view. I am part of the group that is fully behind the hire, especially after the presser yesterday. That doesn't mean he will be successful, but I bet we will actually make tackles this year.
I think the debate is very positive as well as entertaining though.
He runs live tackling in practice enough to be able to effectively teach tackling and risks injury to a still very shallow D. Not saying either way is right or wrong, as RR did not run live tackling drills all season and part of the off-season becuase he couldn't risk any further injury on the D. Hard to imagine them improving much at it if he can't/doesn't and he can ill-afford an injury to someone like Martin, Demens, Woolfolk.
I've just plain lost interest -- Brian hit it exactly for me
I guess I'll just have to get a life from now on. I've lived and died M football since seeing my first game at age 10 in Nov 1969 -- yeah, that game. I've never felt this uninterested Michigan football.
"You don't need a Blaupunkt, you hayseed. You need a curveball!" -- C. Davis
"You ain't gettin' that cheese by me, Meat." -- C. Davis
Seems like a tradeoff exists between being "Michigan" and legitimately competing for national championships. The losses to App State, Oregon, and USC were extremely painful games that I attended as a student and I think really proved that Michigan could not compete for national titles back then-and if you really analyze this situation using clearcut evidence and data, it seems like we're heading back in that direction with this change leadership.
However clearly that direction is better than what has been happening in the last last three years and in a sense I'm glad we get to re-boot. My only hope is Hoke can prove to be more flexible and innovative than Carr and company.
Anyway, thank you Brian for your excellent posts. You have been following this situation with a different perspective that is offered than the mainstream media with evidence and strong opinion and it has made this blog a must read. I've been reading this for five years now and it keeps getting better and better.
If, that is, Brady Hoke arrived on this Earth yesterday, with no track record of what he (and the OC he's bringing in) have done to date. Since that isn't the case, and since Brian is familiar with that record and has presumably incorporated it into his analysis (which you have mischaracterized as an "assumption"), you might want to think twice about calling someone else's reasoning "simple-minded."
of course that could happen, however logic dicates that it is highly unlikely that this will occur.....Chizik is the exception that proves the rule.
The point is that a true, merit-based coaching search would have resulted in a candidate that has a much higher probability of success that would not require thenm to learn on the jobn, although it would seem very likely that there were no options that were willing to gamble with the positive trajectory of the career given the short fuse of the M 'athletic supporters'.
I can't help but wonder how long some of the RR loyalists floating around the site have been maize and blue. Unfortunately, we've been suspect for four years now, and there's sure to be fans out there who have only known Michigan as what it is right now.
If there are readers out there who have only embraced UM in the Rich era, I certainly don't hold their allegiance against them. I'd even be surprised they have NOT jumped ship by now. I just hope they realize that what has been in that time isn't what the rest of us pledged allegiance to all those years ago.
Since the press conference yesterday, in some inexplicable way, I've just stopped looking at Michigan football as a here and now thing... less like a departure from the past and more like the closest part of a road that runs off the horizon for miles beyond sight.*
I don't know if Brady's going to be here as long as he envisions himself being here, and we're not out of the woods yet, but embracing the tradition is just good medicine right now, for better or worse.
Y'know, just cradle the baby til it shuts up. Waaa... Waa... wa... *snore*
*And yes, I realize what a pretentious and ridiculous analogy that was. Thank you.
In the event you were soliciting examples, this Rodriguez supporter graduated from Michigan in 1997 and had both a grandfather and father that attended as well. I grew up watching Bo's teams (including Jim Harbaugh) and enjoyed watching 2 Heisman trophy winners and celebrated a national championship season in Pasadena on January 1, 1998. There may be "bigger" fans that me, but I like to think I rank right up there with the most die-hard fans . . .
I didn't mean to imply that you were questioning credentials. I just posted in case you wanted a real-life example of the converse of your theory. Jesus, if I thought the past 2-3 years was as good as it gets it would be much more difficult to be a fan today, even with all the inbreeding I had (yikes, that did not sound good at all!).
Except I was a freshman in 82. I was so excited by the Rodriguez hire that my kids still break into "peanut butter jelly time" when they sense I'm really happy or excited about something. I was looking forward to some serious pbj with Rodriguez and vainly thought he'd get his fourth year to show some real development. I also thought he fit well in the Bo lineage (conferred by position, not birth) and fully expected Michigan fans (of all people!) to embrace an exciting rushing offense. I've been mostly surprised by my fellow alums & fans over these past few years, I guess.
I think when one has spent the last three years invested in this change to the spread, and wading through the mire of losses and negativity but still seeing progress towards having that insane destroyer-of-worlds offense, to have all of that collapse under the weight of all of the negativity is traumatic. Especially now that people are pleading for patience for this new known/unknown coach: to go where?
With Rod, there was a goal and it was Denard being the terror of football fields everywhere. Yes, the defense was horrendous. But we could rationalize that pain by telling ourselves that every year has been better than the last, that Rich had done it before, and if we could just wait it out and fix that defense and keep improving on offense then we could have what we were told we would get.
But the program ran out of patience. Was it the Michigan man thing or just the losing? I would like it to be just the losing, because 'Michigan man' has lost the original meaning for me and now just suggests a bitter reminder of elitism and arrogance, but all of the rhetoric being thrown about makes one pause. I don't want to hear "Michigan Man." I want to hear "Here's why this works."
And with Hoke? I suspect he'll get that patience, because of lineage and general affability and his refusal to say Ohio State. I just wish I knew where we were going and why.
But, of course, I'll support Hoke, because (a) I can't help myself, (b) what the hell else am I suppose to do when I love this team and this university so much, and (c) who knows? Maybe it works great.
So, I guess, we'll see. But for now, I'm mostly just tired and looking for some sign (something other than the Michigan Man thing) of what's to come.
I don't think "blind" anything can exist on a site where every play is broken down, detailed, explained and then judged for effectiveness.
I believe most of your RR supporters (I include myself) supported him because they desperately wanted the experiment to work. It's not because they are part of some cult of RichRod lovers that move from school to school following his career. The underlying desire was that Michigan wins, and often. Eventually the desire to see that happen will overcome everthing else and we'll be rooting for Hoke. Unless he doesn't win and win often, in which case I might just quit the internet.
I'll always be kind of bitter at how everything went down, but next September I'll be watching Michigan - not Rodriguez - hoping that everything works out.
Brian, thank you for continuing to be thoughtful and honest, even as the new loyalty hounds refuse your indulgence in a grieving period. Do not mind them.
You nailed it with this post.
Not to go over the top on you, but I have been reading loads of DFW non-fiction lately and this has the same wit, perspective, and observational acuteness. You are a true Michigan fan, and not just a great sportswriter--a great writer.
Having said all that I will now go back to treating you like a fellow fan instead of a saint. But it needed to be said.
While I disagree with the "ceiling" under Hoke, I simply cannot find anything like this anywhere else. My hope for you Brian is that when September 3 rolls around you'll be filled with hope again just as you described in my favorite post...