this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
So, I've already tried to explain my position on the Hoke hire, as a 40-year sufferer of Michigan FootBall Obsession Syndrome (MFBOS).
In short, I’m badly in need of professional therapy, if I’m to survive a reprise of Michigan Football past.
As a diagnosed level 3 MFBOS sufferer, part of my required therapy is to project the best and worst possible outcomes, and to analyze just how (un)important those may be to my life. I’m going for extra credit on this assignment, and interviewing “friends” and “acquaintances.” The aforementioned would be, as they say in the SEC, ya’ll. This being an educated, sophisticated, and sometimes harsh crowd, I’ve made the questions a bit more advanced than the usual multiple choice. There are two categories of questions. First, the very short essay questions – how do you stand on various aspects of Mr. Hoke’s history, as regards his future prospects? And second, Uniformed Wild Ass Guesses (UWAG) as to how Mr. Hoke’s past will translate. To limit the chaos of infinite possibility that I am informed is the primary feature of the internets, I will establish categories and baseline opinions from which to proceed. You may, as internet precedent has established, respond to as few as one or as many as all questions, or indeed, questions which I or no one else have ever asked.
Very short essay questions: please give your brief answers and scores to the upside and downside of Mr Hoke in the following categories. MFBOS Patient’s responses listed for reference.
Public relations - Upside:
Hoke is all in for Michigan. Would walk to A2 for the job. Uses Bo Schembechler-type words like Tough and Team and Prepared. Treats the idiots among “reporters” like the societal leaches they are. Has lots of support from former Michigan players, and almost certainly from Carr. Previous university and State of residence are not insane like West Virginia. Stays on message like George W. Bush.
Public relations- Downside:
His moronic boss explains the hiring like he met Hoke over a beer and thought he was a great guy. Rah-Rah Tough Guy act will get old real quick if his defenses perform down to historical levels.
Public relations overall: 8.5/10
It’s pretty easy to look good in an initial presser. Nonetheless, it’s obvious he’s well-liked by the local press, and unless there’s a very surprising skeleton in the closet, he’ll get the benefit of the doubt for a while, and avoid most of the public controversy of the RR era. And his persona will go over very well with most M fans. If he’s successful on-field, he’ll soon be known as “Bo Hoke”.
Staffing – Upside:
This is obviously hard to judge, because his current staff is far from complete. But we can draw some general conclusions. First, none of his staff hires has “blown up” and become a highly desired coach or coordinator at a higher level of competition. In other words, he hasn’t found the stars in waiting. Second, he’s shown a willingness to replace or change coordinators when circumstances demanded it. Third: his position as M coach gives him a chance to attract a different level of talent than he’s ever managed before, particularly on defense. We don’t know what will happen yet.
Staffing – Downside:
Staffing – Overall: 5/10
There is no indication that Hoke is a discoverer and developer of nascent coaching talent. On the other hand, he’s had some competent coordinators, and his M staff is incomplete.
On-field Track Record – Upside:
Both teams he has coached have improved steadily and substantially between the time he arrived and left. Has shown significant flexibility in choice of offensive and defensive schemes, based on coordinator and personnel. Offenses have outperformed defenses. Coach of the year in MWC last year. Short term, the combination of 9 returning starters on O and D, return of Troy Woolfolk, (hopefully) a competent kicker recruit, and better schedule are a setup for 9 to 9+ wins.
On-field Track Record – Downside:
Overall 47-50 record. Never coached BCS teams – has to coach now against Tressel/Kelly/Dantonio/Bielema/Ferentz/Paterno/Pelini. Defenses ranged from mediocre to very poor, especially against the run. Took a long time to build Ball State to respectability in the MAC, and program died from there. No recognition as a creative schemer on either side of the ball.
On-field Track Record Overall: 6/10
Gets the extra point over 5/10 because of the late improvement shown with both BSU and SDSU, and because of the signs of adaptability. Big question is the mismatch between his rhetoric and defensive track record.
Recruiting – Upside:
Sam Webb says he’s teh awesome.
And it’s not hard to see that, as a 17-year-old kid, you’re going to be pretty impressed with this guy’s adolescent levels of enthusiasm. Combine that with M’s still-high national profile, and the draw provided short term by the example of Heisman candidate Denard Robinson, and I’m quite optimistic about recruiting beyond this year, which might or might not be a crater.
Recruiting – Downside:
Has made his rep fetching 2-3 star kids in the MAC and MWC. Now has to recruit 3-5 stars in the Midwest, South, and West against all of the bigger names mentioned above and more. Welcome to the big time.
Recruiting – Overall: 7/10
Hard to judge this. Tressel would have scored better than Hoke as an on-field coach coming into OSU, but the most important thing that jumped OSU into a consistent national power was Tressel’s ability to recruit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hoke become a Tressel-level recruiter. Matching Tressel in game-planning and in-game adjustments is another story, which only time will tell.
Purely numeric, UWAG category:
Chances of being Great: 1/10
Great being defined as: better than any M coach post ’74, beating OSU 2 out of 3 times, playing later than Jan. 1 as a birthright, playing in BCS championship game twice in 10 years. This is honestly more optimistic than I think is justified, but there is no doubt it could happen.
Chances of helping Dave Brandon keep his job: 7/10
Defined as: Winning 9 – 9.5 regular season games, beating OSU 1 out of 3, New Years or later Bowl almost always, no Free Press Jihad. 7/10 is a sign that I’m giving in to optimism.
Chances of failure: 2/10
Defined as: Hoke is in over his head – his defenses suck, he’s overwhelmed by the level of competition, and wins 7 or less for his last 2 seasons, despite a good beginning in 2011.
So, what do ya’ll think? My MFBOS therapist thinks I just need to think more realistically. Tell me, what is realistic?
Edit: The apparent Mattison hire substantially improves the outlook, obviously. It shores up the weakest area in Hoke's record. It also says something about Hoke that he could attract a person of this stature, and that he's (presumably) willing to turn over substantial control of part of his team to a high-profile guy outside of his coaching tree. This kind of hire would have been difficult to imagine under Carr, who had a different philosophy about development and promotion from within.
------- Originally posted to board, comments suggested diary. Hope they're right -----------
I first learned what it really meant to be a football fan when I was 13. Mike Lantry missed a field goal, by inches. Then he missed another - by inches. And a group of unaccountable, brutally unfair adults got together and decided that 10-10 meant that Ohio State won, and should go to Rose Bowl, while Michigan stayed home for the holidays.
I wasn't quite the same for weeks. Every morning, there was a brief interval between waking up and remembering that Michigan hadn't won - and then the slightly nauseating feeling hit again. I was old enough already to realize that this was irrational, but not old enough to stop it. I'm still not old enough, really.
More thrills, more heartbreak. Lantry missed again the next year. Ricky the Peach Leach put the HEI in Heisman before Michigan got knocked off by one of the Little 8. Ohio State overcome, but USC not. By the time I actually got degrees from Michigan, my Michigan football fandom was not an allegiance, not a choice. It was a permanent condition, an extra lobe in my brain connected to a fifth chamber in my heart.
Those extra vital organs experienced plenty of euphoria through the years. Lots of scars, too. Every year, the hope was that this year was the year - the year we'd break through, and prove ourselves to the world. Decades of starting that Fall climb of Everest, only to be turned back hundreds of feet from the summit while smarter or better prepared or more ambitious climbers went to plant the flag at the top. And then the disappointment, upon finally reaching the pinnacle, of finding that someone else had climbed the other side to share the credit. Decades of screaming "throw the f--king football" at the future hall of fame coach, and wondering how other great teams always seemed to get it just a little more. Decades of believing that we just needed a little bit more, that this might be the year ...
And the question - sometimes the outright conviction - that we might not have the right leader to do it. The awful symmetry of reading the gently mocking assessment of a USC coach after the '77 Rose Bowl, that they knew when Michigan would pass because "the receivers turn cartwheels when they break the huddle", and hearing the faint echoes 30 years later from a USC defender after shutting down the most talented Michigan offense ever: "they didn't do anything we didn't expect".
Along the way, in '05, I found this blog. Written by someone who could mix intense passions for writing, humor, analysis, and M football into a remarkably addictive cocktail. It worked for the Engineer in me, and the football fan in me, and I was not alone. I became a more educated, more involved, more insightful fan, able to understand and look for outcomes besides just final scores and records. And I shared Brian's hope that Rich Rodriguez was, at last, the kind of leader that might begin to redeem decades of dearly purchased hopes.
It didn't happen. About 12:00 PM PST Jan. 1, the M fan organs went into temporary shutdown. And I have to tell you, they aren't exactly healthy yet. A January hire of a lifetime 47-50 coach just didn't provide enough voltage to jolt them fully back into rhythm.
This is not fair, you say. I must give the new leader a chance before passing judgement, and anyway, who can really project? And I respond that projection is what being a fan is all about. Whether it's "We're gonna kick their ass", or a multi-thousand word analytical piece from Mathlete or Misopogon, trying to figure out what might happen next, and putting your hope and conviction behind it, is what constitutes this crazy affliction. And if skeptically projecting that you are not likely to achieve full success while fervently hoping you are wrong is unfair, it is an unfairness which can't and shouldn't be eradicated. Bo Schembechler and his kids never lost a game because of my screaming conviction that he should pass more, and Bo wouldn't have had a job at all but for millions of people like me.
It is true that there are no closed-form solutions to predicting the future. Two star recruits sometimes become All Americans. A sixth round draft pick becomes an NFL and Super Bowl MVP winning quarterback. A guy with no experience running anything bigger than a tailor shop becomes an iconic U.S. President. But there are reasons why such stories are so inspirational: they're exceptional. Much more often, past is prologue.
So if you'll forgive me, and those like me, I'll not subject myself just yet to the enthusiastic belief that we've found football Harry Truman. I'll leave it to those of you who are younger or less cynical or maybe more naive or maybe just happier. And I won't judge you for being what I once was, and you won't judge me for what I've become. We'll all root for Michigan and Brady Hoke, and we won't mistake apparently undue optimism or pessimism for moral failure. Maybe it's a deal we all could make.