The Hat And Hoke: Bombs Away Comment Count

Brian September 13th, 2011 at 5:13 PM


I want one of these coaches in the fourth quarter and the other at all other times.
Yes, that one. Seriously.

When Michigan took a knee at the end of the first half on Saturday I was frustrated. One of my fears when Hoke was hired is that we were returning to not only the bits of the Carr era that were pretty good, like winning some games and recruiting like the dickens, but the ones that made you crazy, like punting from the 34 on fourth and four against Ohio State. Hoke stoked those a little bit with a press conference statement about liking touchdowns "too," or something. It was a statement that could be read either way; people mostly read it as Lloydball.

I was reminded of this today when I hit up my feeds and found that confirmed puntasaur Kirk Ferentz is getting heavy fire from the normally even-keeled guys at BHGP for a couple of milquetoast decisions he made in the midst of Iowa's triple OT loss to Iowa State. The first was tossing away his final possession from the 20 with 1:17 on the clock, two timeouts, and a kicker who'd already hit from 50. The second was not going for it on fourth and one in the final OT.

No one who remembers the 2005 Iowa game will be surprised by this. Trailing by three, Drew Tate was carving up a flimsy Michigan defense until Iowa got in field goal range, whereupon Ferentz clammed up and kicked for overtime. Iowa lost.

But even people who know about this can be pretty pissed off about it. Patrick Vint:

Not risking a late drive despite having virtually every circumstance in your favor might be MANBALL dogma, passed down from Schembechler to Carr to Tressel to Ferentz, and it might indeed be smart in aggregate to go hyperconservative in close games. The problem is that, while "the percentages" worked for Carr and Tressel, they quite clearly don't apply for Ferentz and his "unique" brand of endgame decisionmaking. On the contrary, Kirk Ferentz is an especially poor coach in close games, and his philosophy is counterproductive on both sides of the ball in late-game situations.

Michigan fans might have some words to say about Carr's effectiveness at playing the percentages—here we recycle the amazing stat that Carr was more likely to win a game if he entered the fourth quarter trailing by a score than winning by one. That's another drunken lament, though, and Vint brings Iowa's startlingly poor record in close games out like a hammer. It's bad.

The thing this reminded me of is that I hadn't mentioned Hoke's decision to go for the win at the end of the game. That seems like a slam dunk but I'm not sure Ferentz or Carr wouldn't have passed it up. It was risky enough to be called "baffling" and draw a comparison to Les Miles from Michigan Monday even though it's not at all baffling. But that's the point: there is a certain brand of football coach/observer that only thinks about the downside, and there's a brand that thinks about expected value. The former would have sent Brendan Gibbons out to kick for OT; the latter eats some grass and lets 'er rip.

In this situation it's a simple equation: is it more likely you score on a fade from the 16 (against Gary Gray) or that you turn the ball over or run out of time? A sack is not a consideration. The fade is the fade and is always thrown. So it's Gray INT or Roundtree TD? That's not close, and it's even further apart when you consider the chances of making the field goal (far from certain) or winning in overtime (less than 50-50). It's easy to kick and lose later. It's hard to man up and take the risk. Hoke took the risk and in doing so a chunk of the pejorative edge off MANBALL.

That's an encouraging data point for people worried that Hoke will bring back Carr's tendency to recruit an NFL All-Pro team on offense but let it idle in neutral because he's too afraid of what might go wrong to push in his chips. It's more than encouraging. It's trend-establishing. Hell, Hoke even said he'd think about going for for it with two seconds left:

Is the 30-second drill different from the two-minute drill? What was the decision like to go for the TD vs. settle for the field goal and then OT? “With eight seconds left? We had two timeouts, so we were at least going to give it a shot in the endzone. If Denard would have scrambled and got tackled, I think we had enough time to call a timeout. I may have gone for the touchdown and gone for the win [anyway]. Why not? I mean, you play to win. That was a good win.”

That is a filthy lie, but lie to me, baby. Back in the day when people were excited about Rodriguez I said he'd come up from nothing and wouldn't expect to win as long as nothing went wrong. That's something that applies to Hoke, who's endured crappy campaigns in the wildfire MAC and knows that when the opportunity to win presents itself, you'd better take it.


Swayze Howell Sheen

September 13th, 2011 at 5:58 PM ^

It used to be MANBALL.

Now, it is HOKEBALL*: tough but risky when the risks seem like they might just pay off.
Also, did I mention it is tough, and manly. And tough.




* all rights reserved






September 13th, 2011 at 5:59 PM ^

Hoke took the risk and in doing so a chunk of the pejorative edge off MANBALL.


I think we need to reevaluate what "MANBALL" means.  Particularly, we need to separate two very different facets of coaching: scheme and philosophy.  We often lump the two together because they often go together.  A coach with a pro-style scheme will often have a conservative philosphy.


A good analogy is the political compass.  A person can be economically liberal and socially conservative, or vice versa.  It's just not a combination you see very often because the two are often baked together.  Similarly, you can have a schematically conservative coach who, philosophically, is a gambler.


If you want to look at a few coaches...

LLOYDBALL: Schematically conservative, philosophically conservative

RODBALL (lolol): Schematically radical, philosophically radical

LESBALL: Schematically moderate (leaning radical), philosophically insane

MANBALL: Schematically moderate (leaning conservative), philosphically ?


The beauty of college football is that a good scheme, regardless of whether it is pro-style or spread or whatever, when executed properly, will work.  It's philosophy that can make or break games.  So far, the current administration has been pretty loose on that end.  Hokefully, that question mark doesn't regress into conservative.

Blue in Seattle

September 13th, 2011 at 6:43 PM ^

This was never a word used by Hoke, but just a creation of Brian, correct?  If this is true, then I think Brian is already challenging his usage of the word/phrase (I realize it is one word, but it has the effect of a phrase, which would be more than one word, so...) In any case, in all the times I've seen Brady Hoke's quotes used to illuminate the meaning of MANBALL, what I've understood Brady's intention was to communicate that he wanted to teach the players a specific type of attitude that they need to have to play Michigan Football (which are presently being defined by Brady in detail to the players, but in press conferences to the public).  Brady uses words like "tough" and "aggressive" to describe this attitude.  When he's been asked in public how this attitude is measured, he can only reply, "I know it when I hear it".  This response I think has confused anyone who has never participated in a team sport, especially when they were young.  I realize this is a comment and the full discussion will take to long, so "let me sum up".  Brady and his staff has stated they want the "right kind" of players going to Michigan who are tough, aggressive, and bring 100% on every play.  When they are aware they can't bring 100%, they should expect to be relieved until they can be ready to bring 100%.  When asked how he knows they are doing it, he just responds, "I'll know when I hear it".  This is brilliant leadership.  While he's outlined what he wants, he's done so with terms that are not easily quantified, but are inarguably important aspects of a football player.  Specfically "tough".  Who would ever feel good about a football player, described with all the compliments in the world, if the one missing was "tough"? NO ONE.  When asked how he measures it, he's equally obtuse in the most positive way.  Specifically he will know.  This declares two things to the team and staff.  1 - Brady Hoke is the Leader, he must be appeased. 2 - No one outside the team understands what "it is".  And this is a key point, because I guarantee every player and coach on that team knows what "it is".  And that's what seperates them from everyone NOT on the team.  Now none of this is important to the tactical things done on game day.  No matter what play or formation is called, it of course must be executed with Toughness.  And when it is, the players will know.  It will be self evident.  This goes beyond philosophy.  This is the spirit, and yes, even religion of this TEAM.  WE are tough, and only WE know when we've achieved it because we'll feel it.  And that is why Hoke doesn't say, "I'll know it when I see it."  He uses, "hear it" and occassionally "feel it".  Things much harder to pin down, and much more personal, or at least not available to the public.  The public will get to see the result, but no one outside of the participants will get to "feel it".

And as Brian has said, "if you don't get it, sucks to be you".

sucks indeed. 


September 13th, 2011 at 6:04 PM ^

didn't get super conservative. That was our best shot at winning, we took it, we got it, we won. When I got home, I re-watched the game. As much as I like Herbie's analysis, he said Michigan should shuffle to the middle of the field, kneel, call TO, and kick for OT. Honestly, I don't think we win if we take that strategy. With our talent's, we had a better shot at the TD pass rather than going for a FG then playing against a better team in an OT series.


September 13th, 2011 at 6:10 PM ^

I've always respected folks who take a shot. I'd rather lose that way then lose because we played for a field goal and missed it. I'm not saying that would have happened. It just always seems deflating for everybody involved when you don't take a chance on winning the game.

turd ferguson

September 13th, 2011 at 6:12 PM ^

In terms of maximizing expected value, I liked the calls at the end of each half and actually would have wanted to see an all-or-nothing shot if we didn't get the Roundtree TD.
<br>This is related to one of my many pet peeves with the conventional wisdom in sports. Where the hell did the idea come from that you should go for the win on the road but overtime at home? Following that rule before any other relevant circumstances (e.g., kicker quality) is beyond ridiculous.


September 13th, 2011 at 6:42 PM ^

For being able to see past his frustration with the Hoke hire, which, to my mind, was completely justfied. The MANBALL meme seemed an incredibly poor reason to hire a coach, particularly when MANBALL was not as successful during Carr's later years.

Do like Hoke having the belief in his players to go for the win. Brandstatter briefly asked on the radio broadcast, "Should you kick the ball with 8 seconds left?" The heart says no, the brain says no--most importantly, Hoke said no. I even like the counterfactual attempt to go for the win with two seconds left.


September 13th, 2011 at 7:48 PM ^

I criticized Brian for this back in January after his horrid post-hire WTKA appearance. He was insinuating that Hoke was going to be like Carr in all facets with seemingly nothing to base that on other than that Hoke was once an assistant under Carr.

Carr may have coached just like Gary Moeller did his first few years before getting even more conservative, but Mo didn't coach just like Bo Schembechler and Rich Rodriguez didn't coach just like Tommy Bowden. It was insanely paranoid and criminally presumptious for Cook to think we were going to see punts from the 34 again and it was all based on an unfocused stereotype. At least this quasi mea culpa gave us the term "puntasaur."



September 13th, 2011 at 7:54 PM ^

Additionally, I don't think Hoke's revelation that he may have gone for it with two seconds left was in actuality a "dirty lie" because I suspect he didn't give the full context of that statement.

There was a pass interference penalty on that play that was obviously declined. Say Roundtree didn't get his feet in while maintaining possession, but the flag was still there. Michigan would have had the ball placed (I believe?) at the two-yard line. Hoke very well may have been trying to communicate that point.

After the guts shown by calling the fade route that ultimately scored, do you think Hoke may have put it all on the line for a Denard rollout near the goal line instead of going for the tie? I vote yes. I think he would have.


September 13th, 2011 at 8:51 PM ^

*** I realize that Carr won a national championship and that he was a fine guardian of young men. ***

But ...

"... here we recycle the amazing stat that Carr was more likely to win a game if he entered the fourth quarter trailing by a score than winning by one."

This is remarkable and IMO it doesn't get enough run. I believe it may help explain why the 'blog was so excited about Rodriguez. Lloyd did great things but it's fair to say that he occasionally squandered the advantage of superior firepower.


September 13th, 2011 at 9:20 PM ^

I have no way of knowing this: but I think in Hoke's mind we were playing with house money. The value had been extracted from the game win or lose. The defense staved off total embarrassment in a way it wouldn't have the last couple years and the offense kept at it without regard for the score. He's a big picture thinker and a loss at that point wouldn't have had any effect except to open himself up to second guessing in the media and on the blogs.. Something I am totally convinced he could care less about.

2011 is about winning because that's the expectation. Just that he understands that the wins will come from the little effort things, the adjustments of a good staff, and the player's attitude moment to moment. He saw all of those and probably figured let's give it a shot.   




September 14th, 2011 at 10:18 AM ^

I felt both taking a knee at the end of the half and going for it at the end were both obvious and correct calls. We looked like shit on offense and had 2 turnovers. Get in the locker and figure some shit out.

And I doubt you could find many people in the stands who wanted to kick a FG there. We hadn't attempted a FG this year and based on practice reports are inconsistent. 8 seconds seemed like plenty of time. And the momentum was all Michigan. You could sense that we would not be denied.

That's why I thought it was hilarious hearing Herbsteit say we should center the ball for a kick when I went back and watched the game on my DVR. Got that one wrong Herbie.


September 14th, 2011 at 11:47 AM ^

Being a Michigan fan all of my life, I must say I was pleasantly surprised we went for the win (and got it!) on the last play. And I was even more pleased to here Hoke at the press conference defend the decision so matter-of-factly.  Hopefully its a sign of good decision making to come.