If You Pretend You Are A Statue Do Not Be Surprised When You Erode Comment Count

Brian August 6th, 2015 at 12:05 PM

Oblig coach obit. Don't get on my case, man.


I mean, he gave Penn State a free shot at the endzone by taking a timeout with three seconds left in the first half.

What do you do with that? How do you put that into your ongoing calculations? Add that datum to the rickety mess that is your ever-shifting, often-hypocritical, prone-to-explode model of your favorite thing in the world, and what happens? I don't know. The brain elects not to travel down that path. The future ceases to exist, replaced by only the ever more nonsensical present. All series diverge. Projection is impossible.

Let's jam that thing in anyway.


Not an improvement, but not any worse either. At that point such a thing was almost expected, after the previous year's offensive line roulette and 27 for 27 and two minute drills that usually took five minutes. Time for some maniacal giggling, then.

On the bright side, even three-and-a-half years deep into a coaching tenure that resembled nothing so much as Wile E. Coyote sauntering off a cliff Brady Hoke still had ways to surprise you.


via Seth


Brady Hoke should never have been Michigan's football coach. This was apparent from the start, as at the time of his hire he had two assets: the fool's gold of an undefeated MAC regular season and a reasonable, if truncated, turnaround job at San Diego State. Aside from that he had five seasons of average MAC ball and zero years as a coordinator. Even the breakout year at Ball State ended with consecutive blowout losses to Buffalo and Tulsa.

When you stake your program to a resume like that you're as likely as not to come out the other end with Tim Beckman or Tim Brewster or Darrell Hazell. An infinite number of nondescript gentleman have had the ball bounce the right way during the furball that is a season in the Mid-American. Some of them populate the lower rungs of the Big Ten when Purdue can't think of anything better.

And then there's Bo.

Bo was on another level, having gone 27-8-1 in league play in six years with Miami. Even he was widely derided. Here is that picture again.


In the center is a man who has made a Decision. It's no exaggeration to say that Michigan's best and… most recent athletic directors staked their careers on whether they could separate coaching talent from noise.

All these years later, you get why Canham rolled the dice on Bo. Bo was a legendary hardass who took nothing from anyone and comfortably existed atop the roiling mass of chaos that is any football program, successful or not. He chewed out players on the sidelines, sent them back in the game, and cracked impish smiles at the reaming he'd just handed to the young man. He has a gravitas that stays with the program—veritably looms—a decade after his death. Bo had the proverbial It, and you can understand how he communicated that to Canham in whatever passed for a job interview between them.

That understanding will permanently elude historians attempting to discern what comparable force of personality Brady Hoke brought to a press conference in the Junge Center in January 2011.


There was a moment, though. Now it's hard to remember that Brady Hoke had two years in which it seemed he was indeed gold that does not glitter. Hoke gruffly intoned "This Is Michigan, fergodsakes" in response to a question nobody remembers. He wore short sleeves in weather ranging from torrid to frozen. His matter-of-fact declarations and tough toughness were his tentpoles. We hung a great edifice of hope on it; Hoke going to and winning a BCS game in year one provided buttresses and filigree and whatnot to the structure.

At a few years remove it's clear that Hoke stumbled ass-backwards into that success. Few 11-2 seasons have been jankier than Michigan's 2011. The Notre Dame game that kicked things off was a deranged exercise in winning against double coverage; Michigan threw 41 times for 2.8 YPA against Michigan State; they had 166 yards of offense before chuck-and-pray time against Iowa; they were one overthrown Braxton Miller pass away from losing to a .500 OSU team; they won that bowl game with 184 yards of total offense.

The signs were all there, even in the moment ("lucky as hell," quoth this space in the aftermath of the Denard After Dentist game). I alternated between excitement at the idea of a head coach who had an innate aggressiveness on fourth down and wondering why the hell they thought Denard Robinson could be Tom Brady.

But the games were won, and the recruits rolled in. Hoke seemed to stroll through a garden of four-stars gathering what he would. For a year or two, everything seemed just fine. In 2013, Michigan beat Notre Dame rather easily. Michigan fans were walking on air. Then someone looked down.


Rarely in the history of college football has a fanbase been jerked so rudely to attention as already beleaguered Michigan fans were in 2013. The relatively straight line that was the Hoke era turned into a harrowing plunge straight into the bowels of second-and-eleven-play-action hell. Save for an inexplicable Ohio State game, Michigan became the most brutally unwatchable team in the country the instant they left the field against Notre Dame.

Hoke was the same person through the good bits and the bad. He was gruffly nonsensical to start and gruffly nonsensical to end. As success turned to failure, the things we liked about him became the things we hated about him. Remember when this was hilarious?

via Ace

That joke isn't funny anymore.

Despite the fact that people will still swear up and down that Brady Hoke is a great dude, I have less charity in my heart for him than I did Rich Rodriguez when it came to write his obit. A slice from that piece:

Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.

Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit.

Hoke was that coachbot even in impossible circumstances. By the end so many indignities had piled up that I was waiting for him to snap.

It never came. He endured the brutally painful press conference following last year's Minnesota game as a coachbot. He released a statement apologizing to Michigan State for Joe Bolden putting a small piece of metal in their field. At no point did he bite the head off a reporter, or say that his boss had sold him down the river, or do anything at all other than repeat the same goddamn things he'd been repeating for two straight years.

I liked Rodriguez because he seemed like a person who reacted to stimuli. He reacted too much, but at least you could see that he was processing information and coming to conclusions about what it meant.

Hoke did not do this. Whether Hoke was stoic or insensate is in the eye of the beholder; given the chaos around the program my vote is the latter. He seemed to shut down in terror when his dream job turned to a nightmare.

As the competence of his team deteriorated, Hoke shuffled his coaching staff nonsensically instead of making real changes. He stuck with his terrible punt formation and a style of offense unsuited for his quarterbacks. Even after it was clear his disastrous program could not be allowed to continue—the financial ruin it would cause must have been apparent to even Michigan's most recent athletic director—nothing changed. If Hoke thought he had a chance, well, he also called timeout to give Penn State a free Hail Mary.

At least Nero fiddled. Brady Hoke stood there in the rain without so much as shaking a fist at the heavens.



August 6th, 2015 at 12:44 PM ^

We didn't get to see what RR could do because of Carr and Brandon.  We didn't get to see what Hoke could do because his job was to be Brandon's sock puppet and take the heat for everything that failed.  

RR is the current Pac 12 Coach of the Year.  Hoke may not ever get another chance at a big program, but I don't think he is as bad a coach as it appeared under Brandon.  Maybe the reason he didn't show as much emotion is because he had to detach to do his job without wanting to vomit.

At least Michigan is back in good hands.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:42 PM ^

RR is the current PAC-12 coach of the year due to one good upset when Oregon was down several starting OL and a series of lucky bounces similar to Brady's first year.  He's doing well at Arizone, but let's not pretend he's standing head and shoulders atop the conference.  

We didn't get to see what RR could do at Michigan because he blew it here.

Hoke, I think is a fine coach for a non-power five program, but he just didn't seem to be up to the task here.  Brandon's influence likely had something to do with that, but Hoke was manifestly in over his head.


August 6th, 2015 at 5:31 PM ^

I'm not trying to have a "Hot Take" just stating an opinion I formed after looking over Arizona's season.  Admittedly, I'm a UCLA fan, so I'm biased against Arizona(not RR, I think he's a good coach who just blew it here).  But it's hard not to see Arizona's season as the result of an awful lot of lucky breaks going their way.

Arizona barely beat UTSA and Nevada(neither are world beaters, but Nevada is at least decent) at home.

They needed a 36 point 4th quarter and a Hail Mary to beat Cal, Good on them for engineering that comeback, but a comeback like that requires a lot of participation from the other team.

Oregon had three starting linemen out in their first meeting, which Arizona still needed to pull out a last minute play to win.

They had to hit a 47 yard field goal as time expired to beat a mediocre Washington team at home.

The second time Oregon played them, Arizona got splattered and Boise St. always seemed to have an element of control during the bowl game.  If UCLA doesn't miss two field goal attempts in a row against Utah, Arizona doesn't even win the division.  There is the counterpoint that they were in position to beat USC as time expired, but that's one game against a lot of other close wins.

He got really lucky last year, on top of being a good coach, and so good things happened for him, but it's not like he formed some sort of juggernaut out in the desert.  The PAC-12 is also full of good coaches, so it's not like he's leaving a trail of hot death in his wake.  He's doing well at Arizona and I'm happy for him, but neither am I really seeing anything that makes me think he would have eventually turned it around here.



August 6th, 2015 at 1:44 PM ^

Ah yes, if only Carr hadn't sabatoged defensive drills under Rodriguez, or if Brandon hadn't forced Borges to have Denard Robinson throw deep play-action on 2nd & 15.  Surely several national titles would have been won.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:57 PM ^

We didn't let the Pac12 CotY slip through our fingers.  We hired a coach who became that guy.  We didn't hire the Pac12 CotY any more than the program that hired Hoke over Harbaugh deserved the latter at the time.  Harbaugh working for Brandon?  That wasn't going to work out any better than Martin/RichRod.  Hoke was the best coach to be working for Brandon; the real problem here was that Brandon had no business running an athletic department, but it was Hoke or nobody (literally -- I think he's the only guy DB seriously looked at).

Back to RichRod, my point is, it really looks to me like he learned a few things in his tumultuous time here.  His football knowledge was never a problem (just ask WV), but in his own ways he seemed just as overwhelmed as Hoke about the CEO aspects of running a big-time program, and made some mistakes that had nothing to do with anyone putting a goddamn gun to his head.  He doesn't seem to be making them at Arizona, which is great.  That doesn't mean RichRod owes us a debt of gratitude, but just that I think the crapfest that was the last seven years changed a bunch of people, some ways better, some ways worse.  You don't go through the kind of adversity RichRod faced at Michigan without learning a few things.  Good for him, boo us, but it's clear we still had lessons of our own to learn.

And it looks like those lessons were learned, albeit at great cost.  Michigan students eventually revolted, Hackett took over and Harbaugh was hired.  There's still a lot of damage to undo, but we're heading in the right direction, and it's not because of blind luck.  People aren't static, and neither are institutions.

The thing I find most tedious about the RichRod/Hoke debates is the constant need for people to turn complexity and change into simple and static.  Problems are not solved by the same level of thinking that created them, and the RR/Hoke debacles were no exception.  Everyone who emerged stronger either grew or was replaced.

Except here, where we're going to be punching each other over this through eternity.


August 6th, 2015 at 3:23 PM ^

I wholly agree with Brian's take on Hoke.  That all being said, I think that Harbaugh in 2015 is a very different Harbaugh from 2011.  We might all be twiddling our thumbs here looking for a new coach if JH came in 2011 and is now in SF or Oakland.  He's done his time (we hope) in the NFL and has come home.  

Our emotional investment in our team and institution is probably that much deeper because of the adversity seen on (and off) the field.  For all of us that have stuck with this, I'd argue that I have never been as excited for UM football as I have in almost 30 yrs.  Unfortunately, it's sometimes good to realize had bad we can be before things get better again.


August 6th, 2015 at 4:17 PM ^

Carr and Brandon had nothing to do with complete ineptitude on special teams under both RR and Hoke.  Likewise defensive ineptitude under RR and offensive ineptitude under Hoke should not be blamed on the AD or prior coach (even though lloyd was a douche to RR).


August 6th, 2015 at 12:19 PM ^

One thing I'll never understand about Brians take on Rich Rod vs Hoke.  When Hoke refused to change his prefered system to match Denard it was a negative sign but when Rich Rod refused to change his offensive system despite having steven threet at QB it was just working through a roster that didn't match his system.  Great coaches make it work, neither Hoke or Rich Rod are great coaches.  It just confuses me that the coach with the worse overall record is remembered more fondly than the one who won a bcs bowl, however flukey when both were left with unstable rosters and a system that didn't fit their players.

Cranky Dave

August 6th, 2015 at 12:59 PM ^

Article from Grantland (link below) on the top 10 indispensable players in college football. If this had been written in 2011-12 I'm confident Denard would have been on the list. The quote below is very relevant to this thread:

"Without them in the lineup, the offense/defense wouldn’t merely be less effective, it would likely have to change in some fundamental way, because replacement-level players couldn’t be asked to do what these guys do within the scheme. They’re indispensable because they don’t fit readily into the machine; they’ve forced the machine to adapt to fit them."

Hoke forced Denard to adapt to the machine instead of the other way around.



August 6th, 2015 at 1:36 PM ^

On top of that, there was no machine.  Hoke inherited Denard and five veteran offensive lineman (going into at least their third year) who would go on to the NFL (though he played Will Campbell on D).  Yet he kept complaining about needing to recruit a different kind of guy.

Then when guys like Lewan and Schofield graduated, he scrapped the whole thing, canned Borges, and started all over again with a zone-centric scheme, in a weak attempt to copy a more successful program in Alabama (he did the same thing on D with MSU).  Sacrificing any bit of talent on that 2011 team so we could build to a 5-7 season is infuriating.



August 6th, 2015 at 1:37 PM ^

I love denard.  He was an exciting player and seemed like an even better person off the field.  However his role as a QB is incredibly over rated on this board,  The offenses under him just were not good, even under rich rod they got shut down by any defense with a pulse when it counted.  Denards best position has always been rb or slot receiver and that is just the reality becuase he wasn't an accurate passer or great decision maker in the passing game.  Yes he could give you a game like ND that was amazing but when asked to throw the ball against good defense he could aslo give you a ND where he gets picke off 6 times.  There is a reason forcier beat him out for the starting job when both were freshman. 

And sure steven threet wasn't going to be great no matter what but you have to put your players in the bet possible system to succeed and that wasn't the spread for sheridan but rich rod was running only his offense fromt the day he walked in the door and that is part of why Mallett left.  I don't care who your starting qb is at michigan, if you score 10 points against toledo you are doing something horribly wrong as a coach.


August 6th, 2015 at 2:43 PM ^

Don't know why this is still a thing. It is known that Mallet never spoke to RR before he left. There was rumbling for a long time that he wanted to head home to Arkansas for a while. 

In regards to coaches adapting to their players, look no farther than Ohio. OSU played three different style QBs with different strengths in the same system, and dominated with all of them. That's where Michigan needs to be. 


August 6th, 2015 at 12:24 PM ^

RR's first year was going to suck no matter what.  He didn't have a competent QB for any system so might as well go ahead and implement your system.  It's also the only offensive system he had (which could also be said for Hoke I guess).


August 6th, 2015 at 12:32 PM ^

The revisionism of the RR crowd never ceases to amaze. NOBODY was predicting 3-9 and a debacle. NOBODY. I believe even the poster predicted a 7-5 season.

That season sucked because come hell or high water, RR was going to run HIS offense.

And for what it's worth, I don't think that was the wrong thing to do. But let's stop with the Michigan was destined to suck in 2008 crap. It's all hindsight.


August 6th, 2015 at 5:43 PM ^

that try to milk clock and win games 21-10, 17-7, etc. It may not be the most popular way to play but it's proven to be successful in the past. One of them currently plays right up the road in the same conference as Michigan.

It's not a crime to win games with an emphasis on defense. RR CHOSE not to do that.



August 6th, 2015 at 12:54 PM ^

You're wrong. At the time, most everyone I knew thought we'd have an off year. We just didn't know exactly how off it would be. Also, the "Lloyd left the cupboard bare" meme--leaving aside the question of its validity--was also circulating at the time. 


August 6th, 2015 at 1:04 PM ^

Find me 3-9. Again, the blog founder predicted 7-5. There was enough talent on that team even with the QB situation to win more than 3 football games.

Today it's all about RichRod was a miracle worker to get that team to 3 wins. It's revisionist. 

Blue Durham

August 6th, 2015 at 3:51 PM ^

The only thing worse than losing to Toledo was having a team full of NFL talent and losing to a D-II team at home that was about a 45 point underdog.

Not that that happened the prior year to Rodriguez' arrival or anything like that.

The indicators were there, but few saw them. There were a lot of problems with the state of the program when Rodriguez arrived.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:31 PM ^

Who is saying that RichRod was a miracle worker to get that team to 3 wins?

I don't know how old you are, but I think, because of the last 2 coaches, people forget what "low expectations" meant to Michigan at that time.  No one was predicting 3-9 because the thought of Michigan going 3-9 was incomprehensible.  We were coming off 30ish straight bowl games, so as far as large portions of this fan base was concerned (me included), 7-5 was literally the worst case scenario we could imagine.

It sounds silly now, but that was the mindset then.

snarling wolverine

August 6th, 2015 at 9:16 PM ^

In game 1 against Utah, we took them down to the wire and lost 25-22.  That Utah team finished 12-0.

The 2008 team certainly wasn't as talented as a typical Michigan team but that group - especially on the defensive side of the ball - just plain came unraveled as the season went on.  That was a theme of the RichRod years: we'd show promise in September and then we'd fall apart at the first sign of adversity.  


carlos spicywiener

August 6th, 2015 at 1:17 PM ^

Luke Fickell and the 90% of the coaching staff retained after Tressel's firing were collectively thrown into a situation much worse, having to bridge the gap between Tressel's last squad and Meyer's first?


Both squads that won double digit games? And were stocked with years of quality recruiting?


You're seriously going to claim that?