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

Submitted by Brian on 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.


Mich OC

August 6th, 2015 at 9:16 PM ^

Firing Rich Rod was absolutely not the right decision, both at the time and in hindsight.  

Given what he was being asked to do to the program, a complete overhaul, you need to give him AT LEAST 4 years to do that.  I would say 5, so he has a complete cycle of his players, especially with his track record and the improvement he was showing.

The only justification for firing RR would be if you have a can't miss hire lined up. which they clearly did not.  

Who you are replacing someone with has to be considered when deciding to fire someone, and we ended up with Brady Hoke.  Terrible decision.  

And of course the team quit on him against Miss St.  It was a foregone conclusion that he was getting fired, and the AD was hanging him out to dry and showing no support.  Contrast that to the manifesto DB wrote for Hoke at the end of his 7-5 third season.  


August 6th, 2015 at 12:22 PM ^

Well written.

Now please, let this be the last of these eloquent obituaries that bury yet another self-inflicted Michigan mistake.

It's time for someone to stay alive for a while.

Everyone Murders

August 6th, 2015 at 12:23 PM ^

That's the whole ball o' wax, isn't it?  During that coaching search nearly everyone dreaded that he'd be a mediocrity at best, and our fears proved correct.  His folksy charm and improbable first year record temporarily allayed those fears, but over time it was clear that he was out of his depth.

Which sucks, because he's a fundamentally decent man by all accounts, and loved the school and his charges.  I remain a fan of Brady Hoke the man, but not of Brady Hoke the coach.

Nice write up, sir.

Ronnie Kaye

August 6th, 2015 at 12:39 PM ^

I recall a lot of people declaring Hoke a grand slam after Year 1. It went deeper than temporarily allaying fears.

I never got the Hoke love, however short-lived it was. The height of my admiration for him was "so far, so good. Let's hope he keeps it up." It became pretty clear to me we didn't have a good coach after Nebraska 2012 when he put Bellomy in over Gardner. By UConn 2013, I knew he wasn't going to be around for very long.

The lesson learned for the future, I hope? That people will stop putting a lot of stock into trite things like opening press conferences.

Everyone Murders

August 6th, 2015 at 12:58 PM ^

I think a lot of the folks that were cheering the hire had an intense dislike of all things RichRod - the "Lloyd Carr's University of Michigan" louts*.  Hoke appealed to the old guard in that he had a better understanding of his constituency, got what made Michigan special, and so on. 

What they didn't get is that he just was not a great football coach.  And at a Power 5 program (especially one as storied as Michigan) a coach needs to be great.

FWIW, I was slow to warm to Hoke, but thought his coordinators would be able to bring success - success by delegation.  I was particularly glad to see Nussmeier replace Borgess, thinking that a better OC would cure what ailed Michigan, but I was way off base on that view. 

*This is not a dig at Lloyd Carr, but at the louts who sowed derision at their alma mater with the reference.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:00 PM ^

November 28th, 2011 at 6:05 PM


Joined: 11/03/2008
MGoPoints: 24
Brady Hoke may bet he best thing that's happened to the program since Bo. Perfect honesty, clear values and a love for the university that he teaches his players is so much of the story. And the humility. I hope I can learn that from him - even from a distance. The coaching of fundamentals, the attention to detail and a clear focus seem like every coach's objectives, and then we get to watch a guy that actually gets those things done - and he's ours! I assume that the Ohio alumni are as happy as they can be about Meyer. He appears to be a fine man, but he won't be a better coach than Hoke. I wouldn't trade Hoke for Meyer or any of the laundry list of saviors we thought we needed last year. Go Blue.


Elmer's picture
Joined: 04/22/2011
MGoPoints: 2811
Maybe the biggest difference
Maybe the biggest difference is that Hoke will still be here in 5 years, Meyer probably won't.
November 28th, 2011 at 8:56 PM
IMO, you are so dead on....

Before this year if you would have told me that Meyer was going to be Ohio's next coach, I would have probably feared the possibilities.  But with Hoke, Mattison, Borges, and STAFF, I am rest assured that we will be fine and contending for B1G championships year in and year out.  There will not be another 10 year stand like there was the past decade with OSU vs Michigan as long as Hoke is our coach.  You'v gotta love this guy!



This next one is pure gold.  I bet Brian's head would explode reading it.

November 29th, 2011 at 8:10 AM


Top dog 4578's picture
Joined: 04/23/2011
MGoPoints: 652
What more
can you say about this man? What a great fit for Michigan ..You someone getting overlooked in this is Mr.David Brandon ....What a job he has done since taking over..Tremendous, tremendous ...Great time to be a Michigan man..GO BLUE!!!!!

Go Blue !!




August 6th, 2015 at 2:41 PM ^

I'll admit, I was fooled by Hoke early on.  My biggest fear was that he was going to be DeBord 2.0.

But early on he did some anti-Debord things like the TD pass with :08 left in UTL and went for it a few times on 4th and 2 and so on.  And he could recruit like gangbusters.  What's not to like?

But then he regressed to 27 for 27 and just seemed to go into a shell.

But it really did not matter.  By that time, the issue was beyond just calling plays not to lose.  The issue was one of basic competnecy.  He was in over his head and even top coordinators like GMatt and Nuss could not change that. 



August 6th, 2015 at 1:14 PM ^

The "fundamentally decent man by all accounts" thing that I really wanted to believe about Hoke was one of the things that died for me with Shane's concussion. Not just with what happened on the field, but with all of the plausible deniability, weasel words and lack of responsibility -- Shane was diagnosed on Sunday with the concussion, he and Hoke spoke Monday before his press conference but Hoke "wasn't told" about the concussion until after the press conference? A "fundamentally decent man" wouldn't have allowed himself to be kept in the dark as to the health of one of the players in his care for a day or more just to be able to say plausible things to reporters.

Everyone Murders

August 6th, 2015 at 1:57 PM ^

The Morris incident certainly underscored that Hoke really could not handle the job.  But my strong sense is that Hoke was Brandon's finger puppet when it came to issues like Morris's concussion and sexual assault allegations about Gibbons. 

I think it's much more likely that Hoke told those lies because he was assured by Brandon that "this is the way we handle things, and it's all for the best - I know PR" or some such.  That may not speak well to Hoke's common sense, but trusting in your management in those instances is not sufficient for me to call the man's decency into question.

Was he a dope about PR and other things?  Sure.  Bad at press conferences?  Yep.  But I don't think he is a bad person - just one out of his element, and relying on the advice of a person none of us much like.

distant gerbil…

August 6th, 2015 at 3:04 PM ^

There were signs before Minnesota (not showing up against Kansas State, putting Funchess back in vs. Notre Dame) that things weren't what they seemed but the entire game vs. Minnesota felt like Hoke was just spiting everyone and the team played that way. By the second half Minnesota was yapping like they knew they were playing a team with no heart and when did anyone ever see Michigan punked by Minnesota?

You're right though, it was inconceivable that he was so hard hearted during the Press Conference about Shane, but then how does Shane not tell Hoke Monday morning that he has a concussion when he was diagnosed Sunday night? I never believed that could be true and that's when the decent man thing died for me too.

The bottom line is he had to bring something to the table as Head Coach and he didn't. Literally any of us could coach a football team if all you do is hire assistants and clap. The team embodied none of the characteristics that he said he wanted and the one time they did, he apologized for it.

carlos spicywiener

August 6th, 2015 at 1:27 PM ^

listen, i'm just responding to your assertion. You think RR was a ridiculous hire in hindsight. He really wasn't. I'd much rather we keep hiring coaches like RR, even if they fail, because they have a track record.

In no circumstance should a guy like Hoke, the worst hire in the history of the program, be the head coach here.


August 6th, 2015 at 6:29 PM ^

was a bad fit at Michigan. Nothing that happened in the 3 years he was there makes me think that belief is wrong.

Now you can argue "culture shouldn't matter. It's about the football." And I think that's fine if you're winning 10 or 11 games a year. But football also includes a side of the ball called "defense" and his management of that was beyond a shitshow. There is no more damning indictment of the RR era than Mattison taking one of the worst defenses in the nation and making it a top-20 unit the next season. 

As I stated above, RR is a top of the line offensive coordinator. But at a place like Michigan where EVERYTHING is in the spotlight, you have to be able to have the ability to say and do the right things to the right people. You have to be the face of the program to the outside world. That's not something he's good at or comfortable with. He's a ball coach. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you can't be great as a face of the program, you damn well better win a lot of games. He never did that.

Mich OC

August 6th, 2015 at 9:22 PM ^

The "bad fit" stuff is such bullshit.  A coach with a track record like Rich Rod had coming in, with no history of cheating or character issues should never be a "bad fit" for Michigan.  That isn't an indictment on Rich Rod, its an indictment on Michigan.  


August 6th, 2015 at 1:10 PM ^

RichRod won one BCS bowl game. He successor won the last won. Rodriguez had a chance to win a national championship prior to coming here and his team choked in a game they had no business choking in.

A choke job like that was overlooked because his value was rising. He had to deal with many problems outside of his control but his defense and Big 10 record was enough demonstration that he wasn't going to work.

carlos spicywiener

August 6th, 2015 at 1:22 PM ^

He successor won the last won.

...yeah with his players and a football program he had been running up until about 3 days ago. Soon as he left, WVU took a immediate nosedive under Stewart.

and his team choked in a game they had no business choking in.

strange things happen in rivalry games, doesn't mean you should throw away his track record, accomplishments, and body of work. I can point at a choke job Urban Meyer was responsible for, does that mean he's a bad hire?

Ronnie Kaye

August 6th, 2015 at 12:49 PM ^

If you posed the question "Who would you rather have as your football coach, Rich Rodriguez or Brady Hoke?" to the nation's athletic directors in early 2011, Dave Brandon may have literally been the only one to answer Hoke. THAT is why RR is better.


August 6th, 2015 at 12:52 PM ^

8 months is "long-dead"? DIdn't see the demand for applause either.

After everything going on, I think this is a nice lead in to the next season.  Also, a little bit of time often gives some perspective you didn't have in the heat of the moment.

Especially when it was teased it would be coming down eventually, no issue with this. Now if it was next offseason, ok.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:27 PM ^

I'm mostly with you, but I'm surprised on the timing on this. Every year Brian starts his preview with a "the story" post about how we got here, and this would have a good intro into Harbaugh being hired. People still would have bitched about it, but it would have made sense given the context. Posting it now seems kinda random when the new season is right around the corner.


August 6th, 2015 at 4:26 PM ^

I suppose. Maybe a month earlier would have been better. 


Hoke didn't bring about the vitriol that Brandon did. Hoke didn't give us failed retail activations noodles, snarky emails to fans, or breaking things that didn't need to be broken.


Hoke had his flaws, but they never seemed to rise to the level of disgust We had with Brandon. Not doing the obit on Hoke right away just feels so fitting to me. It's the end of that era that had a somewhat similar attitude. I don't think Brian was trying to be that meta - more likely that the magazine and other things took up more time and it was more important to cover those than say that Hoke was just kind of "meh" - but for me, it fits. Brad Hoke gets in departure what he brought us with the program. The Hoke shrug is the ultimate sign off.


But yes I'll be happy for football to be here.



August 6th, 2015 at 12:33 PM ^

I would argue that Nebraska in 2012 is when things went south.

Hoke proclaimed that this was Michigan, Rodriquez referenced the Lion King, Harbaugh believes that football is the last bastion of hope for toughness in American men.

Time will tell if we finally have our guy, but at this point, I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather have as coach.


August 7th, 2015 at 3:11 AM ^

Hoke decided to throw away the season and essentially his Michigan coaching career that day.    

The Michigan-Nebraska game was for the fucking right to go to the Big Ten title game and Hoke sits back and watches a clearly incompetent Bellomy throw away the season.

Magically, a week later, Gardner is ready to go and does well.  

I can't even describe how mad I was that evening watching a trip to the Rose Bowl go down the drain.

Out And Out

August 6th, 2015 at 12:33 PM ^

I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for Hoke. This is a man that undeniably loves Michigan, and to see his dream deteriorate during his last to years was painful to watch. Sure, the combination of being a "coachbot" for Brandon and his stuborness led to his failure. He was just not ready to be the head coach at Michigan, and that ultimately bit him in the ass. It boils down to this: he should have never been offered the job. 


August 6th, 2015 at 2:05 PM ^

Indeed.  I really like the guy, but there's a lot of guys I really like that don't deserve to be paid $ millions to coach the University of Michigan.

In that sense, I'm happy for him.  He got to realize his dream for a while and made a ton of money doing it.  It did not work out long term, but it's a lot further than most of us will ever get.



August 6th, 2015 at 12:34 PM ^

Hoke was in over his head by no fault of his own. Opportunity knocked and he was woefully unprepaired for the position.

And then he doubled down.