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.



August 6th, 2015 at 12:49 PM ^

Hoke was in over his head

This is the core of it.  Nice guy, good coach at a certain level, but in rarified air he couldn't catch his breath.  Events overtook him.

This happens ... every year in the coaching circles (i.e., Luke Fickell, Will Muschamp), and every day in the world of business where someone is promoted one step above their abilities.

It's just too bad it happened on the well-lit stage of Michigan football.

2015 is another year.  Hope springs eternal.


August 6th, 2015 at 12:35 PM ^

This is a pretty fair piece about Hoke, sadly. 

I do wonder about Hoke's inability to stray from Coachbot Programming was Brandon looming over him (and the program) the entire time. 



August 6th, 2015 at 3:04 PM ^

Harbaugh gets away with his bluster because he is competent and supremely confident in the Head Coach role. I don't know that Hoke is either of those things, thus he must stick to what's safe when he talks.

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August 6th, 2015 at 12:38 PM ^

and being a head coach are two completely different jobs. One requires you to have an intricate knowledge of football. The other requires you to be an excellent manager of people and good organizational abilty. The fact Hoke had no coordinator experience doesn't mean he wasn't qualified to be the head coach at Michigan. There may have been other issues, but that's a red herring.


August 6th, 2015 at 12:42 PM ^

I've wondered if part of Hoke's issue in game management and decision making wasn't due to diabetes.  I don't know that he is diabetic or pre-diabetic, but given his age and size, I wouldn't be surprised if he is.  Add to that his ritual of not eating anything on game day until after the game.  Especially if it's a late afternoon or night game, that could be a recipe for low blood sugar and sluggish behavior and thinking. 

Like I said, I have no idea if Hoke is diabetic or not, but it could explain some of his in-game indecision and lack of clarity in post game comments.


August 6th, 2015 at 2:52 PM ^

I'm saying that any one of those are possibilities, as is your assertion that he is not diabetic.  His lack of eating on game day isn't proof one way or the other. I would also say that ignoring or not following doctor's orders is quite common, no matter the intelligence level of the patient.


August 6th, 2015 at 4:10 PM ^

It's entirely possible that he either has Type 2 diabetes and does not have an official diagnosis, or that he does and he's not managing his blood sugar well. You need to learn how to do it, and it's not uncommon for somebody with Type 2 diabetes to be in denial.

I personally tend not to notice low blood sugar until I realize I'm horrifically cranky. In a high stress environment where he was likely to have been running on adrenaline anyway, Hoke might have been able to ignore it until after the game.


August 6th, 2015 at 12:47 PM ^

I have exactly zero sympathy for Coach Hoke. The guy was painfully average. I guess I'm glad he was nice, but does that really matter? Saban's a prick, but he wins. As a fan, that's all I care about. I don't give two shits if he's "really nice" to his players.


August 6th, 2015 at 12:55 PM ^

Regular men aren't meant to do extraordinary things. Hoke is entirely average at caching and at places like Ball State and San Diego State, regular and average and okay is enough to succeed. Funny that Hoke's, "this is Michigan, fergodsakes" line was an accurate assesment of why he failed. That and he was hired after compiling a losing record at two Group of Five programs. It's a mistake other schools on Michigan's level have made (see: Golden, Al) and will make again.

Thank you for your service Mr. Hoke. I hope you find a place where you belong.


August 6th, 2015 at 12:55 PM ^

Rich Rod should never have been coaching here as well.

What shakeups did he make with his staffs, especially as it pertained to defense and special teams?

RR was as stubborn as a mule as well. Hoke failed, and for that I'm disappointed. RR failed, and for that I'm disappointed.

Please, Jimmy, please win.

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August 6th, 2015 at 12:56 PM ^

The Chicago Tribune ran an article today about Tim Beckman who is in a 4th year dead man walking situation at Illinois. The story seemed awfully similar to one we know all too well. As stated above, let's makes this the last obit. Brian has to write. I think we have a coach with staying power this time. Harbaugh!


August 6th, 2015 at 12:57 PM ^

This post is about 7 months late.  Hoke read this and hokepointed at his bank account, which is currently increasing at a montly rate of $125,000 and will continue until the $3M we owed him is paid in full.

In Harbaugh we trust....onward.


August 6th, 2015 at 12:58 PM ^

I don't mean this pejoratively but Hoke would have been better suited as "Team Mom" than head coach.

He loved his players and by all accounts it was reciprocal. He would've been a great person to handle personal issues and provide counseling and guidance, just not in the area of football strategy and tactics.

At the end of the day, you could argue that's basically what he was for 4 years. Team Dad. The guy you go to for advice on life, not to develop as a player.

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August 6th, 2015 at 1:06 PM ^

I supported Brady Hoke well into his decline.

But when he left Shane Morris out on the field hurt and stumbling around, that moment turned all his dull witted rah-rah into a bunch of weak, phony posturing.

Rich Ro riguez (no D) learned there's more than one aspect to a football game at our expense.

Coach Harbaugh does not harbor such glaring weakness. He knows how to win with integrity.

Godspeed Wolverines! Go Blue! 



August 6th, 2015 at 1:03 PM ^

Hoke is that guy that you love to have in your group, until it's time to do the group project, then you just wish you had someone who did more of the work. 

Woodstock Wolverine

August 6th, 2015 at 1:03 PM ^

"He released a statement apologizing to Michigan State for Joe Bolden putting a small piece of metal in their field. "

This was the straw for me. Toughness my ass! Weakest thing I've ever seen a coach do. Can you imagine what Harbaugh would of done. Not apologize I can tell you that.

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August 6th, 2015 at 1:04 PM ^

I was in the student section for every game of Hoke's breakout season at Ball State, and what I saw was a stout defense and an offense with a pro-level talent at QB basically freelancing and a runningback going wild every game with every defense terrified of Nate Davis.  Hoke knew he stumbled into that breakout year and was smart to flee to SDSU when he did. The worst CFB coach ever, Stan Parrish, led us to a 2-10 record the next year, and I cannot imagine Hoke would have made much of a difference.

I was really skeptical at the time of his hire at UM because I saw him basically ride Nate Davis to relevance, but I bought in with the Sugar Bowl just like everyone else.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:10 PM ^

Michigan may perform a lot better even under these lofty expectations with a legit coach.  Hoke looked lost and refused to change anything.  His development of players, especially QBs, was incredibly lacking.  This won't happen under Harbaugh.  If anything, players will look better than they actually are.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:10 PM ^

Hoke needs to figure out who he is. The never-ending toughness rhetoric is completely at odds with the actual person. He seems like a nice, caring person who likes to form relationships and encourage people. That is great! Be a teacher, be a recruiting coordinator or a position coach, I don't care. Head coach of Michigan is just not for you.

It was so incredibly painful seeing Hoke's complete lack of fire in the face of adversity. He doesn't deserve the scorn I felt towards him, and yet he did sign up for the job.


August 6th, 2015 at 1:12 PM ^

Watched M destroy central then they looked like world beaters against ND. Actually went to the Akron game and like everyone there thought it would be over by halftime.   That was the beginning of the end for hoke. 


August 6th, 2015 at 1:20 PM ^

Yes. Looking back it was that Akron game. I remember filing out of the Big House and hearing a guy mutter "I can't believe I drove here from New Jersey for THIS." It was a win, but it felt like a loss. And worse than most actual losses, it shook our confidence that that team could get back to a top ten level. It shook our confidence that ANY Hoke-led team could get back to a top ten level.

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