Mailbag: OC Or DC Background, The Other Kelly, Blues Brothers Dance Hug-out Comment Count

Brian December 12th, 2014 at 5:04 PM

The importance of coach background?


Patterson is a rare defensive HC standout

Hi Brian,

I know there are plenty of questions about the coaching search coming through, I'd hoped to give a different take.

In your opinion what is the preferable background of a coach. In the modern game with high powered, explosive offenses being the key to success, the trend seems be leaning towards guys with strong background in developing offenses (Tom Herman, Gus Malzahn, etc). I still maintain that the best background for a head coach is having a much stronger background on the defensive side of the ball. A top notch defense requires  the ability to adapt to the offense (everyone runs the same offense week to week, defenses must adjust) putting a higher premium on extensive experience multiple jobs running multiple defenses.

The other key to success is recruiting (it seems you can out scheme your way to an effective offense, but a defense is more about the 'Jimmy's and Joe's). In my estimate, the best coach would be a guy with a lot of DC experience who knows what hates to defend and hires that guy. For instance, if Hoke had just admitted he didn't know anything about offense and spent the blank check Brandon gave him on the best guy to run a Denard led team (As I recall there were heaps of Oregonesque coordinators out there who would kill to walk into an experienced Denard job with money to spend on top assistants), we would probably be celebrating Hoke as a genius for not wearing the headset. I'm not sure Rodriguez hiring a stud D coordinator and letting them run the D the way they wanted would have worked because a number of his D recruits didn't pan out, which I believe goes to talent identification.

Please don't excommunicated me from the M family, I still think Harbaugh is the top candidate despite his offensive background!


You've got a pretty good case with "DC who knows what he hates to defend," as that's exactly what Bob Stoops did and he's been pretty successful. On the other hand, the top guys in college right now have a decided offensive bent.

Defensive guys at top 25 schools: Saban, Dantonio, Patterson, Snyder, Whittingham, Mora.

Offensive guys: Meyer, Helfrich, Fisher, Briles, Mullen, Freeze, Rodriguez, Johnson, Richt, Graham, Pinkel, Swinney, Andersen, Malzahn, Harsin, Petrino, Miles, Sarkisian, Kill.

A few of those are tenuous (Swinney was never a coordinator, Kill has been a head coach for so long he's just a head coach); even considering that it seems like the rapid evolution of offense has made OCs preferable to DCs.

And when DCs do have sustained success it's often because they have an oddball system they make work, whether it's Saban's NFL-style pattern matching, Dantonio's hyperaggressive cover 4, or Patterson's 4-2-5. Imposing your will is possible on defense; it seems to be a lot easier on offense.

How long?


I know you are being loaded with questions around the coaching search. My question is for after the search is over. The basis of the question is simple. How long do you think until Michigan is back to at least consistent 8 to 9 win seasons.

My personal belief is that with Harbaugh the chances are quick. But, what if it is not Harbaugh and someone who specializes in spread concepts to their offense, ie.) a Mullen or Herman? Do you think those hires would lead to as heavy an attrition as the Rich Rod transition did? If not how well would the current roster mesh with those schemes. Lastly if one of those two or another spread guy was hired, and the transition isn't a great fit, should we be prepared for Harbaugh, Harbaugh, Harbaugh, all over 4 years from now? Thanks in advance.


There wasn't actually that much Rich Rod-Hoke transition attrition. Most of the guys who left did so because they couldn't stay in school or find playing time. IIRC, Cullen Christian and Ray Vinopal left with Tony Gibson to go to Pitt, but I don't think anyone else could be claimed to have left as direct effect of the changeover. (Check the most recent Attrition Watch and correct me if I'm wrong.) In general, transfers are rare. PSU had their program burned to the ground and open season declared on their players and they only lost a few guys.

Recruits who haven't signed LOIs are a different matter, but if Michigan has a coach in January they'll have about ten spots to fill.

As far as spread/not spread, the differences in personnel there are considerably overstated. OSU and Miss St run power-oriented spread offenses built on being beefy mean guys; that kind of offense would fit well with Michigan's recruits on the OL. Receivers are receivers; Michigan has a couple slot guys. Tailbacks like Brandon Minor and Carlos Hyde function in the spread; Michigan's current crew could do just fine.

QB is the big difference, and it's an issue. I do think Morris has sufficient wheels to be a keep-'em honest threat, and as OSU's shown over the past half-decade or so, a spread oriented system tends to keep reads for shaky QBs relatively simple.

Hoke did a very good job stocking the roster with guys who stick around and they are beginning to mature, so a relatively quick (read: year 2) turnaround is within the realm of possibility.

[After the JUMP: frankly, things get very silly.]

Brian Kelly?


let's consider this for a moment, just for fun

Hi Brian,

Like everyone else, now that the other shoe has officially dropped on Hoke, we get to wait and speculate. Well, speculate more anyway.

I was wondering what you think about Brian Kelly? I know you were high on him last time around, ND could be somewhat pissed at winding up at 7-5, and he's never seemed like quite the right guy for them.

Any chance we could poach him, and is it worth it?

Jon (stubob), class of '98

This is a weird question that will never happen but it's interesting as a though experiment so:

The natives are restless in South Bend after ND went off a cliff this year and I get where they're coming from. Their 12-1 season wasn't actually the kind of team that impresses you with their dominance (it featured narrow escapes against Purdue, Pitt, Stanford, and BYU) and the thud at the end of the year demonstrated just how far away from truly elite that team was. The rest of Kelly's tenure has seen four or five losses. It's not that far from Bo Pelini's tenure.

So he might be achievable if only because ND isn't going to fight tooth and nail to keep him. But for that very reason he not an enthralling candidate.

He's at a peer school and in year 5 he just went 7-5. He's turned purple, he's suffered an unusual number of quick defections from star players, and he would be entering with negative points with people around the program since he's been the head coach at a rival school. Also, ND fans are right that he hates running to an irrational extent—two years ago M was all but begging him to put it on the ground and he refused to get M out of their shell.

He's a B, B+ candidate and he comes packaged with a ton of drama. I would say not worth it.

Sophie's choice.

Worst "would you rather" ever:

Schiano, or Pelini?  Assuming no other options available.


Pelini, and it's not close. Pelini sustained more success at a higher level than Schiano ever did. Schiano had one big year and then declined to meh performance in a depleted Big East; Pelini took over a cratered Nebraska program and won nine games every year. I get that the institutional differences between Rutgers and Nebraska make that easier; I still think that his performance in the Big Ten was more impressive than Schiano's in the Big East, and then you have to take Schiano's NFL flameout into account.

Saban to Texas

What if it is Saban



Take a bath, write sternly worded open letter about how you should not cut players here, spin around in circles until I fall over.

Unnecessary hockey apology.


I realize that with everything going on with the football program, this may not be at the top of your priority list to answer, but I have a question and a confession/apology regarding the hockey team and the Yost experience.

I was a hockey season ticket holder for 8 years for undergrad and dental school from 2004-2012, I live in New Mexico now but I was able to be home for thanksgiving and I caught the Friday game against RPI. This was my first time being in Yost since the renovations had been done. I know I don’t need to tell you but it was just not the same. Michigan scored two goals in the last four minutes to win in regulation, by all accounts an incredible way to end a game, but the atmosphere wasn’t what I expected or remembered.

I understand that I was there during thanksgiving break and the alumni band was playing, but based on what I have read on twitter this doesn't seem to be isolated to holiday weekends.  Now while I totally agree that the previous athletic administration could be blamed for a lot of this, I didn’t think the upgrades made to the arena were all that bad objectively. My question is how much of the change in the atmosphere at Yost do you attribute to the Brandon administration, how much to the product on the ice, and how much to the resurgence of the basketball team? I know it’s easy to blame Brandon for everything, but I really think that the change in performance of the hockey and basketball teams have contributed most to the change.

Yost started sliding downhill a long time ago. The first issue was the installation of the club seats, which cut off vision and involvement from a big hunk of the student section. Those issues have continued with every subsequent renovation that takes out students and every price hike that makes them reconsider buying tickets. The student section used to be the entire east side of the arena, when that east side had 50% more seats than it does now. No matter how enthusiastic modern student sections are they cannot compete with those of a decade ago simply because those sections were 3 or 4 times larger.

Brandon accelerated the process with his rampant commercialization. The first half of any intermission is packed with ads, as are breaks in play. MGoUser Alton pointed out that a lot of the traditional Yost songs have been pushed out by ads for Famous Bill's Terrible BBQ. They recently added a second PA announcer to do their commercial reads, apparently because Scott Spooner has too much dignity to sound like a guy who is trying and failing to impersonate Rob Schneider.

The recent lack of team success plays a role; constant renovations with no thought given towards Yost's atmosphere and ticket prices that shrink the most passionate slice of the fanbase are bigger factors. (And, yes, basketball has also cut into the Yost student section.)

Now for my apology, I remember fondly the days when “I Can’t Turn You Loose” was played and we searched for Mr. Johnson, the Water Buffalo, someone in a costume, or just a kind of overweight guy and got them to dance for the duration of the song. For some reason, at some point during my first or second year of dental school, my friend and I decided that it would be way more fun if everybody danced. We tried for three or four games to get everyone to dance and at first it was just us and the one guy who was supposed to be dancing. We got a lot of sideways looks (which we should have heeded) but eventually on that one fateful night, the right combination of alcohol and emotion struck and it caught on and everyone danced and it was glorious. Now, I wasn’t the one who choreographed the dance that everyone does now, but I feel like I was the driving force behind the paradigm shift, and had I just sat and enjoyed the singular dancer we wouldn’t be where we are today. I hate that something that was so unique and awesome was turned into something that feels packaged and cheap, and I wanted to apologize and confess my part in it.

Thanks for reading.
Brian P in Clovis, NM

Backstory on this for anyone who isn't in the weird old Yost fraternity: the hockey band plays "I Can't Turn You Loose" every game, and until about five or six years ago the tradition was that they'd find a designated overweight guy to dance unless either Superfan or Jack Johnson's dad was available.

The shift Brian P describes came suddenly: one year the final Yost game saw the entire student section do the dance, and the next year it was every game. I hated this, and said as much on this here blog. Violation of the sacred principles and such.

I was wrong.

Even though Yost is way way off its glory days, I was wrong about this. This was driven home to me at the Maryland game. The band did the cake and the students did the dance and it was terrific. It was something that bled over from hockey to every other sport at Michigan because it was weird and fun and came from Brian P in Clovis, NM and not for any reason other than that some people were trying to have a good time at a sporting event. Subsequent events have proven you guys right. I shouldn't have been so uptight about it. Things like that survive on their merits and die on their merits. This thrives.

I mean:

I'm a born hater and I got nothin'. Brian P of Clovis, NM, you don't have anything to apologize for.



December 12th, 2014 at 5:25 PM ^

I'm almost certain Todd Graham is a defensive guy.  It's odd to think that, because his success seems to have been predicated on the strength of his offenses (at Tulsa and ASU), but he's actually a defensive guy who just hires kick-ass offensive coordinators (similar to Bob Stoops' hiring of Air Raid disciples).


December 12th, 2014 at 6:26 PM ^

I find these kind of distinctions rather arbitrary and useless, to be honest. RichRod was a defensive guy at one point, too, and many are the people who have served as both offensive and defensive coordinators in their careers (Gary Moeller here is one example, Chuck Martin is another recent one). Jim Tressel only ever coached on the offensive side of the ball before becoming a head coach whose success was built on stout defense.

This is like arguing about which coaching tree a particular coach belongs to... IS DANTONIO A SABAN GUY OR A TRESSEL GUY? Humans don't work like that, he took shit from both of them.


December 12th, 2014 at 5:30 PM ^

Absolutely no reason to apologize.  Besides being excellent for hockey, "I Can't Turn You Lose" has become the perfect football bridge between the 3rd and 4th quarters.  It's even gained a bit of traction in the alumni sections.

Saul Goodman

December 13th, 2014 at 12:36 AM ^

Well as a youngster (23 years old) I can vaguely remember Yost with very little dancing. I FUCKING love the the dance. I bring friends to the game who couldn't give two fucks about Michigan and they will comment about my connection (just a pure fan never attended) and laugh at me dance. I don't care it's something I LOVE and will continue to do (although I only dance if the team is winning or tied in a well played game, it's hard to get up when losing). And as a football and hockey season ticket holder who makes the 1.5-2 hour drive I love every second of this "ridiculous childish dance".

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2014 at 5:32 PM ^

The one Yos thing that someone should definitely be apologizing for are the new dance moves to the first half of The Victors. It started with some ancient MMB alumni who still had student tickets five years after graduation who thought it was funny/necessary to imitate some form of cymbal move, and just kept morphing into this cheesy awfulness that need be stopped. How a small subset of the student section turned into the authoritative voice of how things ought to be is beyond me. "Children of Yost"=total meh.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


December 12th, 2014 at 5:44 PM ^

Tiny sample size, miniscule in fact, but watching this year's Iron Bowl I saw Auburn drop 44 points on Saban and walk away scratching their heads. It may well just be the matchup but what's boggling is Saban has morphed - or given his personnel (ie Cooper) been able to morph - to an offensive juggernaut. Is it the NFL rules biased for offense trickling down to the NCAA?


December 12th, 2014 at 5:46 PM ^

Kelly also comes with Lizzie Seeberg issues we don't want to deal with given Brendan Gibbons.  Also Declan Sullivan.  Hate Brian Kelly.  There's a reason no one had brought him up previously.

Everyone Murders

December 12th, 2014 at 6:02 PM ^

But isn't Lizzie Seeberg more of a Notre Dame writ large issue than a Brian Kelly issue?  I seem to recall it was an institutional failure.

I'm with you 100% on Declan Sullivan.  I don't know if that was negligent homicide under Indiana law, but at the very least it was a total loss of perspective on a human side.  And that tragedy is plainly on Kelly's doorstep.

And another reason to not take Kelly on (in addition to general douchiness) is, IIRC, he made some racist comments while in Cincinnati.  If there is something to those rumors, I don't want him representing Michigan.

In conclusion, Harbaugh.  (Or Mora or Stoops.)


December 12th, 2014 at 7:46 PM ^

You're correct that isn't much concrete evidence of BK pulling strings v. the institution failing miserably, but there is some.  Direct evidence of BK's non-action is that a player sent her text warning her "not to mess with Notre Dame football," for which he received no discipline whatsoever.  Indirectly, it's hard to believe that ND's lack of investigation/turning the case over to county police instead of campus PD wasn't in some way orchestrated or encourged by BK.  Maybe that's just my bias showing.  At the same time, it pisses me off that ND football benefitted from Lizzy's suicide after a week of stonewalling.


December 12th, 2014 at 5:47 PM ^

Tiny sample size, miniscule in fact, but watching this year's Iron Bowl I saw Auburn drop 44 points on Saban and walk away scratching their heads. It may well just be the matchup but what's boggling is Saban has morphed - or given his personnel (ie Cooper) been able to morph - to an offensive juggernaut. Is it the NFL rules biased for offense trickling down to the NCAA?


December 12th, 2014 at 5:49 PM ^

As for Yost, my issue with the Can't Turn You Loose dance is it's sort of a party atmosphere at Yost instead of "we will destroy your will to live, [visiting team]" mentality.  Yost used to be mean.  It is not anymore.  Molly would never cry today.

I like the dance more at football/basketball.


December 12th, 2014 at 5:53 PM ^

Les Miles is an "offensive guy" who ended up being a coach of a team that excels in defense.  So either he has nailed it with Pelini or Chavis, or he is a pretty well rounded coach that has somehow had more impact on the defense.

On a small scale Franklin is the same way - he has some dude from Yale who led Vanderbilt to 2 very good defenses (for their level of school) who he brought to PSU where he immediately had similar results.  He was a coach who grew up on the offensive side of the ball but his success has been due to defense.

To a lesser degree you can make the same case for Dan Mullen - 5 out of his 6 years he had ho hum offenses but his defenses ranged from decent to very good the past 3 years.

Graham is the opposite - DC who has hired 3 great OCs - Chad Morris, Malzahn and now Norvell.

Maybe sometimes a guy comes up through a system pigeon holed on 1 side of the ball or the other (most guys dont switch from WR coach to DB coach mid career) but their true expertise may be the other side.  Or they just know how to find coordinators who are their opposite - I don't know.




December 12th, 2014 at 6:29 PM ^

I'd suspect with Les it is more the former than the latter, fwiw. There is a reason he pays Chavis like a low level B1G head coach and that he hasn't developed a quality quarterback since Jimbo left town. He is the consummate CEO, entirely reliant on his coordinators.


December 13th, 2014 at 7:39 AM ^

It seems to me that good coaches may have some pedigree on one side of the ball like Brian pointed out but their biggest strength is adaptability - evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the team and improving them. Dantonio is a defensive guy but they were 7th in PPG this year. Fisher is an offensive guy but FSU had the #1 scoring defense last year. I guess you could call Harbaugh an offensive guy but his Stanford and 49ers teams have all had excellent defenses.


December 12th, 2014 at 5:52 PM ^

I'm curious about Brian's statement that Morris doesn't have sufficient wheels to keep the defense honest against a spread formation.  I seem to remember Morris taking off pretty effectively on a couple occasions against K State in the bowl last year.  I'm not talking designed runs here, but Morris does seem to have some ability to take off if he is not accounted for.  I'm more concerned about Morris reading the progressions correctly in a pro style system than his capacity for the occsasional scramble to keep 'em honest in a spread formation.   


December 13th, 2014 at 10:40 AM ^

they are required to wear cages on their helmets and they don't allow fighting in college hockey.  But you might find some fans in the stands needing some dental work, maybe have booth behind the seating with 1 hour quickie dentures (wonder why Brandon didn't think of it).  Yea hockey isn't the same since they adopted these new...girly-man rules not like back in the day when men were men.  


December 12th, 2014 at 6:13 PM ^

I think the emailer meant the transition from Carr-to-RichRod. Would make more sense given that he previously referenced moving from Hoke to a spread guy... and also because the Carr-RR transition saw heavier attrition (Mallett/Boren and a raft of other "non family values"/early entry guys).


December 12th, 2014 at 6:37 PM ^

I think about the great memories those guys must have from the University of Michigan, from being on the football team.  And some awesome touchdown connections vs. Notre Dame in both Ann Arbor and South Bend.

A brilliant light.  And then men move on to shine elsewhere.

Time for some new lights to shine.



December 12th, 2014 at 6:59 PM ^

goes all the way to being our "Jump Around" that would be perfect. I want to see eastern michigan players doing the dance on the sidelines after the third quarter. That would be truley taking back the gameday experience from the generic thing it is becoming.


December 12th, 2014 at 9:50 PM ^

While reading some of these hockey-related letters I was thinking to myself, "hey, my times in the student section at Yost were amazing, what gives?". I then realized that I was going to games in 2009 and that was 5 years ago. Then I started contemplating the inexorable forward march of time and my own mortality. Then I got sad. Then I started thinking about our football program. Then I got sadder. Then I started thinking about Harbaugh!!



December 13th, 2014 at 10:14 AM ^

"I can't turn you loose" is probably the best development at Yost in the last decade.

As Brian alluded to, it's organic and it's propogated so much because every knows it's awesome. It's not some Dominos Pizza Marketing Campaign. The best traditions are organic like that and I wish Yost's student section had more creativity like that