Mailbag: Purge Incoming(?), Search Coverage Aftermath Comment Count

Brian January 12th, 2015 at 4:25 PM

Paging Dr. Stalin


getting our glares on

Will there be a roster purge a la Charlie Strong or can we expect Harbaugh to try and retain almost everyone?

I'm not a fan of purges; part of a leader's job is to gain buy-in, but they do happen. Some attrition will certainly happen, but I'd like to not dig a huge roster hole we're digging out of for 3+ seasons.


Strong's purge is not likely to repeat if only because that kind of massive roster depletion is just about unprecedented. Strong walked into a combination of bad timing (two guys suspended for sexual assault) and no discipline after the Mack Brown decline had truly festered. Strong read guys the riot act

Sources said all of the players in question were told that Strong was watching them closely dating back to February, when they were part of a group pulled aside and told that their attitude and/or behavior had to change.

As part of that conversation, players were told they’d be subject to more random drug tests, sources said.

…and they did not respond. That led to a lot of guys out the door.

Michigan has already experienced one of these, as Kyle Bosch was brought into a meeting with Harbaugh and told there would be some conditions on his continued membership:

“I was at school all day, getting ready,” Bosch told Sporting News on Tuesday morning. “Then I met with Coach Harbaugh and I didn’t expect the transfer. That was not my original intent when I went up there yesterday. … This was very untimely. If it was my intention to transfer, I would have done that a long time ago.”

Bosch said his meeting with Harbaugh produced two options: stay with the program with stipulations (he did not say what they were) or transfer.

The kind of things Bosch dealt with over the past year are best left unspecified, but if he didn't want to meet the law laid down by Harbaugh it's best that he find somewhere else to be.

Bosch is an exception. Hoke was very good at getting guys who work hard and go after their schoolwork, thus the APR and extremely low transfer rate. That rate is about to pick up for a lot of reasons (remember that even before the season ended Hoke mentioned two OL were headed out), but the departures won't rise to the level of a purge or leave Michigan alarmingly short-handed this September.

You can tell this is the case just by the recruiting numbers. Michigan has room for a class of 12 right now. Without epic departures that isn't going to get past 20, and a roster that only has to add 15 or 16 players is not in dire straights.

This staff versus previous staff.


Hi, I'm your DL coach. [Eric Upchurch]

Brian -

Since the site has been 90% devoted to the assistant coaching rumors or hires for the past several days I wanted to throw a question at you. 

The natural reaction in the wake of hiring Harbaugh and turning the page on the previous regime is to look at everything through rose colored glasses.  At least until the first game we lose, people will mostly think he can do no wrong and every person he hires or recruits is a great fit. 

If we take a step back, how do you feel the staff construction we will have next year compares to our reaction to the staffs that Rodriguez or Hoke hired in their first seasons?  Do you see any areas that make you scratch your head or long for someone else? 

Chicago, IL

There's no comparison. Hoke and Rodriguez both imported the large majority of their existing coaches and held on to Fred Jackson. Those coaches had experienced success—sort of in Hoke's case—in a specific context at a lower level of competition. Rodriguez fatally did not bring Jeff Casteel along; Hoke imported Greg Mattison and brought Al Borges with him.


  • Is an in-demand OC/QB coach.
  • Hired an in-demand DC.
  • Kept Greg Mattison as a position coach.
  • Hired the guy who built the Stanford ass-kicking machine.
  • Hired Ty Wheatley in the recruiting-heavy RB slot.
  • Hired an ex-NFL OC and successful college OC as a WR coach.
  • Hired a special teams coordinator who has 15 years of crazy success.

Nobody on this staff is going to wander over to San Jose State after they're done at Michigan, and most of them have experienced impressive amounts of success outside of the Harbaugh context. With limited exceptions that latter was not true of anybody on either of the previous two staffs other than Greg Mattison.

If there's anything with this staff that makes me pause it's the still-hypothetical Dougherty hire. He's only had one year of TEs, and with the importance of those guys in the Harbauffense it seems like you'd want a guy with a long track record there, possibly with some OL coaching mixed in to help out Drevno. OC/OL is a lot on one plate.

But we don't know if that's actually going to come to fruition—given the timing here it's possible that Fisch swooped in on his spot. The last thing we heard about Dougherty was a Football Scoop report from three days ago—unreliable to start and increasingly so as we get further out without any confirmation. I'm beginning to think that's not happening.

[After the JUMP: search postmortem, these are my readers.]

Search postmortem.

I've read Mgoblog during three different coaching searches now, and lightly participated in one while at Maize n Brew.  Obviously, one learns things while covering events like this, so naturally Mgoblog's overall posture towards a coaching search has shifted from Rodriguez to Harbaugh.  My question put as succinctly as I can muster: Did you want to break Harbaugh to Michigan? 

In the past you've put a great deal of emphasis on your blogs - and bloggers in general - needing to be right.  Your margin for error is so slim, given the medium, that anything you do that is even the slightest bit misinformed can ultimately destroy your credibility.  How has that changed as the blogging medium has shifted from Rodriguez to Hoke to Harbaugh?  Did your approach change during the Harbaugh run?  Was that a conscious decision? 

It seemed that your stance changed perceptively from "I'm reporting on other people's facts and profiling potential successors" to "I'm gonna break news if I have a good source."  What went into that?

- Beauford

Yes, I did want to break Harbaugh, and no, I didn't.

I did enter this search differently than previous ones after being strident about the fact that Hoke would not be hired the last time around. I was considerably more skeptical of the institution's competence (unwarranted, as it turned out) and more skeptical of SOURCES (extremely warranted). But the heart of the coverage was the same: I lay out everything I've got, give you the shape of the items as best I can without burning sources, tell you what I think, and allow you to draw your own conclusion.

This search was both strange and not strange compared to the other two. Rodriguez came out of nowhere so whoever was first to say "Rodriguez" and "Michigan" in the same sentence was going to get major credibility brownies. IIRC, that was The Sporting News—nobody connected to Michigan at all. When Hoke was hired he was so implausible that anyone saying "no seriously this is going to happen" was providing useful information. And that search was up and done much quicker than the month between Hoke's firing and Harbaugh's hiring.

By the time things were done-done with Harbaugh, they'd been almost done for weeks. I don't in fact know who "broke" the news. Sam Webb clearly knew what was up when he put a number on it and started incrementing that number 5% a day at a rate that would hit 100% on the 30th. Steve Lorenz had it as "when, not if." The day after Christmas I put up my 99% post; the day after that John U Bacon said it was done on twitter. Report after report started flowing in after that, each of them erasing a progressively tinier sliver of doubt. In that situation who had it first, and does it even matter? Bacon's 8k retweets say yes. Common sense says not so much.

I don't think your last paragraph is quite right. From the beginning I was incorporating anything everyone was saying, from paysite folks to national ones to sources in my inbox and on my phone. I globbed it all together this time instead of separating out my stuff from everyone else's because it just seemed like the best way to get a handle on the situation. But even from the beginning I was debunking Football Scoop stuff like "Harbaugh has already turned down Michigan" because of information I had.

The major difference between MGoBlog and everyone else is that this place was willing to pass judgment on other people's takes. 99% of reporters will opt out of commenting on their colleagues. I'm not a reporter and couldn't care less what Jason La Canfora or Tim Kawakami thinks of me, so I can tell you exactly what I thought of their stories.

I approached this from a fan mindset, the upshot of which was that I wanted to assemble and judge every single piece of information available and assemble it into as clear a picture as possible. That meant bombing stuff I knew was wrong nationally, deploying the common sense scoff at Sean Payton even when local guys were saying it was possible, and plugging everything into one Bayesian estimate of whether it was happening or not. I thought that was the most useful way to approach things, and traffic around here seems to indicate it was.

Once you're already at 99% your ass is in the wind, a feeling I hate. Hitting publish on that post was one of those "oh shiiiiiiiii" moments. I didn't want to do it; I felt I had to do it. At that point I did want to break that last percent. I'm already exposed. I thought it was a possibility if one of the more connected guys who talks to me got it. Ultimately that didn't happen because Bacon talks to the universe, and fine. Better him than someone who had been wrong for 30 days in a row before being right on the last one.

In the aftermath, I think I did the job better than I had before. I was not presented with any opportunities to be as wrong as I was about Hoke, of course. I believe I wouldn't have made the same mistake, and think that the broad outlines of everything that appeared in Searchbits were correct.

I look forward to never having to do this again.

Jim Harbaugh is uncomfortable with this email.


Ever since Searchbits began, the two phrases "Harbaugh!" and "It's happening" became household staples. My wife never watched Michigan anything until we started dating, and she called the last month of our marriage "the most obsessed she's ever seen one man about another." It's bled into my career, too.

I teach sixth grade literacy in a western suburb of Chicago, and my teammate is a recent Michigan grad. We're slowly converting our students to everything Michigan. This past week, we've had two extreme cold days that cancelled school. On my homework site, I simply put Harbaugh! on the days off, followed by "Test cancelled...Harbaugh!" on Friday.

Their extra credit assignment? Telling me what form of speech we're turning Harbaugh into.

Yep, that is what the future of America is learning.

Go Blue and keep up the good work.


God's work, Nate.



January 12th, 2015 at 4:40 PM ^

Balas did a much better job than Webb early in the process when things were still up in the air.  Balas knew more than Webb FAR earlier in the process and was more optimistic at that point as well (reasonably so and based on good information). Pretty sure Rivals was talking with Jack early on, thus the reason for their optimism.  

Webb/247/Bacon came on strong in the end, but Rivals was much more plugged in early on in my opinion.


January 12th, 2015 at 5:52 PM ^

Yep Balas took the risk and got the reward.  I imagine he was very plugged in and while maybe another 2-3 people were plugged in he was willing to say it publicly and take the risk.  I also think Bacon knew a lot more than he was saying publicly reading between the lines and reading some of his stuff in the Wall Street Journal;  probably Brian will hear a lot about that "off the record" tonight in Cleveland.  The "crowned one" was also quite correct here too. 


January 12th, 2015 at 8:15 PM ^

Yep, and I don't believe that Balas had significant information that Webb didn't. Sam just wasn't willing to put it out there as soon as Balas was. Some people seem to ignore WTKA's significant relationship with U-M's athletic department, and Sam and Ira have to be pretty careful about how they deal with information they have that isn't public yet. Balas and others at Rivals don't have to worry about that.

turd ferguson

January 12th, 2015 at 5:13 PM ^

I was going to make the exact same observation.  I googled her before I did and decided that today's Allison Janney looks too old to actually be that woman, but maybe this is some weird past form of Allison Janney who somehow made it to Harbaugh's press conference?


January 12th, 2015 at 8:32 PM ^

I don't watch a lot of tv that isn't disney jr/nick jr related until the little one goes to bed, and to be honest, I get up for work sometime between 515 and 530, so I frequently go to bed at the same time. I googled this person and watched the links, but I have no more idea that I did a few mintues ago.


January 12th, 2015 at 4:46 PM ^

I think what Brian did better than pretty much anyone else was to combine insider information with common sense. There are a bunch of us within the hoi poloi who will spout off about which coaches are likely or make sense. But we don't really know anything. There are others (OMG: Sean Payton!) who will regurgitate what a source says without applying any sort of logic or common sense. Brian managed to marry sources with common sense. He wasn't the only one, but I think he did it the best. Seems simple and easy, but rarely done well.

I don't always agree with Brian's takes on things, and he emphasizes things I wouldn't, but this blog has become damn impressive with that whole journalism thing. Not sure whether that says more about MSM or blogs, or the blending of the two, but kudos where they belong.

Voltron Blue

January 12th, 2015 at 4:56 PM ^

Yoinking Anderson away from Stanford (while also having Durkin in the boat) sounded ridiculous to common sense, and thus to Brian (and to me), while Rivals was in fact correct when it reported that he was being pursued well in advance of anyone else.

But I think overall, it stems from the point Brian made about being able to comment on and "judge" the insiders.  Since nobody else was doing that in general (but strictly reporting their own sources), nobody else had that platform to combine common sense.

The other point I'd like to make is that, as always, I'm not sure we can take certain outlandish reports as proof that common sense was not applied.  Maybe news such as Sean Payton was proactively reported so as to benefit Harbaugh.  One must always consider the agenda, which may not always be clear at the time.



January 12th, 2015 at 5:08 PM ^

You make a good point regarding how institutions and people sometimes make decisions that appear to be against common sense. Brian seems to have done a bit of a meta-analysis by looking at what others were reporting, throwing out outliers or reports with obvious agendas, and combining the rest of the data to see trends. I do think certain items, however, were clearly ridiculous, and appropriately ridiculed (e.g., Cutcliffe turning us down).

IMHO, as an outsider, the line between those who got it right and those who got it wrong was as much about who ignored or noted the agendas of their sources (e.g., agents) as it was about who were the NFL insiders vs. Michigan.

Blue in St Lou

January 12th, 2015 at 5:24 PM ^

I don't think Brian was the only one who tried to apply common sense, but Brian's common sense was right, and the "common sense" others tried to apply was just wrong.  I mean, isn't it "common sense" that nobody would turn down a good NFL job for Michigan?  Isn't it also "common sense" that a college could never offer a salary that could draw a good NFL coach?  


January 12th, 2015 at 6:30 PM ^

I actually am not a big fan of the term "common sense," because it's never really common. We all have our experiences. If all you eat, breathe and live is the NFL, then your statements of "common sense" are absolutely correct. If, however, you've attended UM and your father is Jack Harbaugh, then "common sense" suggests that JH returning to AA is absolutely reasonable.

Mr. Yost

January 12th, 2015 at 4:47 PM ^

Just doesn't seem to feel like it's happening. He seems redundant with Fisch now in the mix.

Would prefer a bonafide TE coach, we already have 3 OCs on the staff (Harbaugh, Drevno and Fisch).



January 12th, 2015 at 5:19 PM ^

I've read elsewhere that Fisch was gonig to be the "official" QB coach and passing game cooridnator. If that's the case it would make sense to have Doughtery be the WR coach and let Baxter coach TEs (like he did at USC). I think Dourghtery was a really good addition to the staff. He's young but has a lot of really great experience. I'd be a little disappointed if he didn't end up in Ann Arbor. 

Magnum P.I.

January 12th, 2015 at 4:48 PM ^

I wish I had the time and fortitude to eternally troll Football Scoop, Kawakami, Schefter, and all the rest with comments on all of their online articles to the effect of HARBAUGH TURNED MICHIGAN DOWN LOL.

Oh well, I'll just have to make sure to do that to Bagheera on this site when I see his posts. 



January 12th, 2015 at 4:49 PM ^ of Mgoblog's finer moments.  Brian did an excellent job gathering the various rumors of the day and then separating the credible from the implausible as best as one could at the time.  Possibly better than breaking the story, Brian was a steady hand on the wheel of the ship as the winds blew back and forth, helping we Michigan fans (or at least this one) stay informed and relatively sane.     

turd ferguson

January 12th, 2015 at 5:24 PM ^

I agree.  

This was Brian/MGoBlog at its best, and I thought it demonstrated a useful role for blogs to play in news events like these.  I'm one who actually likes having big, old, high-profile newspapers around.  I think they tend to be reluctant to run with really shaky information, since being embarrassingly wrong undermines the credibility of their institutions -- and they survive on that credibility.  If you're running, you can take some shots on ridiculous information, because if you're wrong you just get a new URL or quit the blog thing and go back to your other job.  If you're right, people think you're really an insider.

At the same time, it's nice to have someone who feels credible passing along that gossip before it's rock solid, especially when that gossip comes with an honest judgment of its legitimacy.  And it's even better when it's from a site like MGoBlog that's established enough to want to protect its name.  I thought MGoBlog did that very well here and it helped to make the search fun.*  

*Also making it fun: Harbaugh.


January 12th, 2015 at 7:33 PM ^

During this CC I've observed a number of times how careful Brian, JUB and Sam Webb have all been to avoid overstatement, or go too far out on a limb--case in point, contributors at the edge of the Internet had this right since Hoke was fired, and arguably since the Utah game.  I'm sure those guys were all tuned into the same sources and "breaking" JH must have been damn tempting.

But the point is there is now an emerging segment on the Internet that has something to lose by squandering credibility.  I read other college sports blogs and get the feeling that MGoBlog is a bit ahead of the curve, but that could be just me, since I go back to the Haloscan Era, and am hardly unbiased.  Nevertheless, I think right before our eyes we are seeing a maturation/evolution of the medium that bridges a gap between established, capital intensive print media, and fly-by-night electronic. 

Hope to not go through it again for a long time.



January 12th, 2015 at 4:51 PM ^

Any update or ideas about Hoke?  I thought he may have picked something up by now. I understand he will be paid whether he works or not for the next two years, but I can't see him sitting around for that period.

I really hope he finds something that is of interest to him.


January 12th, 2015 at 5:10 PM ^

Brady Hoke is probably at the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) convention, which is going on right now, networking.  

If nothing comes of that, he may get something with the Baltimore Ravens through his Harbaugh family connections.


January 12th, 2015 at 8:06 PM ^

Why not? RR took a year off, and I doubt it's that uncommon across CFB. Hoke would be silly to rush into something, and he certainly doesn't need to financially. He should take some time off and be with the family.

Mr. Yost

January 12th, 2015 at 6:41 PM ^

Mark Hutson is the current TE coach with the Raiders...he's been in college his entire career

Chris Scelfo was a HC at Tulane, but he was on the Falcons staff as a TE coach before their head coach was fired.

Mike Tice would be a dream OL or TE hire, he too was on that Falcons staff (Scelfo was TEs, Tice was OL).

John Morton started his career coaching TEs before moving into the WR role.

Kilgore Trout

January 12th, 2015 at 5:09 PM ^

For what it's worth, mgoblog broke it to me. I really really tried to keep my expectations in chek, but when the "It's Happening" post came up, I gave in and celebrated. That, to me, is the value of credibility. I have followed mgoblog for 5+ years now and Brian has been connected and correct enough that for me, I was only going to believe it when Brian said it, so the actual timing of other reporter's tweets is irrelevant to me. 

Bando Calrissian

January 12th, 2015 at 5:10 PM ^

So the implication seems to be that the Bosch transfer was reasonable restrictions from Harbaugh in response to a legitimate issue from the program's perspective, which Bosch in turn rejected?


January 12th, 2015 at 5:13 PM ^

As Brian says, so say we all.

(That's a bit of a dated reference now.  As is my avatar.)

I first stumbled onto MGoBlog late in the Carr Administration.  Brian posted, on the Tuesday before the Game, that he had it on good authority that Carr would retire the following Monday.  And that's exactly what transpired.  Ever since then, I knew that Brian was Mr. Plugged In.

I'll give him a pass on the whole Rodriguez hire, I mean, c'mon, our AD was out sailing or something.


January 12th, 2015 at 5:22 PM ^

this blog was Dramamine. As other sports media and "journalists" were racing down the tracks with no information, MGoBlog, JUB, and Sam Webb were the only ones I felt I could trust to analyze the situation rationally. 

Now that it's happened, the motion sickness meds are no longer needed. My abuse of MGoBlog in the Harbaugh era is more akin to Vicodin addiction. The euphoria is still going strong and I can't stop taking a look to see what new and beautiful is happening with our football program. 


January 12th, 2015 at 5:30 PM ^

Does anyone here think that deep down, Brady knew he was in over his head? I mean, the man seemed totally clueless at times. Maybe he was hoping his assistants would do their jobs better and that it would eventually transform into wins......idk


January 12th, 2015 at 6:35 PM ^

After the 2011 Sugar Bowl, Brady Hoke would have every reason to believe that his system of coaching and the people he had around him would work.  His first year was impressive.  Then he started recruiting those top ten classes, and it seemed we were headed in the right direction.

Looking back, in 2011 we had some really determined players who responded well to Mattison; while Denard and company were feeling confident to do their thing.

The wheels came off when the coaching deficiencies became obvious, and Hoke was not able, or refused, to make the necessary adjustments.

If Harbaugh does what he's done before, Jim's energy and incisive mind and will to win, with good character as well, are going to be a stark comparison to the haphazard "feel good" fumblings of Brady Hoke.

We can credit Hoke with his heartfelt commitment to Michigan; and he leaves behind a good nucleus of talented players. We now have an entire coaching staff who knows how to put those players in a position to succeed.

Brian acknowledges that he was wrong about Brady Hoke becoming the head coach of Michigan.  Before the hire, he was unequivicol in rejecting the idea that Hoke was qualified to be our head coach.

While his evaluation of Hoke's chances of becoming coach were wrong, his intellectual reasoning and emotional response that hiring Brady Hoke to be our football coach would be a big mistake, eventually proved right. 




January 12th, 2015 at 6:53 PM ^

No question that Hoke wasn't ready for the job -- events bear that out now, and Brian was right.

However, there is some question as to whether or not a competent AD could have gotten Hoke the help (basically, a really good management and leadership coach) he needed to succeed. Hackett has said as much, that he wishes he had come in under different circumstances, so he could know if he could have helped. As it stood, it was too late for Hoke by the time Hackett arrived. Saving the program took priority over saving the coach.


January 12th, 2015 at 8:14 PM ^

I'm hoping in the end we look at hike the way I've heard some people describe John L Smith: good guy, but up to the job, but did good work in setting up the stage for his successor. At the very least he seems to have done a decent job of that with recruiting.

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