Brian December 11th, 2014 at 12:21 PM

INSIDER BITS TODAY: MEH. Holding pattern time. I don't have anything specific to tell you that isn't out there already, just continued opinion that Harbaugh is very much in play and Michigan is still focused on him, with everyone else Plan B. I think we might see some movement over the weekend or early next week, especially if the 49ers are officially eliminated from the playoffs (a 49ers loss and Lions win will make it 100%).

Expect Michigan to start reaching out to potential replacements in earnest soon; that won't mean that Harbaugh's definitively out, it'll mean that he hasn't definitely said yes. Harbaugh won't have a truly clear picture of his options until the NFL season is over. He does not know what he wants to do now.

If Michigan doesn't get deeply involved with a short list over the next couple weeks that's a good sign.

Sep 15, 2012; Madison, WI, USA;  Utah State Aggies head coach Gary Andersen (left) and Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema (right) talk during warm-ups prior to their game at Camp Randall Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports


BARRY ALVAREZ MUST SMELL LIKE ROTEL THAT'S BEEN IN THE FRIDGE SINCE THE BIG TEN WAS RELEVANT. Oregon State's shock hire of Gary Andersen after just two years—two quite successful years—at Wisconsin moves a coaching opening much closer to Michigan in both geography and prestige. Well… probably, as far as the latter goes. Wisconsin's now had coaches bug out for the post-Petrino wasteland at Arkansas and the 10th best job in the Pac-12*. I can't see that happening at Michigan.

I don't buy most of the explanations out there for Andersen's departure. Wisconsin doesn't pay its assistants like a program with their success level would be expected to, but Oregon State doesn't either. Family reasons cited by Alvarez are transparent bunk. Everyone's talking about academic issues, which I guess could be jarring as you move from Utah State, but Wisconsin's done just fine with whatever standards they've had forever. It kind of looks like Alvarez is a Brandon-esque figure hovering over his coaches. In his defense, he was a really successful football coach instead of a guy who sold cardboard disks purporting to be pizza.

Will Wisconsin's search impact Michigan? It's doubtful but not outlandishly so. After getting burned by consecutive outsiders, Wisconsin may prefer a Wisconsin Man and go for Pitt HC Paul Chryst, NC State HC Dave Doeren or Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell. If they eschew those options they might promote DC Dave Aranda, who had very shiny stats before OSU bombed them, or go with a mid-level HC not currently on Michigan's radar. It's probable that Wisconsin finds a guy without pinging anyone Michigan would ask after.

Any impact would come if both teams end up hunting coordinators, and even then it seems like the teams would split the two obvious Big Ten candidates and be happy with it. Pat Narduzzi makes more sense than Tom Herman for the Badgers: Wisconsin knows what it is on offense and wouldn't want to change it. Herman makes more sense for M because they need offensive repairs desperately.

BUT SERIOUSLY. Wisconsin should hire Bo Pelini.

NO SERIOUSLY. I'm serious. This is not just for the epic trolling it would set up.

SERIOUSLY. Seriously.

*[Colorado and WSU are worse. Probably.]

ONE OTHER POSSIBLE EFFECT. Herman and Aranda were in fact teammates at Cal Lutheran back in the day. If M does end up going for Herman and Aranda is cut loose at Wisconsin that would be an obvious option for DC.

ca07ecdab035e7290b1c2e2d3a1644ee[1]DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16: Jim Harbaugh head coach of the San Francisco 49ers argues with Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions during the NFL game at Ford Field on October 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

never not funny

HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. Tim Kawakami had an interesting piece on parallels between the Harbaugh-49ers rift and that between Mark Jackson and the Golden State Warriors, a post that also roped in Chris Mullin. This bit is the most directly applicable to you:

Harbaugh will not talk about the strife. Not publicly or–I believe–privately.

He tried to deny that there were any true tensions this off-season, because that’s his usual tactic, but as the stories have piled up starting from the early weeks of the regular season, Harbaugh has just generally refused to comment on the meaning of all this–and he won’t deny the possibility that management is doing it, either.

He’s not doing this as a zen practice, Harbaugh is doing this because he’s hunkered down, fighting through every day, and if management wants to conduct a campaign against him, that’s only going to sharpen his wits for the next move (while staying silent about what it might be).

Another similarity: Mullin naturally took the quiet high road because he knew he’d succeed elsewhere. I guarantee you that’s what Harbaugh feels now. …

This is all–I firmly believe–coming from 49ers management.

We know Harbaugh is talking a bit privately, but even then he plays his cards very close to the vest. He gave Charles Woodson a press conference answer when they talked…

"I spoke to him briefly, just said 'what's up,' and I almost started to get into the conversation but he kind of game me the same line he gave everybody at his press conference," Woodson said Tuesday on The Rich Eisen Show. "The well-being of his team and the well-being of his family. That was about as far into it as we were going to get."

…(since that press conference answer made the press, that was a good move). Meanwhile he's refusing to mention anything other than the next game, and he was relatively circumspect with the former M players he watched the OSU game with. I've gotten reports that he is cagey with everyone, with small cracks that may let people in on his intentions. A few people who've known him forever get Harbaugh's unvarnished thoughts—and even they don't know what he'll do.

This would explain a great deal of the disconnect between NFL reporters and the Michigan guys. Everything the NFL guys get is coming from management types who have a vested interest in Harbaugh staying in the NFL, either because they want him or want to trade him. Guys who talk to him personally get a different take.

BUT NOT CHARLES. Woodson continued:

"The way it sounds to me there's not even that one in a million," he added. "It doesn't sound too good to me.

"I guess you do have a slight chance. But man. It ain't looking good."

This is still not the opinion of people who have spent a lot of time canvassing all available information. Yikes all the same.

ON ASSISTANT SALARIES. USA Today published a database of assistant salaries, which promises to be more useful than the head coach listings. Head coaches have erratic, large bonuses that cause big swings. Those kinds of things are much rarer with assistants.

Michigan was 9th in overall assistant compensation with a relatively unbalanced structure: both coordinators were 800k+, recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski was just under 300k, and everyone else around 240k. LSU was #1 in overall compensation with both coordinators at 1.3 million and their lowest-paid dude at 310.

M is almost two million dollars behind LSU in annual compensation(!). They're right on par with OSU, FWIW. Mississippi State is a million dollars back of M, on par with Colorado, Maryland, Rutgers… and Wisconsin.

Upshot: unless there's a big shift Michigan is going to be able to pay on par with everyone else. There's enough money to pay a big time coordinator for the other side of the ball if M goes with a Narduzzi/Herman type.

PLAN B. Here's a weird-ass name I don't fully believe but know they're kicking around at some level inside the department: Marvin Lewis. The Bengals are currently at the top of the AFC North but Lewis has been on precarious ground for a while now—he got a one-year extension just before this season and would likely have to be extended again. The Bengals have been on the verge of a change there for a long time. Lewis comes with all the usual NFL hangups but at his age (57) he would likely be retiring at a hypothetical college job.

Wouldn't put too much into that since a boatload of names get kicked around, but if Cinci does fire the guy keep an eye on him.

Beyond that, I've heard that you shouldn't take reports that so-and-so college coach isn't interested at all seriously. That's a good general rule. It is a better one in this specific case. I know that people who have supposedly ruled themselves out have done no such thing and would welcome sincere post-Harbaugh interest from M.

Etc.: You could read all these posts or just this one EDSBS glossary, after which you know everything I do. Shemy says time to come home.



December 11th, 2014 at 2:54 PM ^

What does this say about the authors of this blog?

They critique the performance of Michigan sports, primarily football, men's basketball and ice hockey.  Are any of them coaches?  Have they played those sports, and if so, at what level of competition?  Does that discount their critiques?  

What does this say about Jim Hackett?

He has no experience hiring a college football head coach or an athletic director, but he's now empowered to perform both tasks at U of M.  What happens if he doesn't land Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles or someone else who is comparable, like Dan Mullen?  Do we say he's a guy who sold cheap metal and plastic purporting to be furniture?    


December 11th, 2014 at 3:11 PM ^

If Hackett can't land a home run hire coach, we already know from what evidence we have that it won't be for a lack of effort. Brandon put forth very little effort on his coaching hire.

Also, we know how Brandon felt about the fan base and treated them as an ATM. Time will tell with Hackett, but so far he shows more integrity.

Nobody had more of an impact on Brandon's legacy than Brandon himself, so he put in a cardboard disk effort and we have that to remember him by.

The authors of this blog were not coaches themselves and I don't always agree 100% with what they have to say, but they have put a phenomenal effort into learning the technical aspects and providing analysis. Plus it's their site, so I think that gives them some latitude with their opinion.


December 11th, 2014 at 7:03 PM ^

I dislike Dave Brandon as much as anyone, but to say he didn't put forth any effort in his coach search is kind of short sighted. He hired a firm just like Hackett, and coming from the alumni at the time everyone wanted to go back to "Michigan football". Harbaugh was headed to the NFL by everyone's account at the time, and Brady Hoke was the best available coach with Michigan ties. (Les Miles was and always will have to much baggage for the Michigan job even 4 years ago, on top of that he basically turned us down when we hired rich rod. Yes Martin was on a boat, but was he the only guy miles could have called. I doubt it.)

Brandon lost sight of what was important. He seemed more concerned with putting his name on new buildings and not keeping up with the goodwill of the fan base. He lost me when I entered the stadium this year and he had plastered it with PNC bank advertisements that used our players to hock new bank accounts. The players are not allowed to make money themselves in advertisements and neither should the university.


December 11th, 2014 at 5:47 PM ^

 Do we say he's a guy who sold cheap metal and plastic purporting to be furniture?   


Lets just say comapring the quality level of Steelcase office furniture to the quality of Dominos Pizza is like comparing apples and kumquats.


Steelcase is largely considered good, high quality office furniture. Even the new improved pizza is considered "barely above school cafeteria" quality.


December 11th, 2014 at 4:24 PM ^

some garlic on the cardboard in an attempt to make it more palatable.  That was an epic fail.  BTW...When Dave took over at Dominos in March 1999 was that when the pizza stopped tasting good?  Ok, I realize those halcyon days in the early 1980s in Ann Arbor may twist my perception, but Dominos really tasted good back then.


December 11th, 2014 at 12:50 PM ^

how has your defensive approach changed for Sunday’s game,” Rinaldi, who is 4-foot-3, asked Lewis. . . Lewis fumbled his chance to be the bigger man and play along."…

So they need the name of a black person to bandy around and they pick Lewis? Okay. . .



December 11th, 2014 at 1:05 PM ^

The fans I've talked to aren't very happy with him.  His records by year are -

  • 2010 8-5
  • 2011 8-5
  • 2012 12-1
  • 2013 9-4
  • 2014 7-5*

*Music City Bowl vs LSU yet to be played.  

If they finish 7-6 he will have compiled a 44-21 record (.677).  Getting pasted by USC hurts and if they lose to LSU they don't have any quality wins this year - I guess maybe 7-5 Stanford would be their best.  Wins this year -

  1. Stanford 7-5
  2. Rice 7-5
  3. North Carolina 6-6
  4. Navy 6-5
  5. Michigan 5-7
  6. Purdue 3-9
  7. Syracuse 3-9

Wins over teams with a combined 37-46 record.  The losses were to -

  1. Florida State 13-0
  2. Arizon State 9-3
  3. Northwestern 5-7
  4. Louisville 9-3
  5. USC 8-4

Essentially anyone with a pulse and Northwestern (WTF).  Depending on what happens in their bowl game, Kelly might start feeling a little heat next year.


December 11th, 2014 at 1:19 PM ^

I think a 7-5 type of year next year puts him firmly on the hot seat.

Which is why these coaching searches are such a gamble.  On paper Brian Kelly looked like a perfect fit for a Midwest power with his track record at GVSU, CMU, and Cincy -- he improved those programs tremendously and won big.


December 11th, 2014 at 1:23 PM ^

the Irish fell off the map. I would say looking at those results that Michigan's blowout shutout was perhaps Kelly's largest margin of victory, just like Brady Hoke's best win was probably over ND a year ago. I would say Kelly gets one more year and then kaput if the trending seasonal finish continues. Or maybe not, depending on what happens against LSU.


December 11th, 2014 at 12:44 PM ^

"Herman makes more sense for M because they need offensive repairs desperately."

I can expect he would shape Michigan's offense into an elite unit.  The question is whether a Herman-led defense would be top-20 or give up 60+ points to Illinois.

I don't get why this doesn't get more play.  RichRod was a very successful offensive-minded coach who had a very bad defense.  Hoke was a defensive-minded coach who had a very bad offense.  We haven't been burned enough times yet?  I don't need Herman to have 10 years experience being an HC before hiring him.  I just need someone to ask what the hell is his plan for the side of the ball he's NOT good at.


December 11th, 2014 at 1:39 PM ^

Find a great guy and delegate.  Works for me.

Believe it or not, even that still has to be a plan, and a lot of HCs are bad at it.  Applying any sort of restriction on the coordinator's job is just compromising the unit for the sake of meddling, but HCs often have ego issues so they can't help but get involved.  It requires restraint, and is a huge political difference between a coordinator and HC job.

What I've read about Herman is encouraging, but after the last 7+ years it's a big deal for me and while I'm not a "the devil you know" sort, it is invariably a risk when hiring coordinators.


December 11th, 2014 at 2:20 PM ^

Most people if they're smart have a boner for where their paycheck comes from. When the SEC is strong, it makes Finebaum more important, therefore pimping them is just buttering his bread. Anyone involved in the SEC would think anyone LEAVING the SEC was either making a career mistake OR fleeing the top level of competition. And they wouldn't be wrong either!


December 11th, 2014 at 1:25 PM ^

It does make you wonder. For all the talent they've been bringing in, WTF is wrong with OSU's defense? Definitely a good outing against Wisconsin, but they've been shredded by us and some other pretty horrendous teams the past few years. One of the biggest interview questions for Herman would have to be what will he do to make sure that doesn't happen here...


December 11th, 2014 at 1:45 PM ^

My guess is, Meyer's an offensive-minded HC who has the right idea -- find a DC and let the guy do his job.  However, he's not reliable at finding a good DC.  Florida had some seriously good defenses during his stint there, but since he took over OSU his defenses have been inconsistent.

This is indeed why I feel this question is important.  It's not just RichRod and Hoke; how many HCs are good at identifying good candidates for units outside their speciality even when they're willing to delegate?  My guess is not many.


December 11th, 2014 at 2:04 PM ^

What hurt RR was that he didn't get to bring along his DC; Casteel isn't amazing or anything, but he has a system that works with RR and that comfort is incredibly important.  And as for getting a mediocre defense, OSU's problems seem to be stuck very much in the secondary coaching, so hopefully UM would be able to get a better DC if Herman came along. 


December 11th, 2014 at 2:55 PM ^

Despite Brian's wildest spread-offense fantasies, Herman is an extremely low probability candidate.  There's a reason why you haven't heard Herman's name mentioned anywhere outside of this blog (not only for the Michigan job, his name hasnt been linked to any of the job openings this season - not Nebraska, not Oregon State, not even Kansas).  If Michigan hires a coordinator, it will be someone at the NFL level, a la Bill O'Brien to PSU, not a guy whose entire resume is based on holding Urban's clipboard for a few years.


December 11th, 2014 at 8:27 PM ^

Another downside with Herman is that there would be yet another transition on offense from the pro-style to the spread.  It probably won't be as bad as the one with Rich Rod, but it is a transition, and that means losing the first 1-2 years.  I think we can all agree that we have 0 spread type QBs on the roster now (we don't have a lot of speed, either).

I would much prefer someone who can ride the ship and get the program back to an upward trajectory.  He doesn't have to be a pro-style guy, just someone who can work with the current pieces.  I really place a premium on stability because we can't afford any more turmoil.

For those reasons, I think Schiano would be better than Herman.


December 11th, 2014 at 12:46 PM ^

Man, I love getting these daily updates, but it is NOT GOOD for my studying for my final exams! Oh well, who needs PT school when you can read coaching rumors all day?!

Also, HARBAUGH!!!!