The Team

Submitted by Brian on January 13th, 2011 at 1:27 PM

1/11/2011 – Brady Hoke 1, Internet 0 – 0-0

I follow a blog called "Fund My Mutual Fund." The title should be taken literally: the guy running the blog wants you to pledge money so that he can get a mutual fund based on his stock picking method off the ground. He's done amazingly well on a publicly-tracked simulator, has sufficient pledges to break even, and is in the process of getting SEC approval after establishing a years-long track record. He's good.

He struggles when his method (technical analysis) is battered by external events that cause the stock market to veer from a well-established logical way of doing things, which is happening a lot lately thanks to Ben Bernanke. He responds to these events by publicly reminding himself the underlying fundamentals have changed, that logic means one thing when you're talking about five years and another when you're talking about five days and that even if the market goes up for stupid reasons it's going up. Here's one from this morning. He also lacerates the country's financial honchos in sarcasm-laden posts that get a little tiresome the tenth time you read essentially the same thing. He went to Michigan, too. He might be my Tyler Durden, or maybe I'm his.

A couple weeks ago I proclaimed there was a "zero point zero" percent chance that Brady Hoke was named Michigan's head coach because I assumed Hoke's flimsy resume was only acceptable to people who really truly believe that Michigan Men are Michigan Men who make other Michigan Men, who in turn create more Michigan Men until you enter a warehouse and it's like that terrible Will Smith movie with winged helmets.


My underlying assumption was that David Brandon was a cold-hearted corporatist who would tell someone to assemble a powerpoint about head coaching candidates and take the Michigan Man stuff as merely a relevant bullet point. I was wrong. Brandon is king of the Michigan Men, and my predictive performance has lagged the market.


Not much of consequence was said at yesterday's press conference to introduce Brady Hoke—that is the way of things—but at the very end Dave Brandon started pointing and became emphatic and the world rearranged itself:

That's the athletic director version of Kurt Wermers saying "not my kind of crowd." Rich Rodriguez never had a chance after the Ohio State game. Why David Brandon decided to go on with a dog and pony show even he admits was pointless should be a frustrating mystery, but it's not. People had to be placated. This program will eat itself alive if given half a chance.

So maybe Brady Hoke is the best choice. This organ transplant will not be rejected. Given time and an upperclass quarterback or two and a defensive staff that's not utterly clueless, Brady Hoke will quickly prove himself to be the one true Notriguez. He'll quickly improve the program and get Michigan back to being Michigan.

But I think the way this went down proves that all the things rivals say about Michigan are true. This is an unbelievably arrogant program convinced its past glories are greater and more recent than they are, certain outsiders have nothing to teach it. We will enter bowl games against opponents that say "boy, that Michigan just lines up and comes after you," and we probably won't win many of them. We never have, and trying to out-execute Alabama or Oregon seems like a tall order these days.

I hoped we could be block-M Michigan without that, that we could have an exciting, modern offense that pumped out Michigan Men and maybe shredded Oklahoma for 48 points in a BCS game. I hoped we could reboot the program, keeping the things we treasure about it but maybe leaving the dismal bowl record and recent inability to compete with Ohio State behind. For a lot of reasons we can't. We are who we are.

So, no, I'm not super happy. On the field I was done with Lloyd Carr, done with punting from the 34 and running the same damn zone stretch thirty times a game, done with the premise that it's only the players who have to execute on gameday. To me, getting back to being Michigan means going 9-3 and losing to Jim Tressel. I remember thinking "this is the year" every year growing up, expecting great things literally every season until Rodriguez showed up and Mallett transferred. I don't think that now, and I can't imagine feeling like that in the future. Sometimes having an identity feels like having a ceiling.

Non-Bullets Of Explanation

That said and true, this also. On the other hand, the past is not destiny. Jon Chait provides the best possible perspective:

Selecting a coach is a lot like selecting a recruit. The resume is the equivalent of a recruiting ranking. With recruits, a high ranking correlates with success, but a correlation is only probability, not certainty. Sometimes high-ranking recruits flame out, and sometimes sleeper recruits turn into stars.

While I'm down on the hire except insofar as it appears to be the only one that would get institutional support, Hoke could surprise people. He's in a great spot to immediately improve a team that returns damn near everyone and should profit from that momentum. Rich Rodriguez was always pushing uphill; Hoke has a much easier path to positive attention.

I didn't want to say this during the many fire-Rodriguez discussions because it seemed like the most cynical thing imaginable, but cutting Rodriguez loose right now sets the new guy up to look like 2006 Ron English after he replaced Jim Herrmann and inherited Woodley/Branch/Hall/Harris: a freaking genius. We'd find out during The Horror that he was not, but for a year the guy was untouchable. Hoke is going to get all the rope left over from the Rodriguez era and then some.

So, yes, the internet has overreacted.

I will swear now. The inbox is overflowing with pleas of varying levels of politeness to get behind Hoke, stop being so negative, etc. If you phrased it nicely, I appreciate the sentiment and the too-generous belief that I have any influence over the success or failure of Michigan's head coach. I'm not going to change my opinion overnight, however, and this remains a No Sugarcoat zone. No sugarcoat. I can promise that I'll go into the Hoke era looking for reasons he'll work out (you know, on-field reasons, not "Brady Hoke is the best human" stuff), if only because of human nature. His flexibility with Nate Davis and successful deployment of Rocky Long as a 3-3-5 DC gives me hope he's not a stick in the mud, and I'm sure Craig Ross is mailing him the Romer paper as we speak.

If you called me a hypocrite for not liking the hire when I didn't like the three years of shit Rich Rodriguez had to wade through when I haven't said one negative thing about Hoke that does not boil down to "does not have a thrilling resume," please fuck off and die. Especially people complaining about how constantly negative I am when I spent the last three years as the last guy on to die on Rodriguez Hill, as a commenter whose name I can't remember aptly put it. Double especially for people complaining like that a week after calling Rodriguez a "hillbilly" because "only hillbillies leave their alma mater."

What I am negative about is the Carr-era players—like the hillbilly guy above—whose loyalty to the program stops at the water's edge. Aside from one recent Harlan Huckleby outburst, the Bo guys either shut their traps or tried in vain to support the head coach at the University of Michigan. But I've made that point over and over again. (Mike "I support the head coach x1000" Hart is an obvious exception to this and should have been the model for his teammates.) The culture that made the last three years happen is petty and arrogant and utterly fails to live up to the Michigan Man ideal it pretends to espouse, and though I'm about a day from shutting up about it because even I'm tired of it I'm not backing off.

This will be fun. I hope everyone loves Jason Whitlock columns, because we're about to get a boatload of them. As Over The Pylon points out:

In a panicked desperate move, the administration at BSU freaked out and hired an in house coordinator to quiet the fans and hopefully maintain the momentum that was building. Michigan did much the same, only the “in house” became “Michigan experience” and the “maintain momentum” became “rebuild the program”. In BSU’s case, the failsafe went 6-18. Let’s hope for UM’s, Brady’s and everyone associated with the Wolverines’ sanity that the performance isn’t also duplicated, lest they become the target of one particular columnist with a national audience, a significantly close connection to the head coach, and a nicely sized ax that could always use some grinding.

Guh. Win, Brady, or we'll all suffer. Meanwhile, if you'd like a condescending lecture Dan Wetzel has you covered.

Carty on the dude. You can hate on Carty if you want but this is probably more interesting than anything that's been written about him so far:

The thing that separated Brady Hoke from most assistant coaches under Lloyd Carr was the confidence to be the same guy in a media interview as he was when the cameras were off. Michigan assistants never talked much in those days, and when they did, most of them were obviously concerned about saying something that would be met with disapproval by their boss.

Hoke wasn't very polished or made-for-television, something he poked fun at himself. He laughed a lot more than the other assistants did, at least in public. When he did do interviews, he asked more questions than most assistants and seemed genuinely interested in how reporters did their jobs. When a sensitive topic came up, he'd simply chuckle and say, "You know I'm not going to talk about that." He didn't shy away from criticizing players or performances when he had to. I don't ever remember him asking to go off the record or take back something he said, both common practices with assistant coaches at Michigan and elsewhere.

There are a couple more paragraphs to go along with the Ann Arbor News's entire republished archive of Hokemania.

Search fiasco: somehow still growing. I still think Jim Harbaugh was supposed to be Michigan's next head coach before he backed out sometime after it became clear the NFL wanted him badly, thus resulting in the month-long post-OSU limbo and panicked search, but seriously if Dave Brandon means what he says about not offering Miles the job he traded the opportunity to not obliterate Michigan's chances with a few key recruits for some PR. If this was going to be the result Hoke should have been hired two seconds after Rodriguez went out the door—there were no serious overtures made towards anyone else except maybe Pat Fitzgerald.

Elsewhere, Or The Best In Overreaction

Braves & Birds:

My verdict on the Hoke hire depends somewhat on my view of the Lloyd Carr era.  I liked Carr as a coach and as a representative of the University, but I wasn’t upset when he retired in large part because he had not done a good job of surrounding himself with top-notch coaches.  It’s in this respect that he is no Bo.  Bo Schembechler created modern Michigan football and one aspect of his greatness was that his coaching tree was excellent.  Carr, on the other hand, doesn’t have a coaching tree to speak of.  Thus, the two obvious candidates for Michigan’s head coaching position were Jim Harbaugh – a Bo quarterback whom Carr declined to hire when he was looking for a quarterback coach – and Les Miles – a Bo lineman/assistant whom Carr reputedly did not want as his replacement in 2007.  If Dave Brandon’s much-discussed Process was designed to bring back a Michigan Man from Bo’s lineage, then that would have been fine because hiring a Bo protege can be done on merit.  The fact that the Process produced the one sickly branch from the Carr tree is the reason why Hoke’s hire has been greeted by articles with titles like "Advice for the Despondent."

One bit of Maize 'n' Brew:

This team spent the last three years building something, and I spent the last three years not simply waiting for future glory but anticipating it.  Times were certainly tough, but I could still see the payoff at the end.  The top ten offense paired with what I still believe could have been a fast, havoc wreaking defense with a couple more years of experience and depth--and probably a new coordinator.  It wasn't always easy to watch the games, and the losing streaks against rivals always hurt, but I could take the taunts and laughter from other teams fans because I believed.  That belief wasn't ever there under Lloyd.  It was always just an ominous feeling that the other shoe was about to drop.

Another bit was not happy after the hire, either, focusing mostly on the Les Miles discussion that does not and never will end up being an offer.

I have no idea how I got to Hashiell Dammit, but if you reference Straight Bangin' in your post well, that's old school:

You know it‘s a bad decision when one’s first reaction to the news is to draw easy comparisons between Michigan football and the Big 3 Automakers decline and to scramble to the Wikipedia page for the Romanovs to confirm that yes, this moment fits perfectly within the arc of a decaying empire. The emptiness that follows, however, is a bitch.

For its part, Straight Bangin' is "paralyzed." That's probably for the best.

Touch the Banner surveys the team and attempts to find out who fits. Slot receivers have to be saying "WTF" to themselves. HSR wants Michigan Replay back, but I don't think that had anything to do with Rodriguez. IIRC the producer lost his job with the IMG switchover and owned the rights to the name and possibly the music. This totally happened 110 years ago.



January 13th, 2011 at 2:18 PM ^

does not mean it is a given that the baby will be ugly.

The way Hoke was brought here was truly ugly.  But there is hope that he will be a good, no great, coach for us.  Just because he coached for Lloyd does not make him Lloyd.  And Lloyd himself would not be such a bad role model with just a little bit more flexibility.  

BTW, if you have been attending games since 1969, you are probably considered a blue hair by the young wippersnappers. 

Undefeated dre…

January 13th, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

Forget it, Brian. It's Chinatown.

Amen to your post -- the thing is, unless fans came on board in the last three years, you knew what you were buying into. Complaining about the arrogant traditionalism is like complaining about hurricanes when you bought a cottage in the Keys. These things go with the territory.

I am hopeful that the program can evolve, and that hiring coaches who are servants of the program won't mean hiring coaches who can only retread the past. But yeah, the football program is like HAL, and Rodriguez was Poole, cut off from life support because he threatened the meme.

With that all said, I'm a big fan of Hoke, and looking forward to this season.


January 13th, 2011 at 1:49 PM ^

We all want Hoke to succeed, but basically I am disappointed that Michigan gave up on the spread offense with a higher ceiling and seems content to be "Lloyd Carr's Michigan" (/Braylon) and go 9-3 each year.


January 13th, 2011 at 3:31 PM ^

including myself, is that we will....possibly....have a sort-of has-been OC tinkering for the first time with parts  of an offensive scheme with which he has no experience....if i was hiring to get a change or to evolve....that is not the hire i make, plain and simple. This hire appears to be one focused on returning to previous schemes.

I hope I am wrong, stranger things have happened, but the probability of the coaches the succeeding  with a scheme they are not at all familiar with is very low, thus the probability that they stick more to what they know is very high.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

For a lot of good reasons, we'll never be able to consistently recruit the caliber of players that Alabama does. It's not happening. At least I *hope* it doesn't happen for us the way it happened for Alabama.

But let's look at Alabama: Nick Saban is a renowned defensive GENIUS, and he has the track record to support it. Where's the evidence that Hoke brings any tactical advantage to the table on either side of the ball? He's a defensive guy, and his defenses have pretty consistently been TERRIBLE....see BWS's post today for details.…


January 13th, 2011 at 2:38 PM ^

Why won't we be able to do that?  We have the history, the alumni base, the facilities, and the national presence.  We just need a couple of years where we are in BCS bowls to create the buzz and an NC this decade.  LSU didn't recruit like LSU till recently, 'Bama was a supernova until Saban, and USC has been on and off over the last 50 years.  If the RR years taught us anything, "schematic advantage" is fruitless without the established personnel and winning the *B1G* (guh) consistently could put us in the position to do that.  


January 13th, 2011 at 3:02 PM ^

Because our pay scale is too low, our academic standards are too high, we have some ethics, we are father away from the talent base, we can't get JC players (Newsom and Farley for example) and we don't over sign.  The SEC has won every year for awhile.  I'm just not convinced we can win by just being more athletically gifted like an Alabama can.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:10 PM ^

You expected the spread to reach it's ceiling with a true sophomore QB, no comptent kicking game, and no defense? I'm accepting RR had to go, but if he had hired a functional defensive staff from the start 9-3 would've been the floor for years to come.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:22 PM ^

Ceiling is not "how good things were." Ceiling is "how good they can be"; it is a measure of potential under ideal circumstances.  Your argument is like saying your car's top speed is 80 because you've never had it over 80.

If you really think they couldn't have won, say, 8 games under RichRod next year, then you would be correct that 7-6 was the ceiling.  But that's an awfully tough sell.


January 13th, 2011 at 3:10 PM ^

Your analogy doesn't work. Here is your fail

"You can't take the car over 80 when it exploded at 52."

When it should have been

"You can't prove that the car can go over 80, because I took it to 80, then sold it before I got a chance to try it faster."


January 13th, 2011 at 3:18 PM ^

No. It totally fucking exploded. Kabooooooooom. The car may have reached a high speed eventually, but 2/3 of the engine parts weren't strong enough to get there. Thank god the driver wasn't killed. He gets to see another day, and hopefully drive a better oiled machine.


January 13th, 2011 at 4:34 PM ^

Even though some of the parts were faulty, fucker STILL hit 80.  Now, we thought about replacing the defective parts, but we didn't like that the car maxed out at 80 so we traded it in for a nice reliable car like the one we used to have.

It may  not be flashy, and it probably won't win many races.  But it will consistantly get us from point A to point B.  No more, and no less.  And somehow we'll be okay with that.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

This is Brian's point, that it will be extremely difficult for Michigan going forward because they won't be able to out-recruit the LSUs and the Alabamas of the world.  I think that Brian's essentially right about this.  So to compete with the national powers, Michigan needs to make up for their recruiting liabilities -- we are not located in Texas or Ohio.  Our recruiting backyard (Michigan) can't compete with the talent level of those states (or California, Florida, etc.)

If your strategy for winning lots of games is to recruit Charles Woodson-level players and to play super conservatively, you are in trouble.  That's the reality.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:38 PM ^

We had just as much talent as anybody else, and Lloyd did play conservatively, which hurt him. This conservative style is not a given solely because Hoke is from Carr's coaching tree. I just want that talent back, especially on defense because at least it gives us a chance to compete.


January 13th, 2011 at 3:10 PM ^

We had just as much talent as anybody else

Key words being "just as much". The Bo/Woody/Carr/Tressel(?) school of football essentially relies on having better players that out-execute their opponents. Back when UM/OSU dominated the Big Ten in terms of talent, they dominated in terms of wins.

The problem comes when you face an opponent who is also very talented and also good at execution (almost always the case in bowls). The wild cards in this case are game-day coaching and schematic innovation, something Big Ten manball has never had much of. Bo/Woody/Carr/Tressel's inability to win the big one likely has a lot to do with this mindset.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

Lets just hope (for those of us that are as emotionally invested in Denard as I) that Denard does not correlate to Rodriguez only.  Please Coach Hoke, keep Denard and get the ball in his hands.


January 13th, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

that the Hoke/Borges offense looks more like Lloyd's 2008 Capital One bowl offense against Florida, than Lloyd's 2007 Rose bowl offense against USC. 


January 13th, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

Am I right in getting the feeling that your major issues with Hoke are that he

A) Doesn't run the spread and

B)Has a poor record.


The thought that Rodriguez' spread offense was going to take off in the next year or two and dominate the world were based more on hope than fact, anyway.  The top teams in the Big Ten did/ do not run the spread and our points per game at the end of the year paled in comparison to the average in the patsy early season.  Also, Brady Hoke had taken over that SDSU team just a couple of years ago and has compiled a better record over that time than has RR.  If you are going to use a 'what have you done for me lately' approach to the hstory at Michigan you should use the same approach to the coaches.  What are their records over the last 3 years.  I would say Hoke looks like a stud compared to RR>


January 13th, 2011 at 1:53 PM ^

that not many teams in the B10 run a spread O, how many B10 teams won their bowl games?  OSU, who has a QB that is a running threat and Iowa, right?  The B10 is terrible when compared to the other conferences.

And lets not forget: BOTH Oregon and Auburn run a spread offense.  As does Florida (who won 2 recent BCS titles) and Texas - who beat USC and their pro style O.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

It was a 2-point game - Wisky missed a 2-point conversion to tie. Now you're just being intellectually dishonest because you want to support your position in any way possible.

Wisconsin had a fine year, but they weren't a serious threat to win the MNC, which is the point of this discussion. Additionally, it was a singular, non-repeatable fine year - with all the Seniors they're losing this year, they won't be a top-10 team next year.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:17 PM ^

Also, SDSU lost to Missouri, at Missouri, by 3. And while Missouri is no TCU, we are no Missouri. At this point, we don't have a leg to stand on in this regard. What woulda coulda shoulda with RR, didn't. I feel like we're seeing this in black and white: either you're a spread team or you're a manball team. I'm hoping there's a hybrid and this coach will find it. He has the players for it, at least on offense. Maybe he's more than just a Michigan Man. Maybe he's a smart coach. I'm willing to wait and see. 


January 13th, 2011 at 2:28 PM ^

That game was the equivalent of UM-Ball State in 2006 or the Iowa and Penn State games this year, TCU was up 20 midway through the 4th and pulled their starters. SDSU then scored two quick TDs to put a scare into them. It's good to see the team fight back, but it's not like those were even games.