The Team Comment Count

Brian 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 2:09 PM ^

because the coaches are going to have to figure out "how much do we want to change the scheme for next year to something we know better, and how much do we want to retain the scheme that the players know well?"

That question is a lot easier to answer if we have a good idea of how well the previous offense worked.  


January 13th, 2011 at 2:16 PM ^

We have to rehash this argument.  That is the new faction in hte fanbase.  It really isn't a Bo-Lloyd-RR thing, it is an OMG we have to run the spread vs. a no we don't thing.  I am OK if we run a more open offense than Carr, but I am also looking foward to an offense that can move the ball against the better teams on our schedule and not rack up most of its stats in the first 5 games of the season.  There is middle ground.  We can let Hoke run whatever offense he feels will fit our players and still win games. 


And, btw, after last year, I have been convinced that Robinson can be a great QB in a system other than a strict read-option.  Maybe not a plain drop back and throw type of an offense, but I don't think we will be running that.


January 13th, 2011 at 3:42 PM ^

If you keep using the noise argument, it doesn't become true.  Noise was caused by offensive ineptitude, particularly drops, bad reads, fumbles, and an inability to kick.  The vast majority of that is coaching or coach-related failures.

The offense doesn't get a pass because of "noise."


January 13th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

Michigan put up:

  • 28 points and 522 yards against Iowa,
  • 67 points and 676 yards against Illinois (who had the #15 defense in the country at the time),
  • 28 points and 422 yards against Wisconsin (who didn't give up more than 31 points all... year),
  • 30 points and 473 yards against UConn (only Oklahoma did better),
  • 31 points and 423 yards against Penn State, and
  • 263 yards in the first half against OSU until Denard dislocated some fingers.

Not terrible for an offense with a first year starter and only one senior in the line-up.



January 13th, 2011 at 3:02 PM ^

Ditto.  The future potential for this offense is still there!  The players are all the same (assuming Denard comes back).

I'm hoping Borges and Hoke can figure out how to build strategy around the players and not vice versa. 

Braylon 5 Hour…

January 13th, 2011 at 3:23 PM ^

Also, a historically bad kicking game cost us probably close to 3 points a game on average for the year, and the kicking problems were certainly magnified in our more important conference games against better defenses.  I think that definitely explains at least a decent portion of the disparity between yardage and points.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

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.

Yes, expecting the offense to be a dominate next year based on the fact that Michigan had the number three scoring offense in the Big 10 last year, number three offense according to FEI, 10 returning starters, an upper classman at the helm who was the Big 10 OPY, and possibly the best running back recruit in the nation joining the crew, is purely based on hope.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

It is still an assumption.  You are choosing to assume that the spread is unstoppable and everything else is not.  How does this offense do this year without Denard?  What if the new coach installs some sort of a hybrid offense and stops playing vincent smith like he has naked pictures of his wife and the offense is even better than this year?  This is not a black and white - we just decided not to have a good offense - type of decision.


January 13th, 2011 at 1:54 PM ^

Yes, Brian, yes.  From your fingertips to the masses' ears, yes.

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.

It is a point that needs to be hammered so people can really understand what happened, learn from it, and move on.  As you mentioned, Mike Hart aside, the silence was deafening and disgusting.  It should have never happened and even if it did not contribute to Rodriguez's failures, it made blind support much more difficult. 

Like you, I will shut this "meme" down in a day or two but I will never forget the true colors that were revealed over the past 3 years.  In a strange way, its kind of like a kid realizing that there is no Santa.  I will always be an ardent supporter, but never as blindly and unquestioningly (new word?) as I had been previously.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

Profit, the santa reference, thank you. I've been trying to explain this to my spouse, my parents, my sisters, etc. and this is the perfect way to describe it.

I feel like part of my maize and blue heart has died. I, too, will always be a big supporter but I've been gutted and I don't think I can give as much anymore. As you say, the true colors have been revealed and they are not what I thought they were. This is incredibly disappointing, to say the least.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

And this emotional response of many fans is not something that should be discounted by other fans that feel differently (e.g. fans that are relieved that Rodriguez is gone and comfortable going forward).  Its one thing to have a discussion/argument about results on the field, etc.  Its another thing to discussion personal feelings.  My biggest feeling of resentment towards others on this Board is their refusal to be kind to those of us that are having a hard time with this whole ordeal, who need time to sort through all the crap and pull our pinkie toe back onto the bandwagon.  To continue the Santa analogy, we are the 30-somethings who need to soak up all of the x-mas spirit in order to pass on the enjoyment of the season to their children.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

Time is the key. I need time to sort through all that has happened and see what's on the other side. As my sister said, I'm not ready to get on the happy train yet.

Furthermore, this has been tough, it's made me question many things - one of those being what of this do I even want to pass on to my boys. Do I even want them to feel this way one day? I know it's just a game but, man, we all put so much into it.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:11 PM ^

former player vitrol.  It seemed like RR tried hard to connect with former players, and this was shown in the alumni scrimmage during the spring game.  Something new that was brought by RR that was an open letter to alumn to come back to the Big House and get cheered on by the Michigan faithful. Seemed cool, especially for the players who never went on to become NFL legends.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

I've started out to post something similar to that a couple of times. I find it difficult to turn off the emotion, and I am not nearly as gifted linguistically as you are so they were nothing but typing exercises that went into the bit bucket.


January 13th, 2011 at 3:42 PM ^

How did the culture make the last three years happen? If I understand this correctly maybe it is time to get out my tiny violin and have myself a cry. But I won't, because the statement, although to some degree probably correct, proves inconsequential to recruiting and winning. RR is just a coach that couldn't get it done in tough circumstances, where many others have. His situation at Michigan was not that unique. Adversity rears its head in many forms, but you just have to step over the death and shit and achieve. Oh, I forgot, he wasn't given enough time to get a mid level defense that turned terrible back to mid level.

SC Wolverine

January 13th, 2011 at 1:54 PM ^

People are making the assumption that Hoke = repudiation of Bill Martin's attempt to move Michigan into 21st century college football.  I understand why people make that assumption, and I too was pulling my hair out during the last years of Carr's regime for this same reason.  But what if the assumption is wrong?  What if Hoke = embrace of 21st century college football + embrace of the Michigan ethos.  I admit that I do not have the data to prove this latter view, but it is possible and we should not assume that Hoke means 3 yards, a cloud of dust, and stout defense.  So far, everything he has said about adapting to Denard gives us hope that what many of hoped for in RR is not out the window.

Also, the failure of the RR experiment does not rest with DB.  The failure rests with RR and the grotesque defense and special teams he put on the field.  I really liked RR and I was all-in for upgrading UM football to the 21st century.  But the end of our cherished 2010 season was a disgrace.  Maybe BH will accomplish what we hoped for in RR.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:48 PM ^

we should not assume that Hoke means 3 yards, a cloud of dust, and stout defense.

We assume this because that's what Dave Brandon has said he's looking for. Always talk about defense, Michigan Men, etc., and no talk of preserving the excitement and potential that  our offense has developed over the last couple years.

Also, 2 major decisions of Hoke are concerns to me: the retention of Borges as his OC, with no thought given to retaining Magee or hiring another more modern OC, and the replacement of Mike Barwis. To me, these two decisions basically scream "nothing good came from the RR era and we must eliminate all traces of it!" It makes the "adapt to Denard" talk sound hollow, like it's something he's only doing because he has no other option. I don't want Hoke to "adapt" to Denard, he should embrace Denard and the potential he represents. We'll see what happens on the field, but at this point evidence leans definitively toward "repudiation of RR / return to Lloydball".

As for special teams, I'm going to be interested in the narrative next year if/when our field-goal kicking is still awful. I don't want it to be, but with Goudis decommitting, I don't see where the help is going to come from.


January 13th, 2011 at 1:55 PM ^

"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."

Anything that goes right will be Hoke's magic; anything wrong will be Coach Rod's fault. It will be a tie at the end of the Year 3, and I will then make my judgment.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:20 PM ^

Well, there will be real negative input if Hoke and Staff are unable to effectively employ existing talent and we'll know that next year.  We'll also get to see who Hoke recruits (with a responsibility discount for the current class since he is coming in this late in the game) and how well those folks play as Freshman (please God only on special teams and in the spring game) and as Sophmores competing for play time.  


January 13th, 2011 at 1:55 PM ^

It is Hokeamania.  Not Hokemania.  The overwhelming popular phenomenon surrounding pro wrestler Hulk Hogan was not called Hulkmania, was it?  First Tim and now you have gotten this wrong.  If I end up seeing Hokemania on a shirt making all of us look like morons who can't spell or appreciate pro wrestling awesomeness I am holding this site accountable (i.e. nothing will happen but I will remain super pissed off at you guys).


January 13th, 2011 at 1:56 PM ^

...and I agree with most of what you are saying,  Brian.  I suppose the one assumption that I am on a wait and see approach is that Hoke = Carr in scheme and philosophy.  As a person who jumped off the RR bandwagon around Penn State, I am firmly on the Hoke wagon until evidence to the contrary.  It is the only reasonable way to be IMHO. 

As for Brandon his stock cannot be lower for me.  I don’t mind people being politic as long as its done in a stealth like fashion.  Basically I don’t mind if there is a person behind the curtain as long as the show is good.  DB looked like a rank amateur in this process and it reflected poorly on the school.

Good reading your stuff as always Brian.  No matter what happens the autumn will still be a joy to watch Michigan football.


January 13th, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

I'm all-in for the BS free zone mentioned and can't stand people telling me I must support the coach no matter what.  A questionable resume is a very valid reason to dispute Hoke as the 2nd coming.  Carr's less than successful coaching tree is another valid reason.

One area of dispute with your post above, " 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)".  I think the 'best human' stuff is a reason - intangible, non-measuarable, but still a reason why he might work out.  Being the 'best human' means former players are returning to the program, which means positive national exposure; it means moms and dads wondering where to send their 6-4, 250lb lil' baby boy who eats QB's heads can meet him, read all over the interwebs what former players with storied careers say about him and feel reassured that he isn't going to 'touch' their baby in a bad way.  It means Braylon Edwards might introduce himself this weekend as being from 'Brady Hoke's University of Michigan' (what as ass he has been!).


January 13th, 2011 at 2:12 PM ^

it's not that you must support the coach no matter what.  i think if you read brian's post carefully, you'll see that he will support hoke in that he won't actively try to undermine him and will hope that the team wins.  and we should all take that attitude - hope for the best for the team, root them on, and for those of us that are underwhelmed with the hire, hope we're wrong.  but that doesn't mean that we can't be underwhelmed with the hire and skeptical that despite our best hopes, we may not like the results on the field.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

I have to say, I love Hoke's personality. It's self-effacing and charming but he is able to sound confident and competent about coaching matters. The record doesn't say much, but it does show someone who appears to flexible, a decent manager, and a great recruiter and fundamentals teacher.  Likely the only qualitative measures we'll get until the Spring Game are the recruiting class and who else is on his coaching staff, so lets hope and pray we've got a diamond in the rough.


January 13th, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

were done with lloyd carr? done with numerous conference championships, a national championship, a near .500 record against osu, never losing to msu or psu and beating sec teams in a bowl on a regular basis???

but you weren't done with 15-22, ncaa violations, a losing conference record, the ability to only beat indiana and the mac, getting humilated by iowa, msu and osu every year, a pathetic defense and special teams (which btw the head coach is ultimately in charge of) and an offense that put up huge numbers against average teams but did little against good teams???

you're a frigging hypocrite. you piss and moan for 3 years about rich not getting a fair chance and you're throwing hoke under the bus before he even has a chance to coach a game. screw you.


January 13th, 2011 at 2:02 PM ^

This is either Dave Brandon's 3rd-percentile (counting from the bottom) intern or a garden-variety inbred Michigander who thinks things were just dandy, darn tootin', when Michigan Men were in charge.


January 13th, 2011 at 3:19 PM ^

Per Blue in South Bend:

Michigan put up:

  • 28 points and 522 yards against Iowa,
  • 67 points and 676 yards against Illinois (who had the #15 defense in the country at the time),
  • 28 points and 422 yards against Wisconsin (who didn't give up more than 31 points all... year),
  • 30 points and 473 yards against UConn (only Oklahoma did better),
  • 31 points and 423 yards against Penn State, and
  • 263 yards in the first half against OSU until Denard dislocated some fingers.

Those aren't exactly humiliating numbers.  Neither is having the #8 total offense, #25 scoring offense, #13 rushing offense, nor having one of the youngest teams in the NCAA.

So, I think we are done now and you may GTFO.