On the candidate pool:
Several respected people, yourself included, have correctly bashed the concept of a "Michigan Man" being a criteria for coaching this job (especially since there are so few actual Michigan Men qualified for the job despite a 38-year era to cultivate it). But what about the feeling that the new coach must be a proven head coach at a decent school? Isn't that a bit elitist of our fan base and narrowing the field substantially?
Obviously having someone with a great track record in a BCS conference reduces the risk substantially, but we just spent 3-years learning that it doesn't eliminate the risk completely. Conversely:
- Florida has been the best program in the country the past few years and just hired an coordinator with no head coaching experience and no ties to the program.
- That same coordinator was being groomed to take over at Texas, another national power, despite only being their DC for two years.
- Nebraska is one of the all-time winningest programs and has returned to respectability (after a similar coaching debacle) by hiring a coordinator with no head coaching experience.
- Wisconsin has been a force in the conference since promoting a DC who had minimal experience.
- OSU has been one of the elite programs in the country after hiring a Div-1AA coach.
What makes us as a fan base require the candidates to be proven commodities at a big school? What about plucking an up-and-coming coordinator from somewhere who will work their tail off because it is their first job? Why aren't their names like that on all the list of candidates being thrown around?
When I put together a list of the six plausible-if-they-'d-come candidates a few days ago they were all D-I head coaches, but I was basing that off Dave Brandon's assertion in the press conference that they'd be looking for someone who's currently a college head coach. I'm not necessarily advocating it myself. In fact, with everyone on that list off the table or a real longshot to start, it's time to move on to hot coordinators at BCS schools.
You want a guy who is in the right age bracket with a track record of excellent performances on his side of the ball under a head coach that either specializes on the other side of the ball or is more of a CEO type: Pelini, Muschamp, and Bielema all fit that profile. So did Chip Kelly, Bob Stoops, and Mark Richt. That's probably four of the fifteen most prestigious programs in the country plus knocking-on-the-door Oregon and Wisconsin. Hot coordinators aren't just for the middle of the pack.
Who's out there right now?
- Gus Mahlzahn, OC, Auburn. Turned down Vandy job for payday at Auburn but there's only so much you can pay an OC and Vanderbilt's a deathtrap he was probably using for leverage more than anything else. Obvious con is that he's a real Southerner from the South and this will set off fainting spells across the land.
- Brent Venables, DC, Oklahoma. A slight violation of the principles above since Stoops is a defensive guy but he's getting up there and has probably removed himself from the day-to-day operations enough that Oklahoma's consistently excellent defense is largely Venables. He's young (40) but has seven years as a DC under his belt. Midwest connections are lacking.
- Paul Chryst, OC, Wisconsin. Interviewed for but either didn't get or didn't take the Texas OC job, but has made the Wisconsin offense terrifying. At 45 about ready to move up after almost a decade as a successful OC. Downside: hard to think of a more extreme mismatch with Michigan's offensive talent. Actually five years older than Bielema so it would take an implosion in Madison for the fact Wisconsin's his alma mater to be relevant.
- Tom Bradley, DC, Penn State. I mean why not at this point, right? Bradley's interviewing for jobs left and right and if he's not actually the new guy at Pitt he clearly seems willing to move on. He's been the defacto head coach at Penn State for years, has been the backbone of their consistently excellent defense, and could bring along a big chunk of staff with him. Caveat: he'd have to agree to an exorbitant you-can't-go-home-again buyout.
- Bud Foster, DC, Virginia Tech. The backbone of the good bit of Virginia Tech. People have tried to pry him out of Blacksburg forever and he hasn't gone but they've been offering DC jobs, not the head chair. A glance at his stats is ridiculous: the last five years VT has been sixth nationally or better in yardage defense. Is 51, so if he's ever going to be a head coach now's the time. Has interviewed at Pitt.
That's a list not far off the list of head coaches with one important difference: Michigan's likely to get one of the above. Again, if Brady Hoke was a former Penn State assistant would he be more attractive than those guys? I prefer someone with a 20-year timeframe who's proven he can assemble half of a conference championship-caliber team in the BCS to someone who, you know, hasn't.
Malzahn might bring scoffs about Midwest ties and Southern oh noes and whatnot but look at him:
This man is kind of a dork. In certain shots he looks a bit like Alton Brown. The latest bit of fluff on him from Pat Forde deploys the phrase "impregnable earnestness." He's also 45 and was the guy in charge of three wildly different, wildly successful offenses in five years as a coordinator. The fourth and fifth years were not quite as amazing but still saw teams rocking Chris freakin' Todd and freshman Mitch Mustain at quarterback finish 18th and 29th in total offense. Brandon mentioned offensive flexibility in the press conference. Mahlzahn offenses have been run-mad (2006 Arkansas and 2009-10 Auburn), pass-mad (2007 Tulsa) or both (2008 Tulsa).
There will be questions about recruiting and ties and whatnot but with Harbaugh gone we're now picking between questions, and I prefer "will this guy with an awesome offense that fits Denard like whoah be able to recruit and find a DC?" to "how long will a pro-style rebuild take and how much of my soul will die watching Denard play for someone else?"
I mean, who would Jeremy Foley hire?
Why not Mike Gundy? Other than the presser blowup and the whole leaving your alma mater thing, he'd seem like a good hire.
He's a man and he's now 43, so he's in a good spot as far as longevity but I didn't throw Gundy on the list because the blowup seemed like it would be offputting in the aftermath of Press Consumes Rodriguez Alive As Family Watches In Horror. Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens will match anything Michigan can put out there and there is the whole alma mater thing. I didn't think he was plausible since the situation was "Pat Fitzgerald except the school can pay him."
In the name of equal time, section in which Hoke is defended:
How you could advocate Patterson over Hoke is absolutely beyond me. Patterson has no ties whatsoever to the midwest. He has only recruited Texas, yes his schemes are fundamentally sound but as we saw with RR there is way more to football than that. I wholeheartedly disagree with you on that one. Give Hoke as much time as Patterson has had in the Mountain West and he will have as much success.
Seriously? How on earth are we supposed to expect that a guy who's had two years in eight above .500 is as good of a coach as a guy with 8 of 10 above .500, most of them featuring eleven wins—TCU has won 11 games six(!) times under Patterson. He's vastly more proven than Hoke, whose single comparable season ended with blowout losses against Buffalo and Tulsa. Patterson just beat Wisconsin. There is absolutely no comparison between their resumes.
"Ties to the midwest" are somewhat important, but a couple local assistants can help smooth over any minor recruiting bumps and shouldn't outweigh a record of 98-28 over ten years. Ten years! Averaging 9.8 wins per year! Flargabargaegabarb.
Despite my antipathy for him it's not like Hoke is a guaranteed failure. However, it's hard to see him not providing another awkward transition period and then being at the tail end of his career by the time he gets something up and going. The upside is low, and frankly I don't want to return to whatever philosophy Carr had at the end of his career when OSU zoomed by him and Michigan flailed about with no answers. Michigan is in this situation because the Carr coaching tree doesn't exist and his version of bringing in Bret Bielema (a wildly successful DC at Kansas State) or Chip Kelly was to gradually force out Terry Malone in favor of Mike DeBord. Look at what Mack Brown's doing at Texas and compare it to the way Carr went out.
I want nothing to do with anyone who was a part of that unless someone else has employed them in a similar capacity because it's clear who you know became more important than anything late. Michigan cannot go home again and would be making a mistake by trying.