A World Held Hostage: Mailbag

Submitted by Brian on January 8th, 2011 at 6:48 PM


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. 

Dave C.

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.



January 8th, 2011 at 8:26 PM ^

I was about to mention him. Young, mid 30's, has to be hungry. Whatever people think of Saban, he knows what he is doing. If he trusts Smart to be his DC, he must have some talent as a coach.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:06 PM ^

I would be 100% okay with hiring Tom Bradley or Bud Foster. Get them a spread-friendly OC and I don't think there's much shit that could be thrown at such a hire.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:57 PM ^

I too would like to see Keeler get a good look. He was one of our finalists last time around and the guy has been money at DE. For the record:


2002 Delaware 6–6 4–5 T-6th      
2003 Delaware 15–1 8–1 T-1st W 40–0 Division I-AA National Championship #1  
2004 Delaware 9–4 7–1 T-1st (South)   #7  
2005 Delaware 6–5 3–5 3rd (South)      
2006 Delaware 5–6 4–5 T-4th (South)      
2007 Delaware 11–4 5–3 T-3rd (South) L 21–49 FCS National Championship Game #2  
2008 Delaware 4–8 2–6 5th (South)      
2009 Delaware 6–5 4–4 T-4th (South)      
2010 Delaware 12–3 6–2 T-1st L 19–20 FCS National Championship Game #5  
Delaware: 74–42 43–32

At the DIII he was even more dominant.

Only problem is DE is his alma mater and he might just be content there.

Since it seems to be an issue for some, he's 51.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:09 PM ^

Venables has the reputation of being a relentlessly negative recruiter.  I don't know if that is enough to disqualify him or not, but everyone seems to hold similar tactics against Miles.  If you are going to pull someone out of the OU coaching tree, I'd much rather it was Kevin Sumlin (who had two good years at Houston before his QBs began to explode this season).


January 8th, 2011 at 7:24 PM ^

I thought about Sumlin too. His drawback is that he has done his recent business in a weak conference and they haven't been good this season.

Check out Venables profile and accomplishments at OU.  He is a recognized top 10 d- coordinator nationally. In intangibles, he would give us that cocky confidence who also walks the walk. That is a quality that a lot of us liked about Harbaugh.  His youth is a huge plus too. 

Stoops has said many times he is the furthest thing from a lifer and mentioned leaving OU and coaching all together in his early 50s. Venables would definitely be the successor which might make him unattainable. Stoops just turned 50.




January 8th, 2011 at 7:11 PM ^


Thank you for putting the argument regarding Hoke more eloquently than any of my rabble rabble ever could.  Also, thank you for pointing out that the cupboards left bare by Carr were on the coaching tree not the depth chart. Once again you are the man.


January 8th, 2011 at 9:25 PM ^

Things like "worthless". Of Lloyd's "worthless" staff it included a college head coach or two, at least 3 defensive coordinators in college, two in the NFL, at least 3 Super Bowl rings, and National Championships. Apparently those successful programs and organizations thought the former staff members were less worthless than you do.
<br>He coached 13 years. Look at any coach, and over his tenure a coach will have some that excel, and others that really aren't that great. Some pump out head coaches, others don't. You just don't pay attention to Saban to Paterno, because you don't follow them closely.
<br>Say, Rich Rod, who coached ten years (not counting Glenville St.), and had a head coach and D-coordinator he left behind, a D-coordinator who he fired, and his own staff who got fired and consisted of an offensive coordinator who can't get a job because they think he's Rich's puppet, and a bunch of defensive staff that would be regarded about as highly as DeBord. In just 3 less years of head coaching.
<br>When you want to paint a positive picture, like at Penn State, the coaches are "loyal". When you want to trash someone, they're "inbred" and "worthless".
<br>The disturbing part, for all the hate, the program would be in better shape today if we had hired Hoke in 2007 when Brian was freaking about the thought of it than we are if we hire him today.


January 8th, 2011 at 11:16 PM ^

I can't figure out why you got negged for that. I haven't often agreed with what you've said throughout this process but I've had a ton of respect for how you've presented it.

On a separate note, it's possible, maybe probable, that what you say about Hoke in 2007 is true, but the major problem I have with Hoke is that I think his ceiling is 8-4, 9-3. We might be in better shape but would we be going anywhere? With Hoke, we're settling, and praying that we're not.

Tom Pickle

January 8th, 2011 at 7:12 PM ^

But honestly what is the point of bringin in an offensive guru when we could have just kept Rodriguez and brought in a new DC? I just can't see it happening.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:14 PM ^

I'd be excited about Bud Foster.  He's a defensive mastermind, and has been around enough athletic quarterbacks at VT to understand the importance of letting Denard run loose. 


January 8th, 2011 at 7:15 PM ^

No name excites me. Whoever gets the job has my support and best wishes. I just hope Dave Brandon can deliver a winner. That is really all we have left; our arguments and opinions and what-ifs and analysis may help us sleep at night and it is a form of catharsis, but this is out of our hands and all we can do is hope for the next best thing to Jim Harbaugh, who was the man I was hoping would take the job. It does make me question Dave Brandon that he would throw the program into this type of chaos by not having plans in place for every contingency, but Michigan football has made me suffer for years now. It all feels like a slow decline. Maybe not irreversible, but it has been a really tough few years. I could really use some success and solidarity.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:16 PM ^

I think at this point I'm on the Malzahn bandwagon (with a proven DC). It would just be such a kick in the crotch to the part of me that feels bad for RR. Hey, so you're an offensive guru, I'm going to fire you, and bring in... an offensive guru. Ouch.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:18 PM ^

although he has players on the roster from Kansas, Florida, New Jersey, California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Illinois, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Georgia, and Minnesota this year ... but his school is in one of the most populous states in the country, a state that is crazy about football and produces boatloads of talent. Why the hell would he need to recruit elsewhere?

Sure, it's nice to be able to get players from different parts of the country (which he's doing anyway), but that's not necessary if you coach in Florida or Texas or California.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:23 PM ^

Malzahn doesn't make sense to me. We have already went down the spread guru path, and the results were less that inspiring. This time around I would prefer to go for defense or more of a CEO type of coach. I would rather lose 14 to 6 than lose in a shootout.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:48 PM ^

the path of hiring a spread guru, I am not sure if that was the demise of Rodriguez and it being a style that will not work here.  If Malzahn came, I would expect him to bring an established DC with him who would compliment him on the other side of the ball.  I believe this is one of the biggest things that ultimately ended RichRod's carreer by not having a superb DC to build his defense while he was building the offense.  IMO, offensive minded head coaches will work here if they empower the right DC to run the defense they are familiar with.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:29 PM ^

<br>Great list of coordinators and the reasons why they should be considered. Its entirely reasonable and well researched, especially in the short timeline that you had to come up with it. Actually gives me hope in the middle of this apparent cluster#%*# orchestrated by Dave Brandon.
<br>I'm all in for Malzahn.


January 8th, 2011 at 10:15 PM ^

I am not sure I agree with the premise that DB has f'd up. There seems to be general consensus that JH was the best candidate, and it seems clear to me, that the ONLY chance to get him was to allow the NFL sweepstakes to take place. That meant, that he was not going to be able to trot out the new coach at the firing squad presser (something that I, too, thought he had to do).
<br>Once the great savior went to the land of many dollars, a plan B was needed (which is presumably what he is working on). Once you find yourself in the position of not being able to trot new coach out at press conference, it seems to me that contacting possibles is the only right move. I, for one, would rather do that with the position vacant, when you can get the most interest (assuming candidates more comfortable inquiring about a vacant, rather than filled position). I would prefer to reserve judgement on whether he screwed up until after he makes the hire, and probably after he tries to salvage the class (and maybe until we see his product on the field in the spring- especially if it is someone with less name recognition). Personally though, I would still like to see a WOW name trotted out at halftime Wednesday.


January 9th, 2011 at 10:41 AM ^

For me, firing your coach in early January without a replacement in mind is a bad move.  

Also, if DB can't get the home run, golden boy candidate to come home and coach for his alma mater with a chance to lead them out of the darkest time in their modern era history - that is also a failure.

I'd like to reserve judgement as well, but, it's already a circus.  The timing is horrible and the only way to salvage the timing was to land the obvious candidate (JH).  Now that we're short of that, it's gone from bad to worse.  

Just my opinion, tho.  There is certainly a fair argument on the other side, especially if the hire works out for the best and the class can be saved.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:30 PM ^

It's entirely possible that he has improved as a head coach since his early days at Ball State.  Jason Whitlock says as much in his column...Hoke does not excite me, but I don't think it necessarily makes sense to think of his coaching acumen as a stagnant thing.   Players improve.  I imagine that some coaches must improve too. 


January 8th, 2011 at 7:41 PM ^

I will continue the drumbeat:

Michigan Men are those, who by choice, come to Michigan and over time, contribute to the tradition of excellence of the school, whether via sports, academics or other manner of contribution.

Michigan Men choose Michigan, give all for Michigan, and know when it's time to drop all and aid their chosen school.

bj-ask you

January 8th, 2011 at 7:33 PM ^

How about Malzahn as HC with a "michigan Man" such as Hoke as DC to appease that crowd?  We need to catch a rising star and lock him in long term, not hire a coach in his twilight so we have to do this again in 3-5 years.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:38 PM ^

I'm totally for finding some up and coming coordinator to become our head coach and someday return us to glory, but we need the big name coach right now to keep us from digging a deeper hole.  If we could somehow manage to get someone like Miles for a good 5 years, then we can work on getting one of our own up and coming coaches to continue the tradition.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:38 PM ^

to this topic, but man is it great to come on this site and Brian have a new post up on a Saturday.  Where in the heck would I be without University of Michigan Athletics??  I will answer that, "I would be a big fat loser."



January 8th, 2011 at 7:51 PM ^

This is a big job, and even bigger now after the past slide.  A coordinator from within has worked, but from the outside?  The more experience the better.


January 8th, 2011 at 8:21 PM ^

Man, Pud Foster. The man can coach a defense and nobody on this board more than me would be happy to see him leave VT. But if you thought poor Rodriguez ran into trouble here for being a hick....

Besides, part of the reason Foster's never been hired anywhere is the perception that he'll pick himself up and run right back to Blacksburg when Beamer retires. Michigan, of course, would have that problem far less than someone like Pitt would. Still: hick. Not that I care, but people would.


January 8th, 2011 at 8:29 PM ^

The mention of Mike Debord in this message puts an exclamation point on why I have reservations about Hoke. Lloyd was simply not a good judge of talent in his coaching choices, Debord being exhibit A. In the last three years the marketplace is making apparent what the general coaching world thinks of the people he protected and promoted: most of them decent position coaches at best. Of course, Lloyd could get lucky: Loeffler was apparently very good, Cameron has found a niche as a coordinator. Maybe Hoke is good too. But bringing back Hoke would be reengaging with that circle of mediocrity.