CC: Where we stand - Part I

Submitted by Ron Utah on October 6th, 2014 at 2:06 PM

"That's like trying imagine the distance to the sun," I said, responding to my wife asking me if I thought I could run a 2:37 marathon.  "It's so far away from me, I can't even conceive of it."  For the record, I have run two marathons.  And both took me longer than 4:13.

I have said before and will say again: I love Brady Hoke. I think he's a great man, a great leader, and, to echo John Beilein, exactly the kind of man I'd want to coach my son.  But he's not winning, and so he needs to go.  Being a great man that can't get the right results isn't good enough in his chosen profession.  That said, I expect he'll have success at whatever small school lands him, should he decide to keep coaching.

But at this point, imagining a scenario where he keeps his job is like trying to imagine me finishing a marathon in 2:37.  Is it possible?  I suppose so.  Intense training, diet, and time commitment might make this achievable.  But that objective is SO far away...

Is this guy a fit?

And so it's time to start seriously thinking about the next head football coach at the University of Michigan.  I have endeavored to put together a somewhat comprehensive list of candidates.  To be clear, I absolutley believe ANY of these names are possible hires.  No coach will ever say publicly, during a season, that he is open to switching schools or changing jobs.  It sends the wrong message to your staff, players, and fans, even if it's true.  So here's the list, with brief pros and cons of each candidate.  You can take these names and google them to learn more; as we get closer to the actual search, I will return with more detail on potential candidates.  For now, we'll do simple letter grades of seven categories: Track Record, Michigan Ties, Recruiting, Chances/Loyalty, Demeanor, Three Phases, and Roster Fit, with a final OVERALL grade.  I will do six coaches in Part I, but will follow-up with many more soon.

Jim Harbaugh, HC 49ers

  • Track Record: A+.  Requires no explanation.
  • Michigan Ties: A.  Played here but has burned some bridges.
  • Recruiting: A+.  Turned Stanford into a top-tier program in very short time.
  • Chances/Loyalty: C.  Will he leave the NFL without a ring?  He's not happy in San Fran, but may be too competitive to quit without the trophy(s).  That said, if he came to Michigan now, I doubt he would leave.
  • Demeanor: B.  Fiery competitor who wants to win.  Gets the most of out his players, but is extremely demanding and controlling.  Does not answer to anyone.
  • Three Phases: A+.  Highly successful with all three phases of the game.
  • Roster Fit: A+.  For both scheme and attitude, I doubt there are very many guys on this roster Jim wouldn't have recruited himself.
  • OVERALL: A.  If we could get him, this is perhaps the best possible scenario.  Would his competitve desire take him back to the NFL?  Could he get along with U-M powers that be?  These are legitimate questions, but his success on the field makes them tertiary concerns.

John Harbaugh, HC Ravens

  • Track Record: A.  Does not have much of a college resume, but the guy has won the superbowl, been to the playoffs in 5 of 6 seasons, and is 9-4 in the playoffs.
  • Michigan Ties: A.  Did not play at Michigan, but has close family ties.
  • Recruiting: A.  Yes, this is a guess, as John hasn't coached in college since '97 with Indiana, so we have no real evidence.  But being able to flash a superbowl ring at a recruit can't hurt.
  • Chances/Loyalty: B.  Already has his ring and is rumored to be upset with Baltimore's handling of the Ray Rice fiasco.  Would likely finish his career at U-M if hired.
  • Demeanor: A.  Not quite as competitive as his brother, but also not quite as much of a dick.  Known as a great motivator and tactitian.  
  • Three Phases: B+.  Has always had good defenses, but offense has generally been middle-of-the-pack.  Was a special teams coach from '88-'07 (until he became a HC). 
  • Roster Fit: A+.  Glove-like fit for the current players.
  • OVERALL: A.  While not as fiesty as his younger bro, John may be the better fit.  He even sounds like a college coach.

Les Miles, HC LSU

  • Track Record: A-.  Has a MNC ring.  Has been a consistent, Carr-like performer in the SEC West, with many good years but only one undefeated conference season.
  • Michigan Ties: A+.  Played and coached at U-M.
  • Recruiting: A.  Has been one of the best, but would he be just as good in the B1G?
  • Chances/Loyalty: B.  At 60, is he still interested in moving?  Again, if hired, he almost certainly finishes his career in Ann Arbor.
  • Demeanor: B-.  Rumors that his arrogance has led his astray.  Not sure his morality is tolerable for U-M fans.
  • Three Phases: B+.  Has had loads of success in all three phases, but many questionable clock management choices.  Loves to gamble, and his players love that.
  • Roster Fit: A.  Miles tends to adapt to his roster, and there is plenty of talent for him at Michigan.
  • OVERALL: A-.  He's an older coach with questionable ethics, but he checks all the other boxes almost perfectly.  FWIW, I don't want him.

Todd Graham, HC Arizona State

  • Track Record: B+.  Was great at Tulsa and appears to have turned ASU into a contender in a tough PAC-12 South.  
  • Michigan Ties: D.  Has coached at West Virginia and one season at Pitt, but spent the rest of his life (before ASU) living and coaching in Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Recruiting: A-.  Is getting some great talent in a competitive area at a crap school, but no real midwest ties, and may have burned some bridges in one-year stop at Pitt.
  • Chances/Loyalty: C+.  I think he would come if offered the job.  I also think he would leave if a good SEC team hired him away.
  • Demeanor: B.  Southern style might not fit the midwest.  Gives glory to God in post-games.  Has heavy accent.
  • Three Phases: A-.  Defensive coach that has overseen top offesnes at ASU with limited talent.
  • Roster Fit: C+.  Spready-spread offense would require some serious tweaking with current personnel.
  • OVERALL:  B.  A good coach who would probably come if offered the job with no ties to U-M and no real ties to the area.  Is he a fit at Michigan?

Jim McElwain, HC Colorado State

  • Track Record: B+.  Limited resume as HC, but great success at virtually every stop as assistant, most recently as 'Bama's OC.
  • Michigan Ties: B+.  Has coached at Louisville and Michigan State; good friends with Doug Nussmeier.
  • Recruiting: B-.  This is really a question mark, as CSU is hardly a good place to recruit.  Has not pulled in top talent there, but previous stops had great recruiting.
  • Chances/Loyalty: B+.  Would almost certainly take the job, and would probably stay unless hired away by 'Bama.
  • Demeanor: B-.  Quiet, nice guy who gives 60-minute press conferences every week.  Not a great speaker, and not sure of him as a motivator, but he seems to get the most out of his players.
  • Three Phases: B.  Offensive coach whose defenses are okay.  Need more data.
  • Roster Fit: A.  Uses multiple formations and lots of zone blocking; similar to Nuss.  Not sure whom he would hire on defense.
  • OVERALL:  B.  Is there any passion there?  Not a great public speaker.  Might fit best at smaller school, but is an up-and-coming coach that will probably get his chance as a bigtime HC someday.

Craig Bohl, HC Wyoming

  • Track Record: B+.  Three consecutive NCs at FCS North Dakota State.  On Nebraska staff during their last great years in 90's.  Can he cut it in the big-time?
  • Michigan Ties: C+.  No Michigan ties, but coached at Wisconsin and Nebraska.
  • Recruiting: B+.  Who knows?  Did a great job at North Dakota State, often beating-out smaller FBS schools, but still incomplete data here.
  • Chances/Loyalty: B.  Would probably take the job, but may leave if Nebraska offered.
  • Demeanor: B.  At 56, Bohl seems like a pretty reserved guy in front of the press, but obviously gets the most out of his teams.  Seems like a good fit in Fort Schembechler.
  • Three Phases: B+.  Defensive, 4-3 coach who wants power football.  Wants to be MSU, basically.
  • Roster Fit: A.  MANBALL coach is a great fit for our roster.
  • OVERALL:  B.  An older guy who may not want to leave Wyoming after just one season, but was one of the best FCS coaches ever.  Seems like a great fit at U-M, even though he has no real Michigan ties.

Coming soon: Dan Mullen, Scott Frost, Teryl Austin, Pat Narduzzi, Greg Schiano, Gary Patterson, Bob Stitt, Chad Morris, Mark Hudspeth, Kirby Smart, Tom Herman, Doug Nussmeier, Matt Wells.




October 6th, 2014 at 2:16 PM ^

Cool beans. 

p.s. I'd give Harbaugh (Jim) an A+ for demeanor at the college level.  (he is probably a C- at the NFL level)  He is no different than Saban in that regard.  People give Saban's A+ for his approach and demeanor.  Maybe I am more old school than most. 

I want the players to love their coach AFTER they leave and they realize what he did for them - they dont need to love him while they are here.  I dont mind them fearing the coach for years 1-2, then coming to respect and understand what he is doing in years 3-5.  Not one bit.  

You have swarmy and smug coaches at MSU ND and OSU right now - Harbaugh is the right antidote in terms of attitude for those guys too.

Ron Utah

October 6th, 2014 at 2:25 PM ^

For the players, I agree Harbaugh is an "A" in the demeanor category.  However, he also has to deal with an AD, athletic department, university, alumni, etc.  While he seems to be always right, other people don't like to be told they're wrong.

That's why I gave him a "B".


October 6th, 2014 at 2:44 PM ^

I will say you don't have to be a dick to be successful. I'm not sure if I've ever said otherwise but now that I think about it see John Beilein. He is decidedly not a dick and is one of the nicest guys around. This does not mean he isn't tough as nails and will demand excellence from his players but I would never confuse John Beilein with Nick Saban or John Calipari.

The thing I would look for is attention to detail. That is the common thread between Nick Saban and John Beilein. They both seem to pay attention to and care about everything unlike our current football staff.

Your assessment about Jim Harbaugh and his attitude does seem correct.

If we got either Harbaugh or Les Miles I'd be stoked. I'd have to look a little harder at some of these other prospective coaches to be the one who leads us out of our current predicament.



October 6th, 2014 at 2:20 PM ^

The next 4-5 games for TCU will be very interesting.  Patterson was a very hot candidate 4-5 years ago before TCU moved to the Big 12 and he was rolling at TCU.  He took a step back for 2 years as his type of players are not perfect for the Big 12 but he continued to field great defenses RELATIVE to the Big 12 - i.e. a 20th ranked defense in the air raid Big 12 is like top 8 in the slow poke Big 10.  Now he finally has a good QB and if he goes even 3-2 vs Baylor, OK State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, West Virginia his star will really rise. 

I don't know if its possible to pull this guy out of TCU as he is a lifer but if he rolls this year it will be (to me) very impressive and put him well ahead of Whittingham who has been in the Pac 12 longer than TCU has been in the Big 12.  And Patterson did far better in the Mountain West than Whittingham did (although Whittingham did fine). 

Patterson's defensive rankings are fantastic for a program such as TCU; I dont care what conference it is in - if you have multiple top 5 defenses throughout your career you are doing something very right.

  W/L Tot Off Tot Def
2000 9-3 23 1
2001 6-6 90 24
2002 10-2 66 1
2003 11-2 26 38
2004 5-6 18 99
2005 11-1 41 25
2006 11-2 17 2
2007 8-5 64 15
2008 11-2 24 1
2009 12-1 7 1
2010 13-0 12 1
2011 11-2 28 32
2012 7-6 72 16
2013 4-8 104 24



October 6th, 2014 at 2:38 PM ^

I don't think Patterson is an option. He already makes big money at TCU (3.4 mil) and would get a raise if he had another big year and/or had another big school after him. And I don't think he's a guy Michigan a throws 6 millions/year at, which is likely what we would need to do to pry him away.


October 6th, 2014 at 2:38 PM ^

I don't really think the coach matters as long as the boss is in charge, since no half-decent coach would want to work for Brandon anyway.

Michigan is, sadly, in a state where the status quo is almost the enemy.  This place needs to burn to the ground before it can be rebuilt.  At the upper levels it's basically a bunch of trust fund babies getting rich and fat off the efforts of people they couldn't care less about, and those are the sorts that don't easily give up their seat at the table.  Just look at how moved they were at the grassroots effort to remove Brandon. . . which is to say, not in the slightest.

An empty stadium is the scorched-earth answer, but it may be the only answer.

/ Bo Schembechler was an outsider


October 6th, 2014 at 3:07 PM ^

Not to cause trouble here but what I've seen amounts to unsubstantiated rumors, wishful thinking, and reading tea leaves.  The folks at the table with voices publicly backed Brandon.  The President issued an apology regarding Concussiongate but that was mostly damage control.  I wouldn't read too much into that.

As for Hoke, he needs to go but as I said before the season started, it's not the W-L record per se.  Losses are OK (well, they suck but I can deal) as long as I see progress but instead of week-to-week improvement with the team gaining confidence when the learning curve should be fastest, Hoke and the players seem increasingly baffled as other teams leave them in the dust.  I really think we may have seen our last win of the season because the schedule only gets tougher and other teams are improving whereas our gaffes have gone from embarrassing to dangerous.

Sauce Castillo

October 6th, 2014 at 3:17 PM ^

I, along with everyone else, am on the Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Les Miles train, but beyond that it's been hard to decide on what I think would be a good candidate after that.  People have been throwing Mike Gundy around on here and until I looked today wasn't a firm believer in him.  So I looked at Oklahoma State's FEI for offense and defense.  They've been in the top 30 in the country in both offense and defense each of the past 4 yrs!!! That's incredible.  I think it's one of the best indicators of success.  and for people who think we'll just air it out in his offense go take a look at the oklahoma game from last year, it may not be 2 TEs but the can still run power.  It's not a gimmicky offense, he puts guys in position to succeed and he's got coaches that do the same.  And for people who say he won't leave, he flirted with Tennessee and had the job and backed out last minute.  I'm sorry but Michigan can offer him what he wants, we are better than Tennessee.  If we don't get one of the top 3 (Harbaugh's or Miles) than I hope we go after Gundy. 


October 6th, 2014 at 3:56 PM ^

I'll get on the Gundy train but he seems to be similar to the RR pick with a major difference: he plays in the Big 12. We give him the nod and the same level of help Hoke got prior to this year I think he could do well. If our former players decide to mutiny again then I think we could get another RR situation.

I'm afraid he takes one look at how we treated RR and decides to stay at a good situation. The upside here may be higher and he may build a legacy if he takes us to the top. The question is will he be able to handle the pressure.

I'm interested to see more analysis of his potential as our new leader.


October 6th, 2014 at 5:06 PM ^

Former players did not like Rich Rod because he came in and took a big shit on every tradition UofM has. Rich didn't bother to learn anything before coming and acted like he was the greastest thing to happen to Michigan. First thing he said when addressing the team at their first workout was, "Ya'll lost Michigan's Edge and we're here to get it back". Then procedes to go 3-9 and doesn't get a signature win the next two years. If Rich Rod would have shit on the program but actually won some big games former players wouldn't have been so vocal. If Rich Rod could have put a defense on the field and an offense that worked against more than Illinois and Indiana he'd still be here.

I dumped the Dope

October 6th, 2014 at 3:55 PM ^

Good to look at all the different phases.  I've often thought Bohl could get the job done just on the strength of his successes.  However I believe a coach is supported by his system of coordinators (and local results seem to also point heavily at position coaches) that he's selected/built or he trusts inherently.  And I don't know if Bohl has a group of guys he can pull together as well as NDSU.  Bohl seemed to have the lock on any players from in-state that he wanted with so few other choices.  Dantonio does currently have the upper hand here.

The two paths I see going forward are either trying to pry an established coach from their comfortable surroundings to come to Ann Arbor, or else taking somewhat of a gamble (calculated, you know) on someone who could be really big in the future.  I think that's the result we all want, its just a matter of if we can find that person....and their staff!!

The NFL guys may not be used to the forevermore recruiting of the midwest.  However having college players who won't give back any attitude and aren't going to fight the front office for money, could also be completely refreshing.

We will find out soon enough.



October 6th, 2014 at 4:18 PM ^

The OP brought up a point that may influence the hiring a lot: people at the University of Michigan and a lot of Ann Arborites seem to think that anyone with a southern accent is intellectually deficient.  

"Southern accent = Dukes of Hazzard/Beverly Hillbillies" seems to be one of the last acceptable stereotypes in the midwest.   I am guessing a southern accent hurt Rich Rod and is going to hurt any southern coach who is hired.  

Then again, even the most treacherous of so-called "Michigan Men" wouldn't sabotage recruiting for the next guy if he was from outside the Michigan coaching tree. 

Or would they?

turd ferguson

October 8th, 2014 at 9:23 AM ^

I think this is insightful.  In fact, if I'm being honest, I think I look a little more skeptically at coaching candidates who speak with a drawl even though I know that's unfair and irrational.  In my case, I don't think that's about doubting intelligence as much as it's about wondering about their football ethics, since the rules seem to be so different down south.  I wish it weren't true, but I winced a little bit when I read here that my favorite non-Harbaugh candidate so far, Todd Graham, comes across as extremely Southern.

I can definitely get past that, though.  Count me in for Graham, at least until I hear more.


October 6th, 2014 at 4:24 PM ^

Random coach who I think is going to eventually do quite well is Mike Macintyre at Colorado. He turned San Jose St. from dumpster fire into 10-2, and now he's starting to dig Colorado out of a mess. I know he won't show up on a Michigan coaching search, but I kind of wish he would. I'm from CA, so I know I'm biased, but I'm more excited by someone who hasn't been given a shot yet than a retread. Except Jim Harbaugh who I think is the best overall possible hire. 


October 6th, 2014 at 4:36 PM ^

Maybe in a few years he'll be a hot candidate but right now, his won loss record will preclude him from most jobs.  CU might be better but they are staring 2-10 in the face unless they can pull a nice upset. 

Also, the San Jose St build, while impressive, also coincided with the better teams leaving the WAC for the Mountain West - Boise, Neveda, Fresno St.

Ron Utah

October 6th, 2014 at 4:50 PM ^

MacIntyre might turn out to be a good coach, but so far, not so good at CU.

I live in Denver and hear quite a bit about him; they think he will resurrect the program here.  The problem is that they are 2-4 and just barely beat UMass and struggled against Hawaii.  Of course, they followed that up with close games against Cal and Oregon State, but they are a LONG way from being good.

I don't think he's a realistic candidate at this point, and he has no midwest ties.


October 6th, 2014 at 4:37 PM ^

But I think you should drop the "chances" part, as that is very different from loyalty. We can probably make a maize colored guess at the latter, but the former is way up in the air and nearly impossible to estimate.


October 6th, 2014 at 5:33 PM ^

I don't get the love for Jim McElwain.  He is at a tough program to win and in 3 years basically has a BC win this year as his trademark win.  He has basically the same "pros" as a guy currently on the staff as OC other than he has HC experience, and that experience is ho hum.  Guys like Patterson and Whittingham and Graham blow him away IMO. 

If Nuss was coaching at Colorado State today for 2.5 years and McElwain was the OC of Michigan everyone would be saying "wow that Nuss guy is attractive because he was an OC at Bama in the day!".  We need a HC with a high level of success as a HC, and not count on some halo effect from a successful HC.   Halo effects are random - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Those guys need to go and make a program very good on their own - CSU is very average. 

Charlie Strong left Meyer (his halo) and had rapid success in years 3 and 4 at Louisville.  Not just W/L but his defense was #1 in the nation in year 4 at Louisville - even FEI adjusted I am sure it was top 20.  That is different than McElwain who is at a nothing program and has 2 wins of any merit in 2.5 years. If his last OC stop was at Texas with Mack Brown instead of Saban at Bama no one would see much to him.  Too much love given to him due to Saban association.

Graham and Sumlin had #1 offenses multiple years at Tulsa and Houston  Strong had a #1 defense, as did Patterson.  Those guys took 1 side of the ball and made it great at a lesser school.  You don't need to be the #1 unit in the country but put out a top 5-7 unit on 1 side of the ball - show you have some speciality on defense or offense that maeks you special at whatever level you coach.  McElwain has done nothing of the sort.

Ron Utah

October 6th, 2014 at 5:41 PM ^

McElwain is not someone I'm excited about, either.

That said, he took over an AWFUL team and has turned them around.  They were 3-9 in 2011 (year before he arrived) and, since have gone 4-8, 8-6, and now are 4-1.  They have gone from scoring 21 ppg and allowing 31 ppg (-10) to scoring 34 and allowing 23 (+11).  The recruiting has picked-up.

He would need a great defensive coordinator, but I think we could do a lot worse than McElwain.  He's got midwest connections and knows how to gameplan.  Is he a home run?  Hardly.

FWIW, I actually think Doug Nussmeier will be a more successful HC someday.  I don't see McElwain's passion, though I'm sure it's there.

Michigan Arrogance

October 6th, 2014 at 6:03 PM ^

I hate being the guy who makes suggestions, but what do you think of changing the grade system to a point system (1-10). Would make the Overall a simple average. Could go negative for extreme (D- or F) scores.



turd ferguson

October 7th, 2014 at 9:11 PM ^

I prefer it the way you did it here, actually.  If you take a straight average, that assumes that all of those things should be weighted equally, and if you start playing with weights, you'll run into other issues (e.g., something won't seem quite right all the time).  To me, a subjective but fair overall measure is better than an objective but badly flawed one.


October 6th, 2014 at 11:13 PM ^

Curious what the board thinks but I haven't seen him mentioned at all.

Foster's had solid defenses at Va Tech, you always hear he's a great recruiter and Beamer signed an extension during the off season to 2019.


October 7th, 2014 at 8:53 AM ^

Though I'd be a fan of Jim Harbaugh coaching at Michigan, it doesn't seem like it's going to happen. I mentioned Macintyre in passing, but I'd really like to see Chad Morris as the next head coach. Quite frankly, Michigan had nearly the best possible hire in RR and it wound up not working out, then we went with the CEO type Michigna guy, and it didn't work. I'd like to see Michigan snag someone on the rise and let them put their own imprint on the program. For me, Morris immediatley puts Michigan in the 21st century in terms of offensive philosophy, but I wouldn't mind Stoops either because he's young and hungry. I'm less excited about Graham or Miles or McElwain. As I said, I'd just like Michigan to look outside the Michigan family or even the safe HC pick and try to get someone who can create something new at Michigan. 

That said, I think one of my biggest issues as a fan this year is how boring it has been to watch Michigan play. I know W and L's are all that matter, but I'm pining for something entertaining. My favorite offensive gameplan and style ever was the bowl game against Florida. I'd be fine using a similar style of offense, but I don't think Long, Henne, Hart, Arrington, and Manningham are walking through that door, nor do I know of a coach who runs a spread pass that relies as heavily on the run as M did in that game. I miss winning. 


October 7th, 2014 at 8:35 PM ^

Would be a poor hire. His demeanor is a "C" at best. He is kooky. His loyalty... Not sure if he has any fire left... Seems aloof about LSU competing in the SEC. Would he really have the drive to move Michigan back to the top. Um nope. "C". Clock management is absolutely awful. But he recruits well ... Heard that before.

Please don't hire him.


October 14th, 2014 at 11:55 PM ^

would be Les Miles. I've heard Les is drooling over the Michigan job. Anything to escape from a tough SEC. Miles would be king here in the B1G. He has just enough career left for Jim to finish up with his NFL stint, then Jim will be ready in 6 to 7 years to take over for Miles. Miles will stabilize the program and win 10 or more games after his 2nd season. He most likely will win 3 B1G titles and get into the playoffs a couple times during his 6 to 7 year stint. When Jim takes over we will be world beaters with a bunch of national championships!