"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.