Why Brady Hoke is even a candidate

Submitted by AC1997 on January 8th, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Bo Schembechler was a great coach and did countless good things for Michigan football during and after his tenure as Michigan’s head coach.  One of those was the idea of being a “Michigan Man”.*  Now that we regrettably find ourselves embroiled in another coaching search, this topic has been raised again.  In addition to former player Jim Harbaugh (obviously no longer a candidate), former assistant coach Brady Hoke has been mentioned as a potential candidate, in no small part because of his previous ties to the university – he fits the “Michigan Man” requirement in the job description – if you’re someone who puts stock in that.     

* - I personally don’t think Bo ever intended for the “Michigan Man” statement to have the meaning it is now given.  After all, Bo was about as far from a Michigan Man as he could be when he was hired.

Jim Harbaugh’s candidacy spoke for itself as he has turned Stanford into a national power in a short amount of time.*  But Brady Hoke’s candidacy is more controversial .  Brian and many readers of this website don’t feel that Hoke is a worthy candidate at all but the MSM keeps throwing his name out there. 

* - To add to your depression, compare Harbaugh's record at Stanford to that of Rodriguez at Michigan.  They are nearly identical through three years.  Harbaugh just got a fourth year, went 12-1 with his first ever second-year starting QB, and at a time the conference's dominant team was doen.  What might have been......

Here’s the primary reason Hoke is even in the discussion:

Michigan’s Coaching Tree….err, Stump

Bo’s coaching regime at Michigan essentially lasted for 38 years – from the day he was hired in 1969 until Carr retired after 2007.  During that time Michigan was one of the most successful programs in the country.  You would think that a few coaches would have sprouted off of that coaching tree over the course of 38 years – but you would be wrong. 

I started researching assistant coaches over the past 20 years and where they are today.  What I found was pretty startling. From 1990-2007Michigan has employed a total of only 26 different assistant football coaches (the year after Bo retired is as far back as I went with my research since age became a factor).  I think part of the “Michigan Man” mentality also led to a lot of excessive loyalty.  While stability is wonderful, you would expect there to be more turnover than 26 assistants in 18 years.  Putting it in perspective, there are nine assistants per season so a total of 26 assistants means that they only averaged one replacement per season for those 18 years. 

As a result, very few former assistants have gone on to become head coaches.  Of the 26 assistants in that time period, only eight have ANY head coaching experience at this point in time.  And while that number might sound reasonable, a closer look at the list reveals it is actually pretty pathetic:

  • Cam Cameron – Failed miserably at Indiana and for the Miami Dolphins, now a successful OC for the Ravens.
  • Les Miles – Very successful at LSU, despite his grass-eating craziness.
  • Tom Reed – A now-retired coach I have never heard of before who was briefly at Miami (OH) and NC-State
  • Mike DeBord  - A frustrating offensive coordinator for Michigan who was terrible at CMU
  • Kit Cartwright – Someone I couldn’t even find decent google-stalk info about who was briefly the head coach at Butler before getting fired.
  • Brady Hoke – Has been moderately successful at Ball State and San Diego State
  • Stan Parrish – Another of Carr’s favorites who had stints at Ball State, Kansas State, and Marshall but was never successful and at 65 years old is probably retired now after losing his latest job.
  • Ron English – A flaming disaster at EMU so far.

That’s it folks – pretty embarrassing list for a coaching tree.  Aside from Les Miles, the only person with a resume even worth a second look is Brady Hoke – now you know why he’s a legitimate candidate in the latest search. 

Hoping that there were other candidates waiting in the wings, I investigated the other assistants to see where they are now.  Here are some highlights:

  • Jim Herrmann – Was at Michigan for 15 years before wearing out his welcome.  Now the NY Giants LB coach.
  • Fred Jackson – Will probably have the RB Coach job description named after him since he will never leave.
  • Greg Mattison – Had a 6 year stay at Michigan and is now the DC for the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Vance Bedford – A successful DB coach at Michigan for a few years, now the Louisville DC.
  • Erik Campbell – A solid WR coach for Michigan for 13 years, showing the lack of promotional opportunities under Carr.  Currently holds that position for Iowa.
  • Teryl Austin – Was a defensive coach for a few years at Michigan and was Florida’s DC last year.  Rumored to be headed to Texas to take that same position.
  • Andy Moeller – Currently the assistant OL coach for the Ravens.
  • Scot Loeffler – Held the QB coach spot for Michigan for a while and held that same job for Florida last year.  I think he should have been given a shot at OC at Michigan when it became clear that DeBord wasn’t utilizing the NFL talent fully.  Would have been high risk, but would have been worth a shot the last two years under Carr in my opinion.
  • Bill Sheridan – Bounced around the NFL as a defensive position coach, most recently for the Dolphins.
  • Ron Lee – I can’t find any information about where he went after his forgettable two-year stay at a secondary coach for Michigan.
  • Steve Stripling – After Rodriguez let him go he took the DL coach job at MSU.
  • Steve Szabo – Currently the DC for Colgate.

While there are some names on that list you might be happy to see as assistants on the Michigan sideline, no one has the resume to take the Head Coaching job.   Maybe you could reach for Austin, but that’s about it. 

Finally, I tried to track down former players (such as Harbaugh) that have gotten into coaching.  That proved to be a nearly impossible effort via the internet if I had any hope of posting this diary in a timely manner.  Here’s what I have so far and could use help adding names if anyone has more info:

  • Jim Harbaugh – You may have heard something about his resume lately.
  • Mike Trgovac – Has been a defensive positional coach in the NFL for years and even a DC at times.  Currently the DL coach for the Packers. 
  • Corwin Brown – Had a mediocre stint as Notre Dame’s DC, now a DB coach for the Patriots.
  • Tyrone Wheatley – Relatively new to coaching, is currently the Syracuse RB coach after having the same job for EMU previously.

I like a lot of the names on these various lists for lower-level positions, but now you can see why Brady Hoke gets mentioned.  If you want someone with a Michigan background who is qualified to be a head coach, he’s one of only a couple options.  I have the utmost respect for Brian and I usually agree on all of his opinions related to Michigan football, but this is one situation where I don’t.  I think Brady Hoke is a serious candidate on Dave Brandon’s list and could potentially be the coach in 2011 – whether that would be as horrific as Brian makes it out to be, I don’t know.

Contrast this coaching “stump” to lowly Eastern Illinois University.  They have produced Sean Payton, Mike Shanahan, and Brad Childress – not to mention all of the coaches on their respective trees.   In nearly 40 years of Michigan football there are only two coaches (aside from Moeller and Carr) who are even close to having a comparable resume as those three – Les Miles and Jim Harbaugh. 

In my opinion this is one of the biggest detriments of Lloyd Carr’s tenure – failure to develop a viable coaching candidate.  Perhaps it was being too loyal to assistants for too long.  Perhaps it was the coaches being too comfortable and not wanting to leave for another opportunity.  Perhaps the conservative game-plan approach limited interest in some of the assistants.  Whatever the problem, it has left us with the prospect of Brady Hoke being a legitimate candidate.    



January 8th, 2011 at 5:17 PM ^

I'd look at it like this....Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles are probably two of the Top 10 coaches in college football (until Harbaugh made the jump this week).  That's 20% of the Top 10!  Can any other school even come close to that?

Heater and Loeffler got jobs at Florida.  Corwin Brown is with the Patriots.  Those aren't shabby programs.  Hoke and English are D1 HC's.  From my perspective, I'd put the Bo's coaching tree up against any other in country at this current time. 

Put it this way.....can you name two or three better trees?


January 8th, 2011 at 5:19 PM ^

Argh, thanks for the research, as depressing as it may be.

I think Hoke seems like a really likeable guy, and maybe all else being equal he could have had some success at U of M. I can overlook the fact that Hoke has not been particularly successful (to put it mildly) in crappy divisions, but my biggest concern is losing recruits and current players by hiring an unproven and unheard of coach. We just went through a huge transition with significant attrition, and we can't afford more attrition (recruits AND current players) just when it started to look like the cupboards were finally starting to be restocked.

I'm usually an optimistic guy, this mess has the potential to do permanent damage.


January 8th, 2011 at 5:24 PM ^

I don't necessarily think hiring Hoke would backfire and we'd be having perpetual 4 loss seasons, but I think as long as DB is willing to interview a myriad of candidates, he'll find that there are coaches out there who can take us all the way, and already have taken others there. If we go after Les, etc. and they decline, fine. The last thing I want to hear is that DB interviewed Hoke, and DB later says, "I knew right then and there that Brady was the coach the University of Michigan needs to lead into the future...." blah blah

winged helmet

January 8th, 2011 at 5:25 PM ^

Depressingly-fantastic post. A great break-down of Michigan's coaching lineage. It really makes you wonder how coaching talent was not developed at Michigan, especially under Carr.

I clearly don't have the authority to deem something front page-worthy, but I'd say this fits the bill.

Thanks AC.


January 8th, 2011 at 5:30 PM ^

How did the co-DC work at Florida, did one focus on something that the other didn't? I haven't really seen co-coordinators before. Also Chuck Heater seems like he can be a pretty good DC.


January 8th, 2011 at 5:33 PM ^

When the Blog seems to be obsessing over two flawed candidates in Miles (lots of wins but !) and Hoke (not a great W-L record against middle ranked programs), we need more information, more light, more analysis.  You provided it.  Great job.

To me, the only alternative to Brady and Les is to find a dynamic guy from one of the lower tier conferences.  The current crop of big-time program HCs does not look promising.

So, do you have a top ten or top twenty list of assistants and/or HCs?  Because that would be interesting to look at.


Steve in PA

January 8th, 2011 at 5:34 PM ^

Teryl Austin – Was a defensive coach for a few years at Michigan and was Florida’s DC last year.  Rumored to be headed to Texas to take that same position.


Manny Diaz was named DC at Texas yesterday


January 8th, 2011 at 5:44 PM ^

Great breakdown, and honestly not as depressing as it sounds.  I'm sure there are a couple of guys who should have panned out better, but most big-time programs with stability tend to not have massive turnover with the high-level assistants, and that in turn probably limits the size of the coaching tree.  Personally, I'm not against Scot Loeffler being given a look as an OC, and who knows what else.  I'm just not sold on Hoke because at this point, he would be a destitute-and-willing-to-turn-tricks-for-a-burger man's RR, and I'd rather have the guy who doesn't need to work for his meal.  I still think the HC will be a "Michigan Man", as much as that drives me insane, though my hope is that Brandon will take a real chance and go after someone young and innovative.  Because based on the talent returning, I don't think we'll have a crater 3-9 record no matter who steps in, and I'd rather a guy with some potential be the recipient of that good will versus some shlub who won't know how to take advantage of it and continue what RR started here.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:35 PM ^

I agree that there aren't a lot of "Michigan Men" - I think it is a dumb designation that hamstrung RR to an extent at least in the media and fanbase.  But I think that Brandon wants to bring in someone with ties to the program, and that leaves us with Hokes and Miles.  As I said, I'm not crazy about anyone from the tree other than Loeffer as an OC. 


January 8th, 2011 at 6:02 PM ^

Brian and others have been saying "if Hoke hadn't coached at Michigan he wouldn't be a candidate" as if his stay at Michigan doesn't matter. It DOES matter. A guy who is risky but qualified for the job is a much better risk when he knows the program and you know you won't have to waste time bringing him up to speed on traditions, history, etc.

"In my opinion this is one of the biggest detriments of Lloyd Carr’s tenure – failure to develop a viable coaching candidate. "

I agree - in effect Lloyd retired at the wrong time in his career wrt to the program's health. His elder assistants were old or had been moved out of the program, while the younger ones like English weren't quite ready to become the head coach. Thus we had to go outside the program, yadda yadda yadda, here we are today.

What is weird is how Lloyd just sort of backed out of Schembechler Hall without a lot of comment about program transition. Did he recommend anybody to Martin? Any closed-door meetings? The whole process suggests to me that LC didn't advocate for anybody on his staff. What's even weirder is that everyone knew Carr didn't have much time left, but he didn't work with Martin to bring on a staffer with the intent of promoting him to HC.

Perhaps English was the guy, but was untenable due to his defensive struggles?


January 9th, 2011 at 12:12 PM ^

"I think Carr was advocating Kirk Ferentz for the job three years ago."

This makes me think Carr IS losing it. Carr has to understand how unlikely it is we can pry a coach from another Big Ten team who has built a solid program. This just smacks of fantasyland to me.

On the other hand I understand at that time it was thought that Iowa had peaked earlier in the decade and was running on fumes. Still, intraconference moves are bad juju.


January 8th, 2011 at 6:08 PM ^

is to adopt the mindset of a "Michigan Man."  It is an ideology and does not need to be literal.  If the leaders and the best haven't coached or played at Michigan, so be it.  Find the next leader, and make sure he has our values and respects our tradition. 


January 8th, 2011 at 6:29 PM ^

Yeah, you would have thought someone in the athletic administration would have started planning for a successor to Carr at least 3 or 4 years before he retired.  Jim Harbaugh, a great former player and leader in your program, with 15 years experience as a pro QB, applies for the QB coach position and is turned down. WTF.  Someone at the point, the AD, Carr or even Bo should have had the foresight to take advantage of that opportunity.


January 8th, 2011 at 7:07 PM ^

Bo had longtime assistants (Carr, Moeller) who were natural choices to be head coach when he left. I am surprised Carr didn't set that sort of thing up. If it is true he was asked to stay later than he wanted by Bill Martin, he should have insisted on naming or at least suggesting a successor. That that didn't happen suggests to me that Lloyd had really checked out by the time he retired, "nothing can keep me down" speeches notwithstanding.

Cultural Enrichment

January 8th, 2011 at 6:35 PM ^

It seems far from accurate to call RR's third year at UM and JH's third year at Stanford 'identical'.  JH won a majority of his conference games and his loses weren't embarrassing.

If their records were more similar, RR would still be employed. 


January 8th, 2011 at 8:09 PM ^

Add to that that Stanford only one a single game the year before Harbaugh while Michigan won 9 the year before RR (yeah, yeah, we all know the endless slate of excuses that won't appear in the record books).  Retaining RR would have been a disaster...?  Hiring RR was a disaster.


January 8th, 2011 at 8:22 PM ^

The difference betweeh JH and RR's third year is the JH came on stong at the end of the year, whereas RR kept getting blown out. For instance, in week 9, Stanford beat the #8 Ducks by 9 in a shoot out, and followed that up by travelling to #8 USC and abolustely annihilating them (the "What's YOUR deal" game).

Michigan, on the other hand finished the season by going 2-6.

For comparison, JH's losses were by 7, 10, 10, 6, and 4. RR's losses were by 17, 10, 10, 20, 30, and 38.


January 8th, 2011 at 6:49 PM ^

Since I told yall that RR was out after the 2010 season, in 2008, I got negbombed and lost privileges. So I had to email this to Brian but we'll try here.

Institutions, particularly ones like the Michigan athletic department have a culture and, for all their good, their #1 modus operandi is *risk aversion*.   Right or wrong, like it or not, the athletic dept looks upon Rich Rod and sees:






As a risk averse institution, those four factors above will be of primary importance.


January 8th, 2011 at 6:52 PM ^

It certainly helps a school have a winning program when the school, and/or coach, attracts highly talented recruits.

I took a look at the number of 4 and 5 start recruits that Michigan, Stanford, and San Diego State have signed up since 2006.

Changing from RR to JH would have been fairly comparable as far their records of attracting 4 and 5 star recruits. When looking at BH's record at San Diego State, it stands out to me that in these past few years not a single 4 or 5 star recruit has signed up to play at that school.

Do great coaches necessarily attract talented players regardless of school? Perhaps not.

Do coaches who are used to training 2 or 3 star players have a feel for what to expect from 4 or 5 star talent? Perhaps.

Is there a head coach available to Michigan who can attract 4 and 5 star recruits in the numbers we need, and has experience coaching kids at that level?

I hope DB pulls off a great move to get this team out of the mess we are in.


January 8th, 2011 at 6:56 PM ^

As we all know, Bo conducted a national search and determined Gary Moeller to be the best available. Michigan ties meant nothing. And he had no input into talking Lloyd into not bolting for big bucks because he could have gone anywhere.



January 8th, 2011 at 7:00 PM ^

These three went on to be head coaches, probably several others could be found also.  I was always surprised the Bo-Nehlen-RichRod connection didn't get him more support.

Always interesting to see the coaching trees from some of the older coaches.


January 8th, 2011 at 10:55 PM ^

Bo had another coach who was at Army and then Purdue and had decent success - Jim somebody, can't remember his name.  Moeller coached at OSU as did Schembechler.  What about someone from that tree.  Midwest ties, gets the rivalry, etc.

The total lack of HC's from Carr's tree is amazing.


January 8th, 2011 at 8:09 PM ^

I think the idea of the "Michigan Man" has turned into an albatross for Michigan athletics. There's a complaceny among our fanbase and athletic dept that Michigan should have it's pick of coaching candidates and recruits because of our tradition.   Michigan sells itself.  Unfortunately, this doesn't recognize that success breeds tradition and not vice versa.  It's time to move on and create a new coaching tree.


January 8th, 2011 at 8:18 PM ^

Brady hoke is an option because he turned two crappy ( and I mean really crappy) programs around in the past 3 years. His first 4 years are as meaningless as rich rods early days at glenville state.


January 8th, 2011 at 8:20 PM ^

that Bo tree is incomplete.  that's more of a Lloyd tree.  the Bo tree included the likes of McCartnery, Nehlen, Mallory, Miles, Moeller, Carr and probably others.  So are coaches who assisted these guys part of the tree or just part of the forest?


January 8th, 2011 at 8:21 PM ^

I think Hoke would be a disaster. Of course, I also think the M fan base made his job extremely difficult and Lloyd basically sealed rod's fate when he decided to stop recruiting the last two years. Hiring Hoke would cause transfers of epic proportions, next season could be worse than Richrods first year. Other than having some ties to the Midwest, no one outside of this coaching search would even know who he is. At least Rich had a reputation for success, players wanted to be in his system. What does Hoke have? We didn't want to give Rich 4 years, yet to think Hoke could do anything more in 4 years as HC wOuld be foolish. Home would not only be working to build Michigan into an elite program but would also be working to establish himself. I don't know how we got to this point again....


January 9th, 2011 at 5:46 PM ^

>>and Lloyd basically sealed rod's fate when he decided to stop recruiting the last two years.<<

Check where Lloyd's recruiting was in his last 2 years.  It was top 10-15, which is higher than Rod's has been the past 2 seasons (heck, Lloyd recruited 2 of the bigger signings in Rich's first class in Martin and Demens).  To answer all the people whining "Well were are the seniors", the answer?  Elsewhere after Richard rode them off.