Yet Another CC Roundup: Ranking the 12!

Submitted by Eye of the Tiger on December 2nd, 2014 at 7:19 PM

I've now done three (one, two, three) CC candidate roundups. In each, I profiled 4 legitimate and 1 not-so-legitimate candidates. Now I rank the 12 legitimate ones according to how desirable a candidate they are, but with close calls determined by plausibility. (As you'll notice, some candidates are more plausible than others.) In other words, if I were Hackett, I'd just go down this list--maybe skipping the pipe dreams, but more likely just putting out feelers and politely backing off if the answer is "thanks but no thanks."

So what makes an ideal coaching candidate for Michigan in 2015? The demonstrated ability to coach + the demonstrated ability to win QUICKLY with a roster like ours + the likely ability to manage the uniquenesses of a "blue blood" program and its vested interests. That last bit really shouldn't matter as much as it does, but it undoubtedly does. And not just at Michigan: at Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, USC and Tenessee too. Programs that feel the weight of history require coaches who can not only win but simultaneously embody and transcend tradition. Bo would be a perfect example, but there are others from more recent history, coaches who took the reins of once mighty "blue bloods" fallen on hard times and brought them back to glory. Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, etc.

The Michigan job is further complicated by the fact that, like Notre Dame, we pride ourselves on academics and high integrity. Ideally we do not want to cut corners in our push (back) to the top. This is admirable, but it does make the job of finding the right person harder, as some of the best coaches out there are inveterate corner cutters. A Bob Stoops still makes the cut, but Pete Carroll? Not sure.

But enough about all that. Here's my ranked list of previously profiled CC candidates:


1. Jim Harbaugh

CASE: Harbaugh is the best available coach (to the unknowable degree that he is available) and the candidate who best “gets” what makes Michigan unique and special. Also shares Schlissel’s views on the academics/athletics balance.

LIKELIHOOD HE COMES IF OFFERED: 40%. It’s possible, maybe even more than possible, but he’s also going to have NFL options, and coaches with NFL options don’t often switch to college.


2. Gary Patterson

CASE: The best not available coach who's name nevertheless keeps coming up in every CC discussion at every major school. Patterson's long-term success at TCU speaks for itself—there’s a reason, after all, why his name keeps coming up. Unfortunately, it may not be worth the bandwidth to email an offer, because he’s not coming.

LIKELIHOOD HE COMES IF OFFERED: 1%. Anything's possible, but some things are so implausible that they might as well not be. In other words, he’s not coming.


3. John Harbaugh

CASE: Like little brother Jim, but less abrasive. Has won Super Bowl and grew up in Ann Arbor. Good NFL coaches (hell, even pretty good NFL coaches) tend to do well in college.

LIKELIHOOD HE COMES IF OFFERED: 10%. A neat idea, but hard to see “John Harbaugh, Michigan Football Coach” becoming reality. After all, unlike little brother Jim, he’s not being pushed out of his NFL gig for clash-of-personality reasons.


4. Les Miles

CASE: Big-time winner at LSU, and clearly a very good football coach. Former letterman and assistant coach under Bo too. Also the guy we maybe should have hired in 2007. However, is on the old side now and hiring Miles might exacerbate rather than heal our factional wounds.

LIKELIHOOD HE COMES IF OFFERED: 99%. He’s been non-obliquely hinting at it lately, and straight up told John U. Bacon in Three and Out that he was ready in 2007. If we want him, he’s coming.


5. Bret Bielema

CASE: Like most people, I thought this was crazytalk the first time I encountered it. But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Would be able to take this roster and make it competitive right away. And as has been said, Bielema wins with a brand of football that roughly corresponds to what Hoke and Brandon wanted to re-establish but couldn't. On the other hand, his teams at Wisconsin were mostly of the “almost-but-not-quite-great” variety. That sounds pretty good from where we are right now, but could wear thin after some time.

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 33%. There is a solid speculative case for why he’d be interested, but it’s airy speculation (i.e. there are no sources or rumors, just logic). Astronomical buyout might render this dead in the water.


6. Dan Mullen

CASE: Has won more games at Mississippi State than previously thought possible. Is also a disciple of Urban Meyer, who wins a lot of games for our rival school. That said, he hasn’t really won that much at Mississippi State, (it took Mullen 6 years to reach 10 wins), and may favor recruiting practices we'd prefer to avoid.  

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 33%. He’s got to realize that his stock will never be higher, and at the least, should use that to renegotiate his current contract. But may be comfortable where he is, or at least in the SEC. You'd think Florida was a sure thing, but apparently it's not. May wait to see if the LSU job opens.


7. Todd Graham

CASE: Wins a lot. Runs modern offense, but is a defensive guy. Modern offense plus good defense = WANT. At the same time, “cultural fit” might be an issue here (or not). Also, Graham is pretty mercenary in his approach to jobs, and would easily bolt after one year if he felt it was in his interests to do so.

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 20%. He’s a good coach and would probably be interested in any gig that pays more/has a bigger spotlight, but Graham-to-Michigan doesn’t seem like an intuitive match for either party--especially after his old boss' bad experience here.


8. Jim McElwain

CASE: Like Nussmeier but with experience/success as a head coach. Like Bielema, could plausibly take what we have and make it work. But also not a thrilling (potential) hire. 

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 50% 20%. McElwain will have options, but Michigan (and the salary we could pay) would be at or near the top something he'd look at. Would we offer? Depends on that $7.5m buyout. Also rumored to be a he appears to be the top Florida target.


9. Tom Herman

CASE: Really good OC at Ohio State. Urban Meyer coaching tree. Can recruit Ohio! However, lack of experience as HC means on-the-job learning, and we’re probably not in the mood for more of that.

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 80%. I’d put it higher, but there’s always the chance he wouldn’t want to face his mentor every year in THE rivalry game. Or maybe that’s not an issue? In any event, I see him moving to a Tulsa or Cincinnati before making the big jump. But of all the coordinator-level candidates, Herman is the one I have the most faith in.


10. Paul Chryst

CASE: A low-transition-cost, ultra-safe idea. Who knows--could be a Dantonio-type? May, however, be another Hoke.

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 99%. Can’t see him saying no. We’re pretty far down the list if we’re offering, though.


11. Bob Stitt

CASE: A true innovator on offense. Long-term success at FCS level. But lack of even mid-major experience likely a dealbreaker

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 99%. Can’t see him saying no, but he's not a serious candidate for HC. Now, if we're talking OC, then we're really talking. Yes please!


12. Greg Schiano

CASE: We prefer not to win or sell season tickets.

LIKELIHOOD THAT HE’D COME IF OFFERED: 99%. Welcome to my nightmare.




Eye of the Tiger

December 2nd, 2014 at 7:33 PM ^

Graham is a nomad. We are not looking for a nomad. Ergo, it makes us less likely to offer him. I can see how I didn't make that clear enough in the original text, though. Sorry!

I do think, though, that if we did offer him, other considerations would give him pause. Is Michigan a good fit for a guy like him? And should he be concerned about RR's experience (keeping in mind Graham is RR's former DC and they know each other really well)?



December 2nd, 2014 at 7:31 PM ^

What is causing more hesitation towards bringing in Les - his age, or concerns over his "values"? To me, he is a no brainer if neither Harbaugh wants to leave the NFL. But not many I've spoken with seem to agree with me


December 3rd, 2014 at 7:02 AM ^

Miles isn't called the "Mad Hatter" for nothing.  He makes inexplicable decisions and his clock management "skills" at the end of close games would break MGoBlog at least twice a year.  He plays the "old school" game: keep running the ball and hope to wear other teams down.  That only works if you have superior personnel and conditioning.  

Since everyone has good conditioning and even a "rebuilt" Michigan will have to play at least three or four teams a year with similar personnel, this would not end well.  It would be 21st century LC v2: 3-4 losses every year but no chance of winning it all.  

Les Miles is a quaint artifact of a bygone era.  It's time for a 21st century coach to lead a 21st century Michigan team.


December 3rd, 2014 at 11:46 AM ^

It's funny how you call him Carr 2.0 and then say he would have no chance of winning it all when both have, in fact, won it all.  He's is an annual SEC contender in a period when that conference is as deep and strong as any conference ever.  


December 3rd, 2014 at 1:24 PM ^

I would love to have Miles.  The main reason this is not happening is the established and significant opposition to him in Ann Arbor among people who have  apparent influence on the coaching decision.  I can't help but think some of Hackett's comments yesterday about cutting corners, integrity, etc. were not directed at Miles and his supporters. I wish this was not true.


December 3rd, 2014 at 1:31 PM ^

I think the concern is that he'd basically be Pelini in the B1G - consistently beating the teams he should, but losing regularly to top compeition. 9-3 every year might be less desirable than going 7-5/8-4 occasionally but also winning conference titles every few years. Then again, the latter statement looks more like Miles' record.

The better question is whether Les wants a rebuilding project at this point in his career, and whether he can translate his SEC success to the B1G without being disagreeably shady.

Crazy w Cheese Whiz

December 2nd, 2014 at 7:43 PM ^

Yeah, its hard to win at Miss State, and the Bulldogs have had a good season, but the rest of record is ehh.  Yeah the SEC West is probably the most difficult conference/division in the country, but I feel like this year was just a lucky year when everything turned out as close to perfect as possible in Starksville.  Its kind of like Kevin Sumlin in 2012, who has come back down to earth the last two seasons. 


December 3rd, 2014 at 11:50 AM ^

Although I agree that M fans won't wait 6 years, Mullen would have a lot more advantages at his disposal at Michigan than he has had at Miss St.  For starters, he inherited a team there with almost no talent, and he'd inherit a Michigan team with lots of it.  When he started recruiting at MSU, he was a coordinator with no HC track record pulling kids to the least desirable school in the South.  Now he'll be the "hot name" coming off a big season pulling kids to Michigan.  

I have a feeling things would work much faster for him here than it did in StarkVegas.


December 4th, 2014 at 10:46 PM ^

but when you bring up that Gator Bowl in peticular you lose me. Toledo put us in our place, it might not have been that year but it was the same defense. IIRC that was the year that the Illinois fiasco was the win that made us bowl eligable. During the RR years (with the exception of the first) the defense was soooo bad  "How bad was it ?"you had to take Trig. to be able to keep score.


December 2nd, 2014 at 8:33 PM ^

I'd put Graham up a few spots but otherwise I like this order in terms of desirability.  I think UF should be all over Graham.  Dude has 7 seniors on his 2 deep - they are going to be real good next year.


December 2nd, 2014 at 8:33 PM ^

can you explain why you have them higher than:

David Shaw

Butch Jones

and, as to a guy like Herman, aren't there assistants with longer track records that would be above him? Especially, given Meyer is the offensive guru?


Eye of the Tiger

December 2nd, 2014 at 9:43 PM ^

What makes you think Patterson is more likely to take an offered UM job? Nothing suggests he's leaving TCU. At least in Petersen's case last year he stayed within region. As for Miles, he basically told Bacon he'd come if offered and has been dropping hints to that effect recently. I feel pretty confident that the stumbling block for "Les Miles to Michigan" is still Michigan.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

Mr Miggle

December 3rd, 2014 at 3:29 PM ^

The same is true for most of those coaches. Let's just say that we're willing to pay Harbaugh $8M as rumored here. (I'm very skeptical that's true.) If we made a similar offer to Patterson I bet he'd listen. Beyond the actual money, there's considerable cachet in becoming the highest paid coach in CFB.



December 2nd, 2014 at 9:29 PM ^

I think this guy's name should be on the list, even as a dark horse candidate.  The guy took over a dumpter fire at Boston College and has turned it around with limited talent.

Plus he won at Temple.


And he was offensive coordinator at Florida for a few years, so he has recruiting connections there.

Not a leading candidate, but he belongs on a list like this.


December 3rd, 2014 at 4:40 PM ^

Whatever Golden's weaknesses might be, he is very good at teaching fundamentals.  His training videos show how the fundamentals he teaches at Miami translate into effective blocking and tackling in games.  He seems to be a good teacher, something essential in a coach who "develops" talent successfully.


December 3rd, 2014 at 1:34 PM ^

I do believe Addazio is going to slowly creep up the rankings as others fall by the wayside, i.e Patterson, Jones..... Graham would be a horrible cultural fit in Ann Arbor, far worse than Rich Rod.  Check out his interviews before jumping on the Graham bandwagon.


December 2nd, 2014 at 11:31 PM ^

Okay, come on you guys are better than that.  Everything recent on Harbaugh all but says he is more or less at 0% for this question.  I mean, the latest report is that he PERSONALLY told UofM that he should not be considered a candidate.  Not sure how you got to 40%.  He's a 1% right now.  


December 3rd, 2014 at 4:24 AM ^

The thing I have with all of these lists is the lack of NFL names (at least non-Harbaugh ones). Given the short list of desirbable HC candidates, you with think that they would be taking a close look at potential NFL coordinators.  There's certainly got to be a few NFL decent coordinators that would entertain the opportunity for a shot at major college head coaching job, a la Bill O'Brien to PSU.  I would think Michigan would be much more likely to go that route than take a flyer on someone like Hermann. 


December 3rd, 2014 at 1:22 PM ^

There are two problems with NFL coordinators:

1) The really good ones want to be NFL head coaches, and there are usually enough job openings in the NFL to make this a realistic goal.

2) They tend to have the same lack of HC experience that college coordinators do, PLUS they lack familiarity with recruiting. The personnel management is much different, and a bigger leap for an NFL guy.


December 3rd, 2014 at 7:35 AM ^

Why is John Harbaugh on this list? He's nowhere near a serious option. It's far less likely than even Patterson, who reportedly said he has no interest.

The_Mad Hatter

December 3rd, 2014 at 9:39 AM ^

my two cents re: John Harbaugh...


Now I know this is a little crazy, but hear me out.  I think we might actually have a better shot at landing John instead of Jim.  

1- He has already won a Super Bowl.  There is nothing left for him to accomplish in the NFL, unless he wants another ring.  And speaking of that ring, has anyone seen the inscription inside the band?  The Team The Team The Team.  So the guy obviously has some affection for Michigan Football (or at least for Bo).

2- When he was asked about taking the Michigan job a few months ago, he didn't outright deny it.  In fact, his statement seemed to leave the door open quite a bit.  I'm paraphrasing but it was something to the effect of "I won't pursue that job while my friend Brady Hoke is the coach".  

So maybe Jim stays in the NFL until he gets his ring, and John comes here to beat the ever loving crap out of sparty and urbs.


December 3rd, 2014 at 9:49 AM ^

I am also of the opinion that John Harbaugh has a higher chance at being the next UM head coach rather than Jim. If I give an honest look at the situation and completely remove my UM homerism from the evaluation, it just seems a little crazy that Jim Harbaugh would leave the NFL for college. I believe that everyone outside of the state of Michigan feels the same. Also, I think the chances for John Harbaugh are not that high either. My gut feeling is that it will be a current college coach.


December 3rd, 2014 at 10:47 AM ^

and in John's case might give Mattison another opportunity to coach as his DC, but John's connection to Ann Arbor is less tenuous than his brother's and his coaching status in Baltimore is much more secure with a team led by a highly proficient and proven qb with an extremely solid foundation coming off a recent Super Bowl victory.

Btw, Jim's son from his first marriage is an assistant on his brother's team.

Also, for all the doubters about Jim's future plans or intentions to want to coach only in the pros, he will go where his heart tells him along with his dad.

When he was first starting out as an assistant for the Raiders, he also worked as unpaid assistant coach for his dad at Western Kentucky University. Both John and Jim, swear by their dad. Jack Harbaugh's mentorship and importance in advising them is listed by both as the primary voice when they seek outside support and advice.

When you look at these candidates as prospects, you need to check several boxes about their availabilty: first whether they want the job and would come to Ann Arbor; secondly what is their contract status and how easily could they free themselves under what terms, and whether they are a true fit with what Michigan needs in their coach and needs for the program and school at this time. That is more than just a competent coach. I think either Harbaugh would fit the criteria and Miles is the most gettable.

Age is irrelevant if you get a commitment based on a planned contract length that you would expect any guy to fully complete. So age to me is not a major factor because it's trumped by all the other reasons you want a particular coach.

Les Miles has aleady accepted the job once. And he has a stipulation in his currebt contract that allows him to leave LSU for a job at Michigan. That makes him the best candidate if you think he fits the Michigan mold in every other respect. But the problem is, he has many local detractors.

John Harbaugh seems hardest to get of the two Harbaugh brothers because Jim is already on the outs in SF despite being the NFL's most proficient winning coach over the last three years and having the second best overall winning percentage of any coach other than Bill Belichick.

Anyway, these are the swim lane considerations that Hackett was talking about and the windows for availabillity for these candidates will begin to open in early January and beyond, with a month still available before signing day. The 49ers have made it clear that Jim is a lame duck and they are willing to trade his coaching rights. Consider that? You are willing to trade the second-best winningest coach in the league because he grates on his players in his desire to push them to perform and succeed at a level you are supposedly seeking as yourr highest goal. What does that mean? Well, that is something to consider even if you think Jim is Godot at Michigan, which, I believe is his Super Bowl job, and where he ends up.