Hoke regrets not fixing chemistry issues last year

Submitted by UMgradMSUdad on April 21st, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Here's an interesting story comparing last year's leadership to the way Hoke is treating it this year. It's suggested that team chemistry and senior leadership were issues last year.

"(The leadership this year) is different," Hoke says. "You've got guys who are leaders that are older, but we've changed the model a bit. Our seniors are always going to be important, but you always worry about entitlement, so what we've done is put together a leadership representative group. It's four guys from each class, and they were all voted on by their classmates.

"That's really been effective. We've already met twice, and we'll meet here in another week. And it's interesting to listen to perspectives at different levels and different maturities."




April 21st, 2014 at 12:20 PM ^

Half of me agrees with you. I don't like the public implication that the leadership last season was bad. The issue, for me, I that its public. This is why I love the Fort and Hoke's usual non-answers. Talking about this is a mistake.

That said, part of his job as a coach is to manage team chemistry and develop internal leadership. The leadership council qua leadership council is totally fine by me. Also, the admission (to the team) that the coaches underperformed in this regard is a good thing. Basically, everything that has been done is wonderful. There is just no reason to talk about it outside the building.


April 21st, 2014 at 6:54 PM ^

"Part of his job as a coach is to manage team chemistry and develop internal leadership".

I agree 100% that the head coach is to manage team chemistry and develop internal leadership.  I'm sure he will do all of that.

I disagree that Brady Hoke needs to publicly admit, re-gurgitate or re-acknowledge coaching failures from the 2013 football season (7-6) because to do so is completely  unnecessary at this point.  Besides this, who cares? Except now they do because Brady Hoke brought it all back up. Forget 2013 (like 1984, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010) and move on to winning games in 2014.

Obviously football coaches make motivational and leadership adjustments every year - even mid-year to re-energize the team, because the chemistry is never the quite the same year to year.  This is nothing new. Sometimes coaches stop doing things they normally always do, like after a 1-2 start in 1980 and the Schembechler-Cannavino confrontation.  We didn't witness Schembechler railing endlessly to the media about the 1984 debacle (6-6), beat up/injured QB and all. So why is Hoke doing this to himself?

2014 is a critical year. All this kumbaya "we now understand leadership " stuff is great material. I even LIKE it.........on a post-season review show, after Michigan has gone 10-2 or 11-2 or 12-0.  I don't see the value in more 2013-related remarks to the media during pre-season, especially after 8-5 and 7-6 results.

I don't mind people disagreeing with me on all of these points.




Indiana Blue

April 21st, 2014 at 3:43 PM ^

but I think we were something like 0 - 5 in the red zone during that game (which actually never existed).  But the Oregon game that followed was the true end for Lloyd  -  from #5 to unranked in 2 weeks .... and possibily the worst home blow out I ever witnessed in person (though Syracuse is up there too).

Go Blue!

Sten Carlson

April 21st, 2014 at 3:47 PM ^

I was on the golf course for the Horror, and although humilated and disappointed to no end, it paled in comparison to what I felt during the Oregon game. 

I destroyed a TV with a whiffleball bat while watching the Duck make our team look like a those old school mechanical football guys just turning in circles in place.



April 21st, 2014 at 10:21 AM ^

I just hope he fixed his end of game time management issues as well, like not calling a timeout to avoid the delay of game on 3rd down against Penn State that pushed us out of field goal range.


April 21st, 2014 at 10:32 AM ^

say my bad after back 2 back poor seasons. I like Brady and deep down inside I think all of us want him to win because that means Michigan is winning.

Evil Empire

April 21st, 2014 at 10:30 AM ^

There was something missing with that team.  They had talent but they weren't maximizing it.  Mattison apparently made a conscious choice to play prevent and he must have had a reason.  Borges' frenetic hamster playcalling worked against certain teams and imploded against others.  I loved some parts of Lewan's game but he was not the steadying presence a team needs from its leader.


April 21st, 2014 at 10:31 AM ^

This is why every year when I hear "the team is really buying in this year. We're really all together and doing it for each other" I basically ignore it. It only means that last year there were issues and we're trying to change this year. That's it.


April 21st, 2014 at 10:33 AM ^

Lewan was a prick, it's kind of common knowledge at this point.  Tough spot for a coach when your NFL ready lineman comes back to to school with that sense of entitlement, acting like he did the program a favor.  That being said, there are pricks on every team (from freshmen to fifth year seniors) and you don't see them blowing up team chemistry when handled appropriately.  Meyer had a choir boy QB at Florida flanked by a bunch of criminals and managed to make it work, at least on the field.  Lewan is no Aaron Hernandez or Mike Pouncey, so have to believe better coaching and proper structure could fix a lot of these issues.  Hopefully he's figured it out.


April 21st, 2014 at 10:33 AM ^

To me this is just another data point on the piling data points that the staff doesn't seem to be the best at identifying things about the team early. If team leadership was an issue, why did it take a 7-6 year to figure that out? I would think that by fall the staff should have identified this as an issue and stepped in earlier to help correct it.

Space Coyote

April 21st, 2014 at 10:47 AM ^

And at that point they were put in a tricky spot. If you've ever been in a position of leadership where you witness the leadership beneath you falling apart or not working well, well, it's a bad situation to be in.

You basically have two options:

1) You can drastically try to change things mid-stroke (early Fall). This can fix the problem and you can get on a correct path if the leadership mix up is extremely strong in that role (these are the rare leaders that step up within the player ranks that even the previously perceived leadership naturally buys into it); or of bigger concern, can cause more confusion lower in the ranks, cause more problems overall as previously perceived leaders now fall out of favor of the staff and team, and the whole thing can implode on itself where the season not only ends in a similar record (or worse) than Rich Rod's last year, but feel's like Rich Rod's last year.

2) You can ride the course and hope that the leadership steps up and fixes things on a finer scale, as those leaders are supposed to do. You don't want all the leadership coming from the staff, they aren't going through the same things as the players are going through, don't have the same mindset. It's the difference between looking up to a father compared to an older brother. Both serve a role, both are important aspects of a unit the size of a football team. The upside here is that the leadership fixes things, the team buys in, and the whole group is stronger because of it; the downside is, well, last year.

The difficult part was that by the time this becomes apparent, you're at a tipping point with big risk. Unless they knew of the situation in the previous spring, they were kind of stuck. I think they hoped that the leadership would step up in spring/summer, because I think naturally that's what is best for any team. That didn't happen, and leadership seemed to suffer.

This move, I think, is an approach to get a feel for that earlier. You now have voices from different classes to get a better feel for the team as a whole so that these problems can be fixed in spring rather than when it's too late. I think last year, Fall came, and there was no longer a good solution for the staff with regards to player leadership.


April 21st, 2014 at 12:11 PM ^

And I nearly always appreciate your views, so I know in the past you've recognized there are shades of grey in most situations.  I also understand that you're probably simplifying into two scenarios for argument's sake. 

But still I disagree.  The OL was the problem last year.  After Lewan called out his team and things still didn't approve, that was the signal.  Hoke has to act at that point.  Go with the OL during practice and stay with them.  You probably understand the effect just having the head coach present will have on a position group, if they're not used to having him there.  So he may have done that, probably did.  But at that desperate point he's got to step in with more authority.  He's got to have examples from film in his mind, observe, and when he sees an error, stop everything and get a ground-up explanation on what's going on.  Example: pulling play, sees Bosch run right by a defender who kills the RB.  Stop practice, hold up a hand to Funk indicating you need a minute to talk this through and he needs to be silent for a moment (talk to Funk beforehand if you know you're going to do this, so he doesn't feel stepped on, if that's a concern).  Have Bosch explain.  OK whatever the reason is, we've probably talked about that before - what are you not understanding?  It's OK guys, we need to fix this, you don't have to tell me you have the answers if you don't.  Taylor give me a minute, you know your assignment I'm asking the younger guys.  You're totally confused because we run 18 different things?  Got it.  What else?  OK... good... let's talk about it more.  OK let's run it again.  What else happened, let's talk about it.  Now bring Funk back in gradually as you work through practice.  Now bring Lewan back in.  Then go back and meet with some of the younger guys in private.  Based on that, have a private conversation with Lewan/Funk/whoever.  Fire Al Borges on the spot and have him taken away by helicopter (s/).  Critique yourself for having missed it earlier.  Stay with that position group every day until they improve (you can't devote as much time as you did the first day, but you can devote time).

That's a lot of bullshit I wrote up there, and maybe it wouldn't work anyway, and maybe Hoke did all of that.  But it sounds like he didn't.  It sounds like he leaned on coaches and hoped it would get resolved.  That's an enormous error when you're in crisis mode.  You are the leader and you have to step in.  At least you can start getting better at that point. 


April 21st, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

I could not agree with what you wrote any stronger.  Everything you said I think should've been done (if it wasnt and I have no way of knowing other than the results on the field would seem to indicate they didnt).

And I love the "fire Al Borges on the spot and have him taken away by helicopter".  I wish I had an upvote plus or something to give out on posts like yours.  It warrants more than one IMO.

Great post.


April 21st, 2014 at 1:00 PM ^

And on a separate topic I didn't notice until today that you replied to what I said in the student tickets thread either.  I didn't have you in mind when I posted that, but frankly I have made statements similar to that to you in the past (i.e. that you seem to be bragging about dropping your season tickets). 

The root of my belief is this: that things are going badly, and a lot of people aren't handling it well, which is magnifying a bunch of nonsense that has nothing to do with the root cause.  Losing is the root cause.  And if that's true - and it's certainly debatable - that misaligns with my idea of fandom in general, and to Michigan in particular.  Specific to your case, I don't think voting with your absence is helpful to the program.  They won't process your like of season ticket purchase as a prompt to action to get more wins.  They're already don't everything they can to win, and they (Brandon, Hoke, the players) all want to win much more than we do.  So I think voting with your absence of dollars is self-destructive to the program.

And generally it's a bit of a downer to think you or any devoted fans won't be showing up.  I know you're a huge fan, maybe bigger than me.  Judging from the distance you drive and how long you've been coming and so on.  I'm just not in agreement with the way in which you're showing your displeasure.  Stay in the foxhole, and if need be, keep screaming and punching your leadership and mates in the face until they come up with a way to win this thing.


April 21st, 2014 at 2:29 PM ^

The cubs have lost for decades, yet they bring in fans every year.  Yes winning makes things easier, but there have been plenty of changes that have combined with the losing.  I loved going to Wrigley because of the nostalgia.  No flashy lights or any wow factor.  Just watching a baseball game with lots of tradition.

Changing the stadium experience at Michigan to include Rock Music and ads and removing some of the freedom for students to "be kids" (like throwing out a guy tossing hot dogs to students who cheer the loudest in between quarters), is all adding up to reduce the magic that is college sports.  In addition, the constant squezzing of dollars out of the fan base to the pushing point is not helping the matter. I believe Brandon pushed the price point to a tipping point, and the fact that the team is not living up to Michigan high standards is tipping the scale unfavorably.   


April 21st, 2014 at 2:52 PM ^

  1. The music is terrible, I agree.  The players probably disagree with us though.  And I'm sure some kind of injustice similar to the hot dog guy has been going on at M Stadium since the 70's.
  2. There are no ads during the games.  This is astonishing given most other FB programs gave in to this long, long ago. 
  3. Price point - you realize this is the same argument for baseball games, movies, and many many other things. M is charging the market price.  Is that getting too high across all college football teams?  Is the low income fan being priced out of the market nationally?  Worthwhile debates (I personally despise the thought of sitting with rich people only).  Blaming Brandon for charging market rates that most other schools are charging?  Silly chest thumping.  Asking myself another question?  Unacceptable  

Again I don't think any of these complaints are made en masse unless the team is losing. It is the losing that has turned this board into a culture of complaints, where a series of nothings are piled into a flimsy totem marking failure.  "I'm hurting" has increasingly translated into verbal aggression and acting out, mostly against Brandon; now Hoke, and today Taylor Lewan. 


April 21st, 2014 at 3:33 PM ^

1. I'm sure some of the players enjoy the music, and so do some of the fans, but I am sure that many enjoy the band as well.  To me, the band brings a uniqueness to the game. I loved it at all the games, and as much as I do enjoy some occasional 7 nation army (hey I'm human), I do miss just hearing the band.

2. There are no ads around the stadium, however, there are planty of ads placed during game day.  I'm less of a stickler than some on this, but if I am given the choice, I choose no ads and slightly less revenue

3. Price point and market price. I can blame Brandon for setting this too high.  Michigan is one of the highest student and regular ticket prices in the nation.  If we have a drop in attendance then yes, this does mean he is above market price.  That is exactly what market price indicates.  Yes this correlates to the success of the team, but there are other contributing factors.  The fact that there are available tickets, and tickets may be available much cheaper during the season indicates to me that price point is above market price.  I believe that Brandon wanted to test what the market price is, and with other factors (team not being great as you point out being the biggest), he appears to have overshot.

Feel free to ask yourself more questions though.  Brian asks Brian all sorts of questions and I have read his stuff for years.


April 21st, 2014 at 3:57 PM ^

  1. we agree
  2. I don't know what you mean by "ads placed during game day"
  3. The stadium was sold out last year.  If demand has weakened this offseason, it's a concern and it will require a reaction on the AD's part.  But I don't think this is limited to M, and gauging demand isn't as easy as you make it appear to be.  His job in pricing is to maximize revenue.  If current prices - which were fine in a market sense in 2013 - have met a weaker demand because of the losses, he'll need to adjust. 


April 21st, 2014 at 9:12 PM ^

I don't think the job of the AD is to maximize revenue. The NCAA is a non profit organization. To me this'd and he needs to run the department in the black while keeping competitive facilities and a winning atmosphere ( both in and out of the classroom). And choose coaches that can both win and represent the university.

My personal belief is that Brandon has increased the prices more than necessary. I understand his vision for upgrades to non revenue sports, but personally feel that it is a mistake to price the market to the edge that we are at this season. The BIG network is a huge financial boon and apparel deals should offset the costs enough that you don't need to raise the prices to the tipping point of fan attendance.

I don't think being AD is an easy job and many haven't been great. But this is michigan and I have higher or different expectations for how the department should be run. I personally think Martin did a better job, with the exception of the handling (not necessarily the who) of the football coach hire.

Tyrone Biggums

April 21st, 2014 at 10:45 AM ^

I'm glad Hoke is acknowledging one of our glaring weaknesses especially down the stretch. Clark has alluded to some internal strife and Kalis and Magnuson in their sping interviews all but said that Lewan and Schofield were great players, but they think they will be better without them because at least the OL will be a more "cohesive" unit.

Hoke is always preaching that eveyone needs to compete. I commend him for looking at the traditional "play for the seniors" dynamic that he came in with and creating a dichotomy which also involves some of the younger contributers/leaders.

With all the youth on the team how could we not? Everyone needs to get a fire in the belly if we want to right the ship and relying on seniors who may or may not be your hardest workers or biggest contributers seems like an easy way to string together a lot of mediocre seasons. 


April 21st, 2014 at 10:41 AM ^

He is already starting to wear real thin on some folks with the bland coach speak and poor results to go with it. Time to simply put or shut up, but I am glad he is improving the leadership and being accountable. That's at least a start.


April 21st, 2014 at 10:46 AM ^

I'm glad Hoke is recognizing the need for a change. Although seniors are usually great leaders, it is probably best that there are a few designated leaders from each class.


April 21st, 2014 at 10:50 AM ^

While I'm definitely encouraged to see Hoke taking steps to remedy the situation now - can somebody please explain why he either chose to ignore the issue last year or was oblivious to it while it was going on?  I dont really see a third option for him here - either he knew it was happening and did nothing about it or he wasnt aware it was occuring and to me at least, neither of those choices give me a great deal of confidence in him right now.


April 21st, 2014 at 11:54 AM ^

Sure it's painful.  And yes it's difficult.  I know this first hand as I've both done it and also taken the course that Brady did and regretted it after the fact - just like Brady does now.

But I'd argue not nearly as painful or difficult as 7-6 with losses to MSU, PSU, Nebraska, OSU and a butt-kicking in a third-tier bowl game because we didnt come close to winning the B1G.


April 21st, 2014 at 10:57 AM ^

I guess the SEAL Training didn't pay off.  Remember when that was going to be the difference?      This is just filler for the papers.  Blaming Lewan because guys couldn't block is weak.  That's their own responsibility along with their coaches.  Leadership is mostly just a bunch of bs for the media and the coaches to talk about.  The only time leadership has really any relevance for a football team is in the offseason when the coaches aren't around.  If you can make sure your guys make it to their workouts and keep the trouble to a minimum you have done your job as "leader".  During the season coaches handle most of this stuff.

Space Coyote

April 21st, 2014 at 11:23 AM ^

As someone who has been a player and has coached teams with both good and bad leadership, I can tell you that the difference is very real and very significant. Maybe it gets overstated by the media because it's easy to point to a good team and equate it to good leadership and a bad team to one with bad leadership (when sometimes they may just have a lot of talent or little talent, but the talking point is low hanging fruit), but having seen teams with seemingly equal talent perform drastically different because of difference in leadership, I can tell you the affect is real.


April 21st, 2014 at 12:01 PM ^

There certainly is a difference of having good leaders or not on your team.  But it doesnt excuse young guys from mailing it in.  Especially if these are "Michigan men" that we hear about - and wonderful student athletes as we hear about in every recruiting roundup under the Hoke era.

Thomas berated player who came to the Pistons in the Bad Boys all the time - he still was considered a great leader.  Because they won.  If they didn't he'd be considered a cancer.  Funny how the talent around you and how self motivated it is reflects on you as a leader.  Things do not happen in a vacuum.

If the OL surprised to the upside all we would have heard was "Lewan was tough on us, and held us to a nearly impossible standard so we strived to get there and it helped us so much!!!"


April 21st, 2014 at 12:35 PM ^

You dont know what Lewan was doing one way or the other so it's impossible to say what the comments would be if we had won more.

And theres also no evidence that any of the young guys "mailed it in." Theres a big difference between high school and college and without good leaders to push them and show them the ropes the young guys might have just had a hard to knowing how to handle their business.

Theres an awful lot of conjecture in this thread based on one very nonspecific quote.


April 21st, 2014 at 1:41 PM ^

I think we agree in princicpal, I just didn't express it very well.  Leadership and chemistry are important to winning teams but I think it's a bailout position for coaches and media.  We get so much fluff it's impossible to tell what the truth is.   This article is as much fluff as the fluff about great leaders heading into last season.

Blaming Lewan for the play of the line is ridiculous though.   People need to take responsibility for themselves and stop blaming others.  I have no idea if Lewan was a good leader with bad followers or if his style didn't mesh or he's a bad leader.  What I do know is his effect on wether or not Kalis knew the plays or if the line could execute a block effectively was minimal at best. 


April 21st, 2014 at 11:28 AM ^

Agree and disagree with what you're saying.  I do agree that I think the "leadership issue" is primarily just a media ploy to stir discussion and interest.  However, the idea that leadership doesn't matter is a complete joke.  

Anybody who has ever played a sport at ANY level can tell you the difference between a team with strong leadership and a team with weak leadership.  Obviously, at the college level, the leadership is the biggest in the offseason as the coaches aren't around as much, but it's also about setting an example, encouraging growth, and getting guys motivated.  People have ripped on Hoke's player development non-stop.  All three of those things are incredibly important in player development.

Do I think fans ever get a full perspective on this?  Absolutely not, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter.


April 21st, 2014 at 11:55 AM ^

Oh yeah? What about all the character men Hoke has recruited as FR and SO?  I was told they all fit "the system" or are character guys?  YOu don't give up on your team even if you dislike 4 seniors.   I was a far worse athlete than any of these guys are but I had personal pride even at the HS level to always give my best.  It didnt matter what a coach said to me, or if I disliked an upperclassman - when I am out there I am going to give my best because that's in my nature.  I thought Brady Hoke was just recruiting that sort of guy now - so the young end of the roster should not just lay down in a bowl gam eand get punked because 3 seniors rubbed them the wrong way.  If they do, all these comments about how wonderful character guys they are, are nonsense

Billy Ray Valentine

April 21st, 2014 at 11:40 AM ^

For those of us with a special connection to the '97 team, one of the occasionally told stories surrounded Chris Floyd's subtle, but extremely important leadership.  Floyd wasn't a captain -- wasn't really even in consideration.  Floyd wasn't a stat leader, so to speak, on the field.  He rarely rushed the ball.  He did have a well-earned reputation as doing the dirty work, specifically lead blocking.  During Floyd's senior year (1997), Chris Howard made a significant jump in rushing efficiency.  To go back and watch the game film, Chris Floyd certainly deserves a good chunk of the credit for Howard's surprisingly good year.


Where am I going with this?  I cannot shake the memory of hearing how many of the more-recognized leaders on the 1997 team cite Chris Floyd's speech at the first team meeting at the beginning of training camp as being the emotional catalyst for the 1997 season.  For those of you too young to remember, the 1997 success came as a surprise to many, as most national pundits thought little of Michigan before the season (Side note, the 1997 team had MAJOR OL doubts before the season.  Three of the OL who started the majority of the season had virtually zero experience going into the year -- Chris Zieman, soph., Hutchinson, RS Fr., who played DL as a true freshman on the scout team, and Jeff Backus, RS Fr.).


Here's an exercpt from a 2012 interview with Floyd and the WWL:



WN: What’s your favorite memory from Michigan? CF: “I have a lot of memories here. One of my favorite memories was during my senior year when we came up with our team goals and our personal goals as well. I remember at this particular meeting that it lasted so much longer than it had the previous three years. It was a lot of thought put into what our goal would be and what our model would be for that year. A lot of guys had an opportunity to speak on it and me, normally, I’m a quiet guy and I don’t speak too much but I did speak at this particular one and I told the team what it would take for us to win. We really weren’t focused on the national championship but to win the Big Ten. I said we need everybody, all the practice guys, the walk-ons, everyone was important to give us the best look. Even that being the case, sometimes I would go out on the scout team to give the perfect look that this walk-on or freshman can’t give. That was one of the things that everybody bought into and the scout team bought into to try and imitate our opponents the best possible. That helped us out tremendously during the year. http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/colleges/michigan/post/_/id/4995/catchi…

While this is someone speaking about them self, I've seen/heard too many other '97 players corroborate Floyd's speech to discount its true effect. Does this year's team have a Chris Floyd? I guess we'll find out.