The Wrong Reasons

Submitted by bronxblue on September 28th, 2014 at 10:33 PM

I already welcome the onslaught of "you're an apologist", "stop defending him", "you're an idiot", etc.  But after reading the comments here, including a number of scalding-hot takes, I wanted to put forth my only (tempered) counter-point to the Morris-Hoke situation.

First off, Shane Morris shouldn't have been out there for the play that led to this whole situation.  Morris was barely putting pressure on his ankle and was clearly in pain; given the score and the situation he should have been pulled a series before, given a pat on the back and some ice on his leg, and parked on the sideline.  He wasn't effective and getting further destroyed by Gophers wasn't going to be a useful learning experience for the young signal-caller.  That decision is on Hoke, and he should be rightfully vilified.

After that hit, and this is absolutely my take and in no way based on scientific or inside information, it looked like Morris was limping around on his bad leg and that he was clearly feeling pain from the hit, if not concussed.  Personally I never considered a concussion until the announcers started in on it, and even then I guess I was so accustomed to Gardner getting up from those types of hits for years that I thought they were overreacting.  In my estimation, Morris struggling to keep his feet was not because he was "out" on them but because he couldn't put much weight on his leg and feeling the effects of that shot he just took.

But it didn't matter what I knew; what mattered was what the coach staff on that sideline thought was Morris's condition and his abilities to continue playing, and that's something we'll never know.  I hated Hoke saying that Morris could have subbed himself out if he was injured because (a) players are taught from an early age to never give up, always give their best and not let the team down, and it is on the coaches to protect players from themselves in these circumstances, and (b) it betrays the fact that Hoke probably couldn't/didn't see Morris clearly from the far sideline and had no idea his overall physical shape.  That's a failure of communication by someone on the staff, and that is unacceptable.  

(Lost in this is the fact that the refs failed to handle the clear targetting with something more severe than a roughing-the-passer call.  I'm not saying it would have changed the events that transpired afterwards, but who knows.)

But I do believe that Hoke didn't know what was going on, and to be honest I'm not sure how many coaches would in the same circumstance.  As a fanbase the sentiment is that Hoke should have been protective of Morris and pulled him because of the ferocity of the hit, but watch a weekly highlight film and you'll see that type of hit (though probably not to the illegal degree displayed here) quite a few times, more often than not with the player getting up and playing the next down.  Hell, Gardner has been getting up for 2 years now from horrendous hits; it's not right or fair to expect all players to withstand that punishment, but I think most fans subconsciously expectthat these athletes' bodies to handle more than they probably can in actuality.  

Putting Morris in for that hand-off was inexplicable, due in large part to nobody telling Bellomy to locate his f'ing helmet because he was the backup QB now and compounded by Hoke not just calling a TO.  I'll admit that in the couple of seconds he had to make this decision, it's hard to know the calculus going on in his head.  On one hand a TO in this game might be valuable; Hoke clearly wasn't going to concede defeat, and a wasted down running the ball was preferrable to not being able to stop the clock.  On the other hand, Morris should have been stapled to that seat and if it meant taking a delay of game or having Norfleet line up under center and giving Brian a tiny orgasm, so be it.  Obviously Hoke allowed the worst to happen, not so much in terms of objective damage (it was a handoff and Morris wasn't touched) but from the perspective of those watching the game and the overall narrative for the game.  

Taken in totality, Hoke's handling of this situation is terrible; it's comically awful in the way that each mistake just compounded itself because Hoke made the next-worst decision each time.  But I will argue to the end of the day that the information available to Hoke is different than that version held by virtually everyone else watching on TV, which was based on implications and limited observations.  It could very well be true tht Morris had a concussion, but nobody in that booth knew that with any certainty, and taken in real-time it did seem that everyone was processing the situation as best they could.  The fans booed, but it seemed to be more in response to the replay of the hit than the idea Morris was injured, though obviously I wasn't there so I don't know.  I'd like to know from people in the crowd what the tone was.

Further exasperating the situation is how Hoke handled the PR elements in his conference afterwards.  His words sounded like a guy who didn't know what was going on, a damning endictment for a football coach going on his 4th year at the program.  I do know that medical determinations of players is left out of the coach's hands in many instances; the medical staff is on that sideline specifically to act as an indepedent overseer of the players' health.  Sure they can't call Morris over, but once he was on the sideline he should have been looked at (and I presume he was).  But regardless, Hoke failed to take the public blame you are frankly paid to take as the head coach in those instances, even if you believe that you did the right thing and, objectively, you might not be as blameworthy as others are thinking.

So I get the anger to an extent, and at best Hoke's handling of Morris was ham-fisted and further defined his a buffoon; at worst he risked a kid's health by being extremely negligent.

But what has bothered me so much about the outrage after this game is that people are trying to drum up some morally-superior reason for wanting Hoke gone instead of just focusing on the wins and losses, the regression shown by his teams, the poor offensive and defensive performances in big games, the dinosaur punting, and everything else that objectively should be used be determining whether or not he should remain the head coach at Michigan.  But it feels like there is a mob here wanting to burn Hoke as a witch on his way out, to make him a villain instead of just a bad hire and a mediocre coach.  For whatever reason, there is a part of this fanbase that holds on desperately to a sense of superior character, to the "Michigan Man" that makes them better and more pious than other fans, teams, coaches, and administrators.  

Dave Brandon can't be fired because he kinda sucks at running the athletic department; we need to find he is also running some cabal of international money launderers or is a brainwashed minion of Big Noodle.  Rich Rodriguez couldn't just be fired because his defenses were terrible; he had to the hick who dragged UM's "good name" through the mud because a couple of hack writers went after his youngest players and fabircated a controversy.  Hell, Lloyd Carr couldn't be fired because he was older and clearly had taken a step back as a coach as the game passed him by; we had to portray him as a senile old fart who forever tarnished UM's legacy by losing to App St.

And now Brady Hoke, a guy who has gone 28-16 in 4 years at UM (17-14 the last 3) can't just be fired for being a bad coach, but some people need to make him out to be a guy willing to risk the health of his players to "save his job".  Hoke should be fired because he seems overwhelmed by the position and his teams aren't performing well enough, and count me in that mob.  But he's not a monster, he's not a cold, heartless guy who didn't give a shit about Morris's health.  He's a guy who has made a bunch of bad decisions at UM and had a bunch of bad luck in recent years.  This feels like a combination of those, and trying to divine more than that from this situation is grasping at straws.

I want Hoke and Brandon gone because they aren't good enough at the jobs based on results on the field.  But I don't think we need to tar and feather them on the way out just to make it feel more than that.




September 28th, 2014 at 10:36 PM ^

Really? Dave Brandon can't be fired because he kinda sucks at running the athletic department? That's his job! Shane shouldn't have been on the field so the play never should have happened? Most coaches wouldn't have recognized what was going on? I'm done.


September 29th, 2014 at 9:42 AM ^

I think most fans, myself included, have had enough and just want him out NOW - the sooner the better - and would have felt this way if the Shane incident had not happened.  But the Shane incident did happen, and it provides - depending on how you view it - either the last straw on Hoke's record, or a stand-alone egregious event, that justifies a mid-season firing.

I think you are mistaking the zeal exhibited by the fanbase in trying to use the Shane incident as a catalyst for Hoke's departure, for some "deeper, more intrinsic meaning that makes [him] the villain".




September 28th, 2014 at 11:12 PM ^


"Hell, Gardner has been getting up for 2 years now from horrendous hits; it's not right or fair to expect all players to withstand that punishment, but I think most fans subconsciously expectthat these athletes' bodies to handle more than they probably can in actuality."


Reality is that the source of Fan Anger is found because folks were/are outraged that Hoke let Morris stay on the field and did the "let the clock run" after the official asked Hoke if Hoke wanted a time-out.


Second, the fact that the coaching staff has allowed Gardner to be beat to a pulp after two years (I don't blame Devin for having happy feet or looking shaky) further speaks to a pattern of behavior exhibited by this coaching staff that putting men on the field who may not be physically able to play.

The press release tonight by the Athletic Department was meant to nip in the bud the conversation that the coaching staff is cavalier with players' health. Frankly it fanned the flames and attracted further attention to their historical misuse of players.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:47 PM ^

Good to know your anger hasn't clouded your ability to come across as a person to lazy to read something before commenting.  Thank for being an example of the types of reactionary idiots in this fanbase that I'd like to see be ignored.

[EDIT] In case I missed sarcasm here, in which case that totally went over my head and I should go get fucked for it.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:50 PM ^

This is actually one of the more relaxing parts of my day.  I don't know why I care so much about stupid college football, but I do.  And I have one of those office jobs where you code for hours a day and produce really useful widgets that are almost immediately swallowed up by huge projects.  This little bit of the internet gives me a chance to blow off some steam and get my thoughts out beyond 140-character tweets and blocking people on facebook after the 900th post about Brady Hoke and Michigan football.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:39 PM ^

Thanks for pointing out how people weren't saying much after Gardner was getting back up after bad hits time and time again, even when he looked physically in pain.

The outrage here doesn't match the action. I too think people are just elevating it trying to find some 'moral' reason to fire Hoke. That's not fair to Hoke, to say he doesn't care about his players. I'm sure he cares deeply about them and wants the best for them. 


September 28th, 2014 at 11:56 PM ^

Some people care very deeply about their job and yet they are terrible at their job, to the point of endangering others, and are thus fired. 

Hoke can say whatever he wants about caring about players. I'm sure he really does, on a mental and emotional level, care about his players. What's unmeasurably more important is having the wherewithal to take action when it becomes necessary, to actually prove through actions that your words hold weight.

Not only did Hoke fail to do that, he failed in a way that lines up perfectly with all of his other failures. A failure to communicate well formed thoughts, a failure to be aware of certain game situations, a failure to understand what is happening in front of him as it unfolds. His incompetency is bordering on absolute. So why is he still the football coach?


September 28th, 2014 at 10:43 PM ^

Brady Hoke is incompetent. The Shane Morris incident was simply the latest in a long line of frustrating/infuriating things Brady has been responsible for during his tenure at Michigan. The difference here, is that no it's no longer just about wins and losses or just about shitty non-answers at press conferences, etc....It's that a player's health was put into jeopardy by his incompetence.

Call it a moralizing reason to fire him, or whatever. I don't care. The fact of the matter is that he should not be coaching the team, he continues to prove that each week, and now shit is getting ridiculous.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:44 PM ^

Hoke can't be fired mid-season for just sucking.  If he just sucks he gets to coach out the string, end the worst season (give or take a couple) in Michigan football history, and be fired the day after Ohio State crushes us.

He gets fired for cause mid-season because of this.


September 28th, 2014 at 10:52 PM ^

Well, then maybe that's how it has to be.  I'm on the boat that firing him in mid-season is dumb; you won't change the outcome for the reason appreciably and it will only hurt recruiting and the current players.  But by all means if this team doesn't make leaps-and-bounds improvements going forward, fire him for being a bad coach.  But don't fire him because people are sermonizing about how he's risking players lives.

The Harbaughnger

September 29th, 2014 at 12:03 AM ^

...there is a point when the program is in such bad shape that firing Hoke now and replacing with an interim coach basically excuses the poor results that will surely be seen for the remainder of the season.

People watching will have no one connected to the program to blame and it will turn the focus to whoever is next. When Hoke showed up, there were RR get-out-of-jail-free cards in his hand. Whoever fills in behind Hoke will have Brady cards to play for at least two seasons.

Firing now also removes suspense and disbelief that they would allow this to continue to be a tire fire.


September 29th, 2014 at 1:20 AM ^

"firing him in mid-season is dumb; you won't change the outcome for the reason appreciably and it will only hurt recruiting and the current players."

1. he's dead man walking now.  recruiting is going to suffer. 

2. we don't know how much influence he has on the offense.  is hoke reigning in nuss?  we don't know.  i'm willing to find out but cutting loose hoke immediately.

3. we have plenty of available candidates to take the interim position to maintain some sort of stability; mattison, nuss, carr, moeller, anyone.

4. the current team couldn't be any worse really.  keeping the status quo may mean 1-2 more wins.  i'm willing to gamble and let mattison and nuss have complete control over their side of the ball.

Mr. Basketball13

September 28th, 2014 at 10:44 PM ^

Well to me it looked like after the hit Morris could not stand up and could barely walk. It did not go through my head that he could have a concussion. I was suprised they would keep a practically imobilized QB in the game. When Gardner lost his helmet and Morris went back in other people booed because Gardner was actually doing something. Clearly Bellomy should have taken that snap and he was running in at the same time as morris but was called off.


September 29th, 2014 at 3:56 AM ^

I personally read about half of this beast and my mind wandered off. He was talking about Bellomy not being ready to come in and it made me think of Any Given Sunday. That part where 2 qb's get hurt and steaming Willie Beamen is supposed to enter the game, but he's just chilling on the bench eating a hot dog and reading the paper lol.

Mercury Hayes

September 28th, 2014 at 10:45 PM ^

I want Hoke gone because his lack of understanding of the situation further proves how unqualified it is for the job. A  head coach requires more awareness and leadership.  It's a day later and he still doesn't get it.

I'm not going to take a moral high ground and pretend it is only about concussions because to some extent, the players know the risks - or at least Michigan educated players should. Still, it's on the coaches to make sure the players aren't trying to do too much whether that's play on bad knees, ankles, or with head injuries.

Also, should do a better job with coordination  with medical staff and trainers. Concussion testing is a must.