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12/06/2014 - 12:51am Great stuff

Thanks much for the detailed and considerate response! As I said, I'm a rank amateur at this - I think my 1977 high school team had 14 total offensive plays. I learned the playbook as an emergency backup tailback in 2 hours the night before our first scrimmage when our top RB went down with a knee.

What I take away from what you say, in your main post and the Stanford-specific follow up:

- Most importantly, you can play very smart offensive football regardless of your base offensive set. You can force defenses to make choices, and then exploit those choices, via pre-snap or post-snap decisions. This is true whether you line up in shotgun spread, power I, or anything in between.

- Playing physical football is independent of scheme. Stanford and Ohio State - however different - are both undeniably physical offenses. The point of physical football is to give your mean, tough, highly conditioned players enough of a schematic advantage to beat their mean, tough, highly conditioned opponents to the point of attack. Manball is as much or more about coaching as it is about bad attitudes and big butts.


12/05/2014 - 9:00pm Stanford

RU: what style would you consider Stanford to be? The obvious answer is Pro Style, but having watched them a fair bit over here on the left coast, I think it's more subtle than that. They line up with extremely tight spreads in the OL, they use multiple TEs that can block and go vertical, they have QBs who use their legs strategically.

My very amateur analysis is that Harbaugh looked at the talent he had available, observed a league full of defenses oriented at stopping spread offenses, and designed something that could succeed by being highly contrarian. Just as he did in a different way in SF by using Kaepernick in the pistol, zone read, etc.

There seems to be a lot of CC thinking going on that prioritizes the kind of offense we can or should run, then finding a coach to run that. Really good coaches, it seems to me, are more tied to competitive advantage than to any particular system.

12/01/2014 - 11:59am Great Post

Great post, bronxblue.

I share a lot of the concerns about Harbaugh. Thing is, there's no Urban Meyer or equivalent out there right now, so everyone has settled on Harbaugh. Firing Hoke is easy compared to finding an actual elite coach.

Regardless of who that next coach is, it is going to take some time for us to get back to the top. We might be losing only a few players from this team, but assuming Funchess leaves, we'll have lost our main playmakers on both defense (Ryan,Clark) and offense (the Devins). I look down the returning roster and I don't see a single player likely to be a pre-season all-B1G pick (Jourdan Lewis, maybe)? There seems to be a dearth of athleticism, explosiveness, playmaking ability on both sides of the ball. Certainly there are kids with upside - Lewis, Mason Cole, Peppers, etc - but no established stars. The next guy will have to work on Jimmies and Joes as well as Xs and Os.



11/29/2014 - 10:23pm It's a shame

It won't get me any upvotes, but I don't automatically root against individual Buckeyes anymore. Part of that is just perspective from being 54 years old. Part of that is my brother-in-law, who's both a Buckeye and one of the world's great human beings. And part of it is admiration for classy young people of any affiliation. I consider myself a fan of JT Barrett - He's not only obviously talented, I think he's conducted himself well under pressure, and he seems like a mentally tough and grounded person. Kind of like his Michigan counterpart, Devin Gardner. I have to wonder what Gardner would have done playing for Urban Meyer ...

Anyway, this kid's injury for me just makes this game gloomier. I'm hoping that the future points up for both Barrett and Michigan, and that he'll look back on losing to Michigan 42-41 his senior year as one of his career highlights :)


11/03/2014 - 10:13pm I can see I missed much in my

I can see I missed much in my TL;DR.

Yes, the big umbrella is an artificial construct. But people want to buy into it, nonetheless. That's the way it felt to me when I was a student, back in (ahem) '78-'84. It doesn't have to be perfect, but you want the university leadership to make a strong pretense in any case.

And yes, fans are certainly customers. But they are quite special kinds of customers, with a deep kind of relationship to the provider. Buying a pizza or a movie ticket implies a very different kind of relationship than buying season football tickets. The former is a simple transaction, the latter implies an emotional bond with the university and the program. Brandon seems to have missed the difference, big time. Even his most recent response to student discontent - dropping the ticket prices without any other significant moves - indicates very transactional thinking. He's gone, but it's up to us and the department he left behind to fix his broken thinking.

11/03/2014 - 1:29am The Community, The Community, The Community

I posted this on the earlier diary thread:…


Brandon did a good job of taking care of "his" team - coaches, athletes, donors, a segment of former players. He treated the rest of us as a "customer base" to be catered and condescended to. The natural net result is a fracturing of the M community along the lines of the Brandon insiders and outsiders. This is a toxic legacy of Brandon's tenure, and we should refuse to be defined by it - insiders and outsiders alike. A restoration of the big tent M community is what we're after.

11/02/2014 - 1:43pm The Community, The Community, The Community

Mike Rosenberg, who ought to know an asshat when he sees one, did a pretty comprehensive takedown of Brandon over on SI. He wrote that Brandon forgot Bo's first principle: The Team, The Team, The Team.

I think it's more subtle, but more important, than that. Watching the reactions to Brandon around the sports world, I'm struck by the disconnect between "insiders" and the rest of the community. Coaches, athletes, Dez Howard, Todd Howard, Brandstatder, Dierdorf, a fair number of former players - are Brandon supporters. Meanwhile, students, fans, alums, and their representatives in new media form the core of the naysayers. To put it simply: Brandon seems to have fine job taking care of his team, we just weren't on that team.

To speculate, this might have a lot to do with Brandon's business background. Consumers of an inexpensive, undifferentiated commodity like pizza have no emotional connection to the product or provider, and commit no deep thought or analysis to their decisions either. It makes sense in such a context to treat customers simplistically, using tools of mass manipulation. But college football fans aren't consumers first and foremost, they're tribalists. They're looking for an emotional connection to the University, to the team, to each other. They invest a great deal more energy, emotional and rational, in their allegiance than they do to mere product purchases.

Much has been made of Brandon's personality, and I certainly share a visceral dislike of that kind of arrogant style generally. But if we'd been put on his team - if he'd tried to unite the larger community instead of fracturing it - the personality would even have been an asset sometimes, and he might have had a chance to hire the next coach. Instead, this kind of insider/outsider divide is part of his legacy.

Anyway, this is the lesson for the next AD, and the department in general: it's about the community, the community, the community. That's the mission.

11/30/2013 - 10:07pm I've thought quite a bit

I've thought quite a bit about this, and I think it comes down to Borges' meta-philosophy about offense. It appears to me that Borges highly values novelty in an offense - he tries to keep defenses guessing primarily through a bewildering variety of plays and formations. He wants defenses to have no idea what's coming next, or ability to recognize it when it gets there.

This is not the meta-philosophy behind most high-powered offenses, whether you're looking at Alabama, or Oregon, or most other offenses along that schematic continuum. These offenses try to establish certain base premises that the defenses must react to, then they counter the defensive reaction. The essence of these schemes is tactical adjustment, between plays, before plays (audibles), and even within plays (e.g. read option or zone blocking).

The problem with Borges' meta-philosophy, it seems to me, is that there are a limited number of plays one can teach a college offense to execute well within the alloted practice time (ask Mike Rosenberg). So Borges is really making a bet with the opposing defensive coordinator that he's got enough variety to keep his opponent guessing most of the time. He's won that bet often enough - the '11 and '13 OSU games, for instance - but he's lost perhaps even more often.

The Tactical Adjustment philosophy, it seems to me, is much more suited to building a body of knowledge over time, and thus reducing the variability in results. After several years of running the same basic scheme, you've seen almost everything a defense can throw at you. You've developed countermeasures for all those things, and have drilled your offense on those measures ever since they arrived on campus. You have a good chance of immediately recognizing and adjusting to anything a defense does. You have much less chance that the defense will easily recognize and stuff a few of your key plays, and leave you without easy countermeasures.

Anyway, that's my shorthand explanation as to why Borges seems totally lost one game, totally dominant the next: he's not humble enough to acknowledge the agency of the opposing defense in his own success or failure.

11/30/2013 - 7:54pm This was one of those

This was one of those experiences which keeps me a college football fan after 40 years. I was hooting and hollering like a little kid. What a great game, and incredible finish. 

11/30/2013 - 6:08pm I also have to say it seemed

I also have to say it seemed to me like the OSU defense was less well-prepared, and a lot less aggressive, than the defenses we saw the previous 3 games. We didn't see a lot of those troublesome A-gap blitzes until the second half, and it seemed the Bucks were more fooled by the cute draws and throwbacks. But no question, the execution was better, the blocking was better, and Gardner looked like he'd been freed once again to be Sandlot Superstar.

11/30/2013 - 5:47pm From everything we can

From everything we can determine as outsiders, Brandon, Hoke, and Borges have all bought into the same narrative: there is nothing wrong with our scheme, game planning, and play calling that better players, more development, and overall better execution won't fix. This game obviously helps reinforce that narrative, and thus has to reduce any (already slim, IMO) chance that Borges will go.

An equally interesting question is who would replace Borges. I'm 100% certain that we haven't seen the last of Mr. Hyde-Borges, and would love to see a dynamic new coordinator given the reins of a modern offense. But who's going to come work for a HC and AD apparently in thrall to antiquated MANBALL mythology?



10/26/2011 - 4:27pm Casteel

I'm halfway through the book (on Kindle app), but like Brian says, not a whole lot really surprising to those of us who followed the story closely from the beginning. Even a lot of the Carr stuff was rumored before, and his ambivalence toward RR was obvious from his public silence, if nothing else. The one really interesting, game-changing tidbit for me was that Casteel was ready to go, "had his Michigan phone already", but got convinced to stay at WVU by (slightly) more money and a guaranteed contract.


If Casteel comes, and the dysfunctional mess over the defense is at least substantially reduced, we maybe win 2-3 more games each year under RR and the world is very different now.


Edit: I should add that even if many of the details are not that surprising, I find it still a very compelling read!

01/19/2011 - 11:14am Thanks for embracing the excercise

Your analysis is more detailed, and in many ways more well-thought out than mine. And I certainly agree the staffing and overall success scores go up with the Mattison hire.

As to Mattison, I completely agree he wouldn't have worked for RR - the personal connection with Hoke obviously played a major role. But I also stand by the assertion that this would have been a very unlikely move for Carr. Carr was not the type to hire a big name who has spent more than a decade outside the program, and he was quite explicit about his preferences that way. I remember reading an interview with him, maybe 7-8 years ago, where he mentioned his fondness for the business book, "Good to Great". It's a book I'm very familiar with, probably the best book ever written on successful business management practice because it's empirically based rather than a bunch of author's pet theories. Anyway, Carr cited approvingly the book's finding that internal development and promotion is generally more successful than hiring "stars" from the outside. I think Carr was over-applying that lesson in the context of college football coaching, but he obviously sincerely believed it, and his track record of coaching hires/promotions clearly shows that.

01/18/2011 - 9:25pm Oh, it's all good

I'm a former corporate exec type, and one of the formal and informal learnings from that was to separate substantive criticism from the emotion behind it. Watching the evolution of that post, you were substantively right. Live and learn. Learn faster, if possible :-)

And it is great to be a Wolverine, and it does feel like Christmas to see such a dramatic indication that this will not be a return to "same old, same old". For all my reserved reception of Hoke, and criticism of DB's public messaging, both deserve a lot of credit for this hire. Go Blue!

01/18/2011 - 8:00pm Christmas indeed

And BTW, you were right about the diary, too.

01/18/2011 - 12:41pm Thank you

Fixed now.

01/17/2011 - 10:04pm It isn't an issue of crossing a line

Of course he's in a high position and there's a threshold he shouldn't cross in terms of publicly insulting his critics. And whether he crossed that threshold is a subjective criteria, and I'm not sure I'd say he did, either.

But his job, at this important inflection point in Michigan athletics, is not to avoid crossing the line. His job is to build support for his coach, and the decision to hire him. His job is, at least in part, to help convince those of us who are skeptical that 47-50 is not the important statistic that defines Brady Hoke, that Hoke possesses many important qualities of a winning football coach beyond the ability to give Marinelli-like pressers. I actually don't think that is a particularly difficult task for a competent executive - I could write most of the damn script myself.

So if you look at the comments on this thread, and objectively assess the content of Brandon's messages since the Hoke hire, you'd have to say he hasn't done a very good job of supporting his coach. Almost all of the support for Hoke has been generated by his impressive first presser, and the very natural desire to be "all in" now and not be hung out in maybe-land for another year. OTOH, "Trust me, I'm Dave Brandon, former CEO of a pizza empire" is not a message that works for most of this audience.

So, either Brandon isn't doing a very good job of being convincing to this community, or (very possibly) he's decided "f**k them, they don't matter." Either way, criticism of him is perfectly warranted, IMO.

01/17/2011 - 9:59pm See my post below

Many of us are coming to conclusions without knowing the facts - absolutely agree. I also believe it's Brandon's job to present the facts as he sees them rather than telling us to trust him, because I think that is better for him, the University, the fans, and the football program. But see my comment below, and tell me how much we agree or disagree.

01/17/2011 - 9:12pm None of us are "outsiders"

Apologies re the presser timing. Point stands:

I don't think Brandon would ever have dared condescend to his Domino's customer base the way he condescended to the M fan base - which is why I found it surprising. And Brandon is not in a position like Brian's. He's in a executive position where he is expected to show discipline and judgment in his representation of the University. It is completely human to be angry under criticism, but one of the absolute requirements of a leadership position like Brandon's is to rise above the urge to respond petulantly. I have been there, done that, and seen many more do it better, and I expected more from DB, and continue to expect more.

01/17/2011 - 8:59pm Interesting explanation

By this description, I would be an FP, while the more abbreviated descriptions in the chart might have made me part of The Rebellion. This post describes my attitudes almost exactly.

01/17/2011 - 7:00pm I think the point of Brian's post

was less about whether or not this was a "stupid hire", than about Brandon's public attitude toward those who question his choice. "I've got all the info, and you don't, so STFU and buy your season tickets" is an approach which is pretty much guaranteed to piss off a vocal segment of the fan base, and it's unnecessary at that. As I said in a comment below, it wouldn't take all that much for Brandon to explain his thinking in a straightforward, respectful manner - and it's exactly what a good leader and executive should know to do in this situation. Brandon clearly has let some of this criticism get the better of him. CEOs rarely get anything like this amount of direct feedback - people are just too afraid of them - and DB may not have the necessary skin thickness yet.

And FTR, Brian's "Hoke Reax" post came out after Brandon's initial presser, and so I think you might have gotten the cause/effect relationship between Brandon attitude and Brian "The Rebel" response backwards.

01/17/2011 - 5:21pm The truth on Miles

May be somewhere in between. It is very possible - common even - to make an offer without making an offer. For instance:

Brandon: "I've been authorized to offer as much as $4.25 million to our next coach. Does that number interest you?"

Miles: "Is that more than $3.75 million, cause that's what I'm making now? Are you sure? This stuff is so confusing".

Totally agree with Brian re the arrogant, defensive approach of DB to explaining the hire. All he has to do is say, "My criteria were A, B, C, and D. And when I measured all the candidates against those criteria, Brady Hoke came out on top." Instead, he's making it look like it was a Daddy knows best, gut reaction hire, which is not the way to unite a fan base behind a candidate with a not entirely impressive resume.

01/15/2011 - 1:43am We probably agree more than not, but ...

"Congratulations on succumbing to your fandom and falling grudgingly into line."

I have no idea what that means. Please explain.

You certainly have a better grasp of Truman's history than I do at this point, and you're right, I was being hyperbolic. And if we want to pare down that list to what Truman did by age 40 (haberdasher, farmer) to what Hoke did by 40 (natl championship DL coach), then it would be far less surprising to see Hoke win a national championship as M head coach by age 56 than to see Truman as President. So we definitely have that going for us, and the comparison is "unfair" in a detailed sense.

Who I would prefer over Hoke is not actually central to the point of my post. I wanted a coach who could make me believe again in the possibility of Michigan football reaching its tantalizing, always just out of reach potential. Hoke has a track record - a far more relevant track record than Truman's, for purposes of this discussion - and parts of that track record are not the stuff of which belief is made, for me. For the record, I do think that a coach who had coordinated a unit which consistently achieved at a high level against difficult competition would have carried more credibility for me. But that dispute has been hashed many times over, and I think it is counterproductive to do so again. And my skepticism in no way means that I believe Hoke is absolutely destined for failure, nor does it mean that I think he's not an admirable person, nor does it mean, in a million years, that I'm rooting for him to fail. I'm just not thrilled that he was the choice - even if he was the best choice available - because I can't be thrilled with a choice that doesn't hold out the promise for me that we will really be "the leaders, the best" instead of "the leaders, the consistently very good".

The point I want to reiterate is, at the risk of redundancy, is that different fans have different backgrounds and experiences, and different notions of what constitutes an immediately satisfying hire. And for us all to agree on this is impossible and undesirable. And for our own health, and that of the team, it would be better to acknowledge and accept those differences than to insist on conformity.

01/14/2011 - 11:52pm Oh, I've read that

Two or three times, at least. Among several other tomes. And Truman was a tailor and a farmer until age 40, and he was never in charge, in an executive management sense, of anything bigger than that tailor shop. Kansas City party Democratic party? Senate investigation into military contract abuse? I suppose you could argue that those were executive-type functions. But they hardly constituted the kind of bottom-line accountability for results that I associate with executive positions.

But never mind, to quote Truman himself: "There are a million men in this country who could do this job, but it's my job, and I'm going to do it". I'm not holding my breath waiting for similar statements from Brandon or Hoke. The culture of 2011 will never permit such exhibitions of doubt and modesty from its authority figures.

01/14/2011 - 11:01pm The best part ...

of writing this is finding out how many MGoBlog followers are of my generation. I always had the feeling that I was this old, irrelevant baby boomer who was a peripheral hanger-on and had little to contribute to this community.

01/14/2011 - 10:57pm P-Bell ...

Was the first place I ever ate in A2. Sorry to say, memories are so foggy now I can't even bring up a mental image.

And, I do still have the feeling it's just "down around the corner". I've spent 40 years "waiting for a miracle", hoping to catch "lightning in a bottle" and "this is it". All old-fart song titles, for you whippersnappers. But I've got a certain distance right now, a certain wait-and-see skepticism, that pollutes my pure fandom. And, fittingly on MLK weekend, a doubt that I will ever cross over to the other side with my team.

And honestly, a recognition that my interests and those of Michigan's AD do not completely intersect. And probably never will, as long as the AD is an ex-corporate type like me.

01/14/2011 - 10:38pm DE - possibly you missed the point?

I don't like ridicule, either - in the sense of intended emotional harm to another person. But parody, sarcasm, skepticism, humor are simply part of how people understand each other and the world. And the greater the position of responsibility you accept, the more you must learn to understand that. I'm a former corporate type myself, and I know well that even the best explanations of any decision will not convince everyone - and thank god for that, because corporate types often do not tell the truth. Not because they are liars, but because they don't actually know the truth much of the time and are just guessing.

Brady Hoke is a big boy, in more ways than one. I don't know how smart he is yet as a football coach, but he is obviously more than smart enough to know that public opinion is far from taken for granted, and smart enough to manipulate it in his direction - vital skills for a Michigan football coach. I really don't think he needs you to watch his back, or that of anybody else. Remember - football is the most important game ever invented. The most important *game*. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

01/14/2011 - 10:18pm Sent to diary

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Even more thanks, for Stonehenge Cats.

01/14/2011 - 9:55pm Thank you

"Should go in a diary". Pardon my ignorance, is that me who needs to take an action, or some great diary manager in the sky?

Edit: Duh, never mind, got it. Would you believe that I'm a former software CTO? That's a rhetorical question, don't answer it.

01/14/2011 - 4:05pm I don't know ...

What constitutes "some level of fairness" for you, but I'm sure we'll never agree anyway. I've been coming here daily for the last 5 years for the unique combination of entertaining writing, critical analysis, and pure fandom - and I just don't think any of those factors are substantively different now than a week ago.

I'd suggest it's time for everyone to head over to EDSBS, and read the Digital Viking, and Spencer's recap of the title game experience. Those, we can all agree, are subjectively and objectively awesome, and if you disagree with me, you are totally and completely wrong, end of story.

01/14/2011 - 3:25pm Sigh

What I said is that this is the place to go if you want arguments based on facts and logic. It doesn't mean that people will agree on the arguments, or which are the relevant facts, or how valid the extrapolations are, just that this community, in general, tends to reject arguments based more on emotion, or words from authority figures, than fact.

And for the record, if the numbers in that chart are not facts, what are they? If the conclusion drawn from those numbers is that Hoke-led teams have had trouble stopping the run is not a logical conclusion, what is it?

And I'd further note that your assertion that Brian has chosen only data which make Hoke look bad is a subjective assertion, and factually untrue, which a cursory examination of the last 3 days of his posts will easily demonstrate.

01/14/2011 - 1:49pm Errata

It appears from the chart in BWS that Brian was looking at Rushing defense rankings, not overall defensive ranking. But still, the same overall point struck me when I was reading the Hoke profile on maizenbrew well before the Hoke hire: for a guy who talks big defensive talk, his results don't walk the walk.

Edit: actually, I screwed up, not Brian. As another poster pointed out, the broad context was Hoke as a supposed run-the-ball/stop-the-run guy, meaning that the relevant stat was indeed rush defense.

01/14/2011 - 12:56pm Raining on your parade?

Seriously, if you want to be happy, go read all the emo pieces on Detnews and Freep right now. This is the place you come to if you want arguments based on fact and logic.

Yes, as I noted in a previous comment, Brian apparently mistook rushing defense rankings for overall rankings. But doesn't it give you pause that Mr. Tough Guy defensive-minded former Bo player national championship DL coach has managed to produce exactly one defense that was even average at stopping the run?

I liked BH's presser, too, and I'm rooting for the guy and the team. But I'm not buying into head-in-the-sand optimism. It's clear that Hoke, like his predecessor, badly needs a top-flight DC to run the defense for him.

01/12/2011 - 3:28pm Slow down

It's kind of hilarious how quickly opinion is whipsawing back and forth - and I'm not calling anyone out, I'm just as susceptible myself. I love that Brady is disdainful of the press hyenas, and I love his presentation in general. But as I commented on a previous thread, I thought Rod Marinelli was one impressive dude when he came in, and he turned out to be as unqualified as HC as Millen was at GM.
<br>Hoke has to go up against the likes of Tressel, Pelini, Kelly, Paterno, Ferentz, Beilema, and Dantonio - and beat them. Beat them on their home recruiting grounds, beat them in assistant coach hires, beat them in game planning, beat them in halftime adjustments, beat them on the scoreboard. He's never had to accomplish any of those things at anywhere near the level he has to now, and we won't know for quite a while if he can pull it off.
<br>But, based on today's performance, he'll be fun to watch and root for while we wait and see.

01/12/2011 - 1:11pm The corporate hire

As a former corporate exec myself, I think there's an angle to this hire that has been largely missed. If you listened to Brandon in the firing presser, he spoke of Michigan football as a brand maker for the university, and the primary funding mechanism for the entire athletic department. The clear implication is that Brandon's strategic goals are: 1.) Keep those seats and luxury boxes filled. 2.) Eliminate, insofar as possible, public controversy and negativity. Winning, per se, is not the first order objective, as DB made clear in his comments about the goal being the Rose Bowl, not necessarily national contention.
<br>On the previous thread, I commented that it isn't a major stretch to see Hoke as a Dantonio/Beilema type - and I'd bet Brandon agrees. If Hoke averages 9-9.5 regular season wins, beats OSU 1 out of 3 times, turns the tide of press coverage, and damps the rampant factionalism among alumni, former players, and AD personnel, he'll be a strategically successful hire from DB's perspective.
<br>As a rabid Michigan football fan, this is not satisfactory for me. I want to see M as a Florida/Alabama type of program, contending regularly for national titles. But I can see that hiring, say, Gus Malzaahn is a high risk/high reward move for DB, and he's not going to do it. After the last 3 years, this is no time to be risking the "core business" on new sauce and cheese recipes.

01/11/2011 - 9:06pm Fascinating ...

How many people are dissing Brian for this post. I thought it was a pretty balanced assessment of the situation. There is no way you can argue that this was a slam dunk win for the program. There is nothing - nothing - in Hoke's CV to suggest that he's the next Urban Meyer, or Nick Saban, or Jim Harbaugh or Dan Mullen. And those are the kind of guys you must have as head coach to be a national power these days. And spare me the comparisons to Tressel, who was far more successful over an extended period of time at Youngstown than Hoke has been in his relatively short HC career.
<br>At the same time, you can see that the upside for Hoke might be Dantonio, or even Bielema - guys who can get their talent base to achieve at a significant percentage of potential, and have a shot at a conference championship when the stars align. That's the best case scenario, and definitely what I'm hoping for. But there's no way around it: this was a deeply conservative hire by Brandon, and the timing was unnecessarily poor.
<br>On the downside, I give you the example of a recent local coaching hire. Dynamic, enthusiastic, terrific person, absolutely loved by former and current players. Exuded tough-guy image, loved to preach about physical football. Hadn't coached at the top level, but was seen as a rising star. Got lots of positive feedback from local and national media. His name was Rod Marinelli, and he was in over his head from the day he put ink to contract. I liked him as a person, but he just wasn't up to the job, and the toxic environment around him didn't help him develop.
<br>Marinelli represents Hoke's downside risk - not necessarily in terms of record, but in terms of being ready in all aspects for the job at hand. Let's hope the downside doesn't come to pass.

01/08/2011 - 4:30pm I'd take Mullen

In a heartbeat - right up there with Patterson after Harbaugh. But with the success he's had, and the new extension, it would almost certainly raise a big ruckus for him to leave, which is probably a consideration for both him and Michigan.

01/06/2011 - 7:46pm Hoke- for real?

I'm trying hard not to prejudge the guy, but this is nonsense on stilts. Perhaps he might recognize also that this kind of specious argument cuts both ways - that running a prehistoric offense might make you vulnerable to I-AA spread teams?

01/06/2011 - 6:07pm At the peak of his leverage

I've said this before, but I'm not so sure he'd be as successful at M as everyone seems to think. I'd still make him my first choice, because of the credibility he carries and the impact that would have on recruiting, press coverage, and fan base unity.

But watching him out here in the Pac 10, I think he's benefited from factors that might not apply in A2. First, the Pac 10 has been down this year. Also, I think the "smash mouth" style works very well in the Pac 10 because it's change of pace from most other teams; might not work as well in a conference with OSU, Iowa, Wiscy, Penn State, MSU, and Nebraska. Big 10 teams don't tend to get confused by a power I formation with tight end in motion. And finally, he has maybe the best pro-style QB I've seen in the college ranks in quite a long time, a once-in-a-decade or half-decade kind of player. A lot of those factors aren't so easily transferable, and I think part of Harbaugh's thinking is that this is his point of maximum leverage, and a few years trying to resurrect Michigan's fortunes might dull the shine a bit.

01/06/2011 - 4:27pm Good man

I loved RR's passion, openness, and heart-on-the-sleeve style, especially when contrasted with his predecessor - although watching him get torn up for just these qualities makes me realize just where some of that Carr grumpiness and reserve came from. And I really appreciated the connection he made with kids from places like Pahokee - kids who weren't "Michigan material" before his regime.

He'll land on his feet, and then some. I'll always keep an eye on his teams in the future, and expect to get more than a bit of vicarious pleasure from seeing them win.

01/06/2011 - 2:45pm Nice rant

I agree that it's much better for us all to chill out a bit and wait for the denouement before we freak out. But as I said on another thread, that does not mean that the criticisms of Brandon aren't valid to a large extent.

I wouldn't think it would be necessary to enumerate the reasons why a January coaching search is undesirable, but here goes:

- Recruiting. Having your program be coachless, and unable to take visits, right when some of your best prospects are making up their minds, is obviously a recipe for a poor recruiting class. Check out the interview with Webb in the DFP today - we're almost certain to lose out on some top defensive prospects as a result of this. A new coach will have enough challenges meeting expectations for near-immediate success without having to drag along a bad recruiting class.

- Any candidate we bring along now will be creating an identical headache for the program he is leaving, increasing the chances of the kind of public spectacle we saw with RichRod/WVU or Kiffin/Tennessee. For a coach making the jump from a mid-major, like Hoke, this is less of a problem. But for people like Fitzgerald, Mullen, Pelini, Gundy, it has to be a significant consideration.

- Dumping RichRod in January made it a great deal more difficult for his assistants to get jobs for the coming year. A prospective new coach who is trying to figure out what kind of guy DB is has to notice this. And a corollary to this is that it will be more difficult for the new guy to find assistants right now.

- Coaches are, in general, less physically and mentally available right now as they hit the road closing out their recruiting classes. I'm sure Hoke will be thrilled to get the call whenever, but for a number of other prospects, I'm sure they'll be thinking "why the F didn't we have this conversation a month ago?"

- Edit: And by far the most obvious, you give yourself much less time to get it right. A several week process started in early December is no big deal. Now, the closer you get to NSD, the more the impression of a program in chaos takes hold - exactly what DB said he was trying to change. So you can't really afford to spend much time wooing or negotiating with any one candidate, even if you think he's the best choice.

So yes, Brandon absolutely should have fired RR in early December. Listen to that presser again: every reason DB listed for making the change was as true then as it was yesterday. As I said on the other thread, I think DB fell victim to the executive's tendency to stick to the decision process, and ignore current circumstances. But sometimes, it's a bad assumption that tactical circumstances don't affect long-term outcomes. DB absolutely can still pull this out, but he made it far riskier and more difficult for everyone involved by waiting.

As to Hoke, I really don't have the qualifications to assess how good a football coach he is. He may well be very good, and if he's the pick, I'm going to support him because the alternative is to stop being a Michigan fan. But his resume is not very impressive, and his personality is hardly scintillating. These things would matter a lot less if he were chosen over a bunch of other top names after an extended search process. As it is, a Hoke hire would almost unavoidably be seen by many as a second-tier choice forced on us by a rushed January search process, fairly or not. And that's hardly the way to generate unity in the Michigan base.

An aside, OT to your post: I'm not impressed by the argument that the mid-January Tressel hire worked so well. I suspect that Tressel is, in fact, the exception to the rule, and that there just aren't many or even any other examples of successes like it.

01/05/2011 - 6:45pm I don't think so, exactly

DB was describing exactly the process he would use to, for instance, evaluate his national sales manager, and hire a replacement if necessary. And he certainly had to be aware that people like Harbaugh were out there, but there is, among good executives, a stubborn reluctance to be controlled by circumstances. Just like, say, Brett Favre stubbornly throwing into coverage.

I do think that one thing he said in the presser was telling - the bit about seeing what would happen in the bowl after 15 practices, seeing the results of that "test", as I think he described it. This tells me that he was hoping to see significant improvement in the defense, and overall sharper play, and that he was open to being influenced by the bowl result. Maybe he hoped a big game would remove the need for a firing. But there were also other hints in the presser - for instance, the list of criteria he chose to evaluate RR on - that suggest he had a particular set of concerns of long standing. Who knows, really - it's a moot point now.

01/05/2011 - 5:45pm Brandon learning on the job

As a retired corporate executive, now involved with non-profits, I can say that the transition is more difficult and humbling than I think almost anyone in the corporate world appreciates until they do it. The tendency is to think that everything can be fixed just by making good decisions; but in the rest of the world, far too many things are simply out of your control. It seems to me Brandon is learning a bit of this himself right now.

The dedication to the "process" he'd laid out is the mark of a good executive. Collect all the data, do all the analysis, and make the decision in its own time. Keep your eye on the strategic goals, and don't let tactical considerations overly influence long term decisions. That's basically what DB was saying in the presser. But CFB is not Domino's. Some tactical considerations loom very large in the ultimate strategic success of a coaching hire, and the recruiting cycle is key among these. Coaches are reluctant to spend time chasing a speculative opportunity while working 24/7 to close on their recruiting classes, or to take the heat for leaving during that period. These factors immediately limit your access to the national talent pool in January. To pry away, for instance, a Mullen right now is to risk a Kiffin/Tennessee style circus.

And if the rumored interest in Hoke turns out to be more than speculative, I think it shows a lack of understanding about how "Brand" and "Image" get created in a university environment. In the corporate world, changing your brand is, to a significant extent, a matter of money, resources, and focus. As an AD, you have far fewer tools to directly impact perception - and far more outside influences in control. When RichRod was hired, there were almost immediately a couple of negative narratives put into play - RichRod the ambitious gold-digging outsider, the unsuitability of spread offenses to the Big Ten, etc. - and much of the mainstream and even alternative media spent the next 3 years cherry picking data to fit those narratives. If Hoke comes in, the "is he qualified" narrative will dominate much of the coverage, especially if his teams are playing decent but boring football two years from now while Denard is off playing in a national championship with a Heisman back home on the shelf.

This is an exceedingly tricky situation DB has gotten himself into, and while I certainly agree we shouldn't freak out until we know the final resolution is known, it also seems obvious to me that it would have been less risky, with better chance for optimal outcome, to have made the decision in December.

01/04/2011 - 1:24pm Don't agree

I'm a native Michigander, and my NFL team is the Lions, who I follow closely in the Detroit press (the Internet, you know). But using the Lions as a yardstick is unreasonable - the Matt Millen situation was, in any measurable and unmeasurable way you want to name, unprecedented. He deserved all of the criticism, because he was not only astoundingly incompetent, but refused to do what his owner wouldn't, and fire himself.

A more telling comparison is Rod Marinelli. Nice guy, good track record as a position coach, utterly unqualified as a head coach. Yet even when he was racking up a record of historical awfulness, the criticism never reached the intensely personal level experienced by RichRod. A Michigan coach not only has to put his team consistently in competition for a national title, but he has live up to a standard of virtue and Michigan-man aura that are simply not expected of a professional coach. The microscopic examination of Rodriguez' language, business dealings, "excessive" practice time, player transfers, even taste in music, and the rabid reactions of alumni, former players, fan base, press, etc to these things just aren't the same in a pro environment. Hell, he'd just accepted the job and was already being raked over the coals for being an opportunistic gold digger, just because he left his home state university.

For all of Lloyd's irritating flaws as a coach - conservatism, cronyism - he mastered the art of living in the Michigan microscope. The next coach will somehow have to do the same.

01/04/2011 - 11:19am Maybe it's an Oregonian thing ...

But I thought pretty much the same thing as your son. Looking at Stanford's personnel and schemes, I couldn't help but wonder how long it would take to remake the roster into that mold at Michigan - at least three years, minimum. And Harbaugh might well coach another 25 years and never again have a QB as good as Luck.

Truth is, you can remake an NFL team faster than a college program. And as a head coach, you can make more money, and deal with a more understanding fan base and press than you're likely to find in a traditional college power. I kept wondering, if I were Harbaugh, why would I want this job? Other than pure sentimentality, of course.

01/03/2011 - 1:10pm Harbaugh or bust

Like Brian, this last game flipped me from "one more year" to "yeah, it's probably time to change". For the first time, I found myself wondering if RichRod is really up to the task. A blocked punt, a batch of dropped passes, numerous substitution and alignment issues on D, a general lack of in-game adjustments. It looked like you would expect from the first game of the year, not the last.

But change for the sake of change is not going to cut it (just ask Notre Dame). The next coach will inherit a defense which is at least a year from approaching anything like good, and an offense filled with skill players recruited for, and coached on, the spread scheme. On top of that, there are serious recruiting issues, a critical local press, alumni who span the gamut from restless to raging, and an unsentimental, hard ass AD. It's going to take a strong personality, healthy ego, and a substantial reservoir of credibility to succeed in that environment. Harbaugh qualifies on all counts. Brian brings up Fitzgerald; that's the only other name I've heard that sounds even remotely plausible, but I think even he is quite a stretch in these circumstances.

12/02/2010 - 8:49pm Tressel Jr. ?

I'm not so sure that Harbaugh's style translates to M and the Big Ten as well as Brian thinks it does. Harbaugh plays the Pac 10 version of TresselBall, albeit with snappier duds and actual human emotions. A bit more aggressive, sure, but still - line up my guys and your guys and we'll pound on you and out-execute you and occasionally throw in a twist to keep you off balance. Works great in a down year for the Pac 10, except when you play Oregon.

But whether you can succeed playing that brand of smash mouth consistently against OSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, PSU, and MSU remains to be seen, especially when you might not be, ahem, lucky enough to have a near-certain future #1 NFL draft pick playing QB for you.

11/28/2010 - 10:46pm JM2Cents

I'm out here in the Pac NW, and maybe I get some additional immersion in the whole Pac 10 thing as a result. Is Jim Harbaugh the next Lloyd Carr? Yup, at the very least. Pro-style offense, physical defense, wins almost all of the games he's supposed to, snarls at the press appropriately.

Also, gets his ass pulped to applesauce by the very best teams he plays - not least, Michigan's wannabe Oregon. Can Rodriguez and M ever match Oregon? Dunno - but I'm almost certain Harbaugh and M never would. The necessary innovation and imagination just doesn't seem to be there. JMHO, of course :)

10/05/2010 - 6:27pm If Matt Millen ever gets another GM job ...

You have a guaranteed position as a talent scout.

10/05/2010 - 5:56pm Other than maybe Alabama ...

Who, anymore, has a D that doesn't get torched now and then? The diversity of offensive schemes, the increase in dual-threat QBs, the deployment of more fast athletes in spread formations, the more rapid cross-pollination of different ideas and schemes, all have made it much harder to play great D every week. Just ask Stanford, who thought they had a great D until Oregon ran up 52 on them Saturday.

The '06 D was light years ahead of '10. Branch, Woodley, Harris, Crable, Burgess, Hall, and Adams were all upperclass starters and future NFL players. Most of the '10 defense wouldn't have seen the field in '06, and Martin is the only guy who clearly ranks with the seven I mentioned above. The most fundamental issue with the '10 defense - lack of talent - wasn't a problem in '06, and therefore I'd be hard pressed to say the problem started there.