Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bo's Ghost Haunts Michigan

It is often said that great empires fall because they will stubbornly hang onto dying traditions until they have completely faded away. So as the warriors of the old guard mysteriously reappear, one can't help but wonder if Michigan is holding itself hostage with the hire of Brady Hoke. There's a clear tendency within the Michigan community to feel some sort of misguided commitment to something that doesn't really exist anymore. Jim Brandstatter once said that Bo Schembechler "never compromises his principles". Yet today we transition from a coach who stuck with what he believed in to another that a jilted fan base will hope and pray becomes a carbon copy of a ghost from the past.

I shouldn't have to clarify that I am not trying to demean the Michigan tradition, but I will. I am not trying to demean the Michigan tradition. It's been a part of my life since I can remember. I have all the pictures and books and posters. I know all the players. I know all the stories and how the program came to be what it is today. When we hired Rich Rodriguez, I expected Michigan to open up its arms and welcome him into that tradition until he became an integral part of it. Instead, he immediately became a target before he was even given a chance. A target of the media, former players and sadly enough the man who he replaced. Rodriguez tried his best; just ask Brock Mealer. It was never good enough. If given proper support, I would have fully expected Rodriguez to succeed. Instead, he became a solitary scapegoat of a three year period that will likely be looked upon as the worst in Michigan Football history.

And that leaves us with Hoke. He's ironically the most unproven candidate to take the head coaching position since Schembechler. It's also ironic that he's probably the most important hire since Bo also. If he succeeds, which is certainly plausible, everybody will be happy because winning cures everything. The problem is that he has to succeed, and at a high level. By hiring Hoke, the program has officially become a prisoner of its own ways. If Hoke fails, it will become difficult to hire a satisfactory replacement without overpaying for them; especially if they have no ties to the program. It's become clear to the MSM that factions exist within the program and after seeing what Rodriguez went through it would be hard to convince established outside coaches to come to Ann Arbor.

So today when Brady Hoke is introduced as the 19th head coach in Michigan history, there will be plenty of talk about how this is a return to normal. A true Michigan Man has come back. Instead of looking at is as a return, I'll see this as the day Michigan Football successfully isolated its community and traditions to all but those who have roots in its origin.


Does Dave Brandon think we're stupid?: To say that Hoke was "Plan A" is demeaning to even the casual Michigan fan and I expect this comment to get bashed from all directions. Logic begs Brandon the following question: If he was your first choice, and he clearly wanted to come here, why waste all the time? There's a clear fallacy at play; if Hoke was his first choice, why all the Miles drama? It's clear the "no offer" comments are a weak attempt at a save face. Contrary to Brandon's belief, we're reeling on the recruiting trails and at the very least, could have avoided some of the issues that plague this class if a hire had been made sooner.

Also, why the comments about paying top dollar for a head coach and then turn around and hire a guy making less than $1 million? Again, it's not about fans needing to drop 5 million per on a coach, but there's no way Hoke will be paid nearly that much. Dave Brandon's comments following the RR firing have been inconsistent and could easily be interpreted as insulting to the fans. If this was his gameplan all along, it was a flawed one.

F5 day Liveblog

Friday, January 7, 2011

Les Miles Liveblog

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Show Must Go On

Do I have to stand up
Wild-eyed in the spotlight
What a nightmare
Why don't I turn and run?

There must be some mistake
I didnt mean to let them
Take away my soul.
Am I too old, is it too late?

The inevitable has come to pass: Rich Rodriguez is out at Michigan. I don't think he was ever given a fair shake. Local media with a vendetta + an alumni/fanbase pushing an ambiguous term (Michigan Man) that has no real meaning + a college football landscape where win-now is more prevalent than ever and you have today's disaster of a press conference. I can say with confidence that the majority of the fan base has been nothing short of an embarrassment. I also can't imagine how difficult it is to create a winning environment when you've basically been an outcast on campus since the day you arrived. If I'm Rich Rodriguez today, I'm probably the most relieved person on the face of the earth. He will (and should) find another job soon and I'd bet my bottom dollar he'll find success at his next stop.

Now it's full OMG DENARD STAY mode. Many think it's a given that he'll stay. I am firmly not in that camp. Only Kansas State and Michigan recruited Robinson as a quarterback and Rodriguez is responsible for turning Robinson into what he's become. I strongly feel that his loyalty is less to the University of Michigan as it is to the guy who gave him a chance to play the position he wanted. Given Rodriguez will almost certainly find another job I would not be shocked (in fact, I personally expect) Robinson to bolt and possibly even follow him. That's not an indictment on Robinson or his loyalty at all. Rodriguez is central to Denard's development. I would be devastated if he left, but not pissed as a fan. If there's one thing Rodriguez had, it was a loyalty on the part of his players.

We've also let the golden opportunity slip through our fingers. One has to believe that Harbaugh's heart of hearts prefers leading his alma mater back to greatness, etching his name alongside Bo, Yost, Crisler and the crew. We'll probably never know how it went down, but the speculation that neither David Brandon or Mary Sue Coleman truly want Harbaugh coaching the team is sure to grow. With a massive amount of money coming out of our booster/alumni situation, I'll never buy for a second that we couldn't afford to bring him in. I'll also never buy the idea that he'd rather coach in the worst division in the NFL than to stomp Tressel back into Youngstown and reclaim the Big Ten. The Denver job? That would be different in this writer's opinion. Either way, a huge letdown.

Finally, to Coach Rodriguez: Turn and run. Run Like Hell. You'll never make a better decision.

*obligatory Katy Perry gif to help us through the pain*

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Brady Hoke? No Thanks.

Three months ago, after Tim Brewster was fired mid-season, the Daily Gopher had this to say about Brady Hoke, a then candidate to be his replacement:

He has a Big Ten attitude but there just isn't enough on the resume to get me on the Hoke bandwagon. Hoke might be that guy, he might not be. Anyone feel confident that the person making this hire is going to be capable of determining if Hoke is the right fit or not? I don't, but I'm getting off on a tangent.

Yes, that is a University of Minnesota blog questioning the idea of hiring Brady Hoke, who for all intents and purposes seems to be the top candidate to replace Rich Rodriguez, whenever he may be fired. The Hoosier blogosphere was more apt to the idea, but this is Minnesota and Indiana we're talking about. They are easily the two most irrelevant football programs in the conference. If Hoke was even questionable as a Minnesota candidate he doesn't belong in the Michigan discussion. Instead, we might be seeing him named head coach as soon as tomorrow.

How does this come about? One rumor that seems to have credence on a logical level is that Brandon is enamored with Hoke while the boosters are ready to pony up the dough to bring Harbaugh home. That being said, Harbaugh's brother says NO WAI. The tea leaves seem to be pointing away from Harbaugh although one could argue that there is a lot of "public" negotiating to drive up Michigan's price. I'm skeptical of this and wonder if SI's Peter King is right in saying that the interest is overrated on Harbaugh's part. With all the options he has and the bad blood Harbaugh seems to have had with Michigan in the past, this makes a certain amount of sense.

My take? Brandon is taking a huge risk by moving on from Rodriguez WITHOUT Harbaugh being the guy to replace him. This is a young team. Yes, the defense is atrocious, but it returns every starter (provided Martin returns) and will likely be under the leadership of a competent coordinator next year who (more importantly) will be in full control. The offense is already explosive and has arguably the pre-season Heisman favorite coming into next year. The recruiting class coming in will be solid provided Rodriguez stays. Hoke has never coached at a school important enough to have any idea of his recruiting ability. He's basically a .500 coach who has had two solid seasons. That is good enough to be a candidate at Minnesota and Indiana. Not Michigan. Not when the team still has a ton of potential under Rodriguez. All the pressure in the world will be on Brandon if he doesn't reel Harbaugh in and I don't believe hiring Hoke will do much to quell the constant noise coming from a fickle fan base.

No Live Blog Tonight

There will be no live blog tonight. I will post my thoughts on today's shenanigans later on tonight. Go Arkansas.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Orange Bowl post-game thoughts

It's Harbaugh or bust now.

What more could Jimmy Ballgame have done to embolden himself as the go-to candidate for Michigan? Balanced offensive attack? Check. Destroyed a mobile quarterback and forced him out of his game? Check. Successfully dodged annoying reporter and subsequently awkward post-game questions a la Lloyd Carr? Check.

In all seriousness, if you're a Michigan fan who is in favor of keeping Rich Rodriguez (I am currently on the fence), you're at least questioning yourself after watching this dominating performance. Virginia Tech is no slouch, especially offensively and the Cardinal defense put an absolute beatdown on Tyrod Taylor and Co. It's now become less a question of whether or not you think Rodriguez can succeed as it is one of taking advantage of the perfect storm to get Harbaugh. Not only will you win with him, but you'll reunite the fan base and restore a sense of normalcy to Ann Arbor. I say this knowing that Rodriguez has been treated unfairly by the local media and fans alike. The problem is that it's probably too late for it to change. The kabillion dollar question is whether or not Harbaugh feels the same. Apparently, Mike Tirico's gut says NFL, but conjecture with ESPN and the MSM has been inconsistent as usual. I want to believe that the chance to become the hero who leads Michigan football back to the top will be too much to turn down, but nobody can deny the allure and possibilities of the NFL.

The ball is in your court, Jim.

Harbaugh's Last Hurrah Liveblog

Rich Rod Can't Dance?

The only two things I really consider myself a total die-hard for are Michigan Football and progressive/pop rock group Genesis. The /pop part is important because a lot of fans would call themselves strictly fans of the progressive era. That's because many believe the band and its true identity died when Peter Gabriel left the band in 1974. Three transition-ish albums later, a split was forever created when they released Abacab, full of basic verse/chorus pop songs and almost completely devoid of the experimental medleys that brought them worldwide fame in the early to mid 70s. It got even worse for some when Invisible Touch came out in 1986. They went further down the pop road and cemented a void between fans of the progressive and fans of Genesis no matter what the form.

This is the point we find ourselves right now with Michigan Football. Gabriel (Bo/Moeller/Carr) left the group a while ago. We've gone a different direction with Collins (Rodriguez) and while it took some getting used to, there's some good tunes on every album. However, there are a few pretty shitty tracks too.

Will Rodriguez be allowed to ride it out? That's where the fear for many sets in. You see, after Invisible Touch was released, Genesis regained some of the aforementioned worldwide acclaim. Even some fans of the old guard were starting to come around. They'd put in the album and like what they heard.....until the end. The Brazilian was pretty much a dud to end an otherwise promising album. Sounds a lot like Saturday's game. I think most fans would have been able to live with a competitive game in which we at least showed an ability to slow down an almost one-dimensional offense. Instead, Chris Relf looked like Peyton Manning and we suffered our worst bowl beatdown since the Kelley Washington/Donte Stallworth massacre.

Now we're left with a few questions, some easy to answer and others not. The old guard is out in full force and even some of the new guard has found solace in imagining the possibilities of bringing the band back together. There's almost no question that Harbaugh will be or has been offered the job. Whether or not he will take it has been up for debate for at least a month now. Hopefully after the Orange Bowl tonight, there will be a resolution of some form.

My concern is in another direction: Is Rodriguez going to continue if Jim goes elsewhere? Most want to give him another go at it. I am in this camp, but not without reservation. The reason I say this is because of the position Michigan has put itself in. Rumor earlier in the year was that Rodriguez was told to find a new defensive coordinator and that Jeff Casteel rejected overtures after the Ohio State game, leaving Rodriguez stuck with the soon to be fired Greg Robinson and one year left on his contract. The assumption in the blogosphere has been that Michigan can win if they field a big name DC and let him run his system. There's a problem though: what DC with any sense is going to sign onto a ship that would almost assuredly sink unless Michigan was to reach double digit wins next season? It's not really worth the risk for a Randy Shannon or Manny Diaz to jump on board during a possible period of transition. NO school would be an attractive option when it has a much maligned head coach in the last year of his contract. Ultimately, this idea might leave too many question marks for Rodriguez to keep his job regardless of what Harbaugh does. I do not necessarily agree with this idea but can see the logic of it.

If Rodriguez stays, what happens from here? Does the team improve against a tougher schedule? Invisible Touch had Genesis going in the right direction....and then they released We Can't Dance. This album found the group too stuck in its newfound ways. The title track is arguably the worst of their entire catalog. Two years later, Collins left the group and found massive success as a solo artist. The lead singer became Ray Wilson and the group released an album of which I could not name one song. They broke up and the experiment faded out quicker than it began. Is the same inevitable for Michigan football?