There's no other word for it. The more I see, hear and read about Michigan's abortive coaching search, the more disgusted I become. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Not again.
Three years ago Michigan struck out with it's first choice and within ten minutes of Miles staying at LSU hired Rich Rodriguez. At first blush, this was a great pickup. Perhaps the best available coach on the market was to be Michigan's next HC. But that wasn't the case. Rodriguez was a poor fit for Michigan's culture, players, personnel and the Big Ten almost from the beginning. He ran a system that Michigan was ill-equipped to run. He employed a defense that was better served draining pasta. He didn't even understand that Michigan Ohio State wasn't just one of the best rivalries in college football, it was the rivalry in college football. Three years ago Michigan struck out with it's top choice. Three years ago, Michigan got desperate.
Fast forward and we're right back where we were in 2007. Brandon's obvious plans 1A and 1B haven't panned out. And now, once again, it's apparent there wasn't a second or third option in the Athletic Department or Alumni Network's play book. With no plan there's nothing left to do but run around like a chicken with its head cut off and throw money and prestige at anyone who will take what was once one of the most coveted jobs in College Football. And if Bob Wojnowski is correct, that's exactly what happened.
The fact that Brandon is even considering Brady Hoke is a sign that for all the talk about process, and all the pandering to the importance of the position, Michigan doesn't have a clue what it's doing. Let's face facts. Brady Hoke will be available to take the Michigan coaching position no matter when it is offered. It could be offered on national signing day or the day before Michigan's first game. If it is Hoke will show up in a dress (if asked) to take the job. If I'm Brady Hoke, I can't believe I'm even in this discussion and I'm going to milk it for everything it's worth. And, dear God, I hope that fact isn't lost on Dave Brandon.
Because of this, I can't understand or believe that Michigan actually appears to be in a rush to hire him! There are a slew of able bodied college coordinators available. The FBS ranks are aching to be plundered on their good coaches (you might recall that Jim Tressel came from FBS Youngstown State). There are even NFL level personnel at the coordinator level who would be great hires. But Michigan appears set on it's own self imposed limitations. The first is that the next Michigan head coach must have head coaching experience. Not to point out the obvious, but that didn't work out so well last time. The second? He must be a Michigan man. More on that in a moment.
I did not have an issue with Dave Brandon's "process" up to this point. I'm not even upset that he couldn't land Les Miles. Frankly, I felt going in that it would take a miracle to pry Miles away from $3.7 million a year, SEC recruiting, easier admissions standards, and a place where he can simply be himself. That, to me, wasn't a big deal. Miles was the biggest fish left in Michigan's original search pond, and not landing him was more a testament to Miles' love of his current job than of Brandon's abilities.
But flying to California to interview Hoke... man... I can't condone this one. Hoke is not a good football coach. He is, at best, a mediocre one and far beneath the standards of the office he would supposedly fill. Before people gufaw and ask me to consider the prior hire, I will. Rodriguez had two BCS bowls to his credit, a win over Georgia, a slew of league titles and arguably the most explosive offense in the country at West Virginia. Say what you will about the competition in the Big East, it's head and shoulders above anything Hoke's faced at San Diego State.
I just don't get this. I don't. If Michigan is conducting a legitimate search for a coach that can actually... you know... coach, how is it that we only have three people on the list? Is the only pre-requisite that the coach be from Michigan? Ask Alabama how well that worked out. Remember the glory years of DuBose-Franchione-Price-Shula? Not well. Alabama suffered indignity after indignity for ten years before they finally said "the hell with it" and hired Nick ---king Saban.
Look at Notre Dame. Bob Davie-Jim O'Leary-Ty Willingham-Charlie Weis. Another premier program that's spent nearly 15 years in the wilderness. It took them 15 years to hire a real football coach. Michigan is entering the same walk in the woods that Alabama and Notre Dame have both suffered through, and we're doing it just because he once wore our uniform.
That is why the mere flirtation with Hoke is so galling to me. We are sacrificing another three to four years so that we can have a "Michigan Man" at the helm. His track record is mediocre. His football teams average in bad leagues. But hey, he played for Michigan, therefore everything is okay. This is nonsense. How a man like Dave Brandon blinded by this is beyond me.
I missed the opportunity to say my piece on the Rodriguez firing due to a pre-planned vacation to internetless Mexico and a nasty sinus infection, but the quickly evolving debacle that is Michigan's coaching search has re-afforded me that opportunity. Before people second guess the firing of Rich Rodriguez because Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles or some other suitable candidate for the position wasn't immediately lined up I think it's important to say one thing.
Rich Rodriguez deserved to be fired and should have been fired irrespective of who was available.
Personally, it pains me to say that. Since day one I have been an adamant Rodriguez supporter. I believed in what he was trying to accomplish. I believed and still believe he is a good man, an honest man, and someone whom I have the utmost respect for. That said, he deserved to be fired. Over the last three years Michigan has gotten consistently worse at every aspect of playing defense. Despite the improvement in yards per game, I felt that the 2009 offense gave Michigan a better chance to win games.
For three straight seasons Michigan led the Big Ten in turnovers and was dead last in turnover margin. Mental mistakes. Inopportune penalties. Proceedure and allignment mistakes. More importantly Michigan wasn't competitive in any of its Big Ten games against teams with a winning record. Michigan lost it's last three games by an average of 29 points. That is inexcusable in any position. Michigan is not a good football program right now, and Rich Rodriguez was and is the person most responsible for that. For those reasons David Brandon was right in pulling the plug on Rodriguez' tenure at Michigan, no matter how much I personally support Michigan's former coach.
You couldn't possibly have two more diametrically opposed processes. Dave Brandon was methodical, educated, and correct in firing Rich Rodriguez. His process in hiring Michigan's next head coach has been anything but.
It's been desperate. And we all know how this story ends.