I'm not going to be that guy. I'm not going to complain incessantly about who was hired, why and how. I'm not going to say "He's not my coach." I refuse to be the person I've decried for three years during Rich Rodriguez tenure, the person who did everything conceivable to undercut the man running my alma mater's football program. I won't tell you repeatedly why someone is a bad fit, can't coach or can't tie his shoes without drooling on himself.
I won't do it because I hated watching it for three years. I won't do it because it tore my alma mater's fan base apart. I won't do it because it tore down a good man. I won't do it because of the cost to the players who suit up every game. I won't do it because I love my school and this team. I won't do it because the man who was hired for this job isn't someone else's coach, he's my coach.
I'm going to stand behind him no matter how this plays out.
The last two weeks have been something of a fog to me. I've been heavily medicated, on the southern tip of the Baja without internet, and struggling to catch up to a coaching change and search that moved faster than Denard Robinson. Prior to the Gator Bowl I had privately told friends and fellow bloggers that I felt Rodriguez' job was safe unless he got blown out in his bowl game. But if Michigan looked anything like it did against Ohio State or Wisconsin, he was gone. Well... they did and he was. It wasn't the firing that surprised me, it was the final score. 52-14. I couldn't shake that. How could Michigan have a month to prepare and do that? I think Dave Brandon made the right call. It was time for a change and he had the stones to make the difficult decision that will define his tenure as Michigan's Athletic Director.
Hand in hand with the decision to fire was his decision to hire Brady Hoke, formerly of San Diego State, as Michigan's 19th Football Coach. Whether you're a GM in the NFL, an Athletic Director in College, or a Principal at a Texas high school, who you choose as the man to run your football program will define you and the manner in which your tenure is remembered. This was not a decision that Dave Brandon entered into lightly, no matter how I defined it previously.
There are reasons to be excited about Hoke. We have outlined his coaching history, discussed his offensive philosophy and coaches, and provided you with video of the head man. Further, the press seems to be falling over itself to praise Michigan's new head coach. Mark Schlabach has said "Hoke is exactly what they need." Andrea Adelson notes that Hoke brought SDSU back to respectability and leaves a significant void. Bob Wojnowski says Hoke will usher in a new era of football at Michigan and that he is the right man for the job. Jason Whitlock loves the hire says "Hoke loves hard," which is easily the funniest and creepiest thing written or said about the coaching search. Irrespective of what he actually meant before he wrote that, did he read it? Even once? Because when you say "loves hard" you're going to show up on a lot of weird Google searches.
MGoBlog poster Rabak Obama posted a Diary on MGoBlog that addresses Brandon's decision, albeit from Brandon's point of view, as it was related to him by a party at the players/staff meeting internally announcing Hoke's hire. Here is the critical portion, though the rest is very interesting and I encourage you to read it in full:
- [Dave Brandon] did interview Harbaugh and Miles. Harbaugh told him straight up that he was NFL bound and gave him advice. Didn't offer the job to Les Miles.
- Everyone he spoke to referred him to Brady Hoke. Opposing coaches, former players, former coaches all said he should consider Hoke.
- Michigan alumni really supported Hoke (Steve Hutchinson called unsolicited to say that "Brady Hoke was the best coach I ever had")
- Only offered the job to one man -- Brady Hoke. Called Brady yesterday morning and offered, Brady accepted immediately. Didn't even ask about money.
And Brandon is not kidding about support for Hoke. Numerous players and coaches, mostly players who spent the last three years shunning the program and bad mouthing Rodriguez, have expressed nothing short of undying love and admiration for Hoke. You can go down the list: Braylon, Desmond, Woodson, Hutchinson, Steele, Shea, Marcus Ray, Lloyd Carr, etc. You can expect a rousing chorus of Kumbaya to erupt momentarily. Sarcasm aside, it's not just former players who are excited, it's the current ones too. In particular, Mike Martin has personal experience with Hoke as one of his coaches during summer camps and thinks very highly of his new head man.
Another aspect in support of Hoke's hire is that all the nice things I said about Les Miles' potential hire apply to Hoke.
[He] "gets" what it means to be Michigan's head coach. He understands what these rival games mean; what THE GAME actually stands for and why it's important. Why we must beat Michigan State every year. He understands us. Despite how much I liked and respected Rich Rodriguez, he never got it (as his tearful Josh Groban debacle so thoroughly proved).
Hoke "gets" it too. He understands the importance of ceremony, of Michigan tradition, and of maintaining the things we hold dear as a fanbase and as a culture.
Hoke is wildly respected by his peers and, perhaps more importantly, appears to know how to coach. Hoke's Aztecs hung 35 on Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl, the most the Middies had given up four years. After the game Navy's head coach said:
"In my time here at the Naval Academy," said coach Ken Niumatalolo, who has worked at Annapolis since 1999, "that's as good of an offense as we've seen."
Folks there are legitimate reasons to be excited about this hire. Brady Hoke is now Michigan's coach. He is now your coach and my coach. He is the man that will lead us out of the tunnel and lead the young men who wear the Maize and Blue. I don't care anymore about how I felt about the search or Hoke's resume prior to yesterday. From today forward he is Michigan's coach. My coach. And I'm going to support him no matter what.