You have probably heard by now that Michigan has decided not to retain offensive coordinator Al Borges, who put together (statistically) the best and worst performances ever seen by a Michigan offense in the same season.
News of Borges's replacement came yesterday as Michigan pulled something of a shocker by hiring away Doug Nussmeier from Nick Saban and Alabama. Despite the fact that Saban's squads scored more points than they'd ever done and won a national championship under Nussmeier's offensive play-calling and coaching, Alabama fans are generally "meh" about the departure of their offensive coordinator. (Alabama outlets are saying that Nussmeier's replacement is rumored to be Lane Kiffin. So, best of luck with that, Bama fans.)
We can debate the release of Borges for various reasons, but right now it's more important to look toward the future and the fact that Doug Nussmeier is now our offensive coordinator. Bruce Feldman at CBS has a quick run-down of Nussmeier's credentials. Here are some of the highlights:
Under Nussmeier's guidance, Bama set records for offensive touchdowns scored (68), total points (542), total offense (6,237) and passing touchdowns (31) in the 2012 season--his first with the Crimson Tide. Despite a rebuilt offensive line, Bama ranked No. 6 in the nation this season in yards per play (7.15) and were ranked third in the nation in that stat in games against ranked opponents (7.59).
Prior to coaching at Alabama, Nussmeier ran the offense at Washington and established himself as one of the sharpest offensive coordinators in the country. In 2011, even though UW had to replace a first-round pick at quarterback (Jake Locker), Nussmeier's offense scored 57 touchdowns and 434 points, the second-highest totals in school history (behind only the Huskies' 1991 national championship team). And in his three seasons at UW, his offenses got statistically better each year.
A former NFL QB, Nussmeier also has earned a reputation as one of the country's best developers of quarterbacks. Among his proteges: Bama's AJ McCarron, Washington's Jake Locker and Keith Price and Michigan State's Drew Stanton and Jeff Smoker. Nussmeier also coached QBs for the St. Louis Rams in 2006-07 and helped Marc Bulger, a former sixth-round pick, make it to a Pro Bowl.
You can also check out what SB Nation SEC blog Team Speed Kills thinks of Nussmeier. Additionally, when Nussmeier was being considered for the Washington head coaching vacancy, an Alabama fan did a Q&A with UW Dawg Pound and discussed Nussmeier.
So, let's discuss this. What does it mean that Michigan's replacement for a struggling, inconsistent coordinator is to hire one that has by all accounts an outstanding pedigree and helped Alabama win a national championship?
The following are some general thoughts.
Money is No Object
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon showed his moxie yet again as a businessman focused on results and was not afraid to open up the wallet to hire Nussmeier away from Nick Saban. Nussmeier will reportedly be one of the highest paid coordinators in college football, joining, of course, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who was also a "wow" hire.
For those of you thinking that Michigan is stuck in its old ways and accepting of complacency and mediocrity, this hire should really show you that Dave Brandon and the athletic department mean business. Former Michigan offensive coordinator Mike DeBord (who already has a job in the athletic department as Olympic sports coordinator) would have been the safe and easy pick as a replacement, or Michigan could have simply retained Al Borges for another season. Instead, Michigan targeted an elite offensive coordinator who fits their offensive philosophy and hired him.
Michigan is Serious about Running the Ball
Also read: Michigan Wants to be Bama on the Field. There's really no mystery here. After the thwapping Michigan suffered at the hands of the Crimson Tide in 2012, Brady Hoke stated that Alabama was the standard that he wants for his program. Seeing Michigan's offensive struggles, most especially to pick up rushing yards (with tailbacks), there really is no better candidate for correcting this than Doug Nussmeier, the guy who coached an offense that ran the ball down Michigan's throat and everyone else's.
Does this mean Michigan will instantly start producing tailbacks like Eddie Lacy? No. If anything, Nussmeier's offenses (going back to Washington) were balanced and got more out of their quarterbacks than the game-managing conservative offenses by his predecessor, Jim McElwain. Of course, Alabama being Alabama, Nussmeier had plenty game-managing conservative play-calling of his own, but if you remember 2012 Nussmeier and Saban really liked to jump out to an early lead.
Although you could argue that this had more to do with Saban, Nussmeier's offense at Alabama in 2012 and 2013 were balanced via run and pass, but they focused more on a powerful offensive line, another of Michigan's obvious deficiencies from last season. This hire shows that while Hoke will still adhere to the principles he strongly believes in, he also has the wherewithal to get somebody who does it best. (Michigan can also expect to see a little higher tempo, without it being necessarily no-huddle, and to employ occasional spread concepts while sticking to their power-run mentality. ESPN Analysts pointed this out after Bama throttled Notre Dame in the BCS Championship.)
Quarterbacks Should be Thrilled
As Bruce Feldman noted in his CBS article, Nussmeier has a penchant for developing quarterbacks, himself having been one. Touch the Banner lists several of Nussmeier's apprentices, including Drew Stanton and Jeff Smoker at Michigan State, Ryan Matthews at Fresno State, Jake Locker and Keith Price at Washington, and most recently A.J. McCarron at Alabama, who finished second in the Heisman voting.
Nussmeier's own experience as a quarterback (having played at Idaho) makes him at least somewhat better suited to coach quarterbacks than was Al Borges. Drew Stanton and Jeff Smoker were both highly publicized quarterbacks at Michigan State for their offensive ability (yes, this was during the John L. Smith days, but any Michigan State fan will tell you that offense under John L. Smith was not the problem). Of course, there's Jake Locker, who Nussmeier helped get to the NFL as a starter, and A.J. McCarron came along nicely as a passer for the Crimson Tide.
The track record for Nussmeier is impressive and quarterbacks can expect to have a large role if they play in his offense. Granted, Michigan will be going for a balanced attack as always, but don't expect quarterbacks to be overlooked under Nussmeier.
Dave Brandon has High Expectations
In hiring Nussmeier, who coordinated an offense that helped win Alabama a national championship in 2012 (Jan. 2013), Dave Brandon has shown that he expects the same from his offensive coordinators. Generally all I really want out of offensive coordinators is production, which is why I was hesitant to throw in the towel on Borges after he delivered lights-out performances against Notre Dame, Indiana, and Ohio State.
Obviously, the only opinion that really matters is the athletic director's, and Michigan fans should be pleased with the knowledge that Dave Brandon holds his coaches accountable and expects Michigan's offensive coordinators to be elite. He also expects them to produce national championships. Why else target and shell out the coin for someone like Nussmeier?
Expect Nussmeier to Seek a Head Coach Position Eventually
It is no secret that Nussmeier became a hot head coaching commodity after he performed so well in his first year coordinating Alabama's offense, in 2012. He was rumored to be a high target for the Washington job, and he was even considered the favorite by many Husky fans before Chris Petersen eventually took the position. Some suggested that he be considered for the USC coaching job when it was open.
Nussmeier has also publicly stated that he wishes to be a head coach some day. This means that Michigan fans should really not expect him to be around for more than three years, especially if his offenses do really well. If Michigan makes it to the national championship or the Rose Bowl in 2014, Nussmeier could be gone as early as the first year. So, generally, we really shouldn't view this as a long-term relationship.
Doug Nussmeier has a lot to prove and improve as Michigan's offensive coordinator. Let's hope he's up to the task.