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Let's Get Clear on Some Things

Remember when I wrote this? Luckily, some of it turns out to have been incorrect. Sort of. And that's sort of good.

Ron English is staying. Er, has come back. And Jim Herrmann is leaving Michigan. He will become linebackers coach for the New York Jets. In related news, AFC East running backs are rejoicing because they no longer need to worry about Jets linebackers knowing what to do or being in the right places at the right times. English will be the defensive coordinator.

Piecing together internets rumors and previous truths, this seems to have been the chronology:

  • Michigan stunk it up on defense too often this year (and the year before, and the year before).
  • Lloyd Carr figured he'd have to make some kind of change but didn't really want to dump his boy boy Herrmann.
  • Reluctant to dump Jimmy but certain that change was needed, Carr figured he could infuse the defense with English's ideas--at least, until Carr disallowed them and chose to play zone all the time since he's stubborn and thinks of himself as a coach who knows defense--by offering him a co-coordinator position.
  • Meanwhile, Carr was encouraging his assistants to look at other opportunities. It was not a certainty that Herrmann would be hired elsewhere, and Carr wouldn't demote him (read the Detroit News article linked above), so English had reached his ceiling and thought that the NFL offer would be better for his career. I wouldn't want to be marginalized by working as Herrmann's peer either.
  • As English was literally packing up his office, Herrmann had landed a job with the Jets, and Carr make a last-second deal for English to return as sole defensive coordinator. Seeing his future in the college game and appreciative of the chance to be a DC at a major program, English accepted the offer and never went to Chicago.
It's good to have English back with the program. As has been written here and elsewhere, he did a good job coaching up the DBs and he's a strong recruiter. It is also believed that if he is actually allowed to implement the aggressive scheme he is said to favor (something about which I remain skeptical), his worth as a recruiter will increase because Michigan will be able to sell a more exciting system to defensive recruits. I can't imagine that it's a coincidence that UM has had a hard time landing elite-level defensive recruits as other teams have been able to point to the Wolverines' collapses and passive play.

It's also good to have Herrmann gone. I am of the opinion that he was a yes-man co-conspirator who shared Carr's defensive philosophy. This not only strengthened their friendship but also bought Herrmann so many chances to fail, because firing him would have meant that Carr was admitting that his only philosophies were off. I don't know that Herrmann's departure means that Carr has finally embraced the notion that he has things to learn, but it does eliminate one of the people telling Carr he's right. More importantly, this change allows Michigan to hire a real linebacker coach. The Michigan LBs have been terrible when compared to their peers at institutions like the Columbus Prison, and it will be nice to add an LB coach who actually teaches the players how to do what they are needed to do.

All is not forgiven or right, though. Something is still rotten in the state of Denmark. Given his strengths, English is a good re-addition to the staff. And losing Herrmann is addition by subtraction. But English has no coordinator experience and UM again failed to conduct a national search to land the best-possible candidate. It is important for a coach to feel comfortable with his subordinates (obviously), and there is something to be said for continuity in an industry that requires strong relationships (think recruiting) to succeed. But it is baffling that Michigan has not done more to bring in new, industry-leading ideas by way of better coaches. This rhetorical question has become a tired gimmick, but seriously, how can a school that considers itself to be populated by the leaders and best so often fail to seek out the leading, best coaches?