Coming off a 7-5 year, a third straight bowl loss, a fourth loss in five games to the Columbus Minimum Security Prison and Home for the Mentally Challenged, and a third loss in four games to Notre Dame, everyone assumed that there would be changes made to the Michigan coaching staff. Initially there was some optimism as rumors floated around the internets that respected, youthful, non-inert QB coach and ace recruiter Scot Loeffler would become offensive coordinator; aggressive, communicative, and technically proficient DB coach Ron English would become defensive coordinator; and Terry Malone would go back to coaching the offensive line, a position at which he did well.
But that was just the latest example of internet hype misleading everyone, pulling even more wool over the willing eyes of so many fans who are desperate for some sign that it's not just business as usual with Lloyd Carr and his three-losses-per-year ways. Or, in other words, if you haven't already passed out, keep holding your breath.
The Detroit News has reported that Ron English will be leaving Michigan to coach defensive backs for the Chicago Bears. The Chicago Sun Times has confirmed this (effing reg. req.), writing:
Bears coach Lovie Smith offered English the job Thursday. English spent Friday gauging his chances of becoming defensive coordinator at Michigan. One source said that when Michigan offered only the chance of becoming co-defensive coordinator, he told Bears officials he would take the job.
And so we're clear: English did a good job with the secondary while at Michigan, although his value as a coach was perhaps not fully pronounced until this past season. Coming into the year, most Michigan fans would have told you that the secondary, missing Ernest Shazor, Marlin Jackson, Markus Curry (an addition-by-subtraction candidate), and Ryan Mundy (another one?), was going to struggle, if only because there was a paucity of experience. Well, while it didn't set the world on fire, the secondary performed well, and that was a result of English teaching technique and positioning. As a recruiter, English was at times faulted (myself included) for failing to land elite-level DB recruits like Justin King, Victor Harris, and the like. But that said, there were usually extenuating circumstances (it wasn't English's fault that Nic Harris woke up a Sooner last year on signing day). And, he was often cited by recruits for his friendliness, depth of knowledge, and able teaching. Add to those a good eye for talent and solid West Coast connections, and you have a good coach who deserved a chance to be the defensive coordinator.
To be fair to Carr, I should add that Herrmann may still be gone. There are rumors that he's going to the Steelers after the Super Bowl. But the Sun Times' information indicates that English would have only had the chance to co-coordinate, meaning that it would have been him and Herrmann or him and some yet-to-be-named Herrmann replacement. Given Lloyd's affinity for Herrmann, the second scenario strikes me as unlikely. And now that English is leaving, I can only imagine that Herrmann will retain his job.
But the bad news doesn't stop there. The Detroit News also says that Terry Malone, who I always thought was overrated as an OC, is leaving to join the New Orleans Saints as the tight ends coach. I would have liked to see Malone remain with Michigan as its offensive line coach. I am both less and more troubled by the Malone departure. I didn't think he was the innovative, aggressive coordinator some said he was, so I don't think Michigan is losing a brilliant offensive mind. But like the co-coordinator slight offered to English, it is similarly incensing that Lloyd Carr is again attempting to demonstrate his commitment to change and winning by making someone who isn't part of his inner circle a fall guy. If Malone can get dumped--and DO NOT GET IT TWISTED: He was surely encouraged to seek other employment and spare himself the embarrassment of being fired--why can't Herrmann? Or that loser Mike Gittleson, the strength and conditioning coach?
And just in case your sundae of bile and vituperation were missing its cherry, don't miss this frightening and apocalyptic tiding from the News:
But the second reasons I hate this move--and the English ordeal--is that this is more of the same pusillanimous, stubborn, vain bullshit we always get from Carr. Why isn't Michigan using its 7-5 failure as proof that large-scale systemic changes need to be made? This was NOT a one-year problem. UM has been living dangerously; it finally got caught. A real man would do what they do at other schools that actually are committed to excellence and don't just spew empty rhetoric as the powers that be run to shove their heads back up their asses or into the sand or wherever else they put them so that they can avoid encountering new, challenging information. Why not conduct national searches for offensive and defensive coordinators who lead their industries? Why not adopt a real strength and conditioning program with more free weights, more whey protein, and less pizza? That's what a real coach does. But that's not Carr, because Carr is a nice man and a loser football coach who is competent at best when it comes to SATURDAYS. He's principled, he's nice, he's a good recruiter--and he loses the same way over and over again because he is no better than medium at his job. 1997 was an aberration. Accept it.
Do you know what Texas did last year when it had a vacancy at defensive coordinator? It got Gene Chizik, the guy who made Auburn's defense good enough to go 13-0. Michigan? When it has a coordinator vacancy, it goes through Lloyd's black book.
I was so dismayed by all of this news that I sent a letter to Bill Martin, Michigan's athletic director. I suggest that if you care about Michigan football, you do the same. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. My letter is below:
I'd like to apologize in advance for another supposedly "negative" email, but I'd prefer to see it as just the latest articulation of my concern, something that you can surely appreciate. Like many other alumni, I am really worried about our football program. I read in the Detroit News that Ron English is leaving; Terry Malone is leaving; and Mike DeBord will be named offensive coordinator. I find this incredibly discouraging. This past season, like many others, Michigan's offense was very inconsistent and its defense was unreliable and downright baffled at times for what seemed like the fifth consecutive year. At other top football programs, the head coach might have sought to correct these problems by conducting a national search to find the best-possible candidates for offensive and defensive coordinator. Look at national-champion Texas: it went out and got Gene Chizik of Auburn to direct its defense just a year after Chizik's defense at Auburn helped lead that team to an undefeated campaign. Texas wanted to be the best and it got the best.
Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the Lloyd Carr way. Mike DeBord was already a mediocre offensive coordinator who left Michigan to become a head coach. When he returned, chastened by poor performance in the MAC, not an elite football league, he was rewarded by being put in charge of special teams, an area of concern at the time. Michigan, when presented with the opportunity, did not try to bring in someone from, for instance, Virginia Tech or another program that had consistently demonstrated that it understood how to gain an advantage in special teams, creating points in one of the three phases of a game. Why doesn't Michigan ever block kicks? Surely we have the athletes for it. It seems to me that it's a failure of the coaching, yet no one is held accountable. And even more galling, Mike DeBord is not a special teams expert. Why wouldn't Michigan demand the best?
And now, DeBord is going to re-assume control of offense? His offenses were already unimaginative. Why is UM going back to that? As you look around the country at schools like Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida, USC, and the like, those places are incorporating new ideas and consistently finding the best-possible people to make positive changes. Why isn't Michigan? What are the Wolverines doing so well already--we've lost at least three times in nine of the past eleven years and just went 7-5, as you know--that allows for this inertia? Do you really think Mike DeBord is on par with Charlie Weis?
The same can be said of defense. Jim Herrmann's units reliably allow 30+ points per bowl game and have routinely failed to get crucial stops and to develop into aggressive, intimidating units. Why is he never held accountable? Other coaches, like Malone and Stan Parrish, are punished for failing on offense. But Herrmann gets an infinite amount of opportunities. His linebackers are regularly out of place and poorly taught, yet he remains in charge of that position group, too. Why?
The absent accountability is also true of Michigan's strength and conditioning program. Unless I am mistaken, only Michigan and Penn State refuse to use free weights in their gyms and decline to offer their players whey protein as a dietary supplement, something that is found in baby formula and is not a risk factor like ephedra. Instead, we read embarrassing articles about players like Pat Massey being encouraged to eat multiple pizzas to gain weight. Perhaps more telling, the players whose physical development is most notable are those who train outside of the program with Stan Edwards. Or, perhaps even more telling, UM athletes regularly fail to get drafted in the top rounds of the draft yet later become great NFL talents, likely because the NFL training systems in which they participate actually get their bodies ready to compete. Look at Cato June and Larry Foote. Let's also add that unlike players at FSU, Miami, USC, and the like, Michigan's alumni do not return to Ann Arbor to train in the offseason, likely because UM does not use a strength program that they need. Oh, and one other thing: A team like OSU hired an Olympic sprinter to improve team speed. What did Michigan do? One need only compare the explosive movements of players from programs using free weights to the bulky, slow, inflexible Wolverines to see a remarkable difference. This has been going on for a while, and yet no one has asked Mike Gittleson to change so that Michigan is more competitive. Why isn't he held accountable?
The common denominator here appears to be friendship. Jim Herrmann, Mike Gittleson, and especially car-pool buddy Mike DeBord are all known as Lloyd's friends. While his loyalty to them is admirable, Carr's devotion is hurting the program, and no other business would tolerate that sort of favoritism. Those who aren't Lloyd's friends--like Ron English--get yanked around and ultimately have to leave because their input and talent is disregarded by Lloyd Carr and his unaccountable friends. In my business, if someone consistently demonstrated that he couldn't do his job on par with the best in his field, he wouldn't keep that job. But Jim Herrmann keeps his. In my business, we wouldn't promote someone to a position at which he had already demonstrated he was no better than average. But Mike DeBord gets to be offensive coordinator. And in my business, we are always trying to incorporate best practices and the latest innovations so that we remain competitive. UM doesn't do that, and Mike Gittelson gets to keep his job.
Where is the accountability within this program? I wouldn't mind the consistent losing if it appeared as though Michigan were trying new ideas and bringing in the best coaching talent so that things could improve. But it is completely unacceptable that Michigan instead embraces inertia. Why do I send in money to a program that wastes it by doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results? That's the definition of madness. Again, why aren't these position coaches held accountable for their job performance?