(Ed Note, Zach: I think I speak for the rest of us here at MnB when I say that this is our official position on the matter of Hoke's job in regards to his playing Morris. That was utterly abhorrent.)
Michigan should fire head coach Brady Hoke tomorrow.
Entering the 2014 season, there were multiple columns written by members of the media and opinions voiced by fans that Hoke was on one of the hottest seats in America. After earning an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory in his debut season in 2011, Hoke's Wolverines had won only 15 games total in 2012 and 2013 and appeared to be regressing after dropping five of their final six contests last season. Their general conclusion was that Hoke would be relieved of his duties at the end of this season if Michigan failed to win at least eight or nine games and notch one road victory against either Michigan State or Ohio State, something Hoke had been unable to do in his first three years.
I disagreed. I claimed that the temperature of Hoke's seat was mild and argued that only a complete meltdown by Michigan -- a losing record and bowl ineligibility -- would result in his firing. Even though it has been four years since athletic director Dave Brandon terminated Rich Rodriguez, there are still cracks in the foundation, especially along the offensive line, that Hoke has been trying to fill in since his arrival. My belief was that, as long as Michigan demonstrated signs of progress this season, Hoke would be retained because the 2015 season set up perfectly for the Wolverines in terms of having a talented and experienced roster, balanced depth, and a favorable schedule.
After the first four weeks this season, those signs of progress were very hard to find, especially on the offensive side of the football. In its first two games against schools from Power 5 conferences -- Notre Dame and Utah -- Michigan not only failed to score an offensive touchdown, but it also failed to enter the red zone once in 24 total drives. Accordingly, the Wolverines were not competitive in either game and lost both of them by a combined margin of 47 points.
Heading into the Big Ten opener versus Minnesota yesterday, for which Michigan needed to give away two free tickets to those that bought two Coca-Cola products for three dollars just to make Michigan Stadium look somewhat full, I probably was in the minority when I stated that I still did not think Hoke was a "dead man walking." Since Day One, he has always wanted to be evaluated based on his team's performance in Big Ten play, so, while I believed the temperature of his seat had been turned way up, I still thought that he could save his job as long as the Wolverines played well during the conference slate, starting with a much-needed home win against Minnesota.
But, by the third quarter against Minnesota, things were slipping through Hoke's fingers. Once again, Michigan's offense was discombobulated, this time with quarterback Shane Morris rather than Devin Gardner, and the Wolverines looked to be in serious trouble when two turnovers in a span of less than two minutes propelled the Gophers to increase their lead from 10-7 to 27-7. At this point, I finally caved and believed that there was little chance for Hoke to save his job, but I still thought he should finish out the season.
And then this happened:
0:00 - 0:47
An already-laboring Morris drops back to pass. As the pocket begins to collapse, Morris tries to scoot up to find more space, but a falling Minnesota defensive lineman grabs a hold of Morris' left leg. Morris is able to dump a pass off to Justice Hayes, but the falling defensive lineman rolls up on Morris' left leg and brings Morris down awkwardly.
After the play, ESPN's cameras focus their attention on Morris, who can barely put any weight on his left leg and is clearly grimacing in pain. As Morris struggles to walk it off, ESPN color commentator Ed Cunningham opines that Morris should be pulled from the game because this is the third time that we have seen Morris favoring his left leg like this and his limited mobility will leave him vulnerable to further injury. I agree completely.
Hoke does not. While it appears that Morris wants to tough it out and not be pulled, it is a coach's responsibility to watch and care for the safety of his players. And this is the perfect place to mention that, after Michigan's loss to Ohio State last season in which Gardner played the entire game despite breaking his foot midway through the third quarter, Hoke said this in his press conference [emphasis mine]:
You know, [Gardner is] beat up like everybody is, and that's when he was limping a little bit, and I said I don't want to see you limp. I said every guy out here could limp. We've got to go play, and he did that. I'm proud of him.
An early sign of what was to come that we all missed.
0:47 - 2:05
Morris remains in the game, and Michigan runs two more plays: a draw and an incomplete pass that sees Morris knocked to the ground as he releases the football. After the incomplete pass, Cunningham reiterates that Gardner needs to be inserted into the game just to preserve Morris' safety.
2:05 - 3:58
Morris remains in the game, and then something happens that we never want to see as college football fans. Morris drops back to pass and rolls to his left. As Morris flings the football, Minnesota defensive end Theiren Cockran closes in at full speed, drops his helmet, and unleashes a dirty and ejectionable helmet-to-helmet hit on Morris. Morris' pass is overthrown and incomplete, but, when the ESPN cameras come back to Morris after the play, we see him walk around dazed for a few seconds and then this:
Morris clearly wobbles and tries to prop his head on Ben Braden's right arm to remain upright. Braden recognizes this and uses both arms to catch Morris and prevent him from falling to the ground. Braden then keeps his right arm wrapped around Morris' back to keep him standing. Khalid Hill then walks over and says something to Morris, which prompts Morris to look to the Michigan sideline and wave off a substitution.
It does not matter that Morris waved off a substitution. After what just transpired, YOU HAVE TO PULL MORRIS RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Morris appears to be concussed and can barely stand on his own two feet. Leaving Morris in the game would be heinous. When Hoke was asked about the hit and whether Morris had a concussion in his post-game presser, he said this [emphasis mine]:
Well, I don't know. I don't know if he might have had a concussion or not. I don't know that. Shane's a pretty competitive tough kid. Shane wanted to be the quarterback. So believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline or stayed down.
Are you bleepin' kidding me?
Morris had just wobbled and could barely keep himself upright after being on the receiving end of a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit, and Hoke is trying to tell me that Morris still had the mental capacity to decide whether or not he was sufficiently healthy to remain on the field? Bullshit. At that point, it is on Hoke to look out for Morris' safety and do what is best for Morris, even if Morris does not want to exit the game. And, if Hoke did miss Morris wobbling, which I doubt, you cannot tell me that no one on the Michigan sideline saw it, especially when the Michigan fans still hanging around in the stands all witnessed it. Either Hoke or someone on that coaching staff needed to pull Morris.
But, not only does Morris remain in the game for another snap, Michigan allows him to drop back for a pass, which could lead to him being on the receiving end of another bone-crushing hit delivered by Minnesota's pass rush. Absolutely abhorrent. Thankfully, Morris releases his pass before any Gophers can get in the vicinity to do so.
After the play, the ESPN cameras get a shot of Morris staring at the Michigan sideline, and anyone and everyone with a brain can see that Morris is completely dazed and confused. As Morris drops his head, Hoke and the Michigan staff finally realize that Morris is in no condition to be on a football field and motions for Gardner to replace him.
One play too late, though.
3:58 - 5:05
Michigan runs three plays with Gardner at quarterback. As this happens, the cameras pan to Morris on the sideline, where he still has his helmet on for some reason:
I do not know who the gentleman on the left is. I do not know if he is a member of Michigan's training staff or his role on the team. All I know is that Morris should have his helmet taken away from him and should be receiving a concussion test.
This does not happen, which leads to Hoke's most disgusting display of gross negligence.
5:05 - 6:33
At the end of Gardner's third play on the field, during which he scrambled, his helmet was ripped off by a Minnesota defender. Accordingly, by rule, Gardner must sit out the following snap unless a timeout is called by either team.
The decision here for Hoke should be pretty simple: (1) send out third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy for the next play; or (2) use one of Michigan's remaining two timeouts and keep Gardner in the game.
But that is not what happens, and what does happen next is a fireable offense.
As Bellomy removes his headset and begins scrambling to find his helmet, Morris, who had finally taken off his helmet, starts walking towards the field of play, puts back on his helmet, and jogs onto the field. No Michigan coach, including Hoke, or any member of Michigan's training staff stop him. At this point, Bellomy retrieves a helmet -- one I do not believe is actually his -- and starts to sprint onto the field before halting when he sees Morris is already in the huddle.
For starters, Morris never should have been in this huddle. But look at the play clock in the graphic above. THERE ARE A FULL 25 SECONDS ON THE PLAY CLOCK. That is plenty of time for Hoke to either: (1) call Morris back to the sideline and sub in Bellomy, who now has a helmet; (2) call a timeout, which still remains an option every second until the ball is snapped; or (3) PUT IN ANY PLAYER -- WILTON SPEIGHT, BRIAN CLEARY, ALEX SWIECA, LINEBACKER JAKE RYAN, DEFENSIVE TACKLE WILLIE HENRY, ETC. -- THAT IS NOT CONCUSSED.
Even the umpire looks over to Michigan's sideline and asks Hoke if he wants to take a timeout, to which Hoke declines, before starting the play clock.
Disgusting. Reprehensible. Despicable. Atrocious. Disturbing. None of these adjectives can truly describe just how horrifying it is that Hoke had absolutely no problem reinserting Morris back into this game. None.
Some may claim that it was okay because Michigan called a run rather than a pass when Hoke reinserted Morris. NO, IT IS NOT. What happens if Hayes fumbles the football and Minnesota returns it, leaving a seemingly concussed Morris as the only Wolverine standing between the Gophers and the end zone? What if one of those Gophers goes to block Morris and absolutely decks him, causing further injury? Is it okay then? Sure, the odds of that happening are slim, but the odds of Morris being in any position to potentially suffer an additional injury should have been ZERO POINT ZERO PERCENT.
Some time after the play, this happened:
Shane Morris leaving the field on a cart. Looks like a left leg injury.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) September 27, 2014
To which Hoke said this during his post-game presser:
Hoke does not know why morris was taken off the field on a cart
— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) September 27, 2014
Hoke should be fired tomorrow. This is no longer about wins and losses. This is about a coach who is completely clueless on the sidelines to the point where he is putting his players at serious risk of injury. You saw what Hoke just did. Why would any parent in America want to send his or her son to Ann Arbor to play for Hoke after seeing what he just put Morris through? I certainly would not. And, if I was Morris' father, I would be absolutely appalled and irate at Hoke for his (in)action.
Hoke is no longer a man that should be a representative of the University of Michigan.