Looking back at the Honeymoon that Brady Hoke had when he was first hired in 2011, it seemed that the swagger and moxy that the Wolverines had during the more successful times could be making a return trip.
By throwing around words and phrases like toughness, This is Michigan and even giving an arch-rival the name "Ohio." A man who refused to call his rival by name, Michigan fans had optimism that he could help reverse the fortunes that have been placed on. Although names like Miles or Harbaugh would've been the more attractive names by far, Hoke gave fans something to believe in during his introductory press conference.
A disciple of Bo, a Michigan Man. The drought of a Big Ten Championship is over, right?
"The expectation of this program is to win the Big Ten Championship," Hoke said in 2011 when first meeting his team. "If we fail, and we don't do that, we need to reload. We need to work harder. We need to compete and get after it with a sense of urgency."
Four seasons later and a 2-3 start to the 2014 campaign, fans are still left waiting. Most are wondering where that urgency stressed in 2011 went, and how exactly it reloads and most importantly, when does the winning happen.
The phrase "This is Michigan" is currently the standard of underachievement. A phrase once dedicated to success will now be marred by the embarrassing losses and mid-season collapses where the team regresses into the Stone Age. The public and media alike now expect the struggles, the rivals welcome it and enjoy seeing the fall of a once proud program. It's not only an atmosphere, but it's also a mindset. It's clear this program lacks something, and that's the will to win. That, like many other issues, starts from the top.
The youth excuse can only be used so much, but when back-to-back redshirt freshman win the Heisman, including one of those leading his team to a national championship, that point becomes moot. It's a culture issue, if you can't coach and mentor championship caliber football, no matter how young or old the players in the program are, it becomes a product of its environment.
And that environment? It's not good.
Talk is cheap, we've seen it on the football field. You can talk about goals, doing things well and the little things that need to be fixed from week-to-week. But when does that finally set in and start to work? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. When the team loses over and over again with the leadership not looking inwardly, the result will always be the same.
The problem and gripes should never be about the players, they're putting in the work and their blood, sweat and tears into the program every single week. They're not the issue, far from it.
But, when you have a head coach that promises so much in 2011, you better hope he delivers. Instead, all that's left is a figment of what was, a history of winning.
"Character wins in life, and character wins on the football field," Hoke once said in 2011.
We're in year four, Brady. Where is that character that once was promised so many years ago? Unfortunately, that's all that it will be when all is said and done. Those fans will just be left waiting, wishing for more.
Empty words that string alongs the fans.