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Going For 3: Ranking Michigan’s Coaching Staff

Woody Hayes couldn’t go for three, but he was only Woody Hayes. We can go for three all day long.

Photo credit: Bryan Fuller, MGoBlog

Nick: Hey guys! Last week went so well with my Maurice Hurst pick, I figured I’d do it again.

Here’s my coaches ranking:

  1. Jim Harbaugh
  2. Don Brown
  3. Tim Drevno
  4. Pep Hamilton
  5. Greg Mattison
  6. Michael Zordich
  7. Chris Partridge
  8. Greg Frey
  9. Jay Harbaugh
  10. Brian Smith

Initial thoughts? I’ll be willing to move things around to build a consensus list by the end of this.

Jared: This list is far less egregious than the one that rated Hurst at the level of a Purdue bench player.

I am definitely going to campaign to move Mattison up on this list though. That dude could be the D coordinator anywhere in the country, but stuck around Ann Arbor to be around his family. His turnaround of our defense starting in 2011 was incredible. Watching the defense under Rich Rod was like staring into the Arc of the Covenant-- Mattison deserves a statue outside of Glick Fieldhouse for that alone. He is above Hamilton, Brown, and Drevno in my opinion. He just has a more distinguished track record than any of those guys.

I also would put Greg Frey higher than Partridge or Zordich. He has put multiple guys in the NFL, and has a history of improving whatever offensive line he is assigned to, and once again, just a little bit stronger of a proven track record than those other guys.

Jay Harbaugh still needs to show me a little something as either a recruiter or a position coach. I am not comfortable attributing any of Jake Butt’s success the last two years to Jay’s coaching, as they are essentially the same age and J Booty had about ten times more experience as a player than Jay as a college junior. Not hating on the guy, he is just young.

Andrew: Looks like it’s just the Going for 2 boys and you Nick, good luck. Now this a list truly inspired by sobriety, welcome back to the light! To echo Jared, I think Frey deserves to be higher. He is innovative in the run game and turned Indiana into ‘Running Back U’ (at least made them more respectable than a Vermont middle school team). Frey always leaves a program in better shape than when he arrived, similar to Harbaugh.

Greg Frey looks lost in this photo.
Photo credit: Bryan Fuller, MGoBlog

Besides that, my only other quip is placing Hamilton third and pushing Drevno behind Mattison for everything said above me. Hamilton is an experienced NFL coach where he helped Andrew Luck hit career marks (just like he did at Stanford) and helped Chad Pennington develop into the second most accurate passer in NFL history (career completion percentage of 66.0%).

Nick: So then this would be… Going For.. ah, I can’t count that high. Well, as for Frey, there were at least a few things that helped Indiana be successful, although he was probably #3 on the list for why that program was successful. (Wilson and OC Kevin Johns come to mind, and this last year Tom Allen was very impressive.) I’m also probably the only person on the Internet who consistently praises Indiana’s strength and conditioning team with how they’ve turned guys who used to be pretty good, like Jordan Howard at UAB, into beasts capable of chewing up blue-twisted steel. But, I feel you on the impact Frey has had.

Mattison is great, but I wouldn’t put him #2 on the entire staff. We take him for granted, absolutely, and everything he did propping up the Hoke administration and helping to ensure a smooth transition to Harbaugh should be appreciated. He’s been able to step in and D.C. a bowl game for us in a pinch, and he’s kept his position unit in top shape. Our defense under Durkin and Brown has been led by the D-line, so he’s still a big part of our success.

Michigan v Michigan State
Greg Mattison got lost one time. It was the Isla de Muerta.
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

So, alright, you’ve convinced me to put Mattison ahead of Pep, at least. But if we had to lose a coach today, wouldn’t it be less damaging if we lost Mattison than Tim Drevno? Drevno’s play-calling is less than perfect sometimes, but he’s had a ton on his plate and I think we’ll see some better work from him across the board now that Frey is here.

So what do you guys think of the impact that Pep Hamilton will have? Will he manage to slip into the background - unlikely, given how much attention we’ll be paying to him - or will his impact be felt right away?

Jared: I think his impact will be far more profound than Smith, Zordich, and Harbaugh, if for no other reason than the position groups he is overseeing. I would argue nobody had a greater impact on the offense than Jedd Fisch when he was here. Obviously Drevno and Harbaugh have a huge hand in everything going on with the offense, but Fisch was instrumental in developing Speight’s mechanics and getting him ready for the season.

Having that “quarterback whisperer” to focus most of their efforts on the most important position on the field is hugely beneficial to the rest of the offense. That allows Drevno and Harbaugh to focus on areas of concern, namely the offensive line. I think Hamilton will have a similar impact that Fisch had, and perhaps even moreso. I keep hearing in interviews that he is trying to utilize the speed of the young receiver group with some tweaks to the playbook. That sounds like a guy who will have his fingers all over the finished product on Saturdays.

Andrew: I believer Hamilton will be felt like the shot of adrenaline to Mia Wallace’s heart in Pulp Fiction. He brings an (don’t do it Andrew, don’t do it) enthusiasm unknown to mankind? Seriously though, he brings an energy to the program that can revitalize an offense that stagnated at times last season. On top of this, his technical knowledge of the quarterback position and previous experience working with Harbaugh will allow him more control over the position. He will have a seismic impact that will strengthen the quarterback and entire offensive scheme.

Nick: What will be the impact of having two great offensive line coaches on this year’s offensive line? Who stands to benefit the most from the ‘guards/centers for Drevno,’ ‘tackles for Frey’ arrangement?

Jared: I am really excited about this addition. Anyone who has even pretended to follow Michigan football for the past decade knows what a dumpster fire the offensive line has been. Drevno brought respectability, but I anticipate Frey will help us get over the top to that “elite” status we have been craving since 2006.

Hard to say who will benefit more, as that is almost asking “who is the better offensive line coach?”. Both are excellent, but I will go out on a limb and say the tackles with Frey. He will be able to focus a lot on those guys with his responsibilities as Tackles/Tight End Coach. It just so happens we need a right tackle like Tim Brewster needs an intern to take over his Twitter, so this should work out swimmingly.


Who’s the most underrated coach on Michigan’s staff?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Greg Frey
    (56 votes)
  • 14%
    Chris Partridge
    (53 votes)
  • 9%
    Michael Zordich
    (34 votes)
  • 46%
    Greg Mattison
    (170 votes)
  • 1%
    Brian Smith
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    Jay Harbaugh
    (13 votes)
  • 5%
    Pep Hamilton
    (20 votes)
  • 3%
    Tim Drevno
    (12 votes)
365 votes total Vote Now

Andrew: I side heavily with Frey in this scenario. I believe his integration of zone running will have a versatility that this offense desperately needs. Being effective in both zone and power schemes will prevent defensive lines from overcommitting pre-snap and providing a small advantage for the offensive line. As for the right tackle, Jared is right. We need one like Sean Spicer needs the answers to questions before White House press briefings (although the hilarity would cease).

Nick: You know, I thought about this, and I realized our interior line is probably a little better suited to Tim Drevno’s power scheme than Greg Frey’s zone approach, especially Michael Onwenu, who’s at his best in a phone booth rather than out in space. (Makes sense, we’ve been recruiting for it.) We’ll probably see a lot of power and inside zone and try to protect that right side from working too much in space, so Frey’s impact in that area might be a little down the road.

But, if I had to pick anybody, I’d say the young guys on the interior who will be able to get more time with Drevno now. Andrew Vastardis, Stephen Spanellis, Ben Bredeson and even Sean Fitzgerald - we have a lot of good young talent inside who need to be built up. And if they can move the line of scrimmage, we’ll win a lot of games.

Photo credit: Bryan Fuller, MGoBlog

Alright, lastly, what would you want to see if Michigan can add a 10th position coach? More recruiting?

Jared: I would like to see a coach brought on board specifically for beating Ohio State. He or she can spend the entire year breaking down their game film, finding weaknesses to exploit, pouring small amounts of Nyquil into their Gatorade before games, you name it.

Honestly though, I think we have one of the strongest coaching staffs top to bottom that I have ever seen. When you have a guy like Greg Mattison focusing strictly on the D Line, you know you have got something special. I love bringing in Frey and Hamilton, and both will be focusing on areas that need improvement. Bringing in one more ace recruiter is about the only thing I can think of that might benefit this already sterling coaching staff.

Andrew: I would like to see Michigan add a recruiter focusing solely in the south. He/ she could own time shares in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Michigan has currently begun extracting players from Georgia like Daniel Plainview drinking milkshakes (There Will Be Blood anyone?), but there is room for more. I can imagine the Finebaum pontificating reaching an all-time high, but who outside of Tuscaloosa really cares? Any creative step in recruiting could be the step that paves the way to an elusive Big 10 and National Championship. It will at least piss a bunch of people off and I can live with as a consolation.

Nick: I am seriously sick of that troll, we need to learn how to handle people who just say crazy stuff to rile their opponents up. He doesn’t need to be mentioned.

I like that our staff has emphasized development and NFL experience more than recruiting, but I don’t think that we need any more help coaching the secondary (Zordich and Smith have that down), the defensive line (Mattison being a former NFL DC and all), offensive line or tight ends (we have two premier coaches), running backs or linebackers (Jay Harbaugh and Chris Partridge are versatile, have a reputation in recruiting, and in Partridge’s case, gets a hand from Don Brown), offensive schemes (Drevno, Pep Hamilton), quarterbacks (Harbaugh himself, Hamilton), receivers (Hamilton), or anything else. Jared said this more cleanly, but recruiting is the last thing we can improve.

And if you’re adding another coach who specializes in recruiting, you’ll want a guy who’s a smart, motivated high school coach. Plain and simple. That might mean dipping into Texas, where the benefits vastly outweigh the rule that no recruits from that one high school that a coach comes from can’t be recruited; or it might mean Alabama or Louisiana, or maybe Georgia or Florida. There are a lot of great high school coaches in those areas.

Alright, is this a good final list?

  1. Jim Harbaugh
  2. Don Brown
  3. Tim Drevno
  4. Greg Mattison
  5. Pep Hamilton
  6. Greg Frey
  7. Michael Zordich
  8. Chris Partridge
  9. Jay Harbaugh
  10. Brian Smith

Andrew: That was much less painful than the top 25 players! No one I can even equate to being this list’s “Mo Hurst.” My silence is once again purchased!

Nick: For one more week! Yesss.