The Michigan Wolverines hired Josh Gattis as their offensive coordinator nearly a month ago, and ever since that news broke there was plenty of speculation as to what would be the fate of assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton.
By all accounts, Hamilton seems to be a genuinely good guy and always personable, but those attributes alone don’t make someone a great coach. While Pep’s had success at various stops in his career, he also was fired by the Indianapolis Colts due in large part to having a run-heavy approach that wasn’t working combined with a lack of desire to run anything up-tempo when necessary. Shortly before Hamilton was fired by the Colts people in the organization “had been asking Hamilton to play with tempo for more than two weeks but that their suggestions weren’t being received.”
What appeared to be a glaring issue when Michigan trailed to the likes of Ohio State and Florida the last two games of the season was the lack of an up-tempo no huddle offensive attack. Time began to run out for the Wolverines down multiple scores against the Buckeyes and Gators, but the offense continued to huddle and regularly snap the ball with under ten seconds on the play clock.
While Hamilton shouldn’t be the scapegoat when it comes to any specific issue, this issue has been one for him throughout his coaching career. There’s a time to run the play clock down and control the time of possession, but when the game becomes life or death, an offense must be able to adjust and play with more urgency. I’d be absolutely shocked if we don’t see a Michigan offense in 2019 that doesn’t feature an up-tempo attack when necessary.
Another thing Hamilton didn’t do all that much of was recruit, he wasn’t exactly an energized trailblazer. Hamilton did recruit the likes of Nico Collins and Joe Milton, but beyond those names and a couple others, Hamilton didn’t recruit as much as he should or could have holding the titles and responsibilities he had for Michigan. With Josh Gattis, Michigan is getting an offensive coordinator who ranked as the No. 23 best recruiter in the 2019 class. Gattis has been active in his month at Michigan recruiting players, and that is a trend that will continue throughout his time at U-M.
The last element that is debatable but I believe to be true is that Jim Harbaugh needed a new No. 1 voice in his ear. Hamilton was the No. 1 voice, and his voice wasn’t all that fiery. If you watched Michigan’s Amazon Series ‘All or Nothing’, there was a lot of Hamilton going “What do you think coach?” to Harbaugh. Granted, it was a small glimpse into the team throughout a season, but what I saw didn’t include enough of “let’s do this, coach!”, “we got this!”.
Gattis is promising speed in space, a completely new offense, which means new ideas and something fresh going on in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s offense was good in 2018, but not great, maybe some think nothing needed to change schematically, but clearly Harbaugh did, someone new had to come on board, and someone had to get off the ship.
We can’t declare Michigan’s offense will be better with Gattis and Hamilton’s departure will prove to be addition by subtraction, but that very well could be the case on both counts.
With Hamilton, opposing teams know what they’re facing, they know his scheme, they know the type of gameflow he prefers. With Gattis calling the plays and implementing an overhaul of the playbook and putting his own stamp on the Michigan offense, things become a lot more unpredictable for Michigan’s foes in 2019.
Jim Harbaugh has chosen to move in a different direction, a direction he feels will improve Michigan’s offense and passing game in particular. Gattis was brought in to give Shea Patterson more opportunities to let it rip and allow receivers to showcase their ceiling. While Michigan won’t be abandoning the run game anytime soon, the offensive attack theoretically looks to be more dangerous in 2019, and the unknowns are actually exciting the Michigan fanbase.