Sunday, November 23, 2014

Michigan football and Yogi Berra

If it wasn't already obvious, Michigan's football program is now officially in the dumpster. They just got beat at home -- on senior night -- by Maryland. MARYLAND!  In the Big House! As the all-wise Lawrence Peter (Yogi) Berra once profoundly stated -- it's over. At least for head coach Brady Hoke.

How and why Hoke came to be the head coach of such a storied football program is truly baffling in itself. Consider his resume at the time:

In six years (2003-08) of coaching at Ball State -- he posted a 34-38 record.
Off to the west coast for two years (2009-10) at San Diego State. A 13-12 mark.
So while doing his "apprenticeship" and perhaps being groomed for the Michigan job, he had an eight year mark of 47-50. What kind of nitwit major university would hire a new head coach for big bucks with a sub .500 track record at lower levels?

But let's back up a few years. Though largely successful as a head coach over the course of 13 years (never a losing season, a bowl game every year, and one co-national championship) Lloyd Carr was deemed too "old-school" after the 2007 season. Out he went. Michigan wanted a "nu-skool" head coach that would bring it's program up to par with the speedy guys out west, and the emerging rise of the brutes in the southeast. Plus beat Notre Dame, Michigan State, and those pesky Buckeyes along the way. A very tall order.

Enter one Rich Rodriguez. To be fair, RichRod was stuck with players Carr had recruited while trying to teach them to play an entirely different brand of football. The results weren't pretty.
2008. A 3-9 record and obviously no bowl game.
2009. 5-7. No bowling for dollars again.
2010. 7-6, which got an invite to the second tier Gator Bowl. UM got walloped 52-14 by then semi-unknown Mississippi St.
RichRod's three year record at UM? 15-22. Though his record was actually improving every year as his own recruited players were phased in, it wasn't good enough and fast enough for the Maize and Blue faithful. So he had to go.

Enter Brady Hoke. Along the same line, Hoke inherited RichRod's players while bringing in a new system of his own. A temporary fall-off in "production" would have been quite understandable. Instead, the opposite happened.

In his first year (2011) at the helm, Hoke's Wolverines compiled an 11-2 season record and went on to win the Sugar Bowl. Order and pride (never forget pride at Michigan) were restored. The Big House was happy. Surely another shot at a national championship was on the way.

They couldn't have been more wrong.

In 2012, Michigan would slip to 8-5, and lose the second tier Outback Bowl.
In 2013, they got worse at 7-6, only to lose the 3rd/4th tier Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
This year, they don't even appear to be competitive, at least against good teams. After losing to Maryland, the Wolverines find themselves 5-6, with the remaining game being in Columbus next Saturday against Ohio State. It takes 6 wins to become eligible for even the lowliest of bowls, and UM's chances of defeating Ohio State in their "horseshoe" this year might be akin to the odds of Obama and Boehner hand in hand jointly announcing the secret bromance they have shared for the last few years. It's possible -- but I wouldn't count on it. Michigan will likely get whipped like Petersen's boy at the hands of the Buckeyes.

After all, look at Michigan's football record this year. Sure, they had their way with the likes of Appalachian St., Miami of Ohio, and even perennial Big 10 weak sister Indiana. They also barely squeaked out wins against Northwestern and Penn State, neither of which can be found in the top 50.

But look what happened when they faced decent competition.
Notre Dame 31. Michigan 0.
Utah 26, Michigan 10.
Michigan State 35. Michigan 11.
Minnesota 30. Michigan 14.
Even Rutgers -- RUTGERS! -- beat them 26-24.
And now they've gone down to Maryland 23-16.

Add it all up and what do you have? Michigan's been outscored by a whopping 171-75 collective margin when they've played anybody tougher than the dreaded thin mint and peanut butter teams that ring our doorbells to sell cookies every year. Then again, like UM football fans, yours truly remains a sucker for a cute sales pitch. The girls next door hit me up. The girls in the lobby of the grocery store hit me up. And when the doorbell rings during cookie season, I'm reaching for another Jackson before I even get to the door. Damn adorable kids. Don't they make any ugly ones any more that would make it easier to say no? Sorry, got carried away there for a sec. Ahem. Back to Brady Hoke.

As noted above, his most successful year at Michigan was his first -- with RichRod's players. As he phased his own recruits in over the ensuing three years  -- the team continues to get worse. The record speaks for itself.

So yeah, given the expected blow out at Ohio State, no bowl game, and the total disarray of the program -- Hoke is likely gone after this season. No self-respecting university would keep a guy like this on given the death spiral he's led their football program into. Then again, any major university with an ounce of brains never would have hired him in the first place -- given his previous track record. Besides being a proven loser, Hoke's the only head coach in all of college football that doesn't wear a headset so he can be in constant communication with his coordinators and other coaches -- some of which are sitting high above in booths looking down and calling the plays. In other words, Hoke doesn't have a clue what plays his own underlings are calling. This, despite it being specified in his latest contract that he WOULD wear a headset. Evidently, Hoke's idea of being a head coach consists of patting players on their butts and yelling "good job" when they come off the field after a rare success, or blank stares when things don't go so well.

Speaking of his latest contract, then Athletic Director David Brandon gave Hoke a 7 year extension right after the Wolverines had been taken to the woodshed by Utah. At the time, Brandon said he was proud of how Hoke's team had fared against the Utes, and coaches like Brady don't come along just every day. He had that last part exactly right. Of course, in the meantime, Brandon has rightfully been run out of town. Brandon was even more clueless than Hoke. This is what you get when you pluck a CEO from a failing pizza franchise and put him in charge of an athletic department at a big time university. If he couldn't make pepperoni, cheese and breadsticks successful, then who in their right minds would hire him to oversee 31 different sports teams? Hello?

Nevertheless, courtesy of Brandon's infinite wisdom, Hoke has a contract that runs through 2021. Whether all those millions is guaranteed or not is unknown, but here's hoping they at least had the common sense to include some sort of buy-out clause. Would you rather pay a guy that no longer works for you $35-40 million for the next seven years, or give him $4-5 million just to go away?

Because Brady is definitely going away. Misguided arrogance, pride, and all -- even Michigan isn't dumb enough to keep him on as head football coach. I think.

What would be the worst thing that could happen? Michigan pulls a monumental upset at Ohio State, and qualifies for a toilet bowl somewhere. There would be those that say Brady deserves at least one more year. Puh-leeze.

Much better if the Buckeyes rout them by 4 or 5 touchdowns to put an exclamation point on Hoke's sorry tenure as the head football coach.

And if that happens, Yogi can make it official.

It is indeed over.

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