Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Where Dreams Go to Die - The End of the Brady Hoke Era

Well (the word former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke used to start every statement), I just used the words "former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke" in a sentence that isn't filled with additional words of fervent prayer. The deed is done. The era is over. The process of getting Michigan football back to being the elite program we expect has accomplished an important first step.

When I was driving to work this morning, I had kind of a sad feeling thinking about what was going to happen this afternoon. It was a bit strange because I absolutely wanted Hoke out and had no doubt that "out" would be the verdict. I think it was weird for me because from Day One, he had me sucked in. I really wanted this jovial, lovable lunk to be the guy who would stay, do things the right way, make us champions again, and then in 15-20 years, cut the ribbon to open an athletic building with his name slapped on the side. I confess, a bit sheepishly now, he had me eating up that chest-thumping This is Michigan rhetoric with a spoon.

Successfully avoiding all media today while working (only because I'm a new employee trying to be good!) I got into my car and drove home just in time to hear Jim Hackett's press conference. In the minutes prior to that, I'd heard about the parting gifts Coach Hoke would be entitled to after four years of steady decline. I was pretty much over being sad at that point. First, because his firing moved along the process we've all mused about for weeks. Let the search begin! And mostly, because I refuse to feel sorry for any single human being who made $11.4M failing to do at least 75% of his job, got fired, and will continue to be paid more per month in the next two years than I may earn in three years. Where was my high school guidance counselor when I needed to hear about coaching as a career choice? I would be willing to suck at coaching football here for <5% of what they paid Hoke to do it. (And I think I might actually have done better. I would at least have known what to do with Denard Robinson and with the time-outs allotted me in each half.)

I know his players are upset. I understand that committed or wavering recruits are creating some distance from Ann Arbor right now. It's expected. That 25% Hoke didn't fail at? It was the feel-good stuff. Winning the hearts of top recruits. Helping instill values in young men that will serve them well throughout their lives. He saw this team through adversity and gave us players that, with few exceptions, we can be proud to have representing the university in whatever they do after leaving it. It's unfortunate that he was unable to lead them to equal success on the field of play. Would he have been more successful without Dave Brandon chained to his hip for the bulk of his tenure? Hackett expressed his wish that he'd had more time with Hoke and the program to help him in areas where he lacked "mastery". Maybe that would have been the difference. We won't know. In the end, Hoke was over his head in this program. I'll blame Brandon for some of that. He hired him knowing that Hoke's desire was greater than his resume. He should never have been offered the job. It was his dream job and it was probably his only chance to snag it. I'd have said yes, too. People like Brady Hoke are not going to think twice about "can I do this?" 

Now the impatient waiting really begins. I liked the way Hackett carried himself at the press conference today and I think he'll be much better at this process than his predecessor. He was respectful to Hoke and his staff. He was direct about how the search would be conducted and what he considered important. Everything leads me to believe it will all be done as quietly and carefully as possible. It will be given the time it needs to be done properly, unlike the last two search processes. No Herbstreit. No Lloyd Carr personal dramas. With the stakes impossibly high, the program is on a knife's edge between untapped potential and irrevocable irrelevance. The man who becomes Michigan's 20th head coach since 1879 will determine which way we fall for a long time to come.

Who will that man be? I have my feelings, but I think I'll save that for my next visit to the MGoGirl keyboard. Good night!

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