Supposedly the first thing Brady Hoke, new Michigan football coach, has to do is heal the wounds of a fractured fan base, some of whom wanted someone else to be the new Michigan football coach.
To those wounded, fractured souls he ought to just say, “Get over yourself.”
If you’re a true fan, then you should pull for the new Michigan man and not beg for outreach because you believe your preferred hypothetical candidate could have hypothetically done a better hypothetical job.
Understandably college football is a game based on perception – the BCS – but does it have to descend all the way to the hiring process and the constant spin of message boards and Twitter?
Brady Hoke is a pretty strong football coach, according to those that know him and his career intimately. That includes Lloyd Carr and Charles Woodson and Braylon Edwards and Mike Hart and a bunch of other Wolverines. It stands to reason it even would've included Bo.
Hoke led moribund San Diego State to nine wins this season. He previously put together a 12-0 season at Ball State. He has eight years of head coaching experience and seven working the sidelines in Ann Arbor, where he was an assistant under Carr.
No, he isn’t the slam dunk choice of Jim Harbaugh, but Michigan wasn’t his slam dunk choice either. The hiring of Les Miles was probably never going to happen and whether that would’ve been successful anyway is just as debatable as this.
Hoke isn’t the hot coach of the day, but Michigan’s last hire, Rich Rodriguez, was. That’s how these things go. No one knows who is best for a job; all you can do is guess. Sometimes good coaches and good programs don’t work. Sometimes they do. Sometimes it’s better to get a guy who’s dealt with some tough times because experience helps.
Jim Tressel was Ohio State’s third or fourth choice out of I-AA Youngstown State, Buckeye fans panicked that he wouldn’t be ready for the big-time. USC wanted nothing to do with Pete Carroll, fired NFL guy with virtually no NCAA experience, until everyone else said no. Bob Stoops was a mostly anonymous assistant. Chip Kelly too. Frank Beamer was a guy coming off consecutive seven-win seasons at Murray State when Va Tech took him.
Auburn’s Gene Chizik had just finished up a 2-10 campaign at Iowa State when Auburn hired him. He got booed getting off the plane. On Monday, just two years later, he held up the BCS trophy.
The coaching carousel is a fun parlor (or message board) game. Everyone can have an opinion. Everyone can have a choice. There’s a point when it goes too far, when fans actually feel they need to be courted by the new hire because they thought Chris Petersen could be lured out of Boise (he can’t) or in the one SDSU game they saw this year, the offense didn’t look sharp.
Hoke’s biggest hurdle is that he isn’t all that well known. They didn’t gush about him on ESPN all season, although his Aztecs were primed to be a break-out team next year.
Here’s something to consider: You know that TCU defense that shut down Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl? SDSU scored 35 on them (albeit in a 40-35 loss). TCU’s other 12 victims’ averaged 10 points a game.
Hoke is 52 years old and hails from Ohio. He played linebacker at Ball State. He’s a self-made man, grinding his way up the coaching ranks. He took bad jobs and developed good teams. He’s always professed the same final dream – head coach at the University of Michigan.
Now he’s got it. The fans and egomaniac boosters ought to be the least of his concerns. Let him worry about winning over Denard Robinson and salvaging what he can from a recruiting class that is in tatters. You want to blame someone; blame AD David Brandon for not making this hire in early December, when Hoke could’ve hit the ground running. Waiting on Harbaugh proved foolish.
None of that is Hoke’s fault and if he's the proper hire, then he should be able to overcome it.
He’s a tireless worker, a people person and a strong motivator. He is expected to focus his recruiting back on the bedrock Wolverine areas – in state, Ohio, Chicagoland. He’s always had ties to California and those have only gotten stronger.
You don’t win at Michigan with flash and sizzle. You win at Michigan because the pure might of the program can overwhelm just about any competition. It’s still home to the biggest stadium and the best fight song (unless you prefer Notre Dame) and the cool helmet and the endless television exposure.
Other than Ohio State, you have to travel a long way for another program that can match Michigan’s advantages. Rodriguez’s fatal mistake, it seems, was trying to fix something that wasn’t all that broken.
Get back to the basics and Michigan will be fine. Stop losing recruits from Detroit to Michigan State is a start. Return to dragging stars out of northeast Ohio is next. Playing smart football and teaching guys to tackle will go a long way.
You may not win a bunch of BCS titles, but who outside the SEC does?
This is still Michigan; in Big Ten terms you have to screw it up to be bad. The league competition is stiffer now – Mark Dantonio is entrenched up the road – but it’s not insurmountable.
If nothing else, I suspect that’s what Brady Hoke understands about the job.
No, he isn’t Jim Harbaugh, but Michigan isn’t the 49ers. He isn’t a flashy and oft-repeated name, but after the press conference is that really important?
Brady Hoke is everything else Michigan can hope for and really, no matter who you hire, history has shown and shown and shown, that’s all these coaching changes are about.
-- Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports national columnist.
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