The End of Boardwalk Empire

HBO’s Boardwalk Empire ended it’s run (and it’s 5th season) earlier this week. It came onto the scene in 2010 packed with star talent both in front of and behind the camera. Martin Scorsese directed the pilot and was listed as an Executive Producer on the show, as was Mark Wahlberg. The showrunner/creator/writer was Terence Winter, who had been a writer on The Sopranos. He wrote 25 episodes of the hit HBO mafia drama, including a couple of the most remembered episodes (Pine Barrens1 and Long Term Parking2). Boardwalk Empire starred longtime character actor Steve Buscemi, as well as recognizable talents like Michael Shannon and Michael K. Williams.

It came in with big names, a specific time period (1920s prohibition), a monster budget, a full boardwalk set and HBO guiding it. It should have been a smash hit. It was Mad Men meets The Sopranos. But when it was all said and done, it was merely “good” instead of “great”.

There are definitely a few items that contributed to preventing its greatness. Part of the issue was undoubtedly that Nucky Thompson (Buscemi) wasn’t as charismatic as Tony Soprano or Don Draper. And as talented as Buscemi is, it was often side characters like Chalky White (Williams) or Richard Harrow who were far more interesting. The real-life criminals and lawmen that were interweaved with the story made it especially great, but some parts of the Charlie Luciano and Al Capone stories were so good that at times it felt like that would have been the better show. Buscemi is no doubt talented, and it seems like he should be able to carry a show on his own, so perhaps the material is to blame, but something never felt right with him.

Another issue was that the show moved a bit slow at times. Well most of the storylines almost always paid off, there were so many characters (much like Game of Thrones) that sometimes the best stories took entire seasons to pay off while time was spent on smaller, less interesting stuff. Whereas a show like Breaking Bad might almost be too intense to binge watch all at once, Boardwalk Empire always seemed like it would be much more enjoyable in a House of Cards-style marathon.

Despite all of that, the 56 episodes were an enjoyable experience. There were plenty of great characters, and the tie-ins to historical events made it even more fun. Viewers certainly spent time on Wikipedia learning more about the historical figures that showed up3. The show essentially showed the rise and fall of a gangster, and did a great job of depicting the mostly bad that went along with it.

The last season was solid, and the flashback scenes were great. Not only were the actors picked just perfect to represent their grown-up counterparts, but they did an excellent job of showing how the Nucky Thompson character (right down to the nickname Nucky) got to be the person he was. The decision to only make 8 episodes made some parts of the story feel rushed, but ultimately Nucky’s story felt like it had closure beyond the ultimate closure. The return of Tommy Darmody, and his subsequent murder of Nucky was spoiled for some people in the weeks leading up the finale as smart people started to figure out that is who the mystery teenager was. But it was a fitting ending to a story that most people had figured long ago would end with Nucky’s demise.

The show is entertaining enough that it should be somewhat re-watchable, but it’s hard to pinpoint specific episodes that super memorable. All of the all-time great dramas of the last decade, with the possible exception of The Wire, have individual episodes that are always re-watchable. Like The Wire, Boardwalk Empire seems like one of those shows that needs the sum of it’s parts to be appreciated again and again, and that is definitely going to hamper it’s ability to be in the same conversation as those other shows down the road.

But one positive is that Terence Winter has shown in two different places that he knows how to make quality television. And although David Simon disappointed some4 with his first post-Wire dalliance, Winter hopefully won’t.

  1. The one where Paulie and Chris lose the Russian in the woods []
  2. Where Adrianna is killed []
  3. I know I did []
  4. Not me []

The Apple Pay/CurrentC Battle Is Still A Ways Away

The geek world has been fired up this week about the decision from a group of high-profile retailers (Walmart, CVS, Best Buy, Rite-Aid and others) to disable NFC payments (including Apple Pay) from their store registers. This decision would appear to be fueled by the fact that all of these retailers are working on an alternative product called CurrentC.

It’s hard to fault retailers for taking this action. If they are hoping to release an alternative product (and CurrentC is an alternative since it doesn’t use NFC) then it’s best not to let people get used to better alternatives first. And there is no doubt that Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other NFC-driven payment systems are much better for consumers. Much (digital) ink has already been spilled about the downfalls of CurrentC, so there is no reason to rehash all of them other than to say that the multiple steps involved will likely scare off many people, and the direct access to a bank account required will scare off a bunch more.

The problem with CurrentC is the execution, not the the concept. The concept is essentially to replace the debit card with an app. It’s not a credit card replacement though, which is why the decision to block NFC devices is so curious. In order to use something like CurrentC, a person would have to have the funds in their account at the time. The problem is that a lot of younger people use credit cards all the time, even if they pay them off every month. They offer protection that direct bank account access doesn’t. And if a credit card account is compromised, it’s much less painful for a consumer than getting a new bank account would be.

Unfortunately it sounds like the main reason retailers want to push CurrentC is so that they can remove credit card companies from the equation. These credit card companies charge fees for transactions that the retailers have to pay. But handing over bank account information to retailers, especially ones like Target, who already proved they can’t protect data, won’t be something most people are willing to do.

But all of this conversation is way ahead of the game. Even Apple Pay isn’t really real at the moment. It’s only available on the iPhone 6/6+, and it’s not accepted everywhere. There doesn’t seem to be people talking about Google Wallet all the time so presumably that isn’t all that widely used yet either. Credit Cards aren’t accepted everywhere still. And certain credit cards (like Discover and American Express) aren’t accepted even at places that take Visa and Mastercard. And because this is tied to a phone, that has to be working and charged, this is far from a safe enough solution for consumers to be relying on for more than just sporadic payments.

So while the decision by retailers to not accept Apple Pay is stupid, and the implementation of CurrentC is even stupider, none of this really matters yet. This technology has to become more mainstream (at least a year, probably two) before it’s more than a bunch of people living on the cutting edge getting riled up for nothing. The market will dictate everything, there just isn’t a market yet.

Houston Injury Fitting for Bears

My dad taught high school math for 35+ years, every time he finished grading a stack of papers he would hop up and do a little strut, a little dance, and then spike his red pen to the ground. That is made up of course because it’s downright ridiculous. Of course football players make plays that are literally their job and follow them up with stupid celebrations. Twice this year those celebrations have ended someone’s season.

The most recent was Chicago Bear Lamarr Houston, who was celebrating a sack on a 2nd string QB when his team was down 25 points in the 4th quarter. This is the same Houston who told certain Bear fans to “eat dirt” about a month back. That is definitely what a guy on a 5-year $35 million contract should say when his team, with Super Bowl hopes is 2–3, and winless at home. It is even better to say that when you are new to the team/city. And nothing is a better cherry on top than the fact that the “savior” of the defensive line has one sack through 8 games.

It was a fitting end to a terrible Bears game. A game that is smack dab in the middle of a terrible season. It’s safe to say the Marc Trestman era is a failure. The offense has regressed from last season. The defense is worse than advertised, but at least injuries are partially to blame. This team looks poorly coached and out of control. Nothing makes that more apparent than stupidness like what Houston did this past Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker probably won’t survive the season. Someone has to take the fall for this disaster. While it seems painfully obvious Marc Trestman isn’t the guy, it’s too soon to cut that cord. I have said from day one though, there was a reason that he was in the CFL for the last decade. Jay Cutler isn’t going anywhere, and despite what most Bears fans think, he isn’t solely to blame. And with this much talent on offense, it’s clear there is a systemic problem.

For now though, this team continues to be an embarrassment. And as if the record the Bears set for most points allowed in a half in team history wasn’t enough, Houston had to go and do that. Bear down indeed.

The Playoff Committee ‘Getting it Right’

The College Football Playoff Committee is, for some reason, going to release it’s first set of rankings next week. This makes little sense since it is literally a “no win” situation.

They will get angry comments and criticism from people who disagree, and even if they “get it right” what will the rankings represent? The classic scenario of “if the playoff was today”, which is silly. The season is barely half over, and the two of the top three teams not only reside in the same division, but will play each other before the season is over. And newsflash for Mississippians (or anyone in the SEC): two teams from the same division will almost certainly not make the playoff. It’s not impossible, but it would take a lot of conference champions with 2-losses to make it a reality.

But no matter what the rankings are next week, or in December, the question everyone will continues to ask is, “did they get it right?” What exactly this means is anyone’s guess. Since the goal of the playoff committee is to pick four teams and rank them in order to form a bracket of sorts, most people think getting it “right or wrong” is just about getting the “right” four teams in. This is almost always going to be a conversation about the fourth team in and the the first team out, but will sometimes include the 3rd team in and the 2nd team out. But why is that the only part that matters?

If the #3 seed team wins the championship, didn’t the committee get it wrong? In fact if it’s not #1 over #2 in the championship game, didn’t they technically “get it wrong”? If the #4 seed wins, will the arguments be that the #5 team who got snubbed deserves to be champion?

The bottom line is that a one game playoff is very arbritary. So many factors go into one team beating another. Skill and strategy definitely play a role, but so does luck. When the small sample size of 12 (or 13) games is used to pick four teams to play eachother, and when these teams have played vastly different schedules, guessing who the four “best” teams are is nearly impossible.

So determining whether or not the playoff committee get’s it “right” or “wrong” is mostly about personal goals for the playoff. If it’s about determining who the “best” team in college football is this season, then the playoff isn’t the answer. If it’s about rewarding four teams for a high level of play all season, then the playoff get’s closer. If it’s about creating three fun/exciting games, at the end of which one get team get’s a special trophy, that seems more accurate. Getting it right should only be measured in the quality/competitiveness of the three games, and not based on who some people think is “actually” the 4th best team.

Victor Martinez and the White Sox

The White Sox struggled in 2014, and looking ahead to 2015 there are a lot of questions1. Adam Dunn is thankfully done as the primary DH for the Chicago White Sox, and although he ranged from terrible to bad during his time with the team, they still must replace him at DH.

There have already been rumors about Victor Martinez being a target of the White Sox, and the best way to take this in might be a straight facepalm.

There are two ways to look at the potential of this signing, it’s either Jim Thome or Adam Dunn. The last two late-in-their-career veterans that the White Sox acquired to play DH had different levels of success.

Both guys spent three seasons and change with the White Sox so it’s really easy to compare them.

HR Slash OPS+ bWAR
Thome 134 .265/.391/.542 138 12.1
Dunn 106 .201/.321/.410 99 –1.5

Dunn was so much worse than it seemed, if that’s possible. Even just factoring in offensive bWAR, he was at a putrid 1.4 for his entire time with the team. His best season was definitely 2013 when he hit 41 home runs and posted a 115 wRC+, which his essentially runs per plate appearance, factoring in AL or NL and which parks a guy played in. It’s based on a scale where 100 is average. To put the number into perspective, in 2014 Andrew McCutchen led MLB with 168. Ironically Adam Eaton had exactly 115 in 2014, good enough for 58th in MLB. Thome’s worst season with the Sox for wRC+ was 122.

Victor Martinez will be 36 on Opening Day, so the Thome comparisons are fair. The biggest cause for concern is that Martinez is coming off of not only the best season of his career, but the best season of his career by a lot. Check out these stats comparing his previous career high to the new ones he created in 2014.

When HR K% ISO AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Prev 25 8.6% .210 .330 .391 .505 .375 130
2014 32 6.5% .230 .335 .409 .565 .411 166

That is a lot of career bests to set in your age 35 season. Martinez is talented, and unlike Dunn or Thome he doesn’t strike out very much (career mark is 10.4% compared to 24.7% for Thome and 28.6% for Dunn). But both of those guys also walk a lot more. Bats slow down as players age, and guy who don’t walk a ton will have a tougher time when they lose bat speed. Martinez is also just wrapping up a 4-year contract worth $50M (about $12.5M per year). The problem finding comparables is that Martinez is almost exclusively a DH at this point.

He could play some 1B in a pinch (like Thome could), but no one wants to count on that. David Ortiz is about to finish up a 2-year $26M deal, Nelson Cruz got $8M, and Kendry Morales got $12M. There are not a ton of comparable guys. Morales, and Billy Butler are the only other DH-ish guy out there in free agency this winter. Besides the Tigers and White Sox, presumably Kansas City, Baltimore, New York and Seattle will at least kick the tires on him. It will likely take an average salary of at least the $12.5M he just made, and at least two years, but more likely three or four (maybe with an option or two mixed in).

So should the White Sox go for it? Martinez is good, and on a two-year deal, even at $15M/year, it’s probably worth it, but Martinez will almost certainly get more elsewhere. The Sox pitching is too much of a disaster right now to think they will be serious contenders next year, especially since Kansas City has emerged as a real team. Detroit will still be good next year, and Cleveland has some unrealized potential as well. In other words, the White Sox are still two years away at best, and banking on Martinez being this good in two years is a bit of gamble. The White Sox are far better off signing a low(er) cost veteran or two, and seeing what they have already in house and then deciding what to invest in if/when they have a more complete team.

Martinez might have another great season. He might have two. He won’t have four though. And he isn’t the kind of guy who is going to fill the park on his own. If the White Sox spent unconditionally like Boston or New York it would make more sense. As both the Thome and Dunn signings show though, signing an aging DH isn’t the automatic solution, and this team is more than a tweak or two away right now.

  1. More on this at some point in a future post []

Speeding Up Baseball

Jayson Stark of ESPN says MLB players want ‘voice’ in changes:

That while players are generally in favor of shorter games, they haven’t been shown survey data documenting exactly what fans are telling baseball it needs to change and what those changes would accomplish.

Really, players are that unaware? Let’s see how easy this can be said.

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH BASEBALL IS PACE OF PLAY.

There is the feedback. It’s awful. NBA and NHL games take around two hours. Football games push past three a lot of the time, but some of that is because of halftime. Baseball games regularly push three, and even non-overtime games can hit four in the right circumstances. This is completely unacceptable. There is no reason a regular season baseball game should take four hours, or even three.

The counter arguments in vein of “that is how it’s always been” are absolute nonsense. Not wanting fans to countdown a pitch clock are ludicrious. These are professional baseball players. And there are a million tweaks that could be made.

The obvious answer has always been just to limit when a pitcher can step off the mound and when a hitter can step out of the box. Starting with the simple rule that neither of those things can happen once an at-bat starts unless there is a foul ball seems like a really easy way to go. Allow each hitter one warning per game, and a pitcher one or two. This would probably make a pretty significant difference without drastically altering things.

There should also be a limit to the number of times a catcher can go to the mound. Once per inning might be good.

Pitch clocks might be overkill, for now, as that time won’t seem nearly as long to fans without the constant stepping in and out of the box. If things don’t get a lot better, something more drastic can be considered.

Commercials aren’t going away, or getting shorter, anytime soon. Other ways to speed up games would likely be things that players would dislike as well. Fewer warm-up pitches is one example.

There is no denying “modern analytics” could play a role here. But that just makes the point more obvious. If players can accept these new fangled ideas, it shouldn’t be so hard to accept that just because this stuff has always been allowed that it should continue to be.

Pace of play is a major problem. Baseball doesn’t want to admit that they are losing fans, but guess what, they are. Fewer and fewer people under 30 are into baseball, and it’s likely that will only grow and grow in the coming years as the next generations are raised with baseball being at best the #2 sport.

College Football Playoff Hierarchy – Week 8 Edition

There is a bunch of articles being published lately discussing the first college football playoff, and specifically who would be the four teams “if the season ended today”. This is sill though. Why would anyone care who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today? It’s one thing in a sport like baseball where there are 162 games and one single game isn’t guaranteed to make an impact. But when it comes to college football, the circumstances are different. Any college football playoff that lists both Ole Miss and Mississippi St. are teams that are in just doesn’t seem that logical. Sure it’s possible, but it seems unlikely that a 1-loss non-conference champ will jump the line without extremely great luck.

Instead, the best way to understand what is going on is just keep the cheatsheet below handy. This hierarchy is probably pretty accurate. Obviously there are some circumstances that can shake it up, but this could really be close.

Who Possible Teams
1 Undefeated SEC champion Ole Miss, Mississippi St.
2 Undefeated Florida St. FSU
3 1-loss SEC champion Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Alabama/Auburn, Georgia/Kentucky
4 Undefeated Notre Dame Notre Dame
5 Undefeated Baylor Baylor
6 1-loss Pac 12 champ Oregon/Oregon St./Washington, Arizona/Arizona St./Utah
7 1-loss Big Ten champ Michigan St./Ohio St./Rutgers/Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska
8 2-loss SEC champ 10 teams
9 1-loss SEC at-large Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Alabama/Auburn, Georgia/Kentucky
10 1-loss Big 12 champ Baylor, OKlahoma St., Kansas St., Oklahoma, TCU
11 2-loss Pac 12 champ 10 teams
12 1-loss ACC champ Florida St., Georgia Tech, Duke
13 1-loss Pac 12 at-large 6 teams
14 2-loss Big Ten champ 9 teams
15 2-loss Big 12 champ 6 teams
16 1-loss Big Ten at-large 6 teams
17 3-loss SEC champ 13 teams
18 Undefeated Marshall Marshall

Which Cloak VPN Plan For Your Vacation?

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are something that most people know as a method for connecting to their work network from another computer. But the “private network” piece goes way beyond that. And VPNs are the perfect solution to the lack of privacy on public Wi-Fi networks. This is especially useful when traveling. There are several different options for VPN services, but one of the easier solutions is Cloak. The weird thing about Cloak is that they have some tricky pricing structures, and knowing which plan to select for infrequent, short-term travel.

Cloak plans can be purchased both from the Cloak website and from the iOS app. These plans are different though. Here are the plans and where to buy them.

Length Price Data Where to Buy Price Per Day
7 days $3.99 Unlimited iOS $0.57
1 month $2.99 5 GB Web $0.10
1 month $9.99 Unlimited Both $0.33
12 months $99.99 Unlimited iOS $0.27

The yearly plan obviously makes sense for anyone that needs a VPN all the time. That leaves the other three plans up for consideration.

The $2.99 monthly plan is limited to just 5 GB, but if someone is planning just some light use, mostly on a mobile device, or just some occasional email and social network check-ins, this probably sufficient. It would not likely be enough for a month of use, but for a typical vacation1 it likely would get the job done. It would presumably be renewable for an additional $2.99, so $6 would buy 10 GB if a little bit more is needed at the last minute, but that is not necessarily a cost effective purchase. This plan is best for either a really short trip, or a trip where public Wi-Fi usage will be fairly minimal.

The 7-day plan for $3.99 offers the worst cost per day, but is an overall cheaper option when data usage is going to exceed 5 GB, but the trip will be pretty typical in length. Although the $9.99 plan offers a better cost per day, there is no reason to spend the extra money if the VPN access is only needed for a couple of days. Even at the 14 day mark, two 7-day plans cost $7.98 vs. $9.99 for the 1-month plan.

It’s easy to think that Cloak offers the 7-day plan on iOS at a higher price to just take advantage of people wanting it quick and easy through the app, but the reality is that Apple takes a 30% cut of In-App Purchases, so Cloak is only seeing $2.79 of the 7-day price, meaning that they get more money from people buying the 5 GB one month plan on the website.

To recap, for any trip/vacation where public Wi-Fi usage will be minimal, or where almost all internet usage will be on a mobile device, the $2.99 (5 GB) plan is probably sufficient. For any trip where heavier usage is required, and the trip won’t exceed 14 days, the $3.99 7-day plan makes the most sense. IF the requirement exceeds 14 days, it’s the $9.99 plan that is the best deal.

  1. Assuming no more than 7 days []

Playoff Baseball Score Overlays

Jason Snell of Six Colors is very annoyed with how Fox Sports displays outs in baseball:

Put simply, there are three outs per inning, but Fox Sports 1’s score box displays only two circles, filling them in as an inning progresses. It led to an interesting conversation on Twitter, which I’ve Storified.

[…]

Does anyone who’s watching a baseball game not know that there are three outs in an inning? Probably not. That’s why this is not a major design foul. But still, it grates. Outs is a concept that adds up to three, but the outs graphic adds up to two. As John Gruber wrote, the better decision would be to show all three outs, fill in the third out at the end of the inning, and then fade out the entire graphic as you go to a commercial break.

The second point is the key one here, and why I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. Most of what shows ups in these modern TV score overlays is not labeled. Therefore someone with limited knowledge of the sport might not have any idea what any of the information means. The idea of filling in the third out and then removing the overlay seems weird since the overlay disappears almost as soon as the third out is made.

If a redesign of this display is up for discussion, doesn’t it make much more sense to go back to a number and words, such as “1 Out” instead of having just dots? This would fit just fine and make it much easier for casual fans to understand what it means.

But why stop there? Baseball has a major advantage in the fact that the primary camera angle is static, and there is a ton of unused real estate on the screen that isn’t needed. There is space on the left and right sides, as well as the bottom of the screen, where basically nothing is ever going on during the pitch. Why don’t networks put more information on the screen? Has research proven that it’s sensory overload?

If someone is watching the NLCS who primary watches AL baseball during the year, they don’t know every player. Why not have the name of batter up all the time? Knowing who specifically is on base, or on deck could be useful as well. Perhaps there is in fact diminishing returns on how much is “too much”, but stats and information are bigger in baseball than any other sport. Seems like a missed opportunity to provide people with more information.

More Brady Hoke Replacement Talk

Brian Cook of MGoBlog again went to work on possible Brady Hoke replacements. This time with a much less glamorous (and probably more realistic) list of people. His list is comprised of four current head coaches, and seven coordinators. The biggest problem for many elitist Michigan fans (and neither Cook nor I fit this bill) is that they will almost certainly feel that many of the names on this most recent list are “beneath” them (and the program).

Michigan has fallen so far though. Take away Hoke’s (now) flukey first season and this team hasn’t really had a really meaningful year nationally since 2006. And they haven’t won a Big Ten Title since 2004. It’s true that in college football programs prestige and other historical factors do come into play, but Michigan is at it’s lowest point in decades, as is the Big Ten, who seems to be all but eliminated from playoff conversation already.

Michigan had it’s chance to land a top flight coach, and did, before running Rich Rodriguez out of town after three seasons. A complaint many Rodriguez supporters had all along was that Michigan was too cheap to allow Rich Rod to being his defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel with him. That coupled with the bare cupboard of players he was left with made it impossible to the program going. Of course it’s worth nothing that not only did Brady Hoke win 11 games with Rodriguez’s players the year after he left, but Rodriguez himself is thriving (with his DC Jeff Casteel) in Arizona right now.

At this point some parallels could potentially be drawn to the state of the Alabama program in 2007 when Nick Saban was hired. Alabama was in a downward spiral, and just quickly gone through two coaches in the same way that Michigan is about to. But much of Bama’s struggles could be attributed to a bunch of NCAA violations and sanctions that had riddled the program in the early 2000s. Saban had an amazing track record, but was also coming off an unsuccessful NFL run and was basically a free agent, and that is the biggest difference. Saban wasn’t plucked from some other program, in the same way Ohio St. got Urban Meyer a few years ago. It was almost all about right place, right time.

Michigan’s absolute best hope that scenario is Jim Harbaugh. If any of the rumors are true that San Francisco is ready to cut ties with him, then he could be the guy. But not only are those just rumors, but it’s hard to see every other NFL team taking a pass on him. Oakland has already fired their coach, and trying to fix that team would allow him to stay in the Bay Area. If the Jets or Rams fired their coaches, Harbaugh could easily be in the conversation.

The Big Ten’s weak status doesn’t help either. It’s probably fourth in the “Power 5” right now. And the SEC will potentially have three jobs available: Florida (or Mississippi St. if Dan Mullen moved to Florida), South Carolina (if Spurrier retires after a dismal season) and Texas A&M (if Sumlin got wooed by the NFL). And even if neither of those happens this year, they could just be around the corner. So would a top flight coordinator (Kirby Smart, Pat Narduzzi, Chad Morris) want to roll the dice on a flailing Big Ten program instead of a potentially rising (MSU or TAMU) SEC one?

Quickly going through Cook’s list:

  • Bronco Medenhall isn’t leaving BYU probably ever. If he does it will be for a position better poised for success than UM
  • Craig Bohl makes a ton of sense because Wyoming is stepping stone. But he has only been there one year.
  • Ruffin McNeil is a guy that is going to be gaining steam. Normally he would be the kind of guy that would take like the Rutgers job. Sadly, Michigan is at a point where they might have to settle for someone like this.
  • Jim McElwain makes a ton of sense. Former Alabama coordinator. Doing well at Colorado St. Probably wouldn’t be a huge slap in the face to the elitist Michigan fans.
  • Chad Morris probably takes an SEC job if he can. Florida would make a ton of sense. Don’t seem him considering Michigan.
  • Tom Herman – Cook didn’t play the “Bo” card when talking about an Ohio St. assistant taking over Michigan. Everything about Herman at least makes some sense though.
  • Pat Narduzzi will be a HC somewhere soon. Not sure he would want to have Dantonio be his biggest rival.
  • Tim Beck and Scott Frost are newish coordinators, and it seems crazy that Michigan would take a flier on someone like them.
  • Josh Heupel is one of the coordinators that makes a lot of sense, and is probably attainable. Even if Bob Stoops isn’t retiring soon, one would assume OU is his dream job.
  • Kirby Smart has lost a little luster as the “coordinator of the moment”, and is probably waiting for an SEC job anyway.

Here is what seems like the best combination of “possible” and order of preference, although not my preference per se:

  1. Jim Harbaugh – Almost certainly the #1 choice if available. Hard to see him coaching another other college if this job is out there
  2. Les Miles – Passed over (either by him or UM) twice, but LSU looks down (although super young).
  3. One of the random head coaches. Butch Jones, Jim McElwain and Craig Bohl all come to mind.
  4. Doug Nussmeier – Cook hasn’t mentioned him. He has two more years on his contract and has recently been thrown around as a HC somewhere. Could make the transition easier, and because he will have had just one year with Hoke won’t have the stink on him.
  5. Other random coordinator. Narduzzi, Herman and Heupel seem like the most sane/logical choices.

Remember that the last two hires were not the likely names going into the search. Rich Rodriguez had turned down Alabama previously and seemed like he was staying at West Virginia. And Hoke seemed like a long shot candidate. It would also seem likely that the powers that be will insist on a “Michigan Man” if possible, so until Mike Hart is ready to be head coach, the pickings are slim.