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:
- Jim Harbaugh – Almost certainly the #1 choice if available. Hard to see him coaching another other college if this job is out there
- Les Miles – Passed over (either by him or UM) twice, but LSU looks down (although super young).
- One of the random head coaches. Butch Jones, Jim McElwain and Craig Bohl all come to mind.
- 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.
- 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.