If anybody knows what Michigan is looking for in its next head football coach, they should probably tell Michigan, because it sounds like after years of getting beaten up in headlines and between the lines, the black and blue Wolverines football program is staggering around the nation worse than Shane Morris against Minnesota and doesn’t even know what it’s doing.
Interim athletic director Jim Hackett has thrown the Michigan Man mandate out the door which was a necessary development. Brady Hoke loved Michigan Blue more than Tobias Bluth, telling anyone who would listen that he would have walked from San Diego State to his “dream job” at Michigan. Most likely, he’d have to trade in flip-flops for snow shoes, skis and ice skates during the quest to Ann Arbor, but his unbridled enthusiasm was nullified by his unwillingness to rock a headset and his accompanying ineptitude as the CEO of a major blue blood football program.
Of course, that was probably after Jim Harbaugh opted against leaving Bay Area for a polar plunge back into his college stomping grounds.
The silence echoing out of Michigan is ambiguous. Are they being cerebral or banging their heads against a wall? Florida acted quickly on Jim McElwain. Nebraska pounced on Riley. Someone call an EMT to wake up Michigan. I think they’ve fallen and can’t get up.
The Big Ten’s hirings this silly season have not been inspiring. Most recently, Wisconsin plucking Paul Chryst out of Pittsburgh was the blandest hire imaginable. It just screams, "Hi, we're a Big Ten powerhouse who doesn't pay our assistants much to compete against Ohio State and Michigan with much higher academic standards so we need an alum who'll give us the hometown discount and won't leave us when we get so fat and slothful that we can't find the remote under our own ass.”
I apologize, that last part was my dad’s wedding vows to my mom.
Hopefully, Michigan’s hire doesn’t leave the Big House in a similar state of melancholy.
Duke’s David Cutliffe had his name thrown into the cage, but the rumor was quickly spit back out and has laid their limp on the blogosphere and rumor mill since.
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) December 10, 2014
To be clear, there has been zero contact between Michigan and Duke’s David Cutcliffe. No third party contact, even through search firm
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) December 10, 2014
It’s probably for the best. Though Cutliffe’s achieved unprecedented success for Duke, he couldn’t get over the hump with Ole Miss in four years and was quickly jettisoned from there after Eli Manning went pro. They can do better.
If Michigan is serious about looking outside the box in the 21st century, there are a number of viable candidates available around the country.
Texas didn’t limit its search to Lone Star State applicants. They branched out to Charlie Strong, whose recruiting roots were firmly planted in Florida.
There’s Joe Moglia, the most unorthodox candidate, not because of his advanced age—he’s 61, but because of background as the CEO of TD Ameritrade until he stepped down in 2008 to become an unpaid executive assistant of Bo Pelini’s at Nebraska.
Now, in his third season as the head coach of Coastal Carolina, Moglia coached the Chanticleers to an 11-1 regular season and a date with the three-time defending FCS national champions North Dakota State Bison on the horizon.
He’d probably make an excellent AD if Michigan hadn’t just expelled a former Dominos executive from the position. On second thought, if you think he’s old you could make the same argument for Nebraska’s new hire, 61-year-old Mike Riley. For anoher perspective, don’t forget that Lloyd Carr was also forced into retirement at the age of 62.
Western Michigan’s PJ Fleck is the extreme end of the youth spectrum. The first FBS head coach born of the 80s is a ball of kinetic energy, he's NOT Lane Kiffin and has shown he’s comfortable with the polar temperatures, which is crucial for any Big Ten chief.
He's spent a majority of his coaching career in the midwest, outside of a cup of coffee as Greg Schiano's wide receivers coach in Tampa Bay, where he was known for wearing cleats and demonstrating routes in practice. Fleck was also an assistant of Jim Tressel’s at Ohio State which gives him a Bo Schembechler-type double dipper. Fleck’s most impressive tangible credentials include a water to wine turnaround from 1-11 in year one to 8-4 In 2014 when he was named a Maxwell Coach of the Year semifinalist.
Fleck is an offensive-minded head coach and naturally Kalamazoo's Western Michigan Broncos produced the MAC's No. 1 scoring offense, the leader in passing efficiency. They weren't an unbalanced team either as they finished two points away from leading the league in scoring defense and were the conference's leader in team sacks. The MAC has always been known as a Big Ten talent pool and in Fleck's first full recruiting calendar his efforts yielded the highest-rated recruiting class in conference history.
If Michigan is lost at sea and can’t find their way back to land, Fleck is literally the best possible man for this job.
In the pool of assistants, Ohio State's offensive coordinator Tom Herman was recently given the Broyles Award for the nation's top assistant. Hiring a rival assistant may seem blasphemous, but it mirrors the resume of Schembechler, who grinded his teeth on Woody Hayes' staff for four years.
Clemson’s Brent Venables is the best defensive architect in the nation who is yet to have been given a head coaching opportunity and although it may seem like Venables’ expertise has been espoused for a decade now, he’s only 43.
In the first seasons before Venables marked his spot, Clemson's scoring defense ranked 81st nationally in 2011. Kevin Steele was fired after the Mountaineers surrendered 70 to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl and Venables' pride and joy has grown from tadpoles into sharks. The Clemson defense vastly improved to the 46th ranked scoring D in his inaugural campaign before ended the 2014 regular season as the nation's seventh-stingiest defense and ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s defensive efficiency rankings.
If the Korn Ferry search firm Michigan’s hired to find a coach searches close to home, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi brings every skillsetto the table as Venables, plus a familiarity with the recruiting landscape.
Ultimately, as awful as Michigan’s defense has been throughout the Hoke and Rich Rod eras, the Wolverines may be weary about spinning the wheel on the Pelini Principle.
The Pelini Principle a derivative of the Peter Principle theory. The Peter Principle which states that the selection of a candidate for a job position is based on his or her performance at a lesser position rather than his possession of skills relevant to his role. Thus, employees often stop being promoted once they've reached their level of incompetence.
The Pelini Principle essentially states that assistants promoted directly to head coach at major programs struggle with the adjustment or were never going to be ready and were hired based off of how they produced under the thumb of another successful football CEO.
Mark Richt is one of the few coordinators to achieve success at a major program with only coordinating experience since Lloyd Carr was promoted from within Gary Moeller’s staff after his abrupt resignation during the ’95 season when he jabbed 5-0 in the chest during a drunken tirade. However, even Pelini’s pre-Cornhuskers resume didn’t have the luster of Narduzzi or Venables.
The Indianapolis Colts’ Pep Hamilton is one of only two active black offensive coordinators in the NFL ranks and has collegiate recruiting experience as the Stanford Cardinals’ wide receivers coach under Jim Harbaugh.
However, he’s ever been a head coach at any level and his only Michigan connection was his proximity to Harbaugh at Stanford.
Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin is an offensive savant, but to borrow from the words of Jigga, his defenses couldn’t stop a bust a grape in a fruit fight.
Sumlin was Brandon’s original target after Rich Rodriguez was prematurely canned in 2010, but after one outsider clashed with the insulated Ann Arbor community, they clearly felt the need to hire a man who would jive with their group think.
Now could be a unique opportunity to import a head coach whose profile has risen significantly in the past three seasons.
Dan Mullen is the most logical hire by every metric including his age and experience as Tebow’s Florida offensive coordinator. His stock will never be higher, but he strikes some as a strong, stubborn personality, analogous to Rich Rodriguez. Reportedly, he wasn’t even considered for the Florida vacancy because he bumped heads with the great, powerful wizard Jeremy Foley at Florida.
However, there is only one man who would be an immaculate fit, yet plausible fit.
Greg Schiano is toxic and Gary Patterson is a Colorado dispensary pipe dream. The Wolverines have been been linked to a few ducks over the past eight years, however, LSU’s Les Miles is Michigan’s golden goose. They almost had him in 2007, but the timing was off as the report of his purported deal with Michigan leaked on the day of LSU’s SEC Championship and national championship game bid.
Then again, the Wolverines were in a much better position nationally in 2007, than they are today. The entire program is in flux as they search for a new athletic director as well. Michigan doesn't just need a compass for direction or a head coach, they need a head period.