Monday, December 10, 2007

At least Georgia Tech has a great coach

While Bill Martin was busy fumbling the “Les Miles situation”, he—and his paper search-committee—was simultaneously busy making an even bigger faux pas by ignoring virtually every dynamic coach fit to revolutionize the Michigan football program. Allowing chivalry to ruin the Miles situation could have simply been an isolated blunder albeit a regrettable one. Not getting the list of "the best available candidates" anywhere close to right is totally inexplicable. The second one is a much bigger indictment of Bill Martin’s incompetence. I’m not sure if Martin understands this and chooses to ignore it, or if he’s so enthralled with Lloyd Carr’s “integrity” that he couldn’t possibly see it but: any average coach could guide Michigan—a program that could go 8-4 for 30 years on auto-pilot—to respectability. Lloyd Carr is proof of that. Mike DeBord and Ron English could be—and likely would be—every bit as successful as Carr. The problem with that is that nobody—with the ironic and troublesome exception of Carr’s boss—was happy with respectability. Carr’s retirement was what virtually an entire fan-base was hoping praying for . This was supposed to be the point when Michigan stepped up to the elite status that was not possible under a limited coach. This was supposed to be the point when Michigan would now enter football games with the talent and coaching advantages which anyone who has heard of USC, Florida, and Ohio St. knows is a devastating combination.

By most accounts, Paul Johnson wasn’t even among the list of 30 coaches who Martin wanted to talk to. Considering Michigan’s organizational arrogance, the fact that it didn’t contact Johnson was no surprise. Georgia Tech did what Michigan was too afraid and small-minded to do, which was contact and then hire one of the best coaches in football. That concept—that truly revolutionary concept of hiring a great football coach—has apparently been lost on some. Georgia Tech didn’t beat Michigan to the punch like we saw LSU do in the Miles situation. Johnson didn’t shun Michigan like Greg Schiano did. For anything like that to have happened, Michigan would have needed to first show the competency necessary to even acknowledge Johnson’s existence. Michigan simply chose to ignore him. While the search has turned into a nightmare amongst the fan-base and alumni, Martin and Michigan always had the answer sitting right in front of them. As long as Johnson was available, Michigan’s search was never in danger. Just because the majority of the fan-base didn’t know it, didn’t make it any less true. Johnson was Michigan’s Jim Tressel or Urban Meyer—or more appropriately, a combination of the two. This search didn’t reach “inept” status in my mind until Georgia Tech proved to be more competent than Michigan. Sure, Michigan could’ve handled the Miles fiasco better. But, the situation never needed to be “Miles or bust.”

Any competent AD would’ve had a list of the best coaches in football that would’ve included Johnson right at the top along with Brian Kelly and Rich Rodriguez among others. Rumor has it that the latter two never made the list either because of various “they’re beneath us” reasons. It has been speculated that Kelly wasn’t considered because of a comment that was totally misinterpreted and overblown by media types while Rodriguez is one of a number of coaches who Carr may have given the “thumbs down” to. Obviously, Carr’s petty grudges are something that nobody at UM would ever in a million years admit to publicly because UM only admits good things. Plus, acknowledging them would set Michigan up for the inevitable ridicule that would accompany admittance that Michigan was ignoring qualified coaches because of petty grudges. Carr handicapped the search process by announcing his retirement when he did—it was always best for the Michigan program for Carr to announce much later despite Carr's insistence to the contrary—and by sabotaging the list of candidates by reportedly giving the subtle “thumbs down” to Miles and Rodriguez among others. Martin, for his part, allowed all of this to happen.

Still, even with Carr’s reported attempts to make it difficult for Miles to get the job, Michigan always had the best coaching option on the table in Paul Johnson. It is my belief that Michigan didn’t hire contact even consider Johnson because it was too dismissive of him as a “gimmick” coach who would never have success at a school like Michigan. That is the status quo that I have come to expect from the leaders of a football program that still haven’t acknowledged that the spread offense even exists. Well, I for one can’t wait until the Georgia Tech football program blows up. There haven’t been too many bad days for University of Georgia football fans in recent years but this certainly counts as one of them. Under no circumstances can they be happy that Johnson is now in charge of the Yellow Jackets. If this guy was taking over your chief rival’s football team, would you feel good about it? If Martin had done his job, this would’ve been a bad day for Ohio St..

There is a very good chance that Michigan will end up with Les Miles when this thing is all said and done. Everyone will forget any of this ever happened. There will be no accountability for any of this stuff. The Michigan program will be stronger than it has been since the mid-80s and everyone will be happy. However, none of that will change the fact that the people in charge allowed arrogance and ignorance to get in the way of putting Michigan in the best possible position to be successful in this job search. While a competent AD never would’ve gotten into the situation of “Miles or Bust”, the fact that Martin never even considered Johnson, Rodriguez, and Kelly essentially guaranteed that the whole success of this search hinged on Miles coming to Michigan. He will bail out Michigan and—despite the fact that he will have to go back on his word to come to Michigan—he will be hailed as a savior.


Anonymous said...

Great piece! I am in total agreement that this entire search "process" has been a fiasco from day one.

It's been known that Carr was contemplating retirement for sometime. Any halfway competent AD would've sat down for a few hours MONTHS ago and drawn up a list of candidates. Feelers could've been sent out through third parties.

It's become very clear that this AD has hugely overestimated it's competence in this search. They would've been FAR better off hiring a professional search firm.

I'm also getting annoyed with the constant stream of unfounded accusations against some of the candidates. If a guy really is that dirty or has committed multiple NCAA violations there must be public, credible reports available somewhere. Nope. Just a constant stream of "Oooh! Oooh! The guy is dirty!" type insinuations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks from a diehard Ramblin Wreck for the many cogent and well-written articles on Paul Johnson. With GSU alums in my family I've followed him and coveted his services for a long time and you can imagine how ecstatic I am to have him at Tech. It is not every day that your alma mater hires your absolute, #1, top-of-the-list dream coach.

Johnson is more responsible than anyone else for Georgia Southern's dominance as the 900 pound gorilla of D1AA. He's also proven he can win consistently with markedly inferior talent at a school that makes GT look like an NFL franchise. His recruiting connections in Georgia and the Southeast are unparralleled, resembling Tressell's in Ohio and the Midwest.

GT has put together great seasons occasionally but this is the first time I've ever felt confident we could be a national force annually in modern college football. And if we somehow retain Tenuta on top of the hire, I will be rendered speechless with football bliss.

Jake said...

Thanks for the comments.

Roch Wolverine, I could envision SNL doing a parody of Michigan's job search by eliminating every "good" candidate for the pettiest of reasons before no viable candidates were left standing. But, it wouldn't be a parody.


I am envious of your situation. Keeping Tenuta is an absolute must, in my opinion. That combination would be truly awesome. I can't believe that's up in the air. I thought I remembered hearing that the administration was undecided but I think I was mistaken. It looks like Tenuta is actually seeking out alternatives before making a decision. Ga. Tech will be competitive right away but I think within three years, it'll rule the ACC. Congratulations! You can return the favor by being envious of Michigan when it hires Brady Hoke in two weeks...or not.


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