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You write about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things long enough … like sports … and eventually you run across a few of these that you don’t really want to write. So cue tonight.
We all have jobs, or at least have had jobs at some point. They all require something of us. For the salesman, it’s meeting a quota. For the teacher, it’s standardized testing scores that indicate the aptitude of students. For the coach, it’s winning games.
Whether it’s right or wrong, we don’t keep our jobs if we’re good people who do bad work. And we probably do if we’re bad people who do good work. Professionally, life is a bottom line industry. You succeed at what you’re supposed to do or you fail, and your shortcomings are based around that.
Which brings us to the case of Brady Hoke. By the middle of the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Utah, a buddy got a hold of me and told me to go look at Hoke’s Wikipedia page. Under the job category, it said “unemployed.”
That sums up how Michigan right now feels about Hoke. His team left a barren, soaked Big House after a multi-hour lightning delay just sort of teased Wolverine Nation like something out of Pet Semetary, where you know it’s dead but you have to wait an extra long time to finalize it.
The damning part of it all is that Michigan has gotten markedly worse since Hoke took over. Now in the program’s fourth year under him, the Wolverines went from “back” to “expectations were too high but we’re okay” to “wow, we should be better than this” to “maybe we should have kept Rich Rod.”
What makes it even worse for Hoke is that the program has recruited well as long as he’s been there, only for the guys to get on campus and almost regress. It’s like buying all the top shelf meats for a barbecue and it turns out they’re still not tasting very good, every time.
Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon has spent heavily on Hoke. Greg Mattison doesn’t come cheap and came to be a part of Hoke’s Michigan. When Al Borges — who succeeded at Auburn and then San Diego State with Hoke — came aboard, he didn’t come cheap either.
And when he didn’t work out, Brandon opened up his billfold and went to Alabama to snare Doug Nussmeier, whose supposedly simpler, better offense managed to carve out all of three points against Utah at home today.
Hoke has had everything at his disposal … a program raking in record funds, elite level coordinators, elite level recruiting … and still the program cannot find its way to the mailbox as the mail piles up on the porch.
Michigan has been bad for a while now. Call it the Curse of Lloyd Carr, where the Michigan faithful got disinterested with simply having winning seasons, bowl games, and stability to go along with maddening losses.
Now, the Michigan faithful get this.
Devin Gardner is still painfully bad. He has regressed every year he’s started from the six games he electrically finished after starting out as a wide receiver two years ago. So bad was Gardner that after another of what’s a seemingly an endless line of hideous turnovers, he was replaced by sophomore Shane Morris.
Morris was terrible too.
Meanwhile, Michigan hemmorages support. Hoke and Mattison, the best of friends, were seen sniping at one another on the sidelines, which you suppose is better than Greg Robinson motivating players with stuffed animals.
Michigan has pretty much come to this. This is a bad program that can’t win football games with vastly more talent and a fan base that dwindles by the day. Michigan will never be dead because it’s Michigan, but today was the harshest referendum that the program is still as wounded as it has been.
Hoke has seen his share of off-the-field incidents sully his reputation at Michigan as well, from the Taylor Lewan stuff to the slow rolling alleged rape investigation involving Brendan Gibbons.
Wins are intoxicating. Losses are a nadir that no one who has never coached at any level could possibly try to understand. Sometimes, you lose your soul in the process of chasing one to avoid the other.
It’s probably time for a change … another one. It’s a painful one to admit, but the bottom line is wins and losses in sports. It’s fairly black and white. Right now, there’s just too much black, and not enough white these days, in Ann Arbor.
We all have jobs to do. You, me, the guy next door. And when we don’t do them, they ask us to hand in our keys. It’s life, and it doesn’t define who we ever are. It’s time though, in Ann Arbor, to maybe change the locks, unfortunately.