Hiring Brady Hoke to coach the Michigan football team wasn’t the sexy choice, but it was definitely the right choice. Just watch his introductory press conference, and try telling me you wouldn’t love to play for this guy.
Sure, I dreamed about Jim Harbaugh coming home and rescuing Michigan from mediocrity, and when that fell apart, I relished the idea of Les Miles bringing his winning ways back to Ann Arbor. I was one of many. I even saw a poll that showed fans preferred Miles over the lesser-known Hoke by a margin of approximately 80 percent to 14 percent. Then Miles was out, and I had to figure out if our new coach’s first name was Brady or Grady.
I was stunned and left wondering if the Michigan job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Perhaps the incredibly poor treatment of former coach Rich Rodriguez tainted the job’s appeal in the eyes of elite coaches. A friend’s Facebook status even said “Michigan Football: 1879-2010. Rest in Peace.”
After the announcement, I read up on Brady Hoke and wasn’t too enthralled by his credentials. Nobody had ever heard of him, and he sported a sub-.500 record in non-automatic qualifying conferences. But raise your hand if you think Ohio State messed up when it hired Division I-AA coach Jim Tressel. Tell me how former Iowa State coach Gene Chizik did in his first two years at Auburn. They’ve done alright. So why not Hoke?
We’re getting someone who can really coach defense. His stellar work as Michigan’s defensive line coach between 1995 and 2002 produced the nation’s stingiest run defense and a National Championship in 1997. Wolverine offensive guard Steve Hutchinson called Hoke the best coach he ever played for — no small feat when you’ve played for current President of the Cleveland Browns, Mike Holmgren. Fellow Michigan greats Charles Woodson, Tom Brady, Mike Hart, Desmond Howard, Braylon Edwards and Jon Jansen — who all know a little bit about football— also gave stellar reviews of Hoke.
Yesterday I saw what all the former players raved about. In the press conference introducing him as the new head coach, Hoke sounded gruff and mean but loving of his players at the same time. He talked tough and bluntly in a booming voice about growing up in Ohio, hating Ohio State and his unmatched love for Michigan football. He emphasized toughness and defense and stated multiple times he would have walked here from San Diego for this opportunity to coach the Wolverines. Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon even noted that Hoke accepted the job before asking about salary — something Brandon recalled only Bo Schembechler doing before.
The Bo comparisons are unavoidable, especially if you hear Hoke talk. Just YouTube the press conference and watch him defiantly stare down the crowd when asked if the job lost its luster. It’s Bo reincarnated. This guy’s legit — and he can definitely coach. He’s also led two successful transitions as a coach and his losing record is more a product of what he inherited than an indictment on his performance. His teams all improved dramatically with him at the helm.
With Hoke, I see total sincerity and nothing contrived. If you hear him talk just once, you know you can trust him, and you see his compassion toward people. Recruiting, as he said, is a “people business,” and given his qualities and the enormous resources of Michigan, this should be a real strength for the program in the coming years. And although he’s aware of the difficult situation ahead of him with regard to this year’s recruiting class, among other things, he views the challenges as “fun” and part of football.
Oh, and for the record, Hoke was sure to mention where sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson fit in: “When you have talented players, it’s your job to mold them into what’s best for your football team.” In other words, even though he deplores the spread offense, he recognizes the need to adapt his system a bit when given a talent as special as Robinson.
We have every reason to support Hoke as our new head coach, and we need to give him the chance we never afforded Rodriguez to be successful. Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson, and thankfully, we have the perfect man ready to lead us. Go Blue.
Roger Sauerhaft is an LSA senior.