Monday, January 10, 2011

Les Miles and Brandon's vision

There's very little this blog can report that you can't hear elsewhere. I don't have inside sources and connections to Schembechler Hall. So you've probably already heard that Les Miles is being seriously considered for the head coaching vacancy and will speak with Michigan, likely tomorrow. He made a brief statement on the topic:

Of the things he says, a few are of note:
I'm told that we will speak. That time and place has not been identified...

It's hard for me to speculate the substance of that meeting...

I spent my day today with a number of underclassmen. I want to return right here. I am extremely happy here...

I think it's best left that way. I don't know that there's anything more to say...

There's no more information than what I have just shared with you.
First of all, Miles knows exactly what the substance of the meeting is going to be. We all know what the substance of the meeting will be. But this sounds like a man that's not interested in leaving. He mentions the connection that he and his family have created to LSU and how happy he is there. Sure, this is exactly what coaches are supposed to say shortly before actually leaving, but given the general noises coming from "sources", my guess is that Miles is not an option. All of which is point to one very disturbing trend: Dave Brandon is completely lost.

Commenter Lankownia and I discussed this last week. He (?) was decidedly down on Brandon:
The most fascinating thing about this process is that even though Dave Brandon has shown no evidence whatsoever of being good at his job (at least as it relates to football) people want to keep giving him the benefit of the doubt that he has a master plan behind the scenes.

Here's an idea: He doesn't. If he did he wouldn't have waited till December and he would have a coach in place, or nearly in place when he announced the firing of Rodriguez.

Michigan fans are beaten down and desperate and putting all their hopes in a savior. Dave Brandon isn't who Michigan fans imagine/want him to be.

Brandon has done what he said and said what he's done. I don't know why you'd assume he made headway in coaching negotiations last night when it took him hours yesterday and another meeting today to reach a conclusion that everyone saw as inevitable in November. Brandon said he made the decision last night. I doubt he did that while negotiating a contract for the new coach.
I have qualms about some of the things Lankownia says here, as well as later in the discussion, but I'm coming around to the sentiment. In Brandon's first real test as Michigan's athletic director, he is doing an exceptionally poor job. The NCAA violations were handled well, but he did little more than present a good front. Like President Obama ("He's such a good speaker"), I don't care if he can speak well in public; I want him to be good at his job. Brandon's process and ineptitude are really starting to worry me.

During the onset of the coaching search, Straight Bangin' sent an open letter to Mary Sue Coleman regarding the situation:
Instead, David Brandon insisted on pursuing his own timeline and perpetuating the charade that he only could conduct an evaluation of Rich Rodriguez after the Gator Bowl. By wasting so much time, Brandon left Rodriguez in limbo, destroyed the pending recruiting class, and worst all, managed to let Harbaugh slip away. The additional month of waiting forfeited Michigan's time advantage and allowed NFL teams to actively enter the fray once the NFL regular season ended. Brandon's awkward and unnecessary process seems either disrespectful toward his industry's landscape, or worse, completely ignorant of it. Barring an unexpected triumph, such as hiring Bill Bellichick or Nick Saban, this episode will confirm the fear that Mr. Brandon's corporate background left him unprepared for the realities of sports administration, territory previously unfamiliar to him. Michigan fans can only look on with envy at the decisive actions taken by schools like Florida and even, Lord help me, Ohio State, where people with experience in athletics run the industry's best departments.
One word: yeouch. Joey and I have had our disagreements re: Michigan football in the past, but he's 110% right here. Brandon is proving that he has little or no grasp on what he's doing in this coaching search and Michigan is going to suffer for it dearly.

Then you have Brandon's personal blog on MGoBlue which, laughable writing aside, is an awful way to show transparency. Brandon's most recent blog post is a LiveJournal defense of his awkward methods:
I am sure all of the news reports are interesting for our fans, but I am too busy to follow the majority of the news except to hear some pretty wild stories about "where I am and who I am talking to." The last week should be a reminder to everyone not to believe everything you read or hear. Some of the so-called "news reports" over the past week have been simply ridiculous...

Our Michigan Athletic Department e-mail servers have been very busy! I am trying to answer/acknowledge all e-mails we have been receiving from sincere, thoughtful individuals. The department appreciates the messages from those who are simply trying to help. Those that are not trying to be helpful quickly end up in the delete/block sender file!
639: the number of words Brandon spent on this ridiculous blog post. For a man who is too busy to listen to news reports that are consistently portraying his organization as a poorly run joke (no, not Dominos this time), he sure spends a lot of time answering (acknowledging? Really?) e-mails and writing meaningless blog posts.

As time goes on, the chances of Michigan landing a true forward-thinking coach and someone that will bring the program into the future the way we had hoped Rodriguez would become less and less likely. Brandon's own criteria for the next head coach even seem to contradict this sentiment entirely: Brandon was a Schembechler Michigan Man and wants someone to turn Michigan back into three yards and a cloud of dust. Worse than having a head coach that doesn't think the spread offense can work in college football is having an athletic director who thinks the same.

The most disappointing aspect in all of this is that Rodriguez was clearly building toward something and had the program headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, for all of the talk of Brandon uniting the program and fanbase, he's trying to do so in his image. And because of that Rodriguez was not good enough for him. Now, as Michigan stares at a barren landscape of coaching also-rans, they have a recently fired Xs and Os guru who was canned because Brandon didn't include him in his ultimate vision. Sadly, he didn't include any coach in that vision, instead just expected Michigan to win.

Seeing how fruitless this entire process has been is disheartening and makes it difficult to continue caring about a program that's being manned by someone uninterested in or unaware of its best interests. At this point, anything short of Gary Patterson or Gus Malzahn will leave me uninspired and fearful for the long-term future of the program.


Nick said...

Brandon's sentiment to "turn Michigan back" is evidence of the first and only major fault in the fan base. If you're a UM fan, you either:

A) Cling to the past (because you're old)
B) Want Michigan to keep up with the times (because you're aware of the greater college football landscape)

Underlining this division is the sports media. I've counted at least five mainstream media articles espousing the virtues of Brady Hoke, while bloggers generally want nothing to do with him. Again, the first group is old, the other young.

It's obvious which category Brandon falls in. This program won't move forward until it sheds the old generation.

GOBlue_Vinnie said...

I used to think that Dave Brandon had everything under control and we were in good hands. But, in the last 6 weeks I've changed my mind for various reasons. Like most everyone else, I saw DB as a strong principled person. I now view DB as a stubborn and egotistical person who is incapable of changing his position as circimstances change. His position on RR had to have evolved as the season went on, yet his timetable to address the issue (fired or not) did not adapt. It should have changed as the season unfolded, and he should have had a replacement locked up BEFORE firing RR. But that would have required him to alter his ridiculous "after the season" evaluation position. I don't think he's capable of adapting to changing circumstances because it would send a message of "waffling". I've lost confidence in his abilities in the handling of this entire process.

Anonymous said...

Hah! Miles turned UM down. Say hello to a second tier team for a loooooong time.

Anonymous said...

Can we please stop with the "Rodriguez was clearly building toward something and had the program headed in the right direction" stuff. If anything, the last three years should teach all Michigan fans something about the dangers of certainty and the power of contingency. That he was building toward something is self-evident, just what direction the program would take is anything but clear. The program might have been an offensive juggernaut next season, it also could have been a team in full revolt after a number of players decided, after three non-competitive blowout losses, that their coaches were incompetent.

When Rodriguez was hired, I was pretty sure that Michigan would be in the hunt for national titles within two to three years. Now, I'm much less sure of what I'm sure of. Brady Hoke could be absolute disaster. Brady Hoke could return Michigan to stability. Brady Hoke could be coaching star waiting for big stage opportunity to shine.

Chris Gaerig said...

That's a wholly subjective spin you just put on that. Rodriguez showed objective improvement each year both on the offensive side of the ball and in the wins column. The defense obviously needed a re-haul (again), but Rodriguez was in the process of creating a team that had shown improvement year-by-year. "Anything could happen the next year" is a ridiculous way to argue. It's like assuming that Michigan will win the National Title next year: sure, it's possible, but given the empirical evidence presented, we can very likely say it's not going to happen. So yes, anything could've happened with the team next year. I prefer logic, however, to baseless speculation.

Re: Hoke. Again, sure he could be a star coach in waiting, but he's given no evidence that that's the case (a 47-50 overall head coaching record and significant and continued fluctuation in his teams' records). Combine that with a reluctance and lack of understanding of the college game, and my money is on perpetually underwhelming.

Lankownia said...

For the record, I too wanted/hoped Brandon would deliver. As you said, he spoke well and gave off an impression of being calm and in control. But, so far, it appears this is a communication skill more than a managerial skill, as you suggest.

The difference between my view and others was that I wasn't going to decide about Brandon or have faith in him until he proved he deserved it. I wrote this in November after reading too much mgoblog love: My words were reactionary perhaps but what I meant to say was: Brandon has a mixed record in his less than 1 year, he seems as likely to fail as he is to succeed.

To me its become common among fans to expect new coaches, new players (freshman in particular), new S&C program managers, new ANYTHING to produce far too much. Nevermind that the odds are stacked against finding a new Canham or Woodson or Schembehler. The problem comes from people projecting their hopes and speculation into expectations.

Thusfar, Brandon hasn't exceeded the minimum level of search. The only confirmed talks between Brandon have been Harbaugh, Miles, and (not confirmed but strongly presumed) Hoke. Those are the three most obvious HCs with Michigan ties that anyone could have came up with. Anyone of us could have sent these guys a letter with "Do you want the job, check yes or no" and done as well as Brandon has.

BTW, yes - I'm a "he". Good of you not to assume though. I'm also impressed you're willing to come around to a different view, though in Brandon's case, everyone seems to be jumping off the bandwagon as fast as possible.

I, too, find Brandon's blog posts pitiful. What bugs me is his call to rally around whoever the next coach is; it seems to be preparing the fans for what he knows will be a disappointment to most.

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