Brady Hoke Isn’t Necessarily Wrong About Michigan’s Decision to Punt

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Hey, everybody! Let’s all point and laugh and meme (can it be a verb? I’m making it a verb) Brady Hoke for offering an opinion on Michigan opting to punt Saturday against Michigan State!

Hoke’s suggestion on SiriusXM that he’d have opted to attempt a fourth-down conversion Saturday rather than punt in Michigan’s once-in-a-lifetime, 27-23 loss to Michigan State is the setup for jokes. So many jokes.


The nerve of a former coach answering a coaching strategy posited him on a radio show!

Clearly he’s bitter about his firing from Michigan after four seasons of declining record, which hit bottom in a 5-7 2014 campaign. And obviously, given the fact Hoke failed at Michigan, he’s unqualified to have opinions on Michigan football; or, really, football in general.

It’s a scientific fact once a coach fails to meet expectations at one program, he is incapable of having correct football ideas. Just look at old What’s His Name who preceded Hoke at Michigan. I’m sure he’s doing nothing now.

Brady Hoke is an easy target for derision. In this particular case, he’s especially open to criticism given the success Jim Harbaugh’s had in just a half-season since taking over for Hoke. But guess what?

*looks around, whispers*

Hoke isn’t wrong.

Now, he is opining with the benefit of hindsight. Nic Cage in a terrible sci-fi movie couldn’t have foreseen Blake O’Neill’s fumble, Michigan State’s recovery of said fumble and the Spartans’ tremendous job of blocking down the field for Jalen Watts-Jackson.

But he has a point.

When Michigan lined up for its punt attempt after a timeout, 10 seconds remained. The Wolverines were on the Sparty side of the field, and Mark Dantonio had no timeouts left. Quarterback Jake Rudock taking the snap, running back a few yards before taking a slide would have taken at least a few more ticks off the clock and left Michigan State one Hail Mary attempt at the end zone.

Perhaps Harbaugh was spooked that earlier in the fourth quarter, a Michigan State score was set up on a 74-yard touchdown pass from Connor Cook to Trevon Pendleton.

Or, more likely, he had understandable faith in O’Neill. The punter was arguably Michigan’s MVP prior to the fumble, having pinned Michigan State inside its own 10-yard line on three occasions. Harbaugh didn’t make the wrong decision — but Hoke’s suggestion isn’t wrong, either.

Michigan came into Saturday’s contest playing 14 consecutive quarters of scoreless defense. Fourteen! O’Neill’s punts set the table for one of college football’s most imposing defenses to do what it does best, stifling a talented Michigan State offense for much of the afternoon.

If there’s any defense in the game currently I’d trust to make one stop — ONE STOP! — to win, it’s Michigan’s.

From the less analytic perspective, I’m surprised by the immediate dismissive tone the College Football Commentariat of Hoke’s suggestion. The internet loves going for it on fourth down. Since when do we collectively scoff at a suggestion of attempting conversion?

Alas, because of how Hoke’s Michigan tenure ended, and how Harbaugh’s has started, any suggestions the former makes are sure to be brushed off as bitterness. Understandable, though Hoke isn’t exactly making broad-brush statements about the state of the program as Mack Brown has Texas under Charlie Strong.

Further, not every decision Brady Hoke made at Michigan was wrong. Honest! And, in this singular idea for the current Michigan team, he’s not wrong.