Brady Hoke Enters ‘Must-Win’ Phase of Coaching Career


Personally, I’ve never been an advocate for mid-season coaching terminations. I don’t think it’s a good look for the program itself, and it doesn’t benefit the student-athletes to have to go through that kind of transition while already struggling to win games on a weekly basis.

However, if Michigan (2-2, 0-0 Big Ten) loses to Minnesota on Saturday, then it might be time for athletic director David Brandon to release Brady Hoke of his duties and name Greg Mattison interim coach for the remainder of the season.

Michigan thought it finally got its man with Hoke and was finally on its way back to national prominence. In 2011—his first season in Ann Arbor—the Wolverines went 11-2, beat Ohio State, and won the Sugar Bowl. It was an incredible start for a coach that was sure to have his new program back chasing titles in no time.

But Michigan has been far from a championship-caliber program under Hoke. Instead of taking two top-10 recruiting classes and producing an improved on-field product, the Wolverines have taken several significant steps back.

Since winning 11 games—with former coach Rich Rodriguez’s players, at that—Hoke has a 17-13 record. He’s lost two bowl games, lost to Ohio State twice, has been mediocre in the Big Ten, and is 2-7 against the AP Top 25 during this time.

Still, he doesn’t seem to see the issue, which might be the biggest concern of them all:

“No, and that won’t affect the course of where we want to go, I can tell you that,” Hoke said in response to whether his team is in a state of crisis. “This whole getting into coaching and coaching is (about) those 115 kids and the mentorship and the things that we want to do to help kids, that’s where it starts.

“The frustration level people may have, don’t think those kids don’t have the same frustration. Don’t think that’s not part of it. But what they do have is a great belief in each other and a great belief in this program. …”This WILL be a good football team.”

Athlon Sports college football editor Steven Lassan posted an article with the headline “College Football’s Top 10 Coaches on the Host Seat After Week 4” on Wednesday morning, with a focus on Hoke’s tenure at Michigan.

At No. 2 behind Florida’s Will Muschamp (who is a sure-fire to be surely fired at this point), Lassan points out that that Hoke is under “immense pressure” heading into Week 5.

“Similar to Florida’s Will Muschamp, the biggest problem for Hoke entering Week 5 is the offense. Doug Nussmeier was hired from Alabama to fix an offense that averaged 5.2 yards per play (No. 8 in conference) in Big Ten games last season. So far, it’s hard to suggest the Wolverines are any better on offense. Michigan has yet to reach the redzone in two games against Power 5 opponents and scored just 10 points in Saturday’s loss to Utah. Hoke has recruited well – No. 2 roster in the Big Ten – so a 9-7 mark in conference play since 2012 is underachieving at a program like Michigan.”

That’s putting it lightly—Michigan is a complete mess.

In the “what have you done for me lately?” era, Hoke fails on all levels. Over the course of their last 12 games—keep in mind this is full regular season-sized sample—the Wolverines are 4-8, and their four wins come against opponents with a combined 11-21 record (Indiana and Northwestern in 2013; Appalachian State and Miami-Oh. in 2014).

Despite having won 22 of the last 23 games against Minnesota, there’s so much more on the line than retaining The Little Brown Jug.

“The Little Brown Jug is on the line. So, it seems, is Brady Hoke’s job based on the noise coming out of Ann Arbor,” wrote Eric Olson of the Associated Press. “Last week’s 16-point loss to Utah at home, following the 31-0 defeat at Notre Dame two weeks earlier, has made this as much a must-win game as there can be in late September.”

Michigan is a 13-point favorite at home against the Golden Gophers, who are 3-1 this season with wins over Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee, and San Jose State.

Senior running back David Cobb already has a pair of 200-yard rushing performances under his belt for the 2014 campaign, and though the Wolverines have proved stout against the run thus far, his 5.9 yards per carry could provide some issues for a defense that seems to always be on the field.

Neither of those things matter for founder Pete Roussel, who hasn’t seen Minnesota play this season, but is well-aware of the dismal quarterback situation Michigan has been dealing with and has picked the Gophers to steal a win, 31-20.

“I found it quite amusing how Brady Hoke maneuvered through questions about the quarterback position this week. I have not watched one down of Minnesota football this season, but I know that Michigan has issues.”

I’ll put it in easy terms: If Roussel’s prediction comes true and Hoke loses to a sixth straight Power 5 opponent, I don’t see a scenario where he makes the trip to Rutgers on October 4.