Michigan now faces the daunting task of replacing Rich Rodriguez as head coach at Michigan. Daunting means "discouraging," a word most appropriate due more to timing than to the difficulty of replacing a coach who in his tenure managed to lead Michigan to the worst three-year stretch in school history. A hundred terrible caches could do the same, and would be happy to take Michigan's dollars to top Rodriguez's era of anti-acheivement.
The discouraging part part comes with the timing and the reported indifference of Michigan's most obvious candidate, Jim Harbaugh. Without Harbaugh the list of viable candidates for the Michigan job becomes a pretty slim pool of possibilities, but it's what they'll have to work with in a relatively short period of time.
What we need here is a Michigan man who can do what only Michigan can. Lloyd Carr still holds sway within the Michigan football program, and if he and those who worship the fourth down pooch punt have their way, the only candidate for the job is Brady Hoke.
Hoke is a former Carr assistant and who is not without his accomplishments. Ball State went 12-1 and won the MAC under Hoke in 2007, and then took the comatose San Diego State program off the floor and made a bowl game with nine wins in just his second season. He has a demonstrated record of winning and rebuilding programs, something Michigan is in desperate need of at the moment.
He also lacks anything you might call sex appeal in the eyes of those looking for more sparkle in their new hires. Aside from those two peak years his teams in his short career have been pedestrian. Coaching demands may hinder his budding acting career. Will probably get the job from sheer safety and familiarity.
If we can't get a Michigan Man we'll at least get something like one. I.e. a low-key, self-effacing guy with solid football chops and the people skills to mend fences in Ann Arbor after the long siege of Rodriguez's tenure. Kyle Whittingham and Chris Petersen fall into this category, have won loads of games as head coaches, and are completely unavailable and happy where they are, but they'll come up in a lot of lists so you might as well know their names to say, "Yeah, that'd be a great idea! And it will not happen. But it's a great idea!" And then you can give them a cookie, because being patronizing is always more tolerable when you get a cookie at the same time.
Who's willing to escape this burning building by jumping into this burning car with me? Once you get out of the country of safe and normal ideas and get into full honest desperation, you might consider any of the following candidates for the Michigan job.
- Dan Mullen. The man whose Mississippi State team just dismantled Michigan could be a nice fit for the current offensive personnel in Ann Arbor, and would undoubtedly bring with him up and coming defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. He also has no ties to the Michigan area, and is not exactly unabrasive. (See a Miami interviewer's comment about him thinking he "invented the game of football.")
- Les Miles. Advantage: a Schembechler disciple with a national title ring and genuine love for the school. Downside: can't count, is Les Miles, and will kill older members of fanbase with wacky postgame decision-making. Would be difficult to dislodge from LSU.
- Mike Leach. A safe, conservative choice with limitless upside and no seriously we kid. Dennis Franchione will coach at Alabama again before Leach gets a sniff from Michigan, and that means never.
- John Gruden. Someone had to say it first. It's not happening, but THIS GUY comes up with every other major college opening, so why not here?