Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16, 2016

With the official announcement of Brady Hoke being hired as the defensive coordinator for the Ducks, here are some thoughts regarding the hire.

The Hoke File:

Brady Hoke at Michigan was not a very good coach. Managing all of the expectations of being the man at such a storied program while trying to change a culture which had already undergone a massive shift just three years prior proved a task too tall for the former San Diego State and Ball State head coach.

But looking back deeper, Hoke had been a very promising young defensive line coach who had ascended rapidly from his first stint at Grand Valley State in 1983 as their defensive line coach. It was there where he would forge the relationships which would help to define his career. He worked for head coach Jack Harbaugh and his son John. Former Oregon assistant Dan Ferrigno was also a member of that staff.

Despite working for some abysmal Oregon State teams from 1989 to 1984, Hoke continued to build his understanding of what it took to be successful. It would be his next stint, working as an assistant for Michigan, which would propel him forward. The work he did with the defensive line (and a season with linebackers) was unmistakable as he helped the Wolverines immensely. He was valued so much by Lloyd Carr that he was the only coach given the “Associate Head Coach” title – an honor which no one else held at the time.

Hoke returned to his alma mater Ball State as head coach in 2002.

The Good, the bad and the ugly:

The good:
Hoke was indeed named coach of the year during his final season in Muncie; a 12-1 season which vaulted him into one of the hottest names in coaching. That season was historic on every level for Ball State. Their best all time season, first ever AP ranking

The bad:
While that season was fantastic, however, it took some time to get there. 2008 was not Hoke’s first, second, or even third season – it was his sixth season in Muncie. The team had been average to mediocre before his arrival and they trended backwards as he rebuilt the program. His record through his first five seasons of 22-37.

But it was the end of that fifth season, a near upset of Nebraska in the International Bowl which helped vault him into a sixth season.

He followed that by moving to San Diego State where he stayed for just two seasons. It would be difficult to say he ‘turned around’ either program. After his brilliant 2008 season at Ball State, the Cardinals reverted back to mediocre and bad under his former offensive coordinator. At San Diego State, just two seasons as a coach did not provide a lot of foundation to call his own.

The Ugly:
There are two incidents which really stand out. First was a decision to allow his quarterback to return to the field after he appeared to have received a concussion. Whether or not he did is not the relevant issue, the issue is whether Hoke made the right decision to not wait for an evaluation. He admitted that he did not know whether Morris had a concussion. But it is that possibility which must always be respected. Fortunately, this is no longer a coaches decision.

The second issue happened at Ball State and is somewhat out of his purview, but still bears mentioning. While at Ball State, several football players were caught in a scheme to sell textbooks for classes in which they were not enrolled. An NCAA investigation led to the reduction of three football scholarships and two years probation for the University. Nine other sports were involved in the scheme, so this was not anything which the head football coach was likely aware, but it the university was deemed responsible.

Calculated Gamble:

A hire such as this brings inherent risk. The Oregon football team is coming off of a historically bad defensive performance in 2015. There really is nowhere to go but up.

Why can this work? Because there are really three careers on the line here. First, of course, is Hoke himself. Should he have a second consecutive position in which he fails, he may find it difficult to get anything above an assistant coach position again. But he has aspirations to become a head coach again. This is a good thing, believe it or not. While it would be less than ideal if Oregon were to be on another defensive coordinator search in two or three years, if it happens because Hoke makes the Oregon defense on of the best in the nation, then everyone will be happy. You can be sure that Hoke is not going to take this lightly.

Mark Helfrich is also taking a calculated gamble. He knows the criticisms of Hoke; bad game day management, did not make adjustments. But he also knows that Hoke is widely respected among college coaches as an exceptional recruiter. Not just of obvious five-star guys, but he has an ability to spot players with potential. Hoke was the recruiter responsible for bringing Tom Brady to Michigan. He has been a very good recruiter for a very long time.

There is a third career on the line (somewhat in jest). Hoke and Helfrich share an agent. If this fails monumentally, the agent stands to lose a good deal. Should it be wildly successful, however, it could mean a nice payday when Hoke finds his next head coaching job.

Hoke has a brother who has also been a long-time coach having worked in both college and the NFL. Jon Hoke replaced Bob Stoops as defensive coordinator at Florida from 1999 through 2001 before heading to the NFL where he worked for the Houston Texans and then the staff of Lovie Smith in Chicago. Coaching is in the Hoke blood and he will certainly have a sounding board if needed.

Good or bad?
Look, this is not the hire many expected. There was great hope for Mike Nolan with good reason. But make no mistake, Hoke is not the unmitigated disaster hire waiting to happen. Are there better defensive coordinators out there? Absolutely. But there are also worse defensive coordinators out there. So the question then becomes, did those better coordinators have an interest in becoming the Ducks defensive coordinator?

I suppose anyone can be ‘bought’ for enough money, but there is not the unlimited cash reserve some would like to think available for this position. It is not as simple as a super booster opening up a check book and paying (first of all that would be an NCAA violation). So the administration has to go through and hire the best coordinator they can get for this position.

We talked about it in Flock Talk. Peter Sirmon has even less coaching chops than Hoke – considerably less. Helfrich would have been quite foolish to stake his career on Sirmon. There are some that might have preferred Justin Wilcox – but he was not ever a realistic option and Hoke fits better with this staff than does Wilcox.

The proof will be in the pudding. While the ‘pie in the sky’ coordinator almost came to fruition, Hoke is not the worst option ever considered. He is not Rich Stubler. Duck Sports Authority welcomes Hoke to the staff. We look forward to covering his work with this defense. I think there will be some pleasantly surprised Duck fans next season.


Post a Comment