11-2. 8-5. 7-6. 5-6.
Michigan football is battered and broken and bruised. From the bottom of the pit of Hell, the Wolverines limped through this 5-6 season, which was finally put out of its misery with a 42-28 loss to Ohio State on Saturday afternoon.
Words often fail to describe what has happened to the Michigan football program. After an 11-win season in 2011, which was capped by a Sugar Bowl victory, each step of the ladder on which Brady Hoke used to climb to that height slowly began to rot away and become a very distant memory. The next season saw plenty more bumps in the road, but those were quickly and easily brushed aside by the fact that Michigan lost to to the two teams who competed in the BCS National Championship (Notre Dame and Alabama) and the only team to go unblemished (Ohio State). Once you back out of that parking garage for RVs, you see that Michigan’s other regular season loss came at the hands of a Nebraska team that didn’t have a bad season, finishing 10-4 and ranked in the top 25.
These final two seasons—these have been the demise of Michigan football. We collectively began moaning and groaning over what we observed to be a lack of player development. More anger arose when the Wolverines began reverting to a very vanilla flavor of offense from former offensive coordinator Al Borges. That led us to this season. 2014 has been a season of despair and shame. From losing 31-0 to Notre Dame to allowing a concussed and limping Shane Morris to continue playing against Minnesota, the emotions of the fan base have been on a steady decline for the last three-plus months.
Interim athletic director Jim Hackett does not even have a choice here: You fire Brady Hoke immediately and begin the search for the next Michigan head coach. That’s it. By keeping Hoke on board, there is at best an unsteady future for the program and a record trend that doesn’t exactly boast itself.
Full disclosure: Brady Hoke fired me up when he said he would have walked to Michigan. His dream job came knocking and he embraced it. Through thick and thin, he did everything he could to keep his team afloat. He loves his players and his staff and so obviously just wants Michigan to win. With that said, though, this job for the last two (maybe even three) seasons has plainly appeared to be too large. For that, I’m not angry.
Hoke was the hottest thing in college football when he marched Ball State to a 12-1 season in 2008. Then again when he coached San Diego State to a 9-4 record in 2010.
We were fooled into believing that he had done the same thing at Michigan, only in one season instead of multiple like he had before. But instead of seeing a program at its lowest and then leading to its peak, Michigan has done almost the exact opposite since going under Hoke. Michigan peaked, then fell, then dove.
In his post-game press conference following the loss to the Buckeyes, Hoke worked his way around questions concerning his future with the program, only pointing out how much youth there is on the roster. Certainly Hoke was never going to plead his case to the public, no matter how much bait was thrown, but there certainly was a sense of acknowledgment concerning the discontent of fans and supporters. And as I’ve said all season, the job of the fans in these situations is to demand better.
Where will Michigan go from here? Who knows. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Brady Hoke is still the head of coach of Michigan next season, but we haven’t even touched on the AD matters, which would certainly have an impact on a coaching search. Could it be Jim Harbaugh? Les Miles? Dan Mullen? Michigan, though nestled near the bottom, is not an unattractive destination for those who are up to the challenge of restoring a program in need of a savior.
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of TheBigHouseReport.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.