Ever since Michigan AD David Brandon hired Brady Hoke in January, there has been an ongoing critique throughout the internets excoriating Hoke’s tough-guy mantra as many things, but mostly anachronistic (See MGoBlog generally or today’s column on Rivals by Jonathan Chait). While I too questioned his hiring, and the manner in which it was done, I think it’s time to ease up on the criticism. Sure, Hoke has taken great pains to differentiate himself from his predecessor Rich Rodriguez. But I’m willing to give Hoke the benefit of the doubt. Mostly because he’s turned around two moribund programs (San Diego State and Ball State). But also because he’s more interested in attitude than scheme. Unfortunately, most of the criticism from the aforementioned writers is focused on just that; scheme.
Both Chait and Cook express deep concern over the change in offensive scheme from Rodriguez’ high-flying spread to Hoke’s more conventional pro-style. This criticism misses the mark. Football teams don’t win because of scheme; they win because they execute in all phases of the game. While Rodriguez’ challenges in Ann Arbor were legion, his biggest obstacle was that he was a one-trick pony. Rodriguez was focused more on installing his offense, and less on putting a complete football team on the field come Saturday. This claim may seem unfair. But when you consider some of the issues that plagued his teams, particularly on defense (e.g., two different DCs, neither of which ever ran a 3-3-5), and that he impliedly admitted as much, it is at least a reasonable argument to make.
Of course none of this means that Hoke will succeed as Michigan’s head football coach. Saying that you wanna run “manball” won’t ensure success. Indeed, it will be no small task getting these kids to buy into his brand of football. Maybe that means that it takes a few more years for Michigan to truly be “back.” But hey, I’m willing to wait. Especially if that means that our team has an identity that isn’t rooted in incompetence at the expense of some highfalutin’ scheme.