There's always that gray area—but for all intents and purposes, there are two concrete and prevailing views of the job coach Brady Hoke's doing at Michigan.
The first, and probably the most widely held sentiment among the true-blue, sink-with-the-ship Michigan Wolverines supporters, suggests that Hoke is doing a respectable job after taking over a program left in turmoil by that guy winning big games at Arizona.
He just needs time to implement scheme, culture and a winning attitude...
How do three years sound?!
The second, and likely the most common, sentiment is that Hoke's had plenty of time to make a change and simply hasn't done so.
There's no arguing against circumstances—Hoke didn't inherit a powerhouse, just a program that carries a powerful name—but he's falling flat with high-end recruits and experienced players who've had difficulty disposing of the little guys of college football, let alone the big boys who pose a real threat.
Sure, he's lost the talent—none of which he recruited—that won 11 games and a Sugar Bowl in 2011. That happens; it's part of the game. But Hoke reloaded by snagging top-10 recruiting classes. There was no way he'd take steps back after conquering Virginia Tech in a BCS bowl.
How do eight wins sound?!
The sky, as they say, was the limit. Moving up was the only option, especially for a team yearning to be relevant. The Shoelace era made Michigan football fun to watch, but it wasn't the same brand fans saw in 2006 nor was it identical to the efforts from just a few seasons earlier when the Wolverines won a share of the Big Ten Championship.
It's been 10 years since Michigan's won a league title. College football's winningest program has lost five of the past six to Michigan State, which plays Dec. 7 for the Big Ten crown vs. No. 3 Ohio State. Making matters worse, the Wolverines face their biggest fear Saturday, as they'll take the field in front of jaded fans at "The Big House" to serve as the 11-0 Buckeyes' punching bag.
Hoke's lost just once in Ann Arbor but don't be surprised to see Urban Meyer make a statement by running up the score en route to handing Hoke an embarrassing loss.
Things could be worse, like big-name preps distancing themselves from the once-proud maize and blue...wait a minute, that's happening.
Jabrill Peppers, the gem of the 2014 class, according to 247Sports, in the eyes of the Wolverines, committed to Hoke in May. However, he's essentially reopened his recruitment by planning future visits.
That's a strict no-no in Hoke's book. Perhaps now more relaxed, Hoke's "no-visit policy" could be altered for Peppers. In the past, committed meant committed. No question.
But hey, a guy has to do what a guy has to do.
"(With) every kid there’s different situations, family-wise, those kind of things," Hoke said, via MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner. "There’s a lot that’s always said out there,” he added. “We’ll just wait and see what happens."
Is this rock bottom for Hoke? Have the Wolverines crumbled? Are they in need of a new leader?
Some would reply with a hearty "yes!" while others would answer with "give Hoke another year."
Supporters are there, but the naysayers and nonbelievers are just as plentiful. Have Michigan fans given up on their coach?
There is evidence supporting such a claim...
Free Cars?! Really?!
If you're in the market for a free Honda, cross your fingers and hope Michigan doesn't score a point against Ohio State. Aptly named Victory Honda will hand over a shiny new ride if the Wolverines serve a shutout, which is unlikely.
Bleacher Report's Dan Carson caught wind of the deal and couldn't believe it. Who could blame him? The dealership is in the thick of Border War country, sitting just north of Ohio in Monroe.
Victory's offer is a not-so subtle shot at Michigan, Hoke, and the mockery that has become his football team. The outlandish PR stunt should serve as a reality check for those who have looked the other way—Michigan just isn't very good.
It's one thing to root on the home team and offer fantastic deals because of said team's success, but it's an entirely different ball game when a business goes out of its way to humiliate an ailing team by promising the impossible.
Victory's ownership may or may not be fans of Michigan. But be honest, the day of any business within the Great Lakes State poking fun at the beloved Wolverines was a day that'd never come...right? It's a sign of the Fanpocalypse.
From the writer: If Michigan wins 100-0, my prized Labs--dogs, not Breaking Bad setups--and memorabilia collection is all yours (yes, you!). And while we're at it, I'll let go of my ride. It's no Honda...but hey...
Oh, No...Not This
Trying times call for an all-hands-on-deck approach. Coming together can be difficult when things look to be falling apart.
Hoke's not leaving, according to Michigan AD Dave Brandon, who's twice publicly supported his coach as fans call for a new direction, which doesn't necessarily require relieving Hoke of his duties.
But that day could be getting closer.
Brandon wrote the following blog post about Hoke, via Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com:
Brady Hoke is our coach and will be leading our football program well into the future. There is no question about it. Brady has done a great job rebuilding the program and reshaping the culture to the level it was under coaches Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Anyone making efforts to stir up a coaching controversy at Michigan is ill-informed and is likely promoting a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of Michigan football.
Athletic directors are supposed to support their staff. But Brandon's timing seems like an attempt to divert attention from the real issue: His football coach isn't winning. In early November, Brandon first went to the masses with his pro-Bradyisms by telling the Associated Press Hoke was the "right" coach for Michigan.
Short, sweet and understood—also known as damage control.
This pair of fan videos from YouTube represent the all too common reality that has become Wolverines football.
Exhibit A, whose name, according to the video, is Mark, lost the in-state bet this year after the Spartans rolled the Wolverines 29-6 in East Lansing.
Exhibit B shows two youngsters after the romping of RichRod in 2009.
If you anticipated a struggle this season, you're either incredibly gifted with foresight, lucky or you just really know your football. A what will be 7-5 season was the last thing most writers and media members predicted for the Wolverines.
For the record, I saw 9-3 or 10-2, with losses coming to Northwestern, Nebraska and Ohio State; a win over the Spartans wasn't guaranteed, but it was a strong possibility. The idea of undefeated participants in "The Game" was a bit wild but not too entirely far-fetched.
But as Michigan crawled to a 6-0 start, expectations were readjusted. Still, Michigan would eventually pull its head out of the sand and play up to par...
These days, no matter the preseason prediction, Wolverines fans are increasingly expressing their frustration on the air waves of sports talk radio and in public forums such as Twitter and Facebook.
Terry Foster of 97.1 FM-Detroit took time to note the hot topics of a recent show. Of course, "fire Schwartz" is a weekly thing, but "fire Hoke" has really picked up since oh, about Nov. 2.
And the Saturday after that, followed by that coming Saturday. See a pattern?
As for offensive coordinator Al Borges, well, fans have been calling for his job since this past year's loss to the Buckeyes.
You're not alone if you're screaming for change. You're not alone if you feel Hoke needs more time, either. And for those in the middle who like Hoke but want to see new coordinators—you're not alone either.
But keep this in mind: Hoke's had three years to turn it around in Ann Arbor but has yet to truly contend for a conference championship. This year was supposed to be that year.
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