Brady Hoke at the End of His Rope: Dark Times for Michigan Football

M.F. DiBellaCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2014

The End Is Nigh
The End Is NighGregory Shamus/Getty Images

At this point, it's beyond getting old. It's getting tired. Another bad loss for the Michigan Wolverines, this time 26-10 at home to an admittedly good team (Utah) from a power conference (Pac-12), but the fallout remains the same.

Michigan coaches and players are saying the right things to the media. The things you're forced to say when your team has effectively not shown up for two games (the other, of course, being the 31-0 shellacking at the hands of Notre Dame).

At his Monday presser, head coach Brady Hoke told the media that while he is aware of the mounting backlash his coaching staff and team are facing: "It won't affect the course that we want to go, I can tell you that."

The course is presumably to challenge for the Big Ten title, which looks to be about as attainable as a sunny mid-80s day in Michigan by the time the Big Ten title game rolls around on December 6.

After inclement weather forced a game delay in the fourth quarter of Michigan's latest debacle, ABC College Football analyst and former Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown made some pithy remarks about the vitriol Michigan's fanbase and beat writers are piling on Hoke and his players, as transcribed by The Detroit News:

Pull for the kids, pull for Brady (and) if you don't like what happens at the end of the year, then talk about it. But don't talk about all the bad things every week. Because it's not fair to the kids, it's not fair to the coaches, and you need to give your guy a chance to get it turned around when he starts Big Ten play.

It's true, all the negative talk surrounding the once-storied program is only adding to the defeatism plaguing Big Blue at the moment.

Student-athletes who don't perform up to potential don't necessarily deserve the level of anger they are getting from fans. But Brown's comments don't hold weight if he thinks the same restraint should be bestowed upon coaches (Brady Hoke, $3.25 million in salary 2014, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, $830,000 salary in 2014) and administrators (athletic director David Brandon, $850,000 salary in 2013, as per the Detroit Free Press) who are making small mints.

Watching Michigan on offense is nearly insufferable. It's been a cavalcade of poor blocking, untimely penalties, uninspired route running and, worst of all, awful decision-making by the quarterback. Devin Gardner's time is up, no more excuses. He simply doesn't have the sand to play the position.

Gardner may be a tough all-around athlete, but Hoke's instincts to turn him into a receiver in 2012 were accurate. Gardner's propensity for interceptions has rendered him a limited passer, one who settles for short routes or checkdowns since most of his throws over 10 yards seem to end up in the hands of the opposition (six INTs versus five TD passes in 2014, he's also been sacked nine times; stats courtesy of ESPN).

Against Utah, Gardner at least showed more willingness to pull the ball the down and run when facing the onslaught of pass rushes that his naive offensive line allows.

Still, if Michigan has any hope of competing in 2015, it's best to try to bring Shane Morris along, who has also been abysmal in a limited role—he threw a pick and lost a fumble in relief of Gardner against Utah (Morris' stat line for 2014: 7-of-20, 79 yards, two INTs, as per ESPN).

Yes, sadly the 2014 season is nearly a wash just four games in. For those eternal optimists holding out hope that Michigan can salvage their season (and perhaps Hoke's job) with a win in East Lansing or Columbus, let's get real. This team, in its current state, will be lucky to finish .500 in the Big Ten.

Michigan is going to lose again in 2014, probably more than twice. It's most winnable remaining game may be this Saturday against Minnesota. Looking at the rest of the schedule, Michigan could conceivably become bowl eligible with wins over Northwestern, Indiana and Maryland. But in truth, every game could be a struggle for the underachieving Wolverines.

In the end, this is about a threshold of patience for losing and rebuilding a program that went to seed under Rich Rodriguez. Hoke is at his limit. His teams are failing to compete, which is inexcusable considering the budget that the University of Michigan earmarks for football ($23 million in 2012-2013 as per MLive's Kellie Woodhouse) and the revenue it generates for the university ($82 million as per the aforementioned MLive article).

Portrait of a fail
Portrait of a failGregory Shamus/Getty Images

Brady Hoke is a human being, and by all accounts a nice guy and reputable person. Only the most soulless troll wouldn't feel for him. None of us would care to be pilloried for every little thing we do at the workplace. But here's the difference between Hoke and the majority of the rest of us: The man is a millionaire.

The 99 percent generally need something to root for, and when that something becomes a source of discontent, the fans have the right to voice their displeasure.

Hoke apologists will tell you that he needs more time, that the constant waves of criticism are starting to get cruel and unusual. But it must be said, this ain't Ball State or San Diego State, Hoke signed on for this level of scrutiny when he took over the reins in 2011. Despite recent evidence to the contrary, Michigan is still the winningest college football program of all time.

Yes, the criticism can be heavy-handed, but perhaps Hoke and the athletic department should consider the alternative. Michigan fans are passionate, but with each embarrassing loss and the program's combative stance towards the displeasure, apathy starts to creep in (attendance at The Big House continues to trend down, for various reasons).

Barring a miraculous turnaround in 2014, Hoke should hit the bricks, and if that requires Mr. Brandon being put out to pasture as well, so be it.

If the Wolverines register more than four losses in 2014, it's best to cue up a swan song for Hoke and Brandon, courtesy of another notable Michigan Man (Bob Seger).

It's high time to "Turn The Page" in Ann Arbor.