Michigan fan wanted a “Michigan Man” after running Rich Rodriguez out of town following a three-year reign that ended with a 15-22 overall record. They seemingly got exactly that when former Lloyd Carr assistant Brady Hoke took over and immediately went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl.
Hail to the Victors! Michigan football was back…
However, the return to Michigan’s rightful place at the top of the Big Ten and the nation hasn’t exactly gone as planned. That first season as served as the high-water mark and not a harbinger of things to come under Hoke.
Since that season, the numbers have steadily declined, Michigan’s run game has become non-existent and the team just got done being blanked for the first time since I was two years old (Oct. 27, 1984).
What happened on Saturday in a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame was nearly an exact replica of what cost Michigan anything near a good season in 2013.
On Saturday, just like all last season, the Wolverines couldn’t open holes in the run game (just 2.9 yards per carry), couldn’t protect quarterback Devin Gardner (2 sacks and just 5 yards net on 39 yards gained) and turned the ball over way too much (3 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles).
If that’s not taking 10 steps back for the one year forward, I don’t know what is.
But, that’s not the most troubling part. What is really troublesome is seeing how Brady Hoke and his team have begun turning on the fans following the final scheduled contest with once-rival Notre Dame
Results speak louder than words most of the time, but when you are athletic director Dave Brandon and image is everything to the Maize ‘N Blue brass, the words of your head coach also matter a great deal. So, it had to be a bit disturbing to hear his head coach go after the fanbase.
While speaking to the media earlier this week, Hoke had some harsh words for the fans who were becoming/already were critical of the performance of the team.
“If they’re truly fans, they’ll believe in these kids and the hard work they’ve put in,” he said, via Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. “If they’re not, they won’t.”
Star linebacker Jake Ryan also had some pretty strong words about who this team was and why fans shouldn’t give up on the team.
“The fans don’t see what we do in Schembechler Hall; they don’t know what we do behind the scenes. They don’t know how much work we put in towards this season. I’m confident in this team and I’ve got all the confidence in the world in this offense and defense. We’re going to step up, and it’s going to be a great season, I think.”
The problem for Hoke and Ryan is that the fans haven’t been buying what they’ve been talking about for a while now. So, when those two say that this will be a great season, fans should be forgiven if they don’t believe what they are hearing.
It’s especially insulting after they’ve seen their team go out and get shellacked against the only real competition Michigan football will face before the Big Ten season gets going in earnest.
There is time for Michigan to turn the corner and for fans to come around to Hoke and his plan with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. But, attacking fans and then trying to cover it up with the old “I was misquoted” statement doesn’t help matters.
Hoke backtracked quicker than a teenage girl in a haunted house, going on the radio Thursday to offer up contrition and explanation for his previously “misquoted” statement.
“We’ve got great fans. Our kids were disappointed, we all in Schembechler Hall were disappointed, they (the fans) were disappointed. I get it. We get it.
“We’ve got great fans. The majority of people have been unbelievable with responses they’ve given back to this team. We’re fortunate and lucky to have the people we have who love Michigan football.”
As the saying goes, perception is reality and Hoke created the perception that its his team against the fans.
Maybe its a secret ploy to pull the team together in the face of adversity, but from the outside looking in this was a coach who lashed out in frustration and didn’t think before speaking.
Before the season the talk was all about Hoke’s results on the field, but now Hoke has added getting the fans back on his side to an already long list of problems to fix.
Ultimately, insulting the people who pay your salary is just as quick a way to lose your job as underperforming at said job.
Hoke may look back at the end of this season and see his comments as the point where his pink slip was written and waiting for delivery.