Thursday, November 29, 2007

Les is More?

Since the coaching search began, as evidenced by the banner, my personal preference has been torn between Cincinnati's Brian Kelly and Louisiana State's Les Miles. The Ferentz madness is now dead and buried, and all signs point to Les Miles being Michigan's coach within a week or two.

And I hate it.

First, I'll let Matt Hayes of The Sporting News begin my argument.


I know this is going to come as a shock, a slap in the face to the Michigan Men of the world. But hear me out.

Want an end-all, be-all coach, a guy who encompasses everything and lacks nothing? Then take a page from history and follow Ohio State's lead.

Hire Brian Kelly.

Seven years ago, when Ohio State had become a team that couldn't beat Michigan, the Buckeyes went out and did the unthinkable: They hired a coach from the NCAA's lower divisions, Youngstown State's Jim Tressel.

Now that Michigan has become a team that can't beat Ohio State, Kelly -- whose first head coaching job was at Division II Grand Valley State -- would be the perfect fit. Not Les Miles, not some NFL retread, not some guy Lloyd Carr thinks is the Michigan Man for the job.

This is about hiring the best man for the job.

Kelly, in his first season at Cincinnati, is a relentless recruiter, a guy who can draw up X's and O's with anyone. And -- in what would be a welcome change -- he oozes charisma. He is everything Michigan needs, with a history of winning championships in tow.

Four years ago, after he won his second straight national title at Grand Valley State, the reality of the business hit Kelly full force.

"If I wanted a chance to sit at the big poker table," he says, "I had to start at the bottom."

So in 2004 Kelly accepted a job at Central Michigan, which had one winning season in the previous nine, and went to work. Last year, he won a MAC championship. Then, only days later, he took the Cincinnati job. Eleven months later, the Bearcats are one victory away from just their second 10-win season in 120 years of football. Their first was in 1951.

Now the big table has an open seat -- and it's time to lay out the cards.

If you think Kelly is a gamble, consider where Tressel came from and where he is now -- one of three key hires of the past decade, along with Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) and Pete Carroll (USC), that changed the landscape of the game.

High rollers in Columbus wanted Glen Mason, the OSU alum who knew the way of Woody. Instead they got Tressel, briefly a Buckeyes assistant before he left after the 1985 season, built a national power at Division I-AA Youngstown State and was hired by Ohio State in January 2001.

Ten months later, the Buckeyes beat heavily favored Michigan. Two years later, they won the national title.

Few question the thinking behind Miles going to Michigan, his alma mater. Just like few would've thought twice about the Buckeyes hiring Mason. Seven years later, Tressel is the best coach in the game. Mason is unemployed.

"Athletic directors and presidents are tuned in much more now," Kelly says. "A lot of it is breaking through perceptions."

And embracing reality.

The comparison to Ohio State after John Cooper left is spot on, except for one thing: Jim Tressel has never expressed any desire to leave Ohio State for the NFL. Of course Kelly hasn't either, but his island hopping from Grand Valley State to Central Michigan to Cincinnati brings his loyalties into question. I understand the hesitation of hiring a coach that could bolt in 3-4 years...but what do you think would happen in those 3-4 years that would cause such a jump?

It's not like Michigan would suddenly be blacklisted if Brian Kelly left after 4 years. Coaches would still be lining up to listen to offers. And Kelly would almost assuredly leave the program in better condition.

I like Les Miles. I think he's a good coach. He doesn't live in the 1970s and 1980s like Lloyd Carr. But that's not the issue here. The issue is the powers that run things behind the scene like Miles because he's a Michigan Man and played for Bo. That's an asinine justification for hiring a man to coach one of America's most storied football programs. It's the same stale "play not to lose" mentality. If Bill Martin hires Miles, he will have hired not to lose instead of hiring to win.

Do these things always work out? No. But the biggest risk is the risk not taken. OSU took a gamble on Tressel. USC took a gamble on Pete Carroll. Michigan is simply afraid to take that risk, and because of that, they will never be all that they can be.

Les will be the guy. And I can't help but shake my head, knowing they could've done better.


fred said...

I felt better after reading this on a message board:

"So what was Les Miles’ record vs OSU on the games he did coach at UM?*

1980 at Michigan 9 Ohio State 3

88 Michigan 34 at Ohio State 31

89 at Michigan 28 Ohio State 18

90 Michigan 16 at Ohio State 13

91 at Michigan 31 Ohio State 3

92 Michigan 13 at Ohio State 13

93 at Michigan 28 Ohio State 0

That is 6-0-1 by an average 11 points per game (ppg)"

Nick said...

I could not agree more. What can we possibly do to make this happen?

bassmrod said...

I have yet to read an argument that plays Brian Kelly in a favorable light without resorting to the "well, OSU went to a smaller school and got someone who can win" argument. Just because that small school hire worked, doesn't mean that Kelly will do well at Michigan. Miles beat powerhouse OU twice at Oklahoma State, and isn't a mercenary-for-hire like Kelly seems to be.

Show me a sound argument that backs Brian Kelly with quantative evidence and no asinine "OMG OSU DID IT, IT'S GOTTA WORK!!!1!" supporting statements, I defy you. Brian Kelly's a good coach, but I don't see anything that would lead me to believe that he'll be more successful than Miles.

Anonymous said...

Michigan's losses to OSU are because of LLOYD CARR and his useless staff. To assume that only Brian Kelly can deliver us from this evil is silly.

I'll take Les Miles' passion for Michigan over the alleged hot commodity of the day. Brian Kelly will leave for the first NFL opening he's offered.

Anonymous said...

mrod is correct.

Hal said...

Frankly, I like both candidates very much. My first preference is Miles but I would settle for Kelly if Miles were not available in a heart beat. I for one want a National Championship which would encompass beating OSU.

Lordfoul said...

You are straight crazy in your logic. Les Miles EATS, SLEEPS, and BREATHES MICHIGAN FOOTBALL. He will not allow Michigan to lose it's most important distinctions: No Losing Seasons since '67, Longest Bowl Streak, Best Winning %. I can see taking chances on an individual game basis (and Miles does THAT for sure). Hiring a coach for the next decade+ is not the time to take a chance over the best proven option. Bring on Miles or any other proven BCS winner of coach. Kelly should be a backup option only, but at the top of that list.